Throughout his political career, Boris Johnson has defied all odds. He has been defeated, written off, mocked. At one stage, he left the House of Commons completely. Yet no matter how down-and-out he has looked, how bleak his prospects have appeared, he has always managed to recover. His party chose him as leader partly for this ability to pull off the seemingly impossible. Yet now he faces the gravest peril of his premiership.
I fell in love with a social media influencer. I could say there are three people in our relationship but I’d be lying. There are 63,423.
Imagine a world in which your partner’s private life is his professional life: with thousands of fawning acolytes all vying for his approval, all competing for online traction — a traction that comes from your other half’s thumbs. His fingers hover over the phone rather a lot, giving updates into whatever he’s up to.
A few months ago, Sajid Javid was asked how he could justify sacking unvaccinated care home workers if they had been infected with Covid and had natural immunity. The Health Secretary replied as if such people were plainly idiots. ‘If they haven’t taken a vaccine — despite all the effort that’s been made to persuade them, encourage them, provide them with information, introduce them to trusted voices — then at some point you have to move on.
Silvio ‘Bunga Bunga’ Berlusconi was a populist before the word became all the rage. An almost comically divisive figure, he makes spectacular off-the-cuff remarks which thrill his supporters and leave his enemies apoplectic. He called Barack Obama ‘tanned’. He advised a teenage girl that her best bet in life was to ‘marry a rich man’, and once said it is ‘better to stare at pretty girls than be gay’. In an interview with Boris Johnson and me in The Spectator in 2003, he insisted that the fascist dictator Mussolini did not kill his opponents, merely ‘sent them on holiday to the islands’.
I hate weed. Week after week, I see the tragic effects of this substance and how it destroys the minds of the young. I work on a mental health ward which, like many around the country, is home to some of the victims of our current lackadaisical attitude towards cannabis. This drug is particularly dangerous to the developing brains of young people and yet we know that this age group are the most likely to be experimenting with it.
A spectre is haunting the former Soviet Union — the spectre of people power. Every time it appears, Vladimir Putin leads an unholy alliance of all the reactionary autocrats of the former Soviet space to try to exorcise it. Last week, Putin sent 3,000 Russian paratroopers to Kazakhstan at the request of its president to crush a sudden revolution that left at least 160 protestors and 12 security officers dead.
For the time being, it looks like Putin’s timely intervention — as well as an internet shutdown that paralysed protestors’ ability to coordinate — has successfully quelled the flames.
Around five years ago I started to receive requests online for photos of and details about my feet. I’ve been asked for foot pictures intermittently ever since. Most of the gentlemen are upfront about what they’re after (‘send foot pic plz’), but one man went above and beyond in his pursuits. Posing as an academic, he sent several emails to my work account claiming dozens of women in the British media had submitted their shoe size to help him with a research project.
The spectrum of ‘bestowing homemade gifts on one’s friends’ ranges from giving to foisting. Pure giving is when you make something by hand especially for a particular person. Foisting is when you don’t let a friend leave your house before pressing a copy of your privately published memoir into their hands.
Where does homemade marmalade come on this spectrum? I think it comes nearer the benign ‘giving’ end than homemade jam, which is at the ‘foisting’ end, along with homemade sloe gin and nettle ale.