In the space of just a few years, Britain has gone from China’s would-be best friend to part of a pact to counter it. When President Xi Jinping came to London in 2015, Downing Street pulled out all the stops. Xi stayed at Buckingham Palace, visited Chequers and signed — of all things — a cyber security agreement. The police went to extraordinary lengths to clamp down on protests by Free Tibet supporters and a Tiananmen Square survivor.
Germany’s election campaign has taken many unexpected turns. In January, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), were leading by about 20 percentage points. By April, the Greens were ahead. By July, the CDU/CSU had bounced back, and then all of a sudden, the Social Democrats (SPD) came out of nowhere to a solid lead by last weekend. The gap has since closed a little ahead of Sunday’s election — and the joyride is still not over.
Just weeks after the denouement of the West’s misadventure in Afghanistan, Boris Johnson is again committing Britain to a risky international venture. Aukus, the naval partnership between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, appears to tie Britain to an Indo-Pacific strategy that is militarily and geopolitically flawed.
In December 1941, the catastrophic sinking of the then imperious new battleship HMS Prince of Wales along with the battlecruiser HMS Repulse off the coast of Malaya led to the loss of Singapore and brought the curtains down on Britain’s Asian Empire.
Should we fear a new martial spirit in Japan? Is there a samurai lurking inside those armies of grey-suited corporate men waiting to spring forth?
Even though Japan’s constitution, drawn up by the Americans after the war, forbids military combat abroad, the fear of a Japanese militarist revival has never quite gone away, especially in China where memories of Japanese wartime atrocities are kept alive and easily manipulated for political ends.
Over the past few months, the Archbishops of York and Canterbury have repeatedly assured us that they love parishes and parish churches. ‘I am passionate that the parish is essential,’ the Archbishop of Canterbury told the Church Times recently. The Archbishop of York went so far as to describe the parish as ‘the beating heart of community life in England’. So why are they supporting a change to church law to make it easier to close parish churches?
The paper which proposes the change is at stage one of a three-stage approval process.
Politicians are supposed to have a survival instinct. Mine didn’t kick in last week, so I had no idea that my evidence session to a House of Lords committee on Wednesday would be my swan song. I was speaking about the work of the Ministry of Justice, where I had been lord chancellor for two years. The work, I said, is more than a series of desiccated processes. It is, and should always be, rooted in the rule of law, fairness and equality.
Women who fall in love with killers have always fascinated and repulsed me. What drives them? Do they think they can ‘save’ these men? Are they secret sadists, acting by proxy? Are they masochists, getting a cheap thrill from communicating with someone who has tortured a fellow woman to death? Bonnie and Clyde syndrome, also known as hybristophilia, puts the case that, as an evolutionary reproductive trait, some women can be drawn to ‘bad boys’ who are prepared to break rules/laws and are therefore ‘stronger’.
Flying to Kalamata this week, I did my own little bit to reduce the terrible queues at Heathrow Terminal 5. Heroically, I stacked up the grey luggage trays once they’d been emptied by passengers coming through security.
As a result, there were more loaded trays for people to pick up, and a smaller tailback of passengers — including me — waiting to pick up their unloaded trays. It was just a tiny example of the hundreds of things that could be done to reduce queues in airports, hospitals, train stations, supermarkets…
The British may be famous for their patient queueing but it doesn’t mean we actually like doing it.
Last week a gentle Norfolk waterway got into trouble with Facebook. The problem was its name — Cockshoot Dyke. Facebook’s relentless algorithms blocked posts that mentioned the dyke and issued notifications warning about ‘sexual content’ and ‘violence’.
The name of this stretch of water isn’t, of course, actually rude at all. It relates to a fowl-hunting term for a broad glade through which woodcock might fly. The joy of supposedly ‘rude’ place names lies in their innocence.