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King John

John McDonnell looks exhausted, slumped in his parliamentary office chair. Nobody said the revolution would be easy. Do he and Jeremy Corbyn have any catchphrases, I ask, to gee themselves up when battered by the right-wing press, the pundits or the moderates in their own party? ‘This will send the Daily Mail wild, OK,’ he

Lost for words

Emma Bridgewater has, since 1985, produced pottery acceptable in tasteful middle-class kitchens. Some jars had Coffee on and some Biscuits. Coffee meant ‘coffee’ and Biscuits meant ‘biscuits’. In a similar attempt to achieve popularity, Theresa May told us that Brexit meant ‘Brexit’. It said so on the jar. But as the Emma Bridgewater range grew,

Rise of the glamocracy

The world may be dazzled by Prince Harry marrying a divorced, mixed-race American TV star. But his grand friends and royal cousins will hardly bat an eyelid. Because they’ve been marrying celebs (and Americans) for the past decade or so. In a subtle, gradual change in the British upper classes, the aristocracy has given way

Feeding the frenzy

Tony Blair once remarked, during one of the periodic feeding frenzies that engulf British politics, that public life was becoming a game of ‘gotcha’. These days feeding frenzies, like Atlantic hurricanes, seem to strike with increasing frequency. No week passes without someone, somewhere calling for this or that minister to quit. When a minister does

Get a grip, Prime Minister

Theresa May’s Brexit challenge is truly Herculean. Every time she believes she has done enough to finally move the Brexit process on, she is told that there is something else she must do. And each time, her tasks become more difficult. The problem is compounded by the fact that May is weakening her own hand.

‘Fascist? No! I’m a federalist’

The man who could become Italy’s next prime minister is sat just opposite the entrance to the huge US and Nato airbase near Catania in Sicily at a hotel confiscated from the Mafia. It’s not Silvio Berlusconi, no matter how much the British press tells us that ‘Berlusconi is Back!’ Silvio Il Magnifico (as I

Chinese charity

When I first hear that my well-heeled Surrey neighbourhood is receiving aid from China, I assume it must be a hoax. I don’t believe it until I see a press release from the borough council confirming that the Dongying municipal government has made a £5,660 donation to help the unskilled and socially excluded of Guildford

Notes on...

The Watford Gap

In a shallow dip between two unremarkable Northamptonshire hills you will find a road, a motorway, a railway and a canal jostling for position. It is neither a place of natural beauty nor a spectacle of human ingenuity. Yet it has been the subject of books, art exhibitions, pop songs and even a (mini) musical.