Society

Why do Lib Dems want to crack down on smoking but legalise cannabis?

Whether it is tuition fees or local development, the Lib Dems are generally not known for their consistency. Trust me, I campaigned for them during the coalition years. This week, things took an almost surreal turn. Party leader Sir Ed Davey, along with his deputy and health spokesperson Daisy Cooper and three other colleagues, voted in favour of Rishi Sunak’s age-dependent tobacco and vapes ban. Perhaps in these turbulent political times we should just be grateful that the party remains consistently inconsistent That might seem odd enough from supposed liberals – whatever happened to personal choice and adult informed consent? However, Davey, Cooper and co. are also MPs from a

Nicholas Farrell

Why Giorgia Meloni is taking on Alfa Romeo

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s crusade to defend Italian excellence from the destructive side of globalisation has won a small but symbolic victory. Global car colossus Stellantis, which owns Alfa Romeo, has bowed to pressure from Italy’s right-wing government and changed the name of its new SUV, less than a week after its launch. Given the potentially huge expense involved in changing the name of a car – plus damage to the manufacturer’s image – such a volte face is said to be unprecedented. ‘Never before’ has a car manufacturer changed the name of a car in response to a political storm claimed Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s business daily. That the

Is North Korea developing biological weapons?

The threat North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme poses to the world is well known. But as the hermit kingdom actively expands its weapons arsenal, and international institutions struggle to contain it, we shouldn’t ignore its development of chemical and biological weapons either. A recent report from the United States State Department asserts that North Korea has a ‘dedicated’ biological weapons programme, which it could use against the militarily-superior US and South Korea. Concerningly, the report highlights North Korea’s ability to produce bacteria, viruses, and other toxins which could be used as biological weapons agents. We have already seen evidence of Pyongyang’s unabashed usage of chemical weapons, especially in highly public places. Who

How NatCon Brussels was saved from censorship

When I was first scheduled to speak at this year’s National Conservatism conference (NatCon) in Brussels, I expected it to be a routine speaking engagement. After all, it is a mainstream conservative gathering that has hosted an event in Brussels before, as well as similar conferences in London, Washington DC, Rome, and Miami. Speakers typically include leading political figures from mainstream parties, civil society leaders, authors, political philosophers, historians, and clergy. As I soon discovered, there was nothing routine about this event. Not least because I was turning up to the conference’s third venue after the first and second venues cancelled their bookings at short notice. Despite facing significant pressure

It’s no surprise the SNP’s climate change law has failed

When Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the SNP’s climate change pledge in 2019, the First Minister boasted that Scotland had the ‘most stretching targets in the world’. The problem was that they were too stretching: five years on, the flagship goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 has been binned. The decision to axe the climate target means that another part of Sturgeon’s legacy lies in tatters. This debacle also reveals something simple: writing something into law doesn’t mean it will happen. Despite talking a good game, the Scottish government has consistently missed its climate targets – it failed to achieve eight of the last 12 annual

Europe’s coffee houses are in trouble

There’s bad news for coffee fans: the price of your favourite beverage – which has already rocketed in recent years – is about to soar. A prolonged heatwave in Vietnam, the world’s second largest coffee producing country after Brazil, is damaging the coffee crop and sending the cost of robusta beans – used in instant coffee – soaring. In Brazil, higher end arabica beans are being hit by greater than average rainfall. Such extreme weather events are coupled with attacks on merchant shipping bringing Asian coffee to Europe through the Gulf by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, disrupting coffee supply chains and further boosting prices. All this will put extra

The tragedy of Emma Raducanu

It is hard not to feel a teeny weeny bit sorry for Emma Raducanu, who was hailed as the next big thing in tennis after her fairytale win in the 2021 US Open. She was just 18 when she won at Flushing Meadows, a Grand Slam triumph achieved only three months after she finished her A-levels. It prompted breathless talk of her being a once-in-a-generation tennis superstar – a British Serena Williams, no less. How absurd all this sounds just three years later: Raducanu now makes most of her money from commercial endorsements rather than winning the big tennis tournaments. It is a sporting tragedy of sorts. The sense of a great

Why Mummy smokes

It’s 7.02 p.m. and I’m standing outside my house by the bins smoking a fag. Upstairs, I can hear that my six-year-old is awake but I’m choosing to ignore her. How repellent, I hear you murmur. And it is repellent, in many ways. I am a smoker and a mother, hardly the Madonna and child. How can these two realities ever be reconciled? They jam against each other all day long, uncomfortably.  Smoking is bloody great. If you’re a smoker that is. Otherwise it’s just disgusting It’s OK, I tell myself, every single day. I never smoke in front of them. Instead, I smoke when they’re in bed, when the

What was it like to be nouveau riche in Pompeii?

Frescoes are always the lead story in reports of the latest finds from Pompeii, but they are only a part of a much bigger picture. Before it was destroyed in ad 79 Pompeii had been a flourishing port town (the explosion of Vesuvius altered the whole landscape) with a population of around 11,000, offering trading facilities to inland towns like Nuceria and Nola. It produced a huge variety of foodstuffs and far more wine than it needed, which it exported around the Mediterranean, as it did garum, a favourite Roman fish-based sauce, produced by the local Scaurus family. Plentiful foreign coinage testifies to the extent of its external connections (as

The Spectator’s letters page is hazardous 

Question time Sir: Your leading article ‘Sense prevails’ (13 April) is a valuable précis of the Cass Review into NHS gender treatment. However, it also raises several questions. How are the actions of these individuals, groups and organisations different from those of others who have been found to have acted unprofessionally, causing harm to patients who were entitled to place trust for their health in them? Where was the ethical and executive management oversight within the NHS? What other unproven ‘treatments’ are being carried out under the ever-growing demands for more money to be allocated to the NHS? Finally, what sanctions are to be meted out – or will we

Mary Wakefield

Clean up the MoD graffiti!

When I first saw the Ministry of Defence building splattered in blood-red paint, I assumed that it had only just happened. There were no police or protestors about but the damage was so extensive and so shocking, I felt sure it was recent. No decent government would put up with that for long. I was east-bound in a car at the time and as we drove past I craned out of the window for a last look. The Whitehall clean-up crew would arrive soon, I assumed, and I gawped because I wouldn’t see it again. I cannot for the life of me understand why it’s all right to leave the

When was the world’s first drone attack?

Attack of the drones The world’s earliest drone attack goes back further than you might think. On 12 July 1849 the Austrian military launched unmanned balloons over Venice, which they hoped to recapture after the city had declared itself a republic the year before. Suspended beneath each of the balloons were bombs containing up to 30lb of explosives, with timed fuses primed to deposit them over the city. The raid was not a success. Some exploded in mid-air, others failed to reach their target because the wind changed direction after the balloons had been launched. Some even blew back over the Austrian forces. A second attempt involving 200 balloons was

Toby Young

Even Orwell’s Thought Police didn’t go as far as Trudeau

You’d assume the reaction to the SNP’s new hate crime laws would make other authoritarian governments hesitate before introducing similar legislation. Humza Yousaf has become a laughing stock and his approval ratings have fallen by 15 points. But apparently not. The new Irish Taoiseach, Simon Harris, is determined to railroad through the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill, Donald Tusk’s government in Poland wants to introduce a new law that would make it a criminal offence to ‘defame’ a member of the LGBT community and Justin Trudeau is pressing ahead with an Online Harms Bill that makes our own Online Safety Act seem like the

Olivia Potts

How Linzer torte stood the test of time

Linzer torte has quite the claim to fame: some assert that it’s the oldest cake in the world; others that it’s the oldest to be named after a place. It feels churlish to split hairs, but those two assertions are quite different, aren’t they? In any event, it’s certainly very old. For a long time it was thought it dated back to 1696, when it was mentioned in a recipe held in the Vienna City Library. But 20 years ago, an earlier reference was found by Waltraud Faißner, a Linzer torte historian, dating it to 1653 in the snappily titled Book of All Kinds of Home-Made Things, Such as Sweet

Roger Alton

It’s no wonder Manchester City are top of the league

Well it was fun while it lasted, the closest three-way race for the Premier League in history, a title challenge as exciting as anything you will see on Netflix. It’s not over yet but it certainly feels like it. With six games to play, there’s still many a slip… But deep down even their most ardent supporters find it hard to see Arsenal or Liverpool getting past the seemingly unstoppable Manchester City now. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re owned by one of the richest countries on the planet  City have another stage in their haul of silverware in their sights on Saturday with an FA Cup semi-final

Dear Mary: How do I choose who to sponsor for the London Marathon?

Q. For the past couple of years, many of my sons’ friends have been gamely running the London Marathon for good causes. I received more than 15 emails this year, all asking for sponsorship. As much as I’d like to respond in the affirmative, I am not in a financial position to sponsor more than two at the most. They all know each other, so how do I go about choosing which ones to sponsor? – R.B., London SW9 A. Send out a group email saying that, as you aren’t able to give generously to each one of them, you will put all their names into a hat and the

Tanya Gold

‘Five stars, no notes’: Arlington reviewed

Arlington is named for the 1st Earl of Arlington and his street behind the Ritz Hotel. It used to be Le Caprice, which was opened in 1947 by the Italian Mario Gellati, who would not, by the new rules, get into Britain now, but this is not a column about pain. In 1981 Le Caprice was taken over by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, and it became the most fashionable restaurant in London. Princess Diana dined here and when Jeffrey Archer was released from prison, he ate here. None ofthese dishes could be improved. Five stars, no notes After an interregnum from Richard Caring, under which Le Caprice closed in 2020

Candidates debate

The grace of a snowflake lies in its outward simplicity, which on closer inspection reveals a sublime complexity. Chess endgames beguile me in much the same spirit. The examples below both occurred at the Fide Women’s Candidates tournament, which is currently approaching its conclusion in Toronto. Just a few moves earlier, Anna Muzychuk had an extra pawn in a rook endgame, which was being patiently guided to victory. Lei Tingjie has sacrificed her rook to reach the diagram position, pinning her hopes on the passed g-pawn to salvage a draw. Crucially, her king can shepherd the pawn while also impeding the approach of the White king. Time is of the

Amol Rajan is right to change his ways on ‘aitch’

My husband thought it brave and manly of the BBC’s Amol Rajan to resolve publicly to change his pronunciation of the letter-name aitch. He’d said haitch all his life, but declared in a blog: ‘Dear reader, I’m here to tell you: it’s aitch.’ This attracted wide attention. He also announced that biopic is pronounced bio-pic, not bi-opic. That is true too, but attracted little attention. Amol Rajan is 40 and took an English degree at Cambridge, but has only just caught up with the eighth letter in the alphabet. Still, we all have blind spots. The key to the mispronunciation haitch is hypercorrection. Children were so often told to pronounce

No. 797

White to play. Makkar-Cherniaev, 4NCL Spring GM, March 2024. White is a pawn down, but his pieces are well placed. How did he strike a decisive blow? Answers should be emailed to chess@spectator.co.uk by Monday 22 April. There is a prize of £20 for the first correct answer out of a hat. Please include a postal address and allow six weeks for prize delivery. Last week’s solution …Bd4! wins a bishop by force: 2 Qxd4 Qxf3 3 Qf2 Qd1+ 4 Re1 Qxd6 and Black went on to win comfortably. Winner Ben Hale, Flimwell, East Sussex