Israel hits back at Houthi drone attack

Operation Long Arm, the code name for Israel’s counter-terror strikes in Yemen, sends a message almost as forceful as the payload of its F-15s. Iran may have an extensive network of proxies through which to attack Israel but the IDF will go whatever distance necessary to defend itself. In this instance 1,200 miles to Al Hudaydah, a port city controlled by Ansar Allah, more commonly known as the Houthis, where a fuel depot was turned into a fireball on Saturday. If Operation Long Arm disrupts the Houthis’ activities significantly, the world will owe a debt to Israel, not that it is likely to be acknowledged It marks the first time

Portrait of the Week: Starmer’s first steps, Biden’s wobble and Australia’s egg shortage

Home Sir Keir Starmer, the Prime Minister, appointed several ministers who are not MPs, but will be created life peers. Most cabinet posts went to MPs who had shadowed the portfolios, but as Attorney General he appointed Richard Hermer KC, a human rights lawyer, instead of Emily Thornberry, who said she was ‘very sorry and surprised’. James Timpson, the shoe-repair businessman and prison reformer, was made prisons minister. Sir Patrick Vallance was made science minister. The former home secretary Jacqui Smith became higher education minister; Ellie Reeves, the sister of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves, became minister without portfolio. The government dropped the phrase ‘levelling up’. The Chancellor

Putin may seem confident – but Russia’s future is bleak

How old will you be when Vladimir Putin’s next presidential term ends in 2030? Which of today’s world leaders will still be in office? By that time Putin will have been in power for 29 years, and just under half the population of the Earth at that time will have been born during his reign. On current form, Putin is set to see in at least two more US presidents – or more, if he chooses to stay in power until 2036. Putin has made a fetish of defending a Russian national sovereignty that no one had attempted to destroy When Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine in 2022 many

Permanent stalemate in Gaza suits Netanyahu

Jerusalem After midnight on Thursday is dead-time for the Israeli media. The weekend editions have gone to print (newspapers don’t come out on Shabbat) and the Friday night TV news shows have been pre-recorded. The country’s journalists are yearning for respite from a long week covering the war. Benjamin Netanyahu chose that black hole of news, 2 a.m. last Friday, to leak his ‘Day after Hamas’ plan for post-war Gaza. There was no speech. No briefings. Just a page and a bit, double-spaced, presented to his cabinet for discussion. The plan has not been designed to end the war in Gaza. It is about Netanyahu’s own political survival But the plan

‘You can stare at a cow you will soon eat’: The Newt, Hadspen, reviewed

The Newt is an idealised country house in Somerset which won the World’s Best Boutique Hotel award last year. It is small, beautiful and mind-meltingly expensive, even for the Bruton Triangle and its mooing art galleries. Poor Somerset! It never wanted to be monied enough to have a triangle, but the rich make their own mythology. Since they paint every-thing grey – and now green, I learn at the Newt – they need it. A triangle fills the day. The Newt is for people who think that Babington House is stupid (it is) and though the Newt has its own issues – like the King, its taste is almost too

‘Is it France? I don’t know’: Hôtel de Crillon, Paris, reviewed

Hôtel de Crillon sits on the Place de la Concorde, a vast square renamed for bloodshed, then the lack of it – it was the Place de la Révolution, with knitting and bouncing heads. Now it is placid, and the Crillon is the most placid thing in it. No one does grand hotels like the French, except perhaps the Swiss, who have nothing better to do. Hôtel de Crillon was one of twin palaces commissioned by Louis XV before the French butchered his grandson and his wife outside them: it looks like Buckingham Palace but prettier and with possible PTSD. It has been a hotel for 115 years and next

‘I pity MPs more than ever’: the Cinnamon Club, reviewed

The Cinnamon Club appears on lists of MPs favourite restaurants: if they can still eat this late into a parliament. It lives in the old Westminster Library on Great Smith Street, a curiously bloodless part of London, and an irresistible metaphor wherever you are. When once you ate knowledge, you now eat flesh, but only if you can afford it. Now there is the Charing Cross Library, which lives next to the Garrick Theatre, and looks curiously oppressed. Perhaps soon it will be a falafel shack and knows it. There is also the Central Reference Library, which could be a KFC, and soon will be. Public spaces are shrinking. They

Portrait of the week: Post Office scandal, Tube strikes off and dog meat banned

Home Although it had long been known that between 1999 and 2015 more than 700 sub-postmasters were convicted of false accounting, theft and fraud (based on the faulty Horizon computer accounting system software), the government suddenly proposed to do something about it because of a public outcry following an ITV drama, Mr Bates vs the Post Office. The Metropolitan Police was investigating the Post Office over fraud possibly arising from money being ‘recovered from sub-postmasters as a result of prosecutions or civil actions’. Paula Vennells, who held high office in the Post Office from 2007 to 2019, said she was handing back her CBE ‘with immediate effect’, although it is

Tanya Gold

‘The lasagne is perfect’: Hotel La Calcina, Venice, reviewed

Pensione La Calcina is one of John Ruskin’s houses in Venice. He stayed here in 1877, after completing The Stones of Venice and going mad, and there is a plaque for him on the wall: a stone of his own. It is next to the Swiss consulate on the Zattere, but never mind them. I think the Zattere is for people who have tired of Venice. It has a view to the Giudeccacanal, and the waterbus to the airport: to the exit. You can breathe here. I am staying in San Marco, where I can’t. My son falls from a water gate into a canal, and Italian grandmothers tut at

Cindy Yu

Taiwan can’t escape China’s shadow

The Taiwanese rock band Mayday – ‘the Beatles of the Chinese-speaking world’ – are being investigated by the Chinese Communist party for the crime of lip syncing. Local authorities are combing through recordings of Mayday’s Shanghai concerts from November looking for evidence of ‘deceptive fake-singing’, as the CCP calls it, which has been illegal in China since 2009 (although the law is rarely enforced). Last month, an anonymous Taiwan-ese government source told Reuters that the investigation had been cooked up because the pop stars refused a request from Beijing to say something nice about China in the run-up to Taiwan’s election this Saturday. The band found itself at the centre

Ukrainians can’t trust Putin’s hollow promises

Ukraine’s parliament will soon vote on much-needed conscription regulations which would draft an extra half a million recruits into the army. The categories of eligible men will be expanded, the draft age will be lowered from 27 to 25, and any man caught attempting to evade it will face harsh sanctions or imprisonment. Volodymyr Zelensky has stopped talking about victory coming any time soon. His New Year’s message was grim: everyone must either fight or help through work. Ukrainians are braced for another year of war. But talk of ‘peace’ or ‘compromise’ is still seen as code for a surrender which would reward rather than punish Vladimir Putin’s atrocities, cede

No one wants to talk about Ukraine any more

Apologies for this seasonal downer. Had the website such a listing, this column would surely soar to number one in The Spectator’s ‘Least Popular’ roster. For just now, few topics are a bigger turn-off than Ukraine. Following Russia’s invasion, I got caught up in the same waves of emotion that washed over most western publics, and I say that with no regret. After relentlessly battling the prevailing cultural winds these past few years, I was relieved to feel a sense of solidarity for once. Most of us were revulsed by the gratuitous aggression, allied with an underdog whose bite proved surprisingly fierce, thrilled by a former comedian’s unexpected rise to

Can I stay in Britain?

Brexit Britain, for all its flaws, has been welcoming to me. When the UK was a member of the European Union, the only way to control immigration was to crack down on non-EU visas. Ten years ago, Americans like me who studied in Britain and wanted to stay needed to earn £35,000 a year (which would be £47,000 now). That was unrealistic for a recent graduate. After Brexit, Boris Johnson brought back the old post-study visa, giving us two years to find work and requiring a more achievable minimum salary of £26,000. Finally, international students who won places at British universities could meet their EU equals as, well, equals. We

Is this where world war three starts?

Daugavpils You can tell quite a bit about a place by the number of national flags on display. One or two on public buildings here and there is a healthy genuflection to a moderate and comfortable patriotism. But groups of the same national flag every five paces, on every building and festooning the parks and boulevards – well, there’s something going on, isn’t there? You’re in a place where trouble is surely just around the corner, a place where the national authorities may not feel entirely secure. What sort of trouble? Well, one wouldn’t want to be over-dramatic, obvs, but in this particular case, world war three. The Russian invasion

What Hamas promised to its electorate

Things you do not hear very often, number one: a pro-Palestinian protestor denouncing Hamas for the barbarity of its incursion into Israel on 7 October, appalled at the savagery of those attacks upon children, grandmothers, etc. It may seem as if, in saying this, I am stating the obvious – because support for that pogrom was, I would suggest, strong among some of those carrying Palestinian flags on marches through London and elsewhere. Six Arab language journalists were suspended by the BBC when it was discovered that they retweeted messages glorifying in that day’s murder. They were not members of Hamas. Ordinary Palestinians interviewed, cowering in the rubble of Gaza, were

Britain should back a ceasefire

Six weeks ago, I invited Ahmed Alnaouq, a young diplomat who recently joined the Palestinian mission in London, to stay for a cricket weekend in Wiltshire. He resisted all entreaties to play the game but was in every other way a delightful guest. On Sunday, Ahmed learnt that his family in Gaza has been wiped out by an Israeli bomb. His father, siblings, and more than 15 nieces and nephews had all been killed. Twenty-three dead, no injuries. Another brother was killed by an Israeli bombing in 2014. His mother died three years ago because, he says, Israel denied her medical treatment. When I sent him a text message saying that

Toby Young

Why I don’t trust the BBC’s Trusted News Initiative

You almost certainly haven’t heard of the Trusted News Initiative (TNI), although you probably should have. It’s a BBC-led consortium of the world’s most powerful news, social media and technology companies that seeks to cleanse the internet of ‘disinformation’. It carries out this mission by doing its best to discredit sites that challenge the prevailing narrative on topics like lockdowns, Covid vaccines, electoral fraud, the Ukraine war and climate change. It was founded in 2019 by Jessica Cecil, a senior BBC executive who, in 2021, was part of the Counter Disinformation Policy Forum, a shadowy group of ‘experts’ convened by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to monitor criticism

Politicians can’t win on illegal migration

It is eight years now since The Spectator sent me to Lampedusa to see the boats coming in. That was at the start of the 2015 migrant crisis. The island, which is home to just 6,000 locals, had just buckled under the weight of another 1,300 arrivals. I followed them to Sicily and then on up and across the continent. If I may be self-referential for a moment, it was on Lampedusa that I realised the scale of the problem and got the opening lines of my resulting book, The Strange Death of Europe: ‘Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide. Whether the

Australia’s disastrous indigenous voice referendum

My partner and I have just returned from the most magical trip. As guests of Western Australia’s tourist board we’ve driven almost 1,500 miles across the top left-hand corner of the Australian continent. This is the north-west: a landscape like nowhere else on the planet. Three times the size of England, they call it the Kimberley. I had expected to find Aboriginal people living in these landscapes. They used to, for 60,000 years Starting from a town called Broome (easy to fly there) we made it overland to Darwin in the Northern Territory. We took about ten days in an all-singing, all-dancing Toyota camper van, sometimes sleeping under the stars,

Will China blockade Taiwan?

Xi Jinping has made it very clear over the years that he is determined for China to reunite with Taiwan. He has staked his legacy and his legitimacy on it. The problem for Beijing is that the polls in Taiwan continually show that only one per cent of the population is in favour of reunification now. If Xi wants Taiwan then he will almost certainly have to take it by force. Although some western commentators argue that Russia’s travails in Ukraine have made an invasion less likely, there is no evidence to support a change in policy in Beijing. Even though Taiwan’s military is undertrained and equipped with tanks and