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James Forsyth

Divided nation: will Covid rules tear the country apart?

‘From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction — you must stay at home,’ Boris Johnson declared on 23 March. At the beginning of the pandemic, when infection levels first began to rise, the country was all in it together. The prescription was a national one, and the Prime Minister

Local lockdowns have failed the north

The announcement of the ‘Rule of Six’ policy last month was met with much furore – in the south of England. Those of us in the north will have thought: lucky old them. To have a dinner for six is a liberty that has been denied to us for months now. We had a meal

Spare me the cult of Sally Rooney

I have invented a new literary category, chic lit, to describe all the books written by elite females (Lena Dunham, Caitlin Moran, Elizabeth Day, Dolly Alderton, Sally Rooney, ad infinitum) for elite females. If you’re not one and can’t stand any of them, god help you. Their books will be forced on you anyway. Publishers

The truth about Burma’s ‘imprisoned princess’

As Perseus was flying along the coast on his winged horse Pegasus, he spotted Andromeda tied to a rock as a sacrifice to Poseidon’s sea monster Cetus. It was love at first sight. Perseus slew Cetus and married Andromeda. Thus began the damsel-in-distress archetype that has been a mainstay of western culture ever since. Riffs

How Thérèse Coffey plans to help millions back to work

If you haven’t heard of Thérèse Coffey, then this will be — to her — a sign that she has been doing something right.  As Work and Pensions Secretary she has had to sign people on to benefits faster than anyone who has held the position before. If this had gone wrong during lockdown, she

How to stop trawling from trashing the North Sea

Recently Greenpeace dropped a boatload of granite boulders on to Dogger Bank, a permanent threat to any boat that attempts to drag a trawl net across the sandy sea-bottom. One of the biggest boulders had my name painted on it, because Greenpeace asked and I said yes. And in saying yes, I crossed a line

All these lockdown puppies come at a price

‘Book H in for a colonoscopy at a private clinic,’ begins one entry in Sasha Swire’s enjoyable diaries about her husband (which she should have called What Hugo Did During Term-Time.) She accompanies him to his appointment — whether for juicy material or moral support, we are not told — and relates how the bored


Notes on...

Has Covid killed off Punch and Judy?

They’re one of the country’s most famous married couples. You just need to spot his colourful jester outfit and the long tassle bobbing from his sugarloaf hat, and you know it’s Mr Punch and his wife Judy. But now, with the Covid restrictions, this familiar sideshow is under threat. Mr Punch may be swinging his