Rory Sutherland

Rory Sutherland

Cryptic crosswords are hard – but so is life

As regular readers will know, I am an inveterate fan of cryptic crosswords. At the everyday level, they are the perfect way to kill 20-50 minutes of otherwise boring time. There is a refined elegance to clue-setting: the best are little works of art. Crossword-solving also cultivates the useful talent of looking beneath the clue’s

We need to talk about cannabis

Before we celebrate the ban on tobacco sales to people below a certain age, we need to consider what habits might take its place. And it might not only be vaping. Approaching the Holland tunnel in New York a few summers ago, I lowered my car window and was hit by the stench of cannabis

The beauty of mid-range products

Once or twice, when on a crowded overnight flight, I have taken a sneaky stroll through the different cabins for the purpose of comparison. My reaction on first peering into each cabin goes like this. First class: ‘Gosh, this is fabulous. It’s like a restaurant in the air.’ Business class: ‘Ooh, this is nice; they

Are we asking the wrong questions about HS2?

I am not sure there was much else Rishi could have done to salvage HS2. But I come bearing good news. There is no reason why HS2 cannot still be a great railway, even if it travels along the wrong route at the wrong speed and was constructed in the wrong direction to solve a

Is there such a thing as too much empathy? 

Back in the 1970s, a less politically correct age, there was a standby formula for television advertising known as 2Cs in a K, which would feature two women by a washing machine engaged in unlikely conversation about some wondrous new detergent. Since The Spectator is a family publication, I shall pretend that 2Cs in a

Judgment call: the case for leaving the ECHR

42 min listen

On the podcast this week: Lord Sumption makes the case for leaving the ECHR in The Spectator’s cover piece. He says that the UK has strong courts and can pass judgement on human rights by itself and joins the podcast alongside Dr Joelle Grogan – legal academic and head of research at UK in a Changing Europe

Why we hate surge pricing – but love happy hour

A Dominican and a Jesuit were chain smokers. Both were eager to be allowed to smoke while performing their devotions, but needed to gain permission from a higher authority. ‘I tried asking the Prior, but he was dead against it,’ said the Dominican. ‘What did you ask, precisely?’ enquired the Jesuit. ‘Well, I asked him

Why driving above the speed limit is a mug’s game 

Imagine you are choosing between two proposed road-improvement plans, but have the budget for only one. Both of the roads mooted for improvement are 20 miles long, and your sole aim is to reduce average journey time by as much as possible. Which would you choose? Someone travelling slowly to begin with has more time

What a full English breakfast can tell us about the state of the NHS

Among devotees of the full English breakfast, few things polarise more than the inclusion of baked beans. Some people are unrepentant berfs (beans exclusionary radical foodies) whereas others consider beans a coda to close the symphony. My own view is conciliatory: provided the beans are in a separate pot, I’m happy. ‘Hash brown technologies’ seem

What I learned from being debanked

My own debanking story concerns a card rather than a bank account. Not the same degree of inconvenience as Nigel Farage, but a similarly telling insight into modern administrative culture. I feel awkward writing this, because in the 30 years I have used American Express, including an enjoyable decade when I also worked for the

Just stop HS2!

I have two suggestions for HS2. Either stop it or make it stop. The spiralling cost and delays are reason enough to rethink the project, never mind the changes to patterns of rail use since 2021. Any economic case based on pre–pandemic projections needs to be revisited. So one option would be to stop the project

Light bulb moment: the flaw in the petrol car ban

This week, writing in the Daily Mail, Matt Ridley produced a devastating takedown of the government’s 2030 ban on the sale of new conventionally powered cars. He plans to pre-empt the ban himself by buying a brand-new petrol car in 2029. Innovation happens gradually and delivers its benefits unevenly – therefore it is stupid to

The case for building more roads

Suella Braverman was completely wrong to ask her civil servants to investigate the possibility of arranging a one-on-one speed awareness course. This is not because this was in breach of the ministerial code. That aspect of the affair was one of the worst examples of contrived, sanctimonious outrage I have ever seen; it pains me

How to bag the best spot in the supermarket car park

Our local Sainsbury’s, though admirable in every other way, has a slightly inflated estimate of the disabled population of Seven-oaks, with all the plum parking spaces near the entrance reserved for blue badge holders. Every time I drive in, a voice from my inner bastard says: ‘Jeez, if it weren’t for all these bloody disabled

The case against koalas

There was a reason 18th-century rulers were eager for their subjects to grow and eat potatoes: the miraculous tuber offered an alternative source of nutrition to grain, hence reducing bread prices. In the event of a catastrophic harvest, people could survive. To the rulers themselves, however, the biggest benefit was probably what happened when the

Why are beds flat?

Last month in a Swiss hotel, I came across an idea so beautifully simple that I felt it would be immoral of me not to share it. The bed in our room, rather than having one king-sized duvet, was covered by two double-size duvets overlapping in the middle. Eureka! Given that the Swiss are world