My adventures in rosé

During the festive season, I usually spend far too much time thinking and talking about politics. But the latest was an exception. One hostess fixed me with a gimlet eye and announced that she had forbidden any discussion of Israel/Palestine. At a recent dinner party, the table had been repeatedly banged, someone had stormed out and others were now on non-speaks. I quoted the late Clarissa Eden. During the Suez crisis, she felt that the Canal was running through her drawing-room. This girl gave a hearty nod in agreement. I was happy to agree with the ban, but declared my surprise. How could anyone be so sure of the solution?

Septuagenarians behaving badly: Stockholm, by Noa Yedlin, reviewed

My grandmother wore a bikini long after she’d turned 60. As a teenager, I couldn’t think of anything more embarrassing than to be seen with her on the beach. When the day came, on an inescapable family holiday, I begged her to reconsider. ‘I’ve never understood why they say the body betrays you,’ she replied. ‘The body is simply doing what it’s supposed to. It’s the soul that refuses to do its part in the deal.’ I remembered this reading Stockholm, a delightful dark comedy by the Israeli author Noa Yedlin about four elderly people conspiring to conceal the sudden death of their friend, the renowned economist Avishai Har-Nof, so

Portrait of the week: Elgin Marbles madness, Israel/Hamas ceasefire and Oscar Pistorius freed

Home Net migration reached a record 745,000 last year, the Office for National Statistics said, 139,000 higher than the 606,000 it had previously given. Robert Jenrick, the minister for immigration, was reported to be ‘pressuring’ No. 10 with ideas for cutting immigration, such as by making a minimum salary of £35,000 a requirement for a work visa. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, had agreed with Suella Braverman, when she was home secretary, to raise the salary requirement to £40,000, according to a copy of their agreement seen by the Telegraph. Eight small boats carried 364 migrants to England on 26 November. Caolan Gormley, 26, from Co. Tyrone, was found guilty at the

Israel’s challenge

42 min listen

On the podcast: Anshel Pfeffer writes The Spectator’s cover story this week. He voices concern that support from Israel’s allies might begin to waver if they don’t develop a viable plan after the war finishes. Paul Wood – former BBC foreign correspondent – and Dennis Ross – former Middle East coordinator under President Clinton and advisor to President Obama – join the podcast to debate whether Israel can rely on its allies. (01:18) Also this week: In the Books section of the magazine this week we review Andy Stanton’s new book Benny The Blue Whale. It has a fascinating inception and was co-authored by the machine learning tool ChatGPT. Andy is joined by

Portrait of the week: tax cuts, hostage releases and highly rated horses

Home Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said, ‘We can now move on to the next phase of our economic plan and turn our attention to cutting taxes,’ having seen a reduction in inflation. Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, followed suit in the Autumn Statement, cutting personal taxes. The government was to make changes to long-term benefits. The minimum wage, known officially as the National Living Wage, currently £10.42 an hour for those over the age of 23, will rise to £11.44 an hour for those over 21 from next April. The government also drew attention to £8.3 billion allocated to mending potholes, money purportedly saved from the curtailment

I hope David Cameron will find time to drink the odd good bottle

Back in 1989, a most unsatisfactory fellow called General Aoun started a civil war around Beirut in the hope of seizing control of the Maronite Christian portions of Lebanon. He ended up with political wreckage, which has endured. Château Berliquet 2015 is a fruity St Emilion that deserves to be better known During the fighting, I spent a few days cut off in the British ambassador’s summer residence, watching the battle going on below. We felt safer than we probably were, partly because Pauline Ramsay, the ambassador’s enchanting wife, tried to turn the crisis into a house party. So British: so best of British. We watched, helpless, as one block

My futile morning guarding Churchill’s statue

On Armistice Day I made my way to Parliament Square with some vague notion of protecting Churchill’s statue. I’d discussed the need to stop it being defiled by pro-Palestinian protestors a few days earlier with a group I’m involved with called the British Friends of Israel, but in my head this had been a theoretical discussion, not something that involved me personally. Then Allison Pearson, a member of the group, announced in the Telegraph that she intended to stand in front of the statue armed with a rolled-up copy of the paper, and I felt shamed into joining her. Not that I was worried about her being knocked over by

Portrait of the week: Met in a muddle, King’s Speech and a wine production slump 

Home Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said of pro-Palestinian demonstrations: ‘To plan protests on Armistice Day is provocative and disrespectful, and there is a clear and present risk that the Cenotaph and other war memorials could be desecrated.’ The Metropolitan Police urged organisers of a pro-Palestinian march on 11 November to postpone it, but they refused. The Prime Minister then said he would hold the Metropolitan Police Commissioner ‘accountable’ for his decision to greenlight the ‘disrespectful’ demonstration. Imran Hussain MP left the Labour front bench over Sir Keir Starmer’s opposition to a ceasefire in Gaza, and Afrasiab Anwar, the leader of Burnley council, and ten councillors left the Labour party.

Benjamin Netanyahu is increasingly seen as Israel’s curse

Jerusalem On Tuesday, I was driving down to an Israeli army headquarters on the border with Gaza as a massive convoy of police cars and black bullet-proof limousines forced me onto the side of the road by the town of Ofakim. In Israel, only one man travels in a convoy that large.  It was 7 November, a month after the Hamas attack on Israeli communities in which 1,400 were murdered and the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza began. Even during peacetime the Prime Minister’s movements are shrouded in secrecy until he is safely back in one of his homes or offices.  Many Israelis, including those who voted for

The world is a mess. Why not find escapism through wine? 

In most children’s stories, the good characters live happily ever after. Works suitable for older readers tend to greater realism. Even ‘Gaudeamus Igitur’, that most joyous of drinking songs, presses the case for carpe diem. ‘Get stuck in to your pleasures laddie,’ it seems to be saying, ‘before it is too late.’ With the world in such a mess – less carpe diem than dies irae – the case for a vinous route to escapism might seen persuasive. Housman seemed to think so. ‘Could man be drunk for ever,’ starts one poem, then all would be well. Not for long. ‘But men at whiles are sober/ And think by fits

What did Hamas think was going to happen?

Much misfortune the woebegone couldn’t have seen coming: a raging fire in the house next door that spreads to yours. The invention of some kooky technology called ‘the internet’ that puts your travel agency out of business. Yet other calamities are foreseeable. If you suddenly stop filing tax returns without a good excuse – like, dying – it’s a virtual certainty that the all-seeing computer will come after you. So when compounding fees and interest leave you skint, our sympathies are apt to be scant. What did you think was going to happen? Or to up the moral ante: if you slaughter 18 innocents in a frenzy for no apparent

Letters: policing pro-Palestinian rallies isn’t an exact science

Call for common justice Sir: Rod Liddle’s piece on the true desires of Palestinians was rare in its acceptance of the complexity of aspiration (‘What Hamas promised its electorate’, 28 October). People cleave to those who stand for their best hopes. They voted for Hamas. Rod ends saying only Israeli Arabs in his experience did not loathe Jews. Why would they? Presumably being the right side of the ‘peace’ wall, they had no fear of losing their birthright to illegal settlers acting in defiance of UN resolutions with official acquiescence. If the Israeli rule of law could have extended to the occupied West Bank Arabs, then there would be no

Keir Starmer’s Israel problem is growing

13 min listen

Today, Keir Starmer held a long meeting with some Muslim Labour MPs over their concern on his stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, first ignited by comments he made on LBC which seemed to justify Israel’s electricity and water blockade of Gaza. The Labour leader has made huge progress to move his party on from the reputation of anti-Semitism forged during the Corbyn era – but can he find a middle way to please all wings of his party on this deeply emotive issue? Cindy Yu talks to Katy Balls and Isabel Hardman. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Portrait of the Week: Tory by-election misery, ‘jihad’ chants and emergency aid

Home Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, on his return from Israel (where he spoke with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister) and to Saudi Arabia (where he spoke with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince), told the House of Commons: ‘Hamas is not only a threat to Israel, but to many others across the region. All the leaders I met agreed that this is a watershed moment. It’s time to set the region on a better path.’ Twelve Britons had died in the Hamas attack, and five were missing. Of the blast at Gaza’s al-Ahli hospital on 17 October, which killed numbers of people into the hundreds, he said it was likely to

Rod Liddle

What Hamas promised to its electorate

Things you do not hear very often, number one: a pro-Palestinian protestor denouncing Hamas for the barbarity of its incursion into Israel on 7 October, appalled at the savagery of those attacks upon children, grandmothers, etc. It may seem as if, in saying this, I am stating the obvious – because support for that pogrom was, I would suggest, strong among some of those carrying Palestinian flags on marches through London and elsewhere. Six Arab language journalists were suspended by the BBC when it was discovered that they retweeted messages glorifying in that day’s murder. They were not members of Hamas. Ordinary Palestinians interviewed, cowering in the rubble of Gaza, were

The Tories didn’t lose Mid Bedfordshire – Labour won it

In 1975 I travelled as an undergraduate to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and finally to Israel. I visited refugee camps and met a Palestinian militant, Bassam Abu Sharif, who had been blinded in one eye by a Mossad parcel bomb. I talked to policymakers in each country and heard a range of Israeli opinion. On return I wrote in the Jewish Chronicle of the need to address the plight of the Palestinians caused by their displacement. I made the case in favour of a two-state solution five years before the 1980 Venice declaration on Palestinian statehood. One of today’s many tragedies is that Hamas’s barbarism has pushed that solution even

Toby Young

Why I don’t trust the BBC’s Trusted News Initiative

You almost certainly haven’t heard of the Trusted News Initiative (TNI), although you probably should have. It’s a BBC-led consortium of the world’s most powerful news, social media and technology companies that seeks to cleanse the internet of ‘disinformation’. It carries out this mission by doing its best to discredit sites that challenge the prevailing narrative on topics like lockdowns, Covid vaccines, electoral fraud, the Ukraine war and climate change. It was founded in 2019 by Jessica Cecil, a senior BBC executive who, in 2021, was part of the Counter Disinformation Policy Forum, a shadowy group of ‘experts’ convened by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to monitor criticism

Homer’s take on theology

The Hamas charter does not mince its words: ‘The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”’ A return to the ancient pagan gods would surely be an improvement, but the modern world adopts the Hamas line. Consider the current deities of the bigots whose opponents, hiding behind a clearly sacrilegious belief in rational argument, must be condemned to eternal cancellation. The Greek

No one should trust the camera in the age of AI

This war is being fought with pictures more than words. The poignant shots, often selfies, of families, children, even babies, who were to become victims of Hamas butchery, the wailing mothers and children on stretchers in Gaza, the missile strikes and collapsed concrete buildings. We know politicians on all sides lie, but photography is a mechanical process; these pictures must, surely, be the truth? Almost all these photos have been taken with mobile phones. To a rough approximation, everybody now has a smartphone. There are said to be seven billion smartphones in use around the world – there are only eight billion people. (Sales of what we used to know