Joe Biden’s foreign policy has been driven by two objectives: to revive the US-led alliance system that atrophied under Donald Trump and to clear the decks to allow for a new focus on China. This requires America’s allies doing more elsewhere to free the US up for the task of preventing Beijing from achieving regional hegemony in Asia.
America has been moving in this direction for some time: Barack Obama spent his presidency talking about an Indo-Pacific pivot.
When thousands of migrants massed on the Polish-Belarusian border, the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki lost no time in identifying who he believed the true culprit to be. Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko was just an ‘executor’, Morawiecki told his parliament. The true ‘enabler’ was ‘President Putin, who shows a determination to carry out the scenario of rebuilding the Russian empire, the scenario that we, all Poles, have to forcefully oppose’.
What will become of the British monarchy after Elizabeth II? It’s a question that many would prefer not to ask. But the Queen is 95, her husband died earlier this year and she’s pulling out of engagements she’s rarely missed in 69 years on the throne. More honest royal sources confirm the obvious: she’s had to take another significant step away from public life. From now on she will conduct more duties over video calls.
On a long-ago Remembrance Sunday, it fell to me, as a new service equerry, to present the Prince of Wales with his wreath to lay at the Cenotaph. The fact that the Cenotaph in question was in Hong Kong — still a British Crown Colony at the time — gives the memory a sepia tint. Adding to the retro imperial theme, His Excellency the Governor wore full dress uniform, complete with pith helmet and ostrich feather. As I waited nervously to play my walk-on part, I had time to realise how lucky I was to witness such vanishing theatre.
‘Cartoons are like gossamer and one doesn’t dissect gossamer.’ So says Mr Elinoff, the fictional cartoon editor of the New Yorker in an episode of Seinfeld, when trying to explain a cartoon to Elaine. Elaine isn’t satisfied. Mr Elinoff suggests the cartoon is a commentary on contemporary mores, a slice of life or even a pun. ‘You have no idea what this means do you?’ says Elaine. ‘No,’ he concedes.
The scene sums up the problem of understanding the New Yorker’s sometimes oblique sense of humour — and may come as a relief to the many British cartoonists who have tried and failed to break into the Big Apple’s literary bastion.
Earlier this year I drew a comparison between the Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey and the Metropolitan police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick. When appointed, both were hailed as head-and-shoulders the best qualified internal candidate for the job. Yet both have subsequently attracted volleys of flak for everything that has gone wrong on their watch.
That’s a peril of the media age for any high-profile public servant.
Two years in, there is no doubt the Covid pandemic began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. But there is also little doubt that the bat carrying the progenitor of the virus lived somewhere else.
Central to the mystery of Covid’s origin is how a virus normally found in horseshoe bats in caves in the far south of China or south-east Asia turned up in a city a thousand miles north. New evidence suggests that part of the answer might lie in Laos.
The inflation tiger is roaring. Older people can hear it. How about younger ones? Inflation could, after all, be the biggest blow to their finances in their lifetime.
They don’t seem hugely concerned. According to polling by GfK, Generation Z is totally ‘chill’ about inflation. Older generations, meanwhile, are scarred by the last inflation spiral of the 1970s — a brown-tinged decade of power cuts, unemployment and grim donkey jackets.
The mullet is back in fashion, which is proof that true evil never dies. What’s more, the trend is being driven by public-school boys. I only noticed its return last month, when I attended a local ball in East Sussex frequented by the type of people you’d expect at a local ball in East Sussex. But this year was different. There were 17-year-olds with mullets everywhere. ‘Why? What does it all mean?’ I asked anyone who would listen.