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Boles’s crazy plan

At first, it seems fanciful. A backbench MP, Nick Boles, proposes to take power away from the government and place it in the hands of MPs, to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Can one backbencher usurp power in this way? It’s ambitious. But under the British system, government reports to parliament, not the other way around.

The danger of ‘neurodiversity’

I’m an American man affected by the disability autism. As a child, I went to special education schools for eight years and I do a self-stimulatory behaviour during the day which prevents me from getting much done. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I have bad motor coordination problems which greatly impair my ability to handwrite

The frozen swamp

 Washington, DC As a prison worker in Florida put it, ‘Trump’s not hurting the right people’ Washington is supposed to be recession-proof: when times are bad, the government just hires more. But the city isn’t shutdown-proof. There are more than 360,000 federal employees in the DC area, and many are among the 800,000 across America

The rebel alliance

Straight after the government’s epic defeat in the House of Commons on Tuesday night, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Brexit Secretary, Steve Barclay, held a conference call with business leaders to try to reassure them. The principal worry was about ‘no deal’. The Chancellor’s message of comfort was revealing

Renter’s paradise

On turning 50, I realised I’d never own my own home. What bank would agree to give a mortgage to someone with no regular source of income? Even if I did somehow hold down a job, I would have just 15 years until retirement age. For a while, I was depressed. Owning your own home

Pirates of the Caribbean

Brian Austin, a fisherman from the small village of Cedros in Trinidad, is struggling to describe the men who robbed him out at sea last year. ‘They had guns, they wore T-shirts and hoods.’ Then he brightens: ‘Have you ever seen Somali pirates? They looked just like that.’ I have indeed seen Somali pirates, as

Pale imitations

You can tell something about national character from the way a country clears its cupboards. In the States they have the yard sale. The American dream remains a detached house with a front and a back yard, all enclosed by a white picket fence. Daughter selling lemonade, son playing catch, consumer goods spread on the

Notes on...


If you mention the word ‘Booths’ anywhere south of Knutsford, you will usually be met with a blank expression, followed by someone wondering if you are mispronouncing the name of a nearby pharmacy. But in the north-west the name is associated with a store native to Lancashire, which, uncharacteristically for a supermarket chain, holds a