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Katy Balls

The break-up: is Boris about to lose Scotland?

At the stroke of five o’clock last Friday, the new head of No. 10’s Union unit was due to brief government aides on the robust new strategy to counter the SNP. It was urgently needed: campaigning for the Scottish parliament election starts in a few weeks and if Nicola Sturgeon wins a majority — as

The Salmond case has left the House of Sturgeon teetering

From a distance, Nicola Sturgeon seems unbeatable. Polls show her party with just over 50 per cent of the vote, quite a feat in a five-party parliament. But this week, she has found herself fighting for her political future. Alex Salmond’s sensational claim to be the victim of a conspiracy designed to destroy him —

For lovers who live apart, it’s been a long year

Spring is coming, the roadmap out of lockdown is here, and the faint signs of an End To All This can be seen, in smoke rings, on the horizon. I scan the list of freedoms with impatience: schools, if you must, parental visits in parks, fine, fine, but when will I get to see my

The art of the public information ad

Bring back the Tufty Club. Bring back the Green Cross Code. Bring back ‘Charley says’. Bring back ‘Only a fool breaks the two-second rule’. Bring back Vinnie Jones and ‘Stayin’ Alive’. Bring back the Country Code and ‘Always take your litter home’. Bring back public information films. Bring back the Central Office of Information. For

Blair’s back – and advising Tories on vaccine ID cards

When the Prime Minister mentioned ‘Covid status certification’ as part of his route back to normal life, one man must have enjoyed the moment. For Tony Blair it was yet one more little victory in his UK comeback tour, made all the sweeter because Boris Johnson was once a principal opponent of the idea of

English beef: France’s loathing of the ‘Anglo-Saxons’

To find out who your true friends and rivals really are, just gauge the reaction to news of your latest success story. It is revealing, for example, that many French officials have taken grave exception to the stunning speed and efficiency of our national vaccination programme. This became clear at the end of January, when

Up Crash: why are markets soaring as the economy tanks?

Shops are boarded up. More than four million people are on furlough with little idea of whether they will have jobs to go back to. Global trade has hit levels last seen a decade ago, and government deficits are soaring, while most developed economies have seen output shrink by 10 per cent, a collapse not

The mysteries of ‘long Covid’

Soon, as the rates of coronavirus deaths and infections plummet, we’re likely to focus more on those who suffer what is being called ‘long Covid’ — yet the truth is we know very little about what precisely it is. Long Covid began as a quiet murmur in the background: anecdotal stories about symptoms which extended


Here in Texas, Hell has frozen over

Austin ‘If I owned Texas and Hell,’ General Phil Sheridan famously said, ‘I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.’ Although the weather was unusually warm for the season in central Texas we guessed something was up when, in broad daylight with hawks about, our normally crepuscular attic mice risked running down a porch

Notes on...

What kind of oyster-eater are you?

The latest fight between the EU and the UK isn’t over vaccines, but molluscs. Brussels won’t grant Britain a special export health licence for the trade of ‘live bivalve molluscs’ unless they are purified first. The problem is, once they’ve been purified they have to be eaten within 48 hours, which gives them too short