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The diversity trap

Britain seems to be following America down a dangerous path. There’s your politician David Lammy accusing Oxford and Cambridge of racial bias — and refusing to listen when they point out they simply accept whoever gets top grades. Then there’s the author Lionel Shriver, pilloried because she dared to suggest (in this magazine) that privileging

Don’t fight racism with racism

Dear 2016 WriteNow mentees, Thanks so much for your open letter to me. It seems only good manners for me to write back. You’re rightly proud of having been admitted to a challenging programme at Penguin Random House that mentors gifted young minority authors and helps to cultivate their talents. My own publisher, HarperCollins, runs

The joy of bird-listening

Here’s a rum thing: you can tell the quality of a piece of land with your eyes closed. Your ears alone will tell you if it’s any good or not. And this, as it happens, was good land. I was attempting to explain this concept to a group of disparate individuals, among them land-owners, gamekeepers,

The straight dope | 21 June 2018

Was there ever a more fatuous contribution to a political debate than Lord Hague following up the case of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell — the boy whose mother says he needs cannabis oil to control his epilepsy — with a demand for recreational cannabis to be legalised? But the former foreign secretary has done us a

Britain’s collusion

 Washington, DC Reports say the head of GCHQ flew to the US to hand deliver this incendiary material to the CIA When the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu visited London in 1978, the British government did some serious sucking up. Ceausescu was an egomaniac and possibly crazy. When he went hunting outside Bucharest, his body-guards shot

Bringing sexy back

Sexual intercourse, Philip Larkin famously wrote, began in 1963. And listening to contemporary commentators, you’d think that it came to an end in 2017 with the birth of the #MeToo movement. For these voices of doom, the end of the erotic is nigh; Britain is on the brink of sexual apocalypse. The recent news that

Notes on...

New Jersey

When my American friends invited us to stay with them in New Jersey, my 13-year-old daughter was thrilled. She’d never been to the States before, and she couldn’t wait to see Manhattan. I had to break the news to her that there were no skyscrapers where we’d be staying. Plainfield, New Jersey, is an easy