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Katy Balls

Boris in a spin: can the PM find his way again?

Something strange is going on in Westminster: nearly every minister and Tory MP has a spring in their step. It’s not (just) the vaccine breakthrough, or the magic money tree now bearing such fruit in the back garden of HM Treasury. The liberation-of-Paris feel in locked-down Westminster is inspired by the departure of Boris Johnson’s

Inside the court of Carrie Symonds, princess of whales

Carrie Symonds, the Prime Minister’s fiancée, ‘gets’ the media. That’s what her friends are quick to tell you. She’s a PR professional. If she doesn’t like the thrust of a story, she lets you know. She contacts journalists to tell them how ‘disappointed’ she is in their sloppy work. And she doesn’t seem all that

Things fall apart: Ethiopia’s terrifying descent into civil war

The world’s first conflict triggered by Covid-19 exploded on 4 November in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray. Before your eyes glaze over at news of fresh African horrors — hundreds dead in battles and air strikes, ethnic massacres, civilians fleeing, charities calling for food aid — consider this frightening new reality. For the first time

First names are for friends and family, not bosses and builders

Recently I was listening to Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch, the army’s Commander Home Command, being interviewed by Martha Kearney on Today. I cannot remember what he was talking about, because I had become quite agitated by the officer’s insistence on using Ms Kearney’s name in every response: ‘Good morning, Martha… It absolutely is, Martha… The things

How the UK can help Hong Kong

Those of us who spent our formative China-watching years reading Chinese Communist party publications learnt early on that the word ‘basically’ was a synonym for ‘not’. ‘The party has basically succeeded in…’ meant that there was a problem. Hong Kong is basically an autonomous region. Xi Jinping is satirised by liberal Chinese as the ‘Accelerator-in-Chief’,

The dark art of playing world-class Scrabble

When the top players gathered in Torquay last year for the World Scrabble Tournament (this year’s contest should have been this week, but has been cancelled thanks to you-know-what), it was to use ‘words’ like these in their games: dzo, ch, foyned, ghi… Yep, that’s right; a whole lot of words that, let’s be frank

Scotland can’t afford to remain part of the Union

Tony Blair’s biggest achievement was delivering a referendum that unified Scotland behind devolution and gave all parties a stake in its success. Boris Johnson is wrong to say it was ‘a disaster’, but in being wrong is helping precipitate the logical next step: independence. The opinion polls that show a growing majority for Scottish independence

Notes on...

Who decides what’s allowed on a gravestone?

A parishioner in West Yorkshire has been allowed to put an inscription in Chinese on a relative’s gravestone. ‘There is no general prohibition on the inclusion in inscriptions on headstones of words or phrases in a language other than English,’ said Mark Hill QC, Chancellor of the Diocese of Leeds, sitting in a consistory court.