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An audience with the wise woman of Whitehall

You may not have heard of Janet Paraskeva, but she is one of the most important people in Whitehall and also one of the most highly regarded. She is private both by temperament and by design, enjoying the freedom this gives her to get on with her job as First Civil Service Commissioner: head of

New York comes to London in a nursery queue

New York is a city of superlatives. It’s a point of pride. New Yorkers believe that their city and their city alone holds the mantle for being the place with ‘the most. . . ’ â” the most crazy folks, the most intense lifestyle, the most fashionable restaurants â” you get the picture. There’s a

Wake up: Britain is being demolished under our very noses

Something very important is going on out there, and I’m not sure that anyone has really noticed. Just look out of your window and you are likely to see fundamental changes happening to the place where you live. Cranes are out in force, a great metallic forest of them; our roads are populated by concrete

How labour unrest nearly lost us the Battle of Britain

‘The nation had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to give the roar,’ Winston Churchill said of his role in achieving victory in the second world war. The idea that the British people were united, steadfast and resolute in the face of adversity is one of the enduring themes of our island story, still

Toys that are too good for children and only for the rich

‘Prayer books are the toys of age,’ wrote Pope. Maybe so. But it’s surprising how many old people â” grown-ups â” like children’s toys as well. This Christmas West End shops have stocked up with expensive toys to attract the Russian new rich, what is called the Fabergé Trade. It was always thus. In the

If a rat can cook, can anyone be a writer now?

So this is how my average weekday morning goes. Give briefing to a telly researcher on a subject I have written sum total of one article about, complete long Q&A for self-publicity purposes for a magazine (which will appear under someone else’s byline), supply a written quote to help a reporter on a daily broadsheet

The Sunni side of Tikrit: progress in Iraq

A little after 2 a.m., in the small town of ad Dawr, south of Tikrit, Captain Ahmed of the Iraqi army was leading his troops on one of their regular arrest raids. Half a dozen men from one particular house were dragged out, hands bound with plastic flexi-cuffs, and lined up. But the man they’d

I have earned the right to shout at my television

My wife tells me that my present state reminds her of the famous Thurber cartoon of a woman crouched on top of a wardrobe with the watching man captioned as saying: ‘For ten years I’ve known peace with you, Mildred, and now you say you’re going mad.’ If you substitute the genders, and the fact