There’s only one person who’ll be genuinely pleased with the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report, finally revealed on Tuesday, and that’s Vladimir Putin. Russia emerges as an amorphous and formidable enemy — all the more so because the inconclusive and much-redacted report contains next to no substantiated allegations. Instead Russia appears as a phantom, unknowable menace, and this will spawn a thousand conspiracy theories far more corrosive and confusing to our politics than any Moscow--generated Twitter-storm or document leak.
Chinese leaders love to use the phrase ‘win-win’, but they actually hope to win twice and leave other nations in positions of relative disadvantage. The Chinese Communist party’s behaviour during the Covid-19 crisis is a case in point.
In the midst of the global pandemic, the People’s Liberation Army and the Ministry of State Security have conducted cyber-attacks against hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and medical research facilities developing Covid-19 therapies and vaccines.
Any day now I shall be frogmarched, or at least very firmly escorted, out of a blood donor centre in London. I know this is going to happen because I made the appointment weeks ago and I intend to keep it. But when I signed up to donate my pint of blood to the public good, I was not required to wear a muzzle during my donation. Now I am. I do not intend to do so. I find the idea of donning one of these face-nappies physically repulsive, and dislike the mouthless, submissive appearance they create in all their wearers.
Lebanon will be 100 years old on 1 September. But the joke circulating in Beirut is that the country may not be around for the party. Eye-watering hyper-inflation, not helped by the Covid pandemic, has brought the country to its knees, just as famine and extreme poverty sparked its creation after the end of the Great War.
Lebanon eventually won full independence from the French in 1943, and became an impossibly glamorous, multilingual entrepôt with a rare facility for doing business.
Just before lockdown began, Matt Hancock and Dr Jenny Harries presented the nation’s daters with a stark dilemma. Non-cohabiting couples, they advised, should either move in together for the duration or stay physically apart. Couples who barely knew each other’s surnames were catapulted into levels of intimacy that would normally have evolved over years and the enforced lovebirds were soon living like old-style pensioners, spending every moment in each other’s company, arguing over hand sanitiser brands and giving one another dodgy haircuts.
‘Nightmare!’ is how The Spectator’s cartoon editor Michael Heath has been describing cartooning for at least 30 years, but it’s truer now than ever. Eighty years ago, cartoonists were so celebrated that waxworks of Low, Strube and Poy were displayed in Madame Tussauds. Today, all that remains of Low is a pair of waxy hands in Kent University’s British Cartoon Archive. We are a vanishing species.
There is a lack of new blood in the industry that doesn’t bode well for the future.
Not since the befuddled twilight of George III has a monarch been confined to Windsor Castle for such a duration. Unlike her great-great-great-great grandfather, however, the Queen has been in full command of everything. Now Balmoral beckons. Last year’s Deeside retreat was interrupted by the great prorogation crisis (how swiftly that episode has been relegated from constitutional apocalypse to half-remembered footnote).
I felt a genuine pang when British Airways announced that it was retiring its fleet of Boeing 747s, the largest remaining in the world. But the jumbo’s final approach to the elephants’ graveyard in the sky was a long time coming. In the US, United and Delta retired their 747s three years ago. With a mixture of frugality and sentimentality, BA kept them long after new technologies and new demographics made their huge capacity redundant.