What’s really behind the Tories’ present woes?

The problem is, we really need a Tory party. Whether we have one at the moment is another question. Political debate requires a significant and trustworthy proponent of personal freedom, of the limits of government, of personal responsibility, of strict limitations of government expenditure, of independent enterprise which may succeed through a lack of intrusive state control or may fail without hope of public rescue. Not everyone will share those values. But I think everyone should accept that it’s proved catastrophic that those values have apparently disappeared from public policy. History rhymes, but does not repeat itself. The lessons of previous periods when major economic policies of an interventionist sort

Is Thomas Heatherwick the best person to preach about modern architecture?

It needs a big personality to answer a big question: why is so much new building so very bad; why are our cities so ugly? Thomas Heatherwick is that big personality. He is the Jamie Oliver of architecture and design: personable, blokeish, smart, tele-genic, extremely successful, nearly demented with ambition, and, one suspects, inclined to petulance if crossed. He is a visionary with several blind spots. To extend the Oliver comparison, there are times when Heatherwick serves up a delicious dish with his thumbs stuck in the bowl. His flair comes with flaws. As a designer, his Boris Bus for London was charming, but functional problems led to its withdrawal

Reflections on water in the Middle East

These Bodies of Water begins dramatically (as befits a book derived from Sabrina Mahfouz’s Royal Court show A History of Water in the Middle East) in a stuffy little room in Whitehall where the author is being interrogated by a man in a beige mac who is vetting her for top security clearance. It all sounds a bit James Bond, except that Mahfouz is more like an ‘Egyptian Guyanese Nancy Drew’, as a boyfriend joked – extremely unusual in the civil service fast stream as a woman, working-class and Middle Eastern (her father is Egyptian, her mother is Guyanese-British). While her peers laugh off questions like ‘Have you ever had

Anti-Semitism and the far left

The comic David Baddiel has written a book which explains that much of the far left hates Jews. There are exceptions. They are OK with dead Jews (the Holocaust gets a sad face emoji if it isn’t ‘exploited’ by living Jews, in which case it gets an angry face emoji), and penitent Jews (the ones who hate Israel in any form). They will deny it and call me an anti-Semite and a Nazi writing for a Nazi magazine with my Nazi fingers because they don’t understand Nazism, anti-Semitism or themselves. They are not really progressives; they are religious maniacs — and that is sometimes funny. These penitent Jews should include

Trump’s autocratic antics risk becoming the new normal

It is easy to forget the abnormality of Donald Trump’s presence in the White House. Before his election it would have seemed unthinkable to have the leader of the free world bragging of being a ‘very stable genius’ on social media, then taunting the despotic ruler of a nuclear-armed nation as ‘Little Rocket Man’ and threatening annihilation of his country. Or for a United States president to lie so frequently and casually that the Washington Post counted more than 10,000 ‘fishy claims’ by the end of last April alone. But we have become inured to Trump’s self-obsessed boasts and infantile tantrums. We have become accustomed to the deceit, the disorder,