Alasdair Palmer

Alasdair Palmer is a former Home Office speech writer.

How to tackle illegal migration

Immigration policy is a mess. For at least the past decade, it has been characterised by unrealistic targets and broken promises. Every government has promised to reduce dramatically the number of foreigners who arrive here in search of work, or justice, or hope. Every government has failed. The numbers keep going up. David Cameron promised

What is organised crime doing disposing of rubbish?

There were headlines recently about how more than half of local councils had recorded a large increase in the number of ‘fly-tipping’ incidents: cases where rubbish and waste are collected, then illegally dumped and left to rot in open fields. That practice normally has dire consequences for the local environment, and sometimes for the health

The stop and search race myth

When I was working as a speech writer in the Home Office, under Theresa May, one of her special advisers told me that she wanted to give a statement to parliament on the police’s use of stop and search. Part of the motive for doing this, he explained, was political: stop and search is a

The stop and search race myth | 13 November 2018

When I was working as a speech writer in the Home Office, under Theresa May, one of her special advisers told me that she wanted to give a statement to parliament on the police’s use of stop and search. Part of the motive for doing this, he explained, was political: stop and search is a policy

How did Britain ever have unarmed criminals?

The release of Harry Roberts, the man responsible for shooting dead three policemen in 1966, has sparked a vigorous debate about whether he should have stayed in prison until he died. The idea that ‘life should mean life’ for anyone who kills a policeman is a police-pleasing policy that the Home Secretary promised she would

Michelangelo’s vision was greater even than Shakespeare’s

It is 450 years since the birth of William Shakespeare. The anniversary has been hard to avoid in this country, which is entirely appropriate. Shakespeare helped to shape not only our language but also our conception of character and our understanding of the human condition. Our experience of love, of facing death, of loss and

Exhibitions: Tiziano

‘When Titian paints eyes,’ observed Eugène Delacroix, who spent a lifetime admiring, studying and copying the Venetian artist, ‘they are lit with the fire of life.’ The truth of Delacroix’s aphorism is on striking display in the magnificent exhibition of Titian’s paintings at the Scuderie of the Quirinale Palace in Rome. The exhibition does not

Medieval mystery

Medieval castles are generally dark and forbidding places that look as if they were built to prove the proposition that ‘form follows function’: the function was to be impregnable, and their high walls, crenelated and machicolated battlements, and slits for firing arrows instead of windows suggest that everything was subordinated to that dour defensive purpose.

Mad money

Daniel Kahneman is a very modest man — amazingly so for someone who has won the Nobel prize in economics. When I met him in the lobby of a London hotel, he never used his very great intelligence in the way that some very distinguished economists do, to bully or to intimidate. ‘But then I

Restoration tragedy

Alasdair Palmer questions the ill-conceived makeover of Chartres cathedral which robs us of the sense of passing time that is part of its fascination and mystery Should old buildings look old? Or should they be restored to a condition where they look as if they could have been put up yesterday? Those questions are raised

Medieval frescoes

Rome contains many hidden treasures, but the most remarkable of the lot is concealed on the Caelian Hill, above the Colosseum, in the medieval monastery of Santi Quattro Coronati. It’s a cycle of frescoes dating from around 1250. It is extremely rare for painting from this period to survive anywhere, but it’s even rarer in

Paradise regained

Alasdair Palmer marvels at a series of Veronese frescoes at Palladio’s Villa Barbaro It has included repairing the roof and strengthening the walls, as well as redecorating the interior, and it has taken almost as long as it took to build the original structure — but work on Andrea Palladio’s last building, the Tempietto at

Rewarding rubbish

If you went on holiday to Italy this year, you may have come back with a plate, a mug or a jug — an item or two of the painted pottery still handmade (at least sometimes) by craftsmen and women, mostly in Umbria, but also in the Marche, and which you can see in the

Why the coalition’s police reforms will fail

The Home Office has radical plans, but they won’t come to much, says Alasdair Palmer. Less money and fewer paid officers will inevitably mean more crime Last month when Theresa May, the Home Secretary, launched the coalition’s consultation document on the police, ‘reconnecting police with the people’, she said it would ‘herald the most radical

Meeting Professor Torture

Guantanamo Bay has just marked its fifth anniversary. John Yoo was instrumental in setting up the prison camp which the normally solidly pro-American Daily Mail has called ‘the sort of show that once only dictators like Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao knew how to put on’. Yet Yoo’s infamy in America derives less from clearing

Saddam’s trial shouldn’t be fair

When Mohammed al-Ureybi, the presiding judge at the trial of Saddam Hussein, started reading out that the court sentenced Saddam to death for killing 148 inhabitants of the Shiite village of Dujail in 1982, Saddam interrupted him. Just as the learned judge got to the part about the punishment for ‘crimes against humanity’, the deposed

How Leonardo did it

Alasdair Palmer talks to the French artist who has discovered the secret of the Master’s technique How did he do it? Among the many great unanswered questions about Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, that has long been one of the most puzzling. Part of the perennial appeal of the ‘Mona Lisa’, and one reason why, today,

Life, liberty and terrorists

‘When it comes to the British courts,’ Charles Clarke insists, ‘I am a perpetual optimist.’ Which is fortunate, because he needs to be. We met on the day the Law Lords proclaimed that the government was not permitted to detain terrorist suspects on the basis of evidence which might have been extracted under torture. The