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Poison, spies and lies

 Washington DC   Roger Stone — political consultant, agent provocateur, friend and confidant of Donald Trump — arrives for lunch with a bodyguard in tow. ‘I’ve had way too many death threats,’ he explains. He says he’s recovering from poisoning by polonium, a radioactive substance used to kill the Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko in London.

The plot against the Pope

On the first Saturday in February, the people of Rome awoke to find the city covered in peculiar posters depicting a scowling Pope Francis. Underneath were written the words: Ah, Francis, you have intervened in Congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals… but where is your

Calendar clash

On a Friday evening in May 2018 I am going to see the Broadway show Hamilton. We had to book the tickets two weeks ago. Fair enough, you might say — some theatre tickets sell out long before rehearsals have begun. Nonetheless, it seems a madly long way off and what if I forget about

Dumbing down the house

Osterley Park on the western fringes of London is a rare survival. A Robert Adam house, with splendid Adam interiors, it’s still surrounded by its Elizabethan stables, an 18th-century landscape and classical follies — in the middle of urban Hounslow. Over the past decade, this Georgian gem has been increasingly despoiled and dumbed down by

How to make drugs boring

Bill Blair, the former police chief of Toronto, slides into his restaurant chair and twinkles at the waitress. He’s 6ft 6in, white-haired now but perky. Bill has 120 years of policing behind him. He, his father and his grandfather all served 40 years in the force. Now he’s an MP and he’s legalising cannabis in


Sydney Notebook

The other day, I went to a boozy barbecue near Sydney’s northern beaches. The guests were all political mates of mine and we chatted about those insurgent populists who threaten to upend established conservative parties across the globe: Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Beppe Grillo and, of course, Pauline Hanson — Australia’s version

Notes on...

The Suffolk-Essex border

You’ve already seen a picture of the Essex-Suffolk border. Assuming you’ve seen Constable’s ‘The Haywain’, that is: the Stour (the river into which the farmer has cleverly driven his cart) forms the county boundary, meaning the land on the left is Suffolk, that on the right, Essex. Years of David Beckham and jokes about girls