High life | 1 June 2017

I feel like an obituary writer, what with Nick Scott, Roger Moore, Alistair Horne — all great buddies — and now my oldest and closest friend, Aleko Goulandris, dead at 90. Mind you, they all had very good lives: plenty of women, lots of fun, accomplishments galore, and many children and grandchildren. And they all reached a certain age — what else can you ask of this ludicrous life of ours? Well, I won’t be writing about the high life this week, but scum life instead. And I’ll tell you why: those innocent young children slaughtered by that Islamist scumbag in Manchester, that’s why. Those sweet young lives deserved better,

The Government must do more to ensure the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ becomes a lasting legacy

The recent Queen’s speech, along with the growing divisions in the Conservative Party over the EU referendum, have focused attention on how this Government will be remembered after David Cameron steps down in 2019. Many mentioned prison reform, improving university standards and tackling extremism, as signs of the Prime Minister’s determination to establish his legacy as a social reformer, guided by the compassionate conservatism which characterised his earliest pronouncements as Tory leader. Less remarked upon, however, was the renewed commitment in the speech to building the Northern Powerhouse, and empowering cities in the North to fulfil their economic potential – another key way in which the Government hopes to leave

Fraternity, solidarity and the spirit of 1945 | 28 May 2017

My father worked as a fire warden during the Blitz, trying to contain the damage done by the Luftwaffe, and he witnessed more death and devastation than most soldiers saw on the frontline. Over a million houses in London were destroyed and nearly 20,000 civilians killed. But the horrors of the night were made more endurable by the atmosphere in the capital as day broke. All the petty distinctions that normally characterise life in a large city had fallen away. Strangers would stop and talk to each other. If anyone looked lost or confused, people would offer to help. Most adults had been up all night in makeshift air-raid shelters,

Watch: Andrew Neil’s This Week monologue – ‘the time for rhetoric is over’

In the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, the BBC’s This Week has kicked off with a speech from Andrew Neil on the tragedies — and the ‘jihadi johnnies’ responsible. Last night, in the wake of the Manchester Arena terror attack which left 22 people dead, Andrew Neil adopted a different tone — as he said ‘the time for rhetoric is over’: ‘I won’t repeat a version of the remarks I made on this programme in the wake of the Paris and Westminster attacks, though I know some of you were hoping that I would. They apply with equal force to what happened on Monday night – even

The known wolf

The meeting place of the two worlds could not have been more sharply defined. In Manchester Arena, thousands of young women had spent the night singing and dancing at a show in Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour. Songs such as the hit ‘Side To Side’ were performed: ‘Tonight I’m making deals with the devil/ And I know it’s gonna get me in trouble…/ Let them hoes know.’ Waiting for them in the foyer as they streamed out was Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old whose Libyan parents settled in the UK after fleeing the Gaddafi regime. A man whose neighbours said he must have been radicalised in Manchester, ‘all those types’

Nick Cohen

Will Corbyn’s supporters blame their election defeat on the Manchester attack?

The Manchester murders have given British politics its first conspiracy theory with a grain of truth in it. It may sound ghoulish to discuss the political consequences of an atrocity. But terrorism is a political crime, and we are in a general election campaign. Everyone is thinking that the Manchester attack passes the advantage to Theresa May. Soon they will be saying it too. It is easy to predict how the killings will be knitted into the left’s explanation for the defeat of 2017. Against the odds, Labour was doing well in the polls, Corbyn’s supporters will say. Why one survey had the opposition a mere nine points behind the

Why Islamists are obsessed with controlling young girls

When the pictures of the dead came in, it was hard to take, even from a distance. There was Georgina Callander, 18, a bespectacled Ariana Grande ‘superfan’ who had tweeted that she was ‘so excited’ to go to the concert in Manchester Arena. There was Saffie Roussos, aged 8 and still at primary school, who went with her mother and older sister. There was Olivia Campbell, aged 15. I looked at their bright faces and thought of all the love their families had carefully decanted into them over the years, their wealth of possibility. Then on Monday night a suicide bomber smashed up all their futures in an instant. What

Tom Goodenough

The Manchester bombing: what the papers say

The ‘cruel’ attack in Manchester is ‘more proof’ that the ‘liberal West shelters hate-filled enemies set on destroying our way of life’, says the Daily Mail. The bombing, in which 22 people lost their lives, was the worst since 7/7. And while our thoughts are now with the victims and their families, says the paper, ‘we owe them more than defiant declarations that terrorism cannot win’. Although details about the attacker remain sketchy, we know enough already, argues the Mail, to ‘draw vital lessons’ from this attack. ‘How many more returning jihadis and their brainwashed wives must we welcome home to walk our streets freely?,’ asks the Mail. It’s clear,

UK terror threat level raised to ‘critical’, soldiers deployed to the streets

In her second statement of the day, Theresa May has announced that the national terror threat level has been raised from “severe” to the highest level,”critical”. She added that she has also deployed the military to help armed police by triggering Operation Temperer,  a protocol that sends troops to help police with security at airports, rail networks, harbours etc. This is the first time that the level has been at critical since the foiled 2006 Heathrow plot – defined as the prospect of a terrorist attack moving from being “highly likely” to being “imminent”. This has been done before, and both times it lasted for just a few days. But what we haven’t seen before is the mass deployment of up

Alex Massie

The Manchester attack is especially vile but we must go on

The first victim named was from Lancashire, the second an eight-year old girl. Two girls from the isle of Barra in the Western Isles are among those still unaccounted for. A reminder, if it were needed, that though this was an attack in Manchester, the chains of personal connections to the horror stretch all across Britain. You cannot read the stories of those killed or missing without choking, without tears, without appreciating that even by the standards of contemporary terrorism there was something especially vile about this latest atrocity.   It is natural to feel helpless as well as angry, not least because the imaginative gulf between the norms of

Theresa May condemns ‘callous’ Manchester attack, full statement

I have just chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee COBR, where we discussed the details of – and the response to – the appalling events in Manchester last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families and friends of all those affected. It is now beyond doubt that the people of Manchester and of this country have fallen victim to a callous terrorist attack. An attack that targeted some of the youngest people in our society, with cold calculation. This was among the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the United Kingdom, and although it is not the first time Manchester has

House prices boosted by tram routes

In the wake of Friday’s international cyber attack, it was logical to assume that yesterday’s complete shutdown of the Manchester tram system was another casualty of malicious ransomware. But bosses at Metrolink say the closure was due to a technical fault in the control network and has now been resolved. For a city that has come to rely on its trams, any glitch is incredibly disruptive, not least because the bus network – to the north of Manchester at least – is a shambles. However, when the Met is working, it’s a convenient and efficient means of getting around, if a little pricey. And the multi-billion pound extension of what was

Capping prices to win votes is no substitute for a serious energy strategy

Is capping domestic energy prices an equitable way to help the ‘just about managing’, or an electoral gimmick with a whiff of anti-free-market ideology? When it was Ed Miliband’s idea, it was certainly the latter. Now it’s likely to be included in Theresa May’s manifesto, offering a potential £100 saving for millions of homes on ‘standard variable tariffs’, it is defended by the ever-plausible Sir Michael Fallon as a matter of ‘intervening to make markets work better’. And that, after all, is what the Prime Minister said she would do, wherever necessary, in the interests of fairness. In a regulated market, within which the consumer’s ability to choose the most

Andy Burnham and ‘posh coffee’ – a brief history

This evening, Andy Burnham has whipped social media into a frenzy after the Labour MP decided to wade into ‘barista-gate’. Following reports that the Home Secretary is considering plans for ‘barista visas’ — which would allow young Europeans to work in the hospitality industry after Brexit — Burnham has taken to Twitter to let it be known that he is unimpressed. The former shadow home secretary says the ‘right-wing’ policy is bizarre as ‘God forbid the idea of waiting longer in the morning for their posh coffee’. Bit bizarre hearing these right-wing calls for a "Barista Visa". God forbid the idea of waiting longer in the morning for their posh coffee.

It’s not grim up North: Manchester tops UK cities for house price growth

‘Northern Powerhouse fires up house prices in Manchester’ shouts one headline. ‘Manchester is at the centre of Britain’s property boom’ declaims another. ‘Manchester top for house price growth’, a third declares. As a property-owning Mancunian who has no intention of moving, this is welcome news. According to Hometrack, prices in my home city increased by 8.8 per cent in February, a faster rate than the property market in any other large British city. Also in the top ten are Portsmouth, Bristol, Glasgow and Birmingham. But what of the capital? It is now in tenth place in terms of year-on-year house price growth in Hometrack’s list which tracks the movements of house prices across

Mirror, mirror | 16 March 2017

The exit signs were switched off and the stalls were in utter darkness. One by one, 15 invisible dancers, their joints attached to tiny spotlights, began to colonise the far end of the hall, forming fresh constellations with every pose. The audience smiled in wonder, like tots at a planetarium. Tree of Codes, which had its London première at Sadler’s Wells last week, was originally commissioned in 2015 for the Manchester International Festival. It combined the talents of Wayne McGregor, resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet, mixer and DJ Jamie xx and the Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The trio took as their text Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes, which

Pity the Co-op: bank reports fifth consecutive year of losses

If you’re a Manchester resident, you’ll be familiar with the all-singing, all-dancing, brand-spanking-new Co-op headquarters. In much the same way that London’s City Hall squats on the banks of the Thames, One Angel Square looms over Victoria Station, its solid glass bulk in stark contrast to the company’s iconic 1960s CIS Tower just over the way. The UK’s largest building when it was completed in 1962 (this title was later claimed by the capital’s Millbank Tower), the former home of The Co-operative Group is a relic of a bygone age. To step inside is be transported back to the grey vision of mid-20th century town planners. Once a jewel in Manchester’s architectural

Magnetic north | 10 November 2016

Years ago, when I met a famous concert pianist, I was surprised when he greeted me in a northern accent. A soft one, mind you, but completely intact. I’d assumed that, by the time a conductor or soloist reached a certain level of fame, the northern vowels would have been erased by Received Pronunciation or some painful mid-Atlantic hybrid. I was such a little snob in those days, affecting a languid drawl that had my old schoolfriends in Reading rolling their eyes. But my social climbing had at least given me a good ear for other people’s doctored accents. London was crawling with northern choirmasters and music critics whose self-taught

Andy Burnham named as Labour’s Manchester Mayoral candidate

Andy Burnham has won the race to be named as Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Mayoral race. The shadow home secretary’s victory was certainly convincing – he won 50 per cent of the vote amongst Labour members; interim mayor Tony Lloyd got 28 per cent, whilst former minister Ivan Lewis won 19 per cent. So what now? Burnham had made himself something of a laughing stock recently with his flip-flopping about quitting the shadow cabinet. He drew derision for staying loyal to Corbyn, so at least after today he appears to have a bonafide reason at last for leaving the shadow cabinet. Despite the infancy of his mayoral campaign, Burnham is already

An elegy for Oldham

My home town of Oldham is the sort of place people imagine when they think of ‘The North’. It has mill chimneys, redbrick terraced streets and a rain-swept football ground (the third highest in the country) where supporters of the perpetually struggling Oldham Athletic queue for hot Vimto or a bag of black peas. Oldham is now the most deprived town in England, according to the Office for National Statistics. Crime and unemployment are high; investment, wages and prospects generally are pitifully low. Boarded-up shops and dilapidated factories tell a sorry tale of economic woe. It wasn’t always like this. My family’s home, in the leafy suburb of Werneth, was