Will Alta Fixsler be allowed to die at home?

If your severely disabled two-year-old daughter is dying, should you be allowed to take her home for her final hours? It sounds like the answer should be a simple ‘yes’. But in the law surrounding parents, children and healthcare, nothing is that simple. Alta Fixsler’s parents have been repeatedly thwarted in their efforts – as they see it – to do their best for their daughter. First, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust sought to withdraw life-saving treatment for Alta. A judge subsequently agreed that it was in Alta’s ‘best interests for the treatment that is currently sustaining her precious life…to be withdrawn’. This was in spite of her parents seeking to

Why were the emergency services so slow responding to the Manchester bombing?

Claire Booth was put in the impossible position of having to decide whether to care for her sister or her daughter after the Manchester Arena attack. She understandably chose to look after her 12-year-old daughter, Hollie, but the decision still haunts her. More than anything, she wishes that emergency help had arrived quickly, in whatever form, and that the three of them had been taken to hospital for proper care. Kelly Brewster, her bubbly, music-loving sister did not survive the bombing. The speed of the emergency response may not have made a difference to Kelly but it may be that two others among the 22 victims could have been saved

The Marcus Rashford mural – an anatomy of a moral panic

Late on Sunday night, less than an hour after England lost on penalties to Italy in the European championship final, a mural of the United striker Marcus Rashford was defaced in his hometown of Withington in south Manchester.  Shortly afterwards the defaced part of the mural was hidden by black bin-liners and an online campaign was launched by the artist to repair the mural. Mr S believes the first report from the Manchester Evening News described the vandalism as ‘indecipherable lettering, daubed in blue paint on Sunday night, [which] can barely be seen over the powerful black and white image.’ On Monday morning, Greater Manchester Police released a statement which

The man at the heart of punk: the late Pete Shelley recalls his Buzzcocks years

Manchester, in the words of the artist Linder Sterling, is a ‘tiny little world’. Nearly three million people live in its sprawl, but its centre is compact. Like-minded Mancunians have always found one another easily. Cultural life is febrile, which partly explains how, in the pre-digital late-20th century, England’s third city produced such startling bands: Joy Division, the Fall, New Order, the Smiths, the Happy Mondays and Tony Wilson’s era-defining Factory record label — and Buzzcocks, less celebrated, but without whom Manchester’s creative energy would have failed to detonate. Pete Shelley was Buzzcocks’s charismatic co-founder and chief songwriter, whose sharp lyrics and bratty vocals shaped much of British punk. He

The shamelessness of Andy Burnham

Of all the people who should carry the can for Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour party, Andy Burnham doesn’t get his fair share of the stick. It was, after all, Burnham’s fear of being the most left-wing candidate in the 2015 leadership contest that led to Corbyn being ‘loaned’ enough MPs’ votes to get Dear Jeremy on the ballot. Despite this fact, Burnham felt no shame in saying in an interview this weekend that, ‘I still think life would have been different if I had won in 2015’, as if he hadn’t been his own worst enemy in denying that victory from taking place. That’s before we move onto

Roger Alton

Lord’s next week is the place to be

Good for Ed Smith. The new national selector can’t just rock a fine pair of sunglasses, he can make bold decisions. Though quite how bold it was to pick Jos Buttler, arguably England’s most gifted cricketer, is a matter of opinion. It would have been remarkable if one of the world’s best players, and a phenomenal striker of a cricket ball, had been left on the sidelines for the Pakistan Tests. Smith has brought an adventurous spirit to this England team, after years of excessive caution. Buttler has illuminated the Indian Premier League for the Rajasthan Royals, who will be scowling into their Cobra beers after losing their best player.

Portrait of the week: A Manchester stand-off, a Presidential showdown and a Brexit culture clash

Home After ten days spent trying to persuade Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, to accede to the city entering Tier 3 (which entails the closing of pubs and betting shops), Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, announced that it would happen anyway, from 23 October. ‘I am deeply sorry,’ he said. Manchester had wanted £65 million in support first. Liverpool complained that it was not allowed to keep gyms open when Lancashire was. The nine million people of London languished in Tier 2, forbidden to meet anyone at home or in a pub, except if they pretended it was a business meeting. Scotland hatched plans for its own tiers.

Angry Burnham takes on No. 10

Keir Starmer has made life difficult for Boris Johnson this week with his demand for a circuit-breaker lockdown. But the Labour leader’s colleague Andy Burnham is currently presenting a far greater threat to the Prime Minister. On Thursday, the Mayor of Greater Manchester gave a furious speech in which he accused the government of being ‘willing to sacrifice jobs here to save them elsewhere’ while treating his area like ‘canaries in the coalmine for an experimental regional lockdown strategy’. The government, he argued, was treating the North with ‘contempt’ by telling regional leaders there wasn’t enough money to protect jobs during the new restrictions while spending large sums on consultants

How strict will the new Covid restrictions be?

I have a few points to make about the new three tier system to be announced today for restricting our lives and businesses, to suppress Covid-19. 1) Last Wednesday, the government was so worried about the spread of coronavirus in the north of England that it was planning to impose new restrictions on places like Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle before announcing the three-tier framework. Because of opposition from city mayors and local authorities, that is now not going to happen. The three-tier framework will come first. 2) However, it is probable that there will be new restrictions announced today for Liverpool, if agreement with the Mayor Steve Rotheram is reached in

My dazzling chum: Mayflies, by Andrew O’Hagan, reviewed

Presumably because a small part of it takes place in Salford, the epigraph to Andrew O’Hagan’s latest novel consists of four lines from Ewan MacColl’s ‘Dirty Old Town’. More fitting, though, might have been six words from the Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’: ‘Teenage dreams, so hard to beat.’ The first half of the book follows a group of lads from Ayrshire as they excitedly prepare for, excitedly travel to and excitedly attend a post-punk music festival in Manchester in 1986. The narrator is the bookish 18-year-old Jimmy Collins, whose life bears a close resemblance to O’Hagan’s at the same age and time. But the focus is firmly on his friend Tully

Takes us deep into an unknown world: Channel 4’s Inside Missguided reviewed

If it’s a test of a good documentary series that it takes us deep into an unknown, even unimaginable world, then Inside Missguided: Made in Manchester passes with flying colours — especially for the more middle-aged viewer. Missguided, it turns out, is a fast-fashion company, which means that it spots what celebrities are wearing online and then designs, makes and sells much cheaper versions within days — all while indignantly denying the outrageous charge that ‘we just rip off other people’s designs’. The target market apparently consists of young women obsessed with Instagram and Love Island. And so, on the whole, does the staff, who have names like Treasure, Zee

It’s the fans wot win it – so stop fleecing them

It is always possible to tell the difference between a bunch of Manchester City fans and auditions for the latest Dolce & Gabbana commercial. And in that uproarious packed stand at Brighton on Sunday, there were clearly quite a few folk who hadn’t gone without a meal for some time. But by golly we were a happy, relieved bunch. City supporters have been used to getting kicked in the face at the last moment for so long that no one really celebrated till the result was beyond doubt. ‘Why are you so nervous, you’re 4-1 up?’ ‘I know, but there’s five minutes to go,’ is a joke made for City

Vital statistics

Scientists, it turns out, are really bad at statistics. Numerous studies show that a startling proportion of academics consistently misunderstand the statistics they’re using, and the conclusions that can be drawn from them. A computer algorithm that highlights basic statistical errors was recently set loose on a huge sample of published research papers in psychology  and found that almost half contained a mathematical mistake; 13 per cent had a serious screw-up that meant their reported results might have been completely wrong. If scientists — who use statistics all day to analyse their experiments — are so innumerate, what hope is there for everyone else? Enter Sir David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor

High life | 13 December 2018

Here we are, 41 years down the road, and I’m once again writing for The Spectator’s Christmas issue. This is a triple one, so I want to make it count. In my sporting days, trying too hard was as counterproductive as not trying hard enough, so let’s see if this principle also applies to the written word. Eighty-five thousand Yemeni children may have died of hunger, and 10,000 men, women and children have been killed, most of them by indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes targeting civilians, and that murderous megalomaniac Mohammed bin Salman and his Gulf allies are responsible. Just think of the enormity of the crime: 85,000 under-fives starved

Men behaving badly | 1 November 2018

Mike Leigh’s Peterloo is one of those films where you keep waiting for it to get good, and waiting and waiting. It’s Mike Leigh; it’s bound to get good soon. But it never does. It’s essentially two hours of men shouting at each other, followed by a burst of violence. I sincerely wish it were otherwise, but there you are. This is the story of the Peterloo Massacre (16 August 1819), when government-backed cavalry charged a peaceable crowd of around 60,000 who had gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, to demand universal suffrage. Fifteen were killed and hundreds more injured, including women and children. The film has been getting it

Low life | 11 October 2018

I told Oscar to wait outside and I went in and said to the barman: ‘Would it be all right if my grandson came in to watch the football?’ ‘Of course,’ he said. My notion that children aren’t allowed in pubs must be a quaint one because his harassed, hardworking face creased into a bemused smile and a man seated at the bar laughed. We had four screens of various sizes to choose from: one behind the bar, one above the pool table, one above the fireplace and one fixed to the wall at the end of the bar. About a dozen customers were half paying attention to the screens

The Bilbao effect

Twenty years ago I wrote of the otherwise slaveringly praised Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao: I’m in a minority of, apparently, one. It strikes me as a consummate gimmick… a fantastically elaborate and rather wearisome joke. Has mankind spent all these centuries perfecting Euclidean geometry and orthogonal engineering in order to have it overthrown by massively expensive crazy cottages clad in titanium? Apparently mankind has. So much for the building. What of the ‘Bilbao effect’, an epithet that I am accused of having coined (I can’t remember, but it’s inappropriate because there is, typically, no effect). Even before Frank Gehry’s earth-shattering masterpiece was finished, word was out and post-industrial cities on

A cold front for the Tories in Manchester

It’s Theresa May’s birthday and the Prime Minister is set to spend it in Manchester where Conservative party conference kicks off today. Alas, rather than celebrate, May finds herself in a perilous position – as MPs on all sides on the party go on the offensive whether it’s over Brexit, tuition fees or Boris. To add to the Tories’ woes, they are been given a less than friendly reception in the land of the northern powerhouse. On top of a banner calling for Tories to be hung, anti-Tory protesters have today descended on the area surrounding the conference centre. Here are some of the delights on display: What a charming

Northern rock

A fortnight ago, the debut album by a young British guitar band entered the chart at No. 6. You might have expected to see this pored over with some interest by the press, for whom the search for the New Arctic Monkeys, the New Oasis and the New Smiths has long been a matter of urgency. Instead, you will scour the daily newspaper arts pages in vain for mentions of the Sherlocks, and you won’t fare much better looking at the specialist music magazines. According to the self-anointed tastemakers of British pop, they might as well not exist. That’s because the Sherlocks are representatives of a growing trend in British

In defence of Neymar’s transfer fee

A season ticket at the Parc des Princes, home to Paris Saint-Germain, will set you back somewhere between £336 and £2,116, with individual tickets ranging from £25 to over £100, depending on how good your eyesight is. But this is a small price to pay in order to watch footballing luminaries like Edinson Cavani, Ángel di María and Dani Alves light up a league that has long been the sickly cousin of the European superpowers. Indeed, if you’re a PSG fan, this cost will be nothing compared to the phenomenal resurrection, started in 2011, of a European superpower that appeared to be in terminal decline. PSG are on the verge