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‘I am in charge’

He needed a trilby and leather coat but there was something of ’Allo ’Allo!’s Herr Flick to the mandarin giving evidence at the Public Accounts Committee one recent afternoon. The PAC is parliament’s prime scrutineer of state spending. Civil servants have it dinned into their skulls to regard it with caution, if not respect. Yet

The gay marriage trap

The shambling remnants of Britain’s social and moral conservative movement are marching to Stalingrad, singing as they go. They will not be coming back, but they don’t realise that yet. David Cameron has cleverly provoked them into this suicide mission, by claiming to be a keen supporter of homosexual marriage. And so, with all the

Brain drain

Neuroscience wants to be the answer to everything. It isn’t There are many reasons for believing the brain is the seat of consciousness. Damage to the brain disrupts our mental processes; specific parts of the brain seem connected to specific mental capacities; and the nervous system, to which we owe movement, perception, sensation and bodily

Rover dose

The other day my five-year-old Labrador was diagnosed with acute cannabis intoxication. I had been taking Olga for a walk on Hackney Downs when she disappeared behind an abandoned railway. I imagined she had found some fox shit and was rolling in it delightedly. Bad pooch! On the way home she began to stumble and

Time we left

The journalist Michael Kinsley defines ‘gaffe’ as that which occurs when a politician accidentally tells the truth. Reacting to the latest bad news coming out of Afghanistan — an American soldier in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province went on a rampage, killing 16 civilians in cold blood — the presidential candidate Newt Gingrich committed

Unsinkable drama

The last hours of the Titanic were a perfect tragedy. No wonder we’re still obsessed What with the centenary coming up next month, it was hard to imagine anything that could make the Titanic loom larger in the popular consciousness. But that was before Julian Fellowes’s new series, to be broadcast this month. It’s the

Investment Special: Searching for income

The outcome of last week’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting came as no surprise, but if you’re trying to live off income generated from capital, it was still bloody irritating. Once again, base rate was left at 0.5 per cent, its lowest level since records began in 1694. Once again, it was decided that quantitative easing

Investment Special: The great savings robbery

The prudent among us can’t expect much reward from the Budget Three years ago, when the Bank of England embarked on its first £200 billion round of quantitative easing (QE), most of us — including some Bank officials — hadn’t a clue how this relatively untried policy would work. There were dire predictions from monetarist

Investment Special: Contrarianism pays

When pessimism prevails, it’s probably time to buy If one thing puzzles private investors more than anything else, it is the extraordinary capacity of the stock market to move in ways that appear to follow no discernible logic. ‘Profits Up, Shares Tumble’, or even ‘World War Declared, Stocks Rise’: such headlines understandably confuse the uninitiated.