Sam Leith

Sam Leith

Sam Leith is literary editor of The Spectator.

The scrambling of Scrabble

When you’re playing a word game, don’t you sometimes feel how horribly unfair it is that players who know more words prosper? Wouldn’t it be better to have word games that didn’t rely so heavily on knowledge of the dictionary, that weren’t so, y’know, wordy? And, come to that, wouldn’t a kindler, gentler sort of

There’s no Roald Dahl without his cruelty

Roald Dahl Goes Woke: Part Two in what promises to be a very long and funny and ignominious series. Not three days after Puffin Books announced that they were to publish a series of specially commissioned new stories set in Roald Dahl’s fictional universes, a lead author of the continuation editions has had to issue

Why bullies win

Remember when Friends Reunited was a thing? Twenty-something years ago, before Facebook even existed, this primaeval social networking site connecting people with their old schoolmates was the most searched thing on the UK internet. It is, now, at one with Nineveh and Tyre. In fact, the only truly memorable thing it achieved was to inspire

The joy of jump-scares in gaming

Grade: A- One thing videogames are surprisingly good at is scaring the willies out of you. Claustrophobia, unease, jump-scares, anxious-making camera-angles… Gamers of my generation will not have forgotten the spooky crackle of the Geiger counter in Silent Hill; nor needing fresh trousers after that dog jumps through the window in the first Resident Evil.

Russia lives on in my mind

My kids, at our local comprehensive, go on school trips to Leigh-on-Sea. I went to a much fancier school, so I went on school trips to Leningrad and Moscow. The first time must have been in 1990. We were all going through dramatic changes; and so was Russia – not that as cossetted, self-absorbed 16-year-olds

All hail the abolition of the ‘non-doms’

One of the agreeable surprises in the Spring Budget was Jeremy Hunt’s late conversion to the idea of abolishing ‘non-dom’ status. ‘Those with the broadest shoulders,’ he said, ‘should pay their fair share.’ The non-dom loophole, where you can live here but not pay UK taxes on your overseas earnings, has long been a bugbear

It’s time for vicars and wedding photographers to make peace

This week’s unexpected public smackdown is… vicars versus wedding photographers. What a time to be alive! The latter have hoisted a petition on the website change.org, which has already attracted more than 900 signatories, demanding that vicars be nicer to them.     ‘Not all church leaders are problematic, but a LOT are – and those

What if digital learning is a catastrophe?

There’s a lot of talk in the papers about the importance of banning smartphones from schools. Quite right too. The privacy issues, the cyber-bullying, the airdropping of dickpics, the kids filming themselves taking ketamine in morning break… all those dismaying differences from the conkers and ink pellets and innocent tuck-shop japes we remember from our

What did David Cameron expect when he lectured the Americans?

Lord Cameron, bless him, is back striding the world stage. He wrote an article last week in Washington’s inside-beltway website the Hill, urging Congress to vote for more aid for Ukraine. The Foreign Secretary’s tone in that article was forthright in a way that, I expect, he imagined to be the tough talk of a

The feud tearing apart the Royal Society of Literature

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that the Royal Society of Literature (founded 1820) might be one of those institutions that chugs on benignly year in year out with nothing to disturb the peace of its members. But on Thursday morning, a letter in the Times Literary Supplement, got up as I understand it by Jeremy Treglown and

Why the Tory party is breaking apart

I don’t, I freely admit, remember all that much about my chemistry lessons at school. Covalent bonding delighted me not, no, nor moles neither. But I do recall being absolutely thrilled the first time I saw paper chromatography. The idea was – I expect I’m getting this slightly wrong, but don’t write in – that

How do we draw the line between gambling and gaming?

‘Skins gambling,’ anyone? No, until yesterday, me neither. It’s nothing to do with strip poker or 70s bovver boys. It’s the name given to a completely unregulated gambling industry, aggressively promoted to teenagers and estimated to be worth multiple billions of pounds a year – yes, billions with a b. One reason this isn’t a

The shame of Britain’s ‘cash for courses’ universities

‘If you can take the lift, why go through the hardest route?’ a recruitment officer representing four Russell Group universities asked an undercover reporter for the Sunday Times. He boasted that ‘foundation’ course pathways onto undergraduate courses at Russell Group universities are much easier than the entry requirements for British applicants: overseas applicants ‘pay more money […]

Original and absorbing: A Highland Song reviewed

Grade: A- Why don’t you go outside and get some fresh air instead of playing that stupid game? A) I’ve been outside, and I didn’t like it. And B) there’s a game for that. A Highland Song excellently simulates the experience of going outside for a walk and regretting it. Moira sets off to meet

What Katharine Birbalsingh gets wrong about secularism

Katharine Birbalsingh is back in the papers again. The head teacher at Michaela, a free school whose outstanding academic record and ultra-strict behaviour policy have made it a culture-wars lightning rod, tells the Sunday Times that she and her staff have been getting death threats ever since her board of governors imposed a policy banning any

Why didn’t the British Library pay a ransom to cyber attackers?

‘They’ve turned one of our most important pieces of national infrastructure into an internet café,’ was how my friend Marcus, a scholar of early modern literature, put it to me, talking about the cyberattack that crashed the British Library at the end of last year. He’s not wrong. Since October, when a ransomware attack by the Rhysida criminal

How am I supposed to remember what happened in The Tourist?

Hooray, I thought. There’s a new season of The Tourist. I remember liking that, I thought. It was that thing with the bloke in Australia, wasn’t it? And I was all set to settle down for a good binge, when I realised that I had almost literally no idea what had happened in the first season. This is

Video games aren’t a total waste of time

My wife argues with the children about video games. I argue with the children about video games. The children argue with each other about video games. Consequently, I argue with my wife about video games. It is a total nightmare – and it’s one that in various versions will be replicated in houses with young