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I’m a Tory trapped in a Labour voter’s body

I’ve been on tour around the UK with my stage show about identity called A Show All About You. In Edinburgh it coincided with the last weekend of my retrospective at the Royal Scottish Academy. I dropped in for an hour and sat on a bench so people could come and sit next to me

48 ways the Tories could win

Conservative strategists gawp at their end-of-year opinion-poll ratings like European space officials watching another Ariane rocket plop into the ocean off French Guiana. Fret not! To misquote Emperor Hirohito, electoral fortunes may have developed not necessarily to their advantage, but extinction could yet be averted by adopting the following measures:

My advice for King Charles, my ‘twin’

Truly, Harry, who is engaged in a preposterous legal contretemps with the Mail, is his mother’s son. While the Prince is filling his boots by turning his self-pity into an industry, his mother, I would argue, invented the art of victimhood – that insidious, debilitating, very modern malaise. The irony is that, unlike Harry, whose

Christmas as a Jehovah’s Witness

When I was growing up, there was no Christmas – at least, not one that was recognised in our household. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were taught that it was a dressed-up pagan festival that had nothing to do with the Bible and should be avoided. At school, I’d even be hauled out of any Christmas

The New Theists

One of Professor Richard Dawkins’s most influential ideas was the concept of the ‘meme’, which he coined in The Selfish Gene. A meme is an idea or form of behaviour that spreads by imitation from person to person. Memes can be beneficial or harmful to the individual and the wider community. The most successful have

Students annoyed their elders in the 1930s, too

Astriking generation gap in the western world has been revealed by the responses to the 7 October atrocities in Israel. Noting in these pages the surge in pro-Palestinian sentiment among young people on both sides of the Atlantic, my old friend Douglas Murray worries that ‘When it comes to Palestine, the kids aren’t all right’.

Just how much lower can the Conservatives sink?

This is the year in which Michael Gambon died, so by definition a grim one for theatre. Of all the tributes, one of the most acute was by Tom Hollander, who recalled how expressive Gambon’s voice was after 30 years on stage. He could reach hundreds of people while seeming to address only one or

My Christmas in Bucharest as Ceausescu fell

I never intended to spend Christmas 1989 on a short break in Bucharest. I had enjoyed a long, thrilling autumn in dark, sad cities in eastern Europe, running and marching with ecstatic crowds as they overthrew communism. But this had all been in the calmer, less exotic regions of the Warsaw Pact, where dumplings were

This Christmas in Bethlehem will be the saddest yet

I am on my way to Bethlehem, which is where I come from and where I tend to spend Christmas. When I visit from London, I am given strict instructions to bring with me a generous amount of cheddar cheese, a good whisky and, as unlikely as it sounds, Yorkshire tea. I have made it

Remembering Jeremy Clarke through his books

On a hot afternoon in October, I joined a lunch party. By the time I arrived, the company was on coffee and liqueurs. A pretty woman in her seventies mentioned an academic friend who was downsizing and how the prospect of getting rid of thousands of books had upset him so much he sought help

Where are all the proper members’ clubs?

‘How would you like your hair cut?’ ‘In silence.’ So goes the ancient joke. My answer, however, is ‘at home’. You see, this week marks the 15th anniversary of having my hair cut in my Highgate flat by the great Jane Davies, peripatetic barber to London’s loucher gentry. (Just as Jeeves is not a butler,

‘A war for Middle East stability’: Israeli President Isaac Herzog on what’s at stake in the conflict with Hamas

President Isaac ‘Bougie’ Herzog is Israeli aristocracy. His father, Chaim Herzog, was the sixth president, serving between 1983 and 1993; his grandfather Yitzhak Herzog was chief rabbi; his maternal uncle was Abba Eban, the most famous of the country’s foreign ministers. After leading the Israeli Labor party and the parliamentary opposition in the Knesset between

The moment I realised the study of literature was over

I’ve run away. I’m not saying where I’ve run to because then they’d be able to find me. I’m not saying who ‘they’ are either. So far no one has noticed I’m missing. I shuffle along with my head down, my old-geezer Woody Allen bucket hat sheltering my face, my hands shoved deep into the

I’ll never take culture for granted again

‘Has this been the happiest year of my life?’ I found myself asking recently. It has certainly been topped with the arrival of a third granddaughter last month. (My first, little Sara Maria, died a few years ago.) The birth of Rosie Elisabeth has taken our joy to cosmic levels, but 2023 has been a

The case for photo-bombing

A few months ago, I visited Angkor Wat, the majestic temple in present-day Cambodia that once stood at the centre of a vast empire. As the five towers of the palace came into view, I was, despite the intense heat, fully immersed in the beauty of the place. I imagined how excited a visitor from

Black holes are changing our understanding of everything

One thing upon which my friend Jeremy Clarke and I always agreed is the value of seeing the world from different points of view. In that sense we partially agreed on everything. This essential skill needs to be learned, and I assert that nature is a wonderful teacher. Perhaps the most surprising and bamboozling example

Alexa, do you love me?

My husband and I got a Peloton bike for the usual reasons: because we were time-poor, money-rich and feeling fat. And we kept using it for the usual reason: because we wanted to please the gorgeous ghosts in the machine. The American fitness brand Peloton employs some of the most beautiful, athletic and charismatic people

The dying art of thank-you letters

‘Still no word of thanks. No letter, no email, no text. No acknowledgement that it even arrived. Did it arrive? Did I post it to the wrong postcode? Did I tap in the wrong account number? Of course it arrived. He just can’t be bothered to thank me. Such bad manners! I blame his mother

Cornwall’s fishermen are being drowned by bureaucracy 

Bill Johnson is the assistant harbour master in Mousehole and skipper of the pilot Jen, a small boat of the inshore fleet. I know him because in summer, when tourists fill the tiny harbour with pleasure craft, he stands on the wharf offering conversation and advice. He is, of course, regarding the wreckage of Mousehole

The literary canon of P.G. Wodehouse

When T.S. Eliot published ‘The Waste Land’ in 1922, it was seen as a masterpiece of modernism. It was, but it was also a work steeped in cultural tradition. This was made apparent in the ‘Notes on The Waste Land’ with which Eliot supplemented his poem. In them, he glossed its literary echoes – the

How to make an Old Fashioned, by Kendall Jenner

This Old Fashioned is my go-to for the holiday season. The rich and complex flavour of the tequila pairs so well with bitters and orange. It’s made to be savoured and is a classic Old Fashioned with a twist. I made this cocktail with my mom over the summer for National Tequila Day. It has

Did England lose its mind in the pandemic?

My dog Sonny broke my finger earlier this year. He’s a Chart Polski, which translates as ‘Polish sighthound’, and he’s one of about 700 in the world. I was trying to stop him from going after a deer. Even with a muzzle, he could’ve felled it. Chart Polskis hurl themselves in front of the deer’s legs

The hell of putting on a Christmas play

In July, when I was asked to confect ‘another Christmas entertainment’ for my community, I viewed such a distant elephant with equanimity. Like memories of the pain of childbirth, the nightmares of amateur dramatics soon fade. Besides, I’d done this many times and survived to tell the tale. All I needed was to reassemble last

Why I’m bored of National Treasures

Here they come, see them run, twinkling away like a bunch of irritatingly flashing fairy lights, the milk of human kindness curdling on their breath and dollar signs in their beady little eyes. I’m referring to the National Treasures, wheeled out every Christmas as we huddle around the television. A quick list of those who

‘Many happy returns’: an exclusive Jack Reacher story by Lee Child

Tony Jackson had worked 30 years for MI5. He was a grammar-school boy recruited straight out of his redbrick university, after sitting a fast-track civil service exam. His results had not impressed the civil service itself, but clearly something in his psychometric paper had caught someone’s eye. Two weeks after his formal rejection he received

Notes on...