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Decline and fall | 8 November 2018

For a millennium and a half now, one of the great pleasures of being a commentator on current affairs has been comparing a political crisis to the fall of the Roman Empire. Nothing recently has quite so turbo-charged this perennial trend like the presidency of Donald Trump. The flamboyant egotism, the patent amorality, the porn

Deal or no deal?

When the Lisbon Treaty was signed in 2007, the inclusion of Article 50 was hailed as a concession to British Eurosceptics. For the first time there was an exit clause: a clear, legal way for a country to leave the European Union. Whatever concerns Britain had about the federalist direction of the EU, it was

No satisfaction

Should university students really feel ‘satisfied’? Or would we rather they felt challenged? For the honchos of higher education, the answer is clear — and alarming. The National Student Survey (NSS), which was introduced in 2005, collects data that allows crude comparisons to be made between universities. The survey asks 300,000 final-year undergraduates to answer

Eclipse of the Sun King

Emmanuel Macron was elated when France won the World Cup in July. The photograph of him leaping out of his seat at the Moscow stadium showed a leader at the peak of his power. Or so he thought. Ever since then, he has been bumping back to earth. Last week, the French President took the

The Insta pilgrims

On Sunday morning, in Puy-en-Velay, I climbed the 275 volcanic steps to the tiny chapel of Rocher Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe. There, in the gloaming, among the silent stones that have stood on this site for 11 centuries, it was almost possible to imagine the awe of those very first Christian pilgrims who in the 10th century…

We will remember him

The story is part of family lore. How, during the Battle of Mons, on 23 August 1914, two long columns of men from the Royal Field Artillery passed each other. One column was withdrawing from the frontline, the other heading into what was the first action between the British Expeditionary Force and the German army

Notes on...


My wife and I have a set routine after landing back at Gatwick. We collect our bags, clear customs and are reunited with our car (Meet and Greet parking is by far the best value for money and avoids an hour or so of inhaling a mini-cab’s ‘vehicle deodoriser’). Then we head for the McDonalds