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Chaos in Venice

A couple of vaporetto stops in the direction of the Lido, from near Piazza San Marco – fortified, perhaps, by a cold glass of wine and some lively light music from the immaculately dressed band outside Florians – and you are in the merciful shade of the public gardens, where some of the national pavilions

The year aliens became alien

Uncontrolled immigration? A burden on the taxpayer? Terrorists in our midst? The current immigration crisis echoes events of 100 years ago which led to the passage of Britain’s first piece of immigration law. From the 1880s onwards, increasing numbers of Russian and Polish Jews sought refuge from pogroms in their homelands. With its long tradition

Piano-player in a brothel

Christopher Howse says that Malcolm Muggeridge, born 100 years ago, was very much a man of the 20th-century world – but rebelled against it Twenty years ago Malcolm Muggeridge, with a grimace of welcome, met me at Robertsbridge station, like many another. To reach the Sussex cottage that he shared with Kitty, his wife of

How shellfish is that?

Hermanus You can forget car-jacking, mugging and necklacing. In South Africa the worst crime problem centres on an oddly shaped bottom-dweller. Known locally as perlemoen but elsewhere as abalone, the seawater shellfish has sparked a poaching and smuggling racket that is outgrowing all other crime in a country widely held to be the world’s most

Dumb and dumber

At the end of January the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, declared that ‘Education for its own sake is a bit dodgy’. ‘The idea,’ he went on, ‘that you can learn about the world sitting in your study just reading books is not quite right. You need a relationship with the workplace.’ He also said that

Proles apart

I have found it – the land that Nineteen Eighty-Four forgot. When the book’s hero, Winston Smith, flees Big Brother and the party operatives, it is to ‘the vague, brown-coloured slums to the north and east of what had once been St Pancras Station’ that he runs. On the eve of the centenary of Orwell’s


In any discussion about the justifications for the war in Iraq, there comes the Zimbabwe point. Yeah, says the sceptic, but what about Zimbabwe, eh? If we go to war to liberate the Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam, why won’t we lift a finger to free the victims of Robert Mugabe? Is it a

Blunkett the authoritarian

That Lord Woolf, he has a bit of a cheek, doesn’t he? I don’t know if you caught his intervention in the Criminal Justice Bill debate the other night, but it was the usual stuff. He excoriated the politicians (David Blunkett) for trying to fetter the discretion of the judges. He was appalled, said the

Crippling burden

There is something a little reckless about having a go at the disabled lobby. I can happily question the zealousness and rectitude of the Commission for Racial Equality, Stonewall and any of a multitude of women’s groups, safe in the knowledge that I am not about to be rendered black, gay or female in the

Within the German pale

More Jews are moving to Germany than to any other country in the world, including Israel. This statement seldom fails to provoke gasps of astonishment among people whose knowledge of Germany is limited to the Holocaust. To them it seems a very strange and wonderful thing that the Jewish life which the Nazis tried with

It’s not the oil, stupid

These are tough times to be a Middle Eastern despot, so perhaps it is understandable if a few of them feel a little paranoid right now. Iraq is under foreign occupation, Iran is in open revolt, and Saudi Arabia is apparently under attack from British bootleggers who look surprisingly like friends of Osama bin Laden.

Osama bides his time

We have al-Qa’eda on the run,’ President Bush was reported to have said in April. In May, al-Qa’eda and its associated groups masterminded a week of bombings which left more than 100 people dead. It looked like a deliberate riposte to the President’s triumphant optimism. There were two explosions in Chechnya on 12 May, which