When piracy meets protest

Sometimes there are advantages to being ill-informed. Knowing embarrassingly little about why 30 Greenpeace activists were jailed in Russia in 2013, or the wilder assertions made by the broadcaster Alex Jones (emphatically not the woman from The One Show) meant that two documentaries this week unfolded for me like the twistiest – if not necessarily the most plausible – of thrillers. Twenty-four per cent of Americans still doubt that the Sandy Hook massacre even happened Then again, in my slight defence, such ignorance seemed to be what both programmes were assuming – because, unlike many documentaries, they didn’t summarise or give away the story they were about to tell. Instead,

Portrait of the Week: Farage returns, Abbott reselected and Trump guilty 

Home Nigel Farage took over leadership of the Reform party from Richard Tice and is standing for parliament in Clacton. This came as news on Monday to Tice, and to Reform’s candidate for Clacton, Tony Mack. Outside the Wetherspoons pub where he launched his campaign, Farage had a McDonald’s banana milkshake thrown over him. Farage proposed net-zero immigration. The Conservatives then said they would ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee for a recommended level for an annual cap on visas, and put that to a parliamentary vote. Invasive Asian hornets, which can eat 50 bees a day, were found to have survived a British winter and might stay permanently. Rishi

Trump’s indictment and the trouble with the law

The latest charges against Donald Trump will do nothing to deter his many supporters within the Republican party. On the contrary, his indictment by a grand jury set up by special counsel Jack Smith plays into the former president’s narrative of victimhood and makes it even more likely that he will be chosen as a candidate. And that, curiously, is exactly what many senior Democrats want. To his electoral opponents, Trump seems reliably toxic – millions of Americans will turn out to vote against him.  It is a depressing development when legal processes are used as a political tool Even if he is convicted of the latest four charges –

What Washington was like during the Cuban Missile Crisis (2002)

On 27 October 1962, US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara stepped out of crisis meetings and looked up at the sky. ‘I thought it was the last Saturday I would ever see,’ he recalled.  This month marks 60 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 2002, Peregrine Worsthorne wrote about what it was like to be in Washington during humanity’s closest shave. Forty years ago the Americans won what I hope will be the nearest thing to nuclear war between superpowers — of which only one is left — ever fought; and the fact that they won it without firing a shot should not diminish but rather increase the extent of the victory.

Opec will regret taking on the US

Production will be cut. Supplies to the rest of the world will be curbed. And inflation will rise just a little bit higher. No one ever expected the oil-cartel Opec(+), led by Saudi Arabia, to be friendly to the West, or to help out when it was needed. Even so, its decision this week to effectively side with Russia, and to make the energy crisis even worse, may quickly backfire. In reality, Opec was already in long-term decline. Picking a fight with the US will just make that worse. It was certainly the kind of news the energy markets didn’t need. Just as it was getting over the loss of Russia’s crucial

What Truss’s US trade deal U-turn is really about

Farewell to the UK/US trade deal. That’s the news from Liz Truss’s trip to the UN assembly in New York. The Prime Minister has told hacks on the flight over that the UK will not strike an agreement with America for many years. The former international trade secretary suggested that talks were unlikely to even start in the medium term: ‘There isn’t currently any negotiation taking place with the US and I don’t have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term.’ The comments come ahead of her first proper meeting with Joe Biden since becoming Prime Minister. The former International Trade Secretary suggested

Nato is no longer ‘brain dead’

Finland and Sweden will be formally invited to join Nato today. Them joining the alliance will bolster Nato’s presence in the Baltic and make it easier to defend Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The alliance now has a clear, strategic purpose again Turkey had objected to the two countries joining, regarding them as too soft on Kurdish separatists, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees as ‘terrorists’ threatening his country. But having received some concessions on that front, Erdogan has dropped his objections. There’s also speculation that the US will sell F-16 fighter aircraft to Turkey in exchange for its cooperation on this matter. It is remarkable that Sweden, a country which has so

Why Biden’s inflation plan will fail

It sounded impressive at the time. On the last day of May, a whole ten days ago, president Biden laid out a three-part plan for bringing inflation back under control. It consisted of making sure the Federal Reserve was allowed to do whatever it took to control prices, releasing oil and gas reserves to try to bring down the soaring costs of energy, and fixing supply chains to try to make industry and retailing more competitive. ‘I have made tackling inflation my top economic priority,’ he announced grandly. To listen to the rhetoric from the White House, you might think that this was an issue that could be fixed with a

Lionel Shriver on mass shootings, gun control and American carnage

This is an edited transcript of a conversation between Freddy Gray and Lionel Shriver on The Spectator’s Americano podcast, which you can listen to here. Freddy Gray: Lionel, I feel a bit guilty asking you to talk about this, because I know you’ve become a kind of go-to person about mass shootings in America because you wrote a very significant novel – We Need to Talk About Kevin. You’ve written before about how awkward it is that every time there’s a mass shooting in America, people ask you to come on and talk about it. But in your book, the killer was using a bow, not a gun. So you don’t

The Biden Bust is here

A wave of government spending would reboot the economy. Fairer taxes would pay for restored infrastructure. Skills would be improved, productivity raised, and new digital champions would emerge. When Joe Biden was elected, he promised the most radical programme of economic reform since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, and, to his army of cheerleaders at least, the American economy was about to be completely transformed. But hold on. Only a year into his term, the reality is very different from the promises. In reality, the Biden Bust has arrived. Donald Trump may have been personally obnoxious, but he bequeathed an economy in perfectly good shape The US GDP figures

Could Biden gaffe us into world war three?

‘I want your point of view, Joe,’ Barack Obama once told his vice-president Joe Biden. ‘I just want it in ten-minute increments, not 60-minute increments.’ Obama understood Biden’s biggest flaw – his mouth runs away with him. He’s a verbal firebomb always threatening to go off. Last night, oops Biden did it again. As he rounded off his fiery speech in Poland against Vladimir Putin and autocracy, he concluded: ‘For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.’ The onset of senility had reduced the dangerousness of Biden’s loquacity The White House, in what is now a familiar routine, issued a quick clarification. The President was not demanding ‘regime change’

Kamala invades Poland

You can tell that the Biden administration is getting serious. They have unleashed their ultimate weapon, cackle diplomacy. The warhead is nicknamed Harris, and it is now in Poland cackling away, endeavouring to assemble the high-level Pierogis before Russia flattens Kiev or Putin decides to go nuclear – and by ‘go nuclear’, alas, I mean ‘go nuclear’. Some observers say that sending Kamala Harris on this mission will give her a chance to ‘burnish’ her foreign policy credentials. Cynical folks – and I would include myself in that group – think it is just another emission of fog by America’s first certifiably senile administration. It is just another emission of fog

This is what liberal war fever looks like

In a private letter written in 1918, the recently deposed German chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg admitted that in the run-up to the Great War, ‘there were special circumstances that militated in favour of war, including those in which Germany in 1870-71 entered the circle of great powers’ and became ‘the object of vengeful envy on the part of the other Great Powers, largely though not entirely by her own fault’. Yet Bethmann saw another crucial factor at work: that of public opinion.’How else,’ he asked,'[to] explain the senseless and impassioned zeal which allowed countries like Italy, Rumania, and even America, not originally involved in the war, no rest until they too

The Ukraine crisis has united the West

There has been a subtle change of tone from Joe Biden and Boris Johnson about the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. It has gone from ‘highly likely’ to ‘there may be a diplomatic solution’ — or from ‘almost all hope lost’ to ‘chink of hope’. So from where does that hope emanate? Largely, I am told, from noises out of Ukraine that its government is moving towards a public statement that although it retains the right to join the Nato western defence alliance, it will commit to not consider applying for at least ten years. The US president and UK prime minister are keen to encourage, through diplomatic channels, such

Are Kamala Harris’s days as Veep numbered?

President Joe Biden promised last week to nominate the first black woman to the Supreme Court. ‘Long overdue,’ he says. When it comes to elevating African-American females to high office, Biden has form. He chose Kamala Harris, remember, to be the first woman US Vice President of colour. But what if Biden elected to choose the same woman — namely, Vice President Kamala Harris — for the Supreme Court? Wouldn’t that be so unimaginative and tokenistic, as to be quite racist? Even a leader as error-prone as Biden wouldn’t do that, would he? Yet in Washington, there are whispers of a cunning plan to shunt Kamala on to the Supreme

India is going to keep polluting. They can thank China

Mumbai India is the last major global polluter to set a date to go carbon neutral. In a surprise announcement on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told COP26 that his country will hit this target by 2070. That doesn’t mean India is going to start cutting emissions any time soon. India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, believes it has the right to use coal to stimulate economic growth. The country argues that its per capita consumption of non-renewables is still a fraction of West’s. Faced with the task of quadrupling its power output by 2050, the country’s coal production is expected to increase by 28 per cent over the

Colin Powell: A great man – and a failure

My memory of Colin Powell feels personal, even though we were 6,000 miles apart at the time. I was in Baghdad, covering the invasion of Iraq for the BBC. Powell was giving the speech of his life at the UN Security Council, accompanied by Powerpoint, trying to convince the world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I had just come from a press conference with senior Iraqi officials, who denied there were any WMDs in the country. They were shifty, oleaginous, terrified of Saddam. It wasn’t hard to believe they were lying and that dignified, decent Colin Powell, was right. ‘If Powell says so,’ I thought, ‘it’s probably true.’

No, Biden didn’t just snub Brexit Britain

For European Union enthusiasts, the ‘trade deal with America’ has joined ‘£350 million pledge on a bus’ as one of the great Brexit lies. A certain amount of gloating has therefore greeted the news that Joe Biden last night ‘downplayed’ the possibility of a US-U.K. Free Trade Agreement. It’s a ‘snub’, Brexiteer hopes are dashed, and so on. But did Biden actually ‘downplay’ anything? Not really, since nobody has been seriously playing up the possibility of late. Many journalists are today talking as if the Prime Minister had been hoping to announce with Biden the trade deal Donald Trump promised Britain in 2017. But Boris has been the one minimising

Biden is losing Nato

The forming of the Australia-UK-US (Aukus) military alliance in the Pacific shows how everything Trump can say, Biden can do. The problem is, Biden isn’t doing it very well. Biden’s administration, like Trump’s, is committed to building its Pacific alliances while sustaining Nato. Yet on Australia as in Afghanistan, the Biden team are doing exactly what they accused Trump of: unpicking the frayed bonds of Nato without a clear idea of what might replace it. The government has three tasks: to keep American workers at work, win contracts for American exports, and secure America’s interests overseas. Two cheers for Biden for getting the Trump memo on the first two points.

Afghanistan and the end of the American hegemony

We used to sneer at the way the Russians were chased out of Afghanistan by a ragtag of mujaheddin armed only with Kalashnikovs and American Stinger rockets. No longer.  The last superpower to be defeated in Afghanistan withdrew in good order, having negotiated the arrangements with Kabul and the mujaheddin. They left behind a competent government, and an Afghan army capable of fighting the mujaheddin to a standstill. That government survived as long as the Russians went on supplying food and ammunition. Then the Russian government, close to meltdown, stopped deliveries. The mujaheddin swept to victory and fell straight into a bloody civil war. Many Afghans were relieved when the