Why wasn’t Russell Brand cancelled in his prime?

In 2014, Rolf Harris was convicted of sexual offences against girls. I wrote in this space that this would have represented more of a cultural change in the treatment of celebrities if he had been unmasked at the height of his fame. Current stars, I suggested, are much more rarely denounced: ‘I would not dream of suggesting that Russell Brand is a sex criminal, but we know, from his own account, that he has slept with a great many women.’ He had even, on his infamous Radio 2 show, boasted of sleeping with Andrew Sachs’s grand-daughter, yet ‘the BBC broadcast this as comedy’. ‘If the celebrity wheel of fortune ever went

Portrait of the week: Met misconduct, Starmer in Paris and Spanish football in turmoil

Home Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, proposed reaching net zero in 2050 ‘in a better, more proportionate way’ such as by delaying a ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel cars and delaying the phasing out of gas boilers. Ford the car makers told him it would undermine the three things it needed from the government: ‘ambition, commitment and consistency’. Inflation decreased from 6.8 per cent annually in July to 6.7 per cent in August despite a rise in oil prices. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, appointed commissioners to run Birmingham, which had run out of money. A man was killed by two dogs, said to

Rishi’s target creeps away as NHS backlog climbs

Yet another of Rishi Sunak’s five targets looks to have slipped out of reach. Waiting lists for NHS treatment in England have climbed to another record high and now stand just shy of 7.6 million. There was a slight improvement for the longest waits: those waiting more than a year dropped slightly but still stand at a staggering 383,000. A very unlucky 314 have found themselves languishing on the lists for more than two years. Ministers gave the NHS a target to clear waits of more than 65 weeks by April next year, but there’s been little progress on those either. NHS managers were quick to blame strike action –

Freddy Gray, Mary Wakefield, Gareth Roberts and Rachel Johnson

28 min listen

This week (01.13) Freddy Gray, on why Ron De Santis is no longer ‘de future’ in the race for the Presidency, (09.50) Mary Wakefield recounts the train journey from hell,(16.10) we hear from Gareth Roberts about the screenwriters and actors striking over AI potentially taking their jobs and (22.24) Rachel Johnson shares her diary of SAS adventures and mishaps in New Zealand. Produced and presented by Linden Kemkaran

Who needs Hollywood actors anyway?

For the past week Hollywood’s film and television actors have been on strike, plunging Los Angeles’s most famous industry into chaos. Performers joined screenwriters (who have been striking since May) on the picket line after talks broke down in what has become the first simultaneous strike in more than 60 years. The strikes have attracted plenty of headlines, not least when the cast of Oppenheimer walked out of its UK premiere last week. But do we really care if studios have to shelve Fast and Furious 15, or if the latest superhero movie fails to take flight – or indeed if the entire cocaine-encrusted edifice crumbles into the Pacific Ocean? Hollywood

Why your summer holidays might be doomed

The first LNER train I booked on Sunday from Durham to London was cancelled due to ‘action short of a strike’. I hadn’t heard the phrase before, but I instantly admired it. It’s so impressively confusing. With a strike, you know whose side you’re on. You can look up the salary of a train driver, for instance, discover that it’s £70,000 after only a few years of training, and become icily indifferent to their plight. But action short of a strike? What is it? ‘Action short of a strike’ turns out to be an ingenious way of screwing your boss while still getting paid Action short of a strike, ASOS,

Why are my son’s teachers constantly on strike?

It is a bright Wednesday morning in May. My son, T, a Year 8 pupil, should be at school and I should be working, but instead we are playing tennis. We are also listening to ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Dire Straits because he’s supposed to be studying the play in class so I figure I can cover both PE and English literature in the next half an hour before we head home and I start the work I’m meant to be doing. For them academies are a Tory ruse designed to hand over control of schools to nasty capitalists My son isn’t ill and isn’t playing truant. His school, along

How to get a passport in a hurry

Standing at the security check-in at the Passport Office in Peterborough, my hands felt suddenly clammy, despite having been made to wait outside in a chilly wind until my allotted appointment time. This moment had been a long time coming – but from eavesdropping on others in the queue I knew it could all yet go wrong. ‘I was here two weeks ago but I’d filled in something incorrectly on the form,’ said the woman in front of me to the staff member searching her bag. Meanwhile, the man behind flew into a panic when asked to show proof of an appointment booking on a mobile phone. ‘Oh hell, my wife booked

Have Christmas cards had their day?

The festive season brings with it many enjoyably trivial decisions to fret over. Sprouts with or without chestnuts and bacon? To tastefully colour-scheme the Christmas tree or throw every garish bauble at it? Presents before or after lunch? This year, however, I have another decision to make and it’s one that I’m finding surprisingly tough: to write Christmas cards or just let that tradition… go? Usually by this point in December I’m scribbling away, determined to get my 70-odd cards written and sent while they can still reach their destinations with a second-class stamp. (Let’s not mention the foreign cards; they always arrive late.) While it does sometimes feel like a

Volunteers won’t save the NHS this winter

Workers are balloting for industrial action, attending mass demonstrations and preparing to strike. A ferocious tug-o’-war between trade unions and employers is playing out across the country. Though striking RMT members have been accused of ‘ruining Christmas’, the country’s greatest fears should be reserved for the NHS, which will see ambulance workers and nurses walk out before January, when junior doctors in England cast their vote on industrial action. Is there a solution? A leaked briefing from the Department of Health and Social Care suggests that the government believes volunteers could act as a buffer while healthcare staff take action this winter.  The 31-page report reveals that NHS performance is

Angela Rayner ally sacked by Starmer

Sam Tarry, who joined today’s picket line at Euston and gave various interviews from there, has been sacked from the Labour shadow transport team and the front bench. However, Tarry has not been sacked for being on the picket line, but for making unauthorised media appearances. Labour’s line is that this isn’t about appearing on a picket line. Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions.  This morning, Tarry implied that rail workers would not have gone on strike under a Labour government as they would have been offered a more generous pay deal. Given that Tarry

The Tories are picking inflation winners and losers

Inflation rose to 9.1 per cent on the year in May, taking the UK’s consumer price index to a 40-year-high. Optimists are noting the slowdown in pace, rising by 0.1 per cent between April and May. But I suspect we are in the eye of the storm. This price spiral is nowhere close to over, not least because the next energy price cap review is currently estimated to lift bills by an additional £1,000. The Bank of England’s latest forecast predicts inflation will peak at around 11 per cent, but it must be said that the Bank has consistently underestimated the inflation rate, playing catch-up with its forecasts, as well

Sunday shows round-up: Grant Shapps slams railway strikers

The political focus this morning was centred around the three days’ worth of railway disruption due to begin on Tuesday. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps joined Sophy Ridge to make the case against strike action, taking aim at the leadership of the RMT union: Union calls for government meeting are ‘a stunt’ Sophie Raworth also interviewed Shapps, and asked him about last week’s call from the RMT to get around the negotiating table with government: Mick Lynch – ‘We’re facing a crisis’ RMT leader Mick Lynch also joined Ridge to put forward the case for industrial action. Lynch took issue with Shapps, raising possible job cuts as a particular bone of

Parents plot counter-strike at top girls’ schools

Picket lines, striking teachers egged on by a left-wing trade union, and children missing out on their education. No, not a chapter from a history of the Winter of Discontent, but rather scenes playing out on the streets of Britain in February 2022. It seems that the bad old days of the inner-city comprehensives in the 1970s are back but with a catch: now they’re playing out at some of the most elite girls’ schools in the country. For Mr S hears that all is not well among the hard-pressed parents of children at the fee-paying Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), a network of 23 independent schools in England and