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Katy Balls

The plot against the PM

After the implosion of Liz Truss’s premiership, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak met to discuss which of them should succeed her. Neither wanted to back down to make way for the other. Late one Saturday night, they discussed whether a way could be found that would suit them both. It could not. As they walked

How Saudi Arabia bought the world

What do you get for the man who has everything? Saudi Arabia’s ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, is said to have a $500 million yacht, a $450 million Leonardo painting and a $300 million French château. Now he’s acquired a new bauble: American golf. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has negotiated a controlling interest in

The search for the next pope is turning ugly

The Portuguese poet José Tolentino Mendonça is a handsome man in his fifties with a shaved head and meticulously trimmed beard. In one photograph he’s wearing an ultramarine blue polo shirt; in another, a lovely beige cashmere sweater that matches his tan. His poems depict emotional pain in cryptic language. In ‘The Last Day of

Can I be a woman?

I have a friend who describes me as an ‘uptight boring old straight heterosexual’ – simply because I don’t use porn or prostitutes, don’t swing both ways and have no interest in orgies and dogging, or any desire to be tied up and flogged by some fat dominatrix in a ‘torture den’ in Pimlico. He

Where’s Putin? The Russian leader is losing control

‘Does Putin even still exist? Where is he anyway?’ asked Igor Strelkov, former minister of defence of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic last month in one of the regular video rants he publishes on his Telegram channel. It’s a good question. Since 3 May, the Kremlin has been struck by two Ukrainian drones while up

My pilgrimage to Lourdes

‘Will someone steal my coat?’ ‘No, you’re on a holy pilgrimage,’ my son’s Irish carer-companion Rosemarie reassured him. We were going to Lourdes, where in 1858 a poor peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, had 18 visions of the Virgin Mary. At Stansted I’d lost a tooth. I had a bad knee and an ancient foot injury.

Men don’t belong in women’s sport

Olympic leaders say there’s no such thing as male advantage in sport. Here’s a simple question for them: if that were true, why not just scrap sex-based categories of men and women altogether? We all know why. Men run faster, jump higher and are stronger than women. In my sport of swimming, men are on

Notes on...

Why I hate the new Pride flag

If you needed more proof that gay men aren’t in control of things any more – at least where the activist set is concerned – look no further than the evolution of the LGBTQ+ Pride flag. If, as Oscar Wilde once wrote, ‘Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter