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Katy Balls

Inside the plot to take down Rishi Sunak

Westminster and its drinking holes have always been a fertile ground for conspirators. There was the dead sheep coup against Margaret Thatcher, the curry house conspiracy against Tony Blair, the great goose plot against Gordon Brown and the pork pie putsch to oust Boris Johnson. Now that Rishi Sunak has the worst approval ratings of

Women love flowers. Who knew?

It’s funny how long it can take a man to learn a simple lesson. For example, for years I had assumed that women couldn’t really love flowers, that it was all some sort of conspiracy created by Big Florist in league with Big Greetings Card that everyone, apart from me, had fallen for. On Valentine’s

The wit and wonder of Alan Garner

Alan Garner is sitting in a high-backed leather porter’s chair right inside the hearth enclosure of an immense fireplace, with a chimney stack stretching up 27ft and a very strange-looking firepit. I duck under a beam to join him. He adds a log to the fire and says: ‘This firepit is made from a disused

The problem with a slimmed-down monarchy

When he was Prince of Wales, the King began to advocate the need for a slimmed-down monarchy. The perception was that there were too many royals, an image confirmed in the eyes of the media and the public when they all appeared together on the balcony following the Trooping the Colour. The ill-informed man in

Ukraine is in a bind over mass conscription

In the second world war, the average age of a combat soldier was 26. In the Falklands, it was 23. For Ukrainian soldiers, it’s 43. The war in Ukraine has been, so far, fought mostly by fathers so their sons and daughters can rebuild the country when the fighting ends. But resisting Russia has cost

Éric Zemmour: ‘I am not intending to conquer Europe’

Two years ago, Éric Zemmour was the most talked-about man in France and a serious contender to be the ninth president of the Fifth Republic. A controversial journalist turned incendiary politician, he vied with Marine Le Pen for second place behind Emmanuel Macron in the polls. Crucially, he seemed to have something she lacked –

Why is everything in Antarctica so difficult?

‘Do you like to dig?’ That’s the first question seasoned Antarcticans ask when a scientist tells them he’ll spend winter on the white continent. Digging snow away from doors, windows and shipping containers saps your energy, but they’re not asking about that. Digging is a symbol for all the unglamorous physical tasks that will come

Notes on...

Why did Shakespeare find pancakes so funny?

The English have been eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday for a very long time. Originally it was a way of using up eggs before the Lenten fast: the Saturday before Ash Wednesday was called Festum Ovorum or Egg Saturday, when all the eggs would be collected in preparation for the pancake making. Shrovetide in early