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iSPY: How the internet buys and sells your secrets

You probably have no idea how much of yourself you have given away on the internet, or how much it’s worth. Never mind Big Brother, the all-seeing state; the real menace online is the Little Brothers — the companies who suck up your personal data, repackage it, then sell it to the highest bidder. The

Notes on … Christmas markets

Question: what do you call several dozen pop-up shops, all freshly popped up together at the one time of year when they might actually be useful? Answer: a Christmas market. Once upon a time Christmas markets, like many English Christmas traditions, were something we borrowed from Germany but did a little less well. And if

The Frogs of war

What happened to the cheese-eating surrender monkeys? Just over a decade ago, the French, having refused to join the allied adventure in Iraq, were the butt of every hawkish joke. (Remember ‘Freedom fries’? Oh how we laughed.) Now, as America and Britain are beating a retreat from the world stage, France has turned into the

Super-heads are a super-huge mistake

Another month, so it seems, another super-head rolls. Not that many would have noticed the latest. Greg Wallace’s resignation as executive head teacher of five schools in the east London borough of Hackney was drowned out by the hubbub surrounding the Revd Paul Flowers. Yet the departure of Wallace — much lamented by pupils and their

The 2013 Michael Heath Award for cartooning

The winner of the first ever Michael Heath award for cartooning is Len Hawkins. One of his drawings appears below. He receives an original drawing by Michael Heath, a bottle of Spectator gin, a year-long contract with The Spectator and a pair of handmade shoes from John Lobb, who kindly sponsored the competition.

Power struggle

It is ‘immoral’, asserted Michael Fallon at this week’s Spectator energy conference, to force basic-rate taxpayers to subsidise wealthy landowners’ wind turbines and the solar panels of well-off homeowners. It is hard to remember the last time a minister was so frank about something which had been government policy until a few hours earlier. As

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The soul of a single malt

Scottish people, known to be a bit touchy on occasion, sometimes wonder if that customary attitude of jocular condescension displayed towards their country by, in particular, the nearest neighbours, does not disguise something like envy. Jealousy would be forgivable: as a brand, Scotland has all the trimmings: the scenery is fabulous in what Alex Salmond

Cocktails: Cupboard love

At the back of every drinks tray or cabinet there are always some stray bottles. Some deserve to be lonely, others just end up that way. But it is occasionally worth sifting the wheat — or at least grain — from the chaff. Here is a guide for doing so. Vermouth Only keep your bottle

Seasonal drinking: Fortify yourself

I’ve just received my latest energy bill and it appears that I’ve been living this last year in a draughty manor house rather than a three–bedroom ex-council flat. This winter, I’m going to have to choose between a warm flat and decent-quality booze. Of course it’s going to be the booze; I’ll just have to

G without T

G and T, the favoured cure for gyppy tummy in Himalayan hill-stations, bubbled home from the Raj to the English suburbs to become the aperitif of choice in Betjemanic golf clubs and panelled bars from Altrincham to Carshalton. There is a particular pleasure in being in a London pub at the end of an office

Bring back the pint of champagne!

When I’m gathered, as my granny used to say, I’d like to be remembered as the man who reintroduced the imperial pint of champagne. I’m not an ambitious creature, by and large. But we all want to leave our mark upon this world somehow, and that’s where I’ve set my sights. I’ve been trying for over