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How Britain sobered up

The people of these islands have long been famous for their drinking. A Frenchman writing in the 12th century described the various races of Europe: ‘The French were proud and womanish; the Germans furious and obscene; the Lombards greedy, malicious, and cowardly; and the English were drunkards and had tails.’ By 1751, at the height

Sobriety isn’t worth it

Absolutely nobody feels better at the end of Dry January. Mornings are still a struggle, you’re as tired as ever, and if anything the neurotic voice in your head is even louder. Yes, you may have gone to the gym every Sunday, but how has your life improved? It hasn’t. My own Dry January was

Mongolia’s increasing dependency on the West

Ulaanbaatar The collapse in Mongolia’s exports of cashmere legwarmers to Russia serves as a bellwether of East-West superpower rivalry. For decades, Mongolia enjoyed a lucrative trade selling cashmere clothes to Russian customers, knitted underwear and leggings being the fastest-selling items. At the outset of the Ukraine invasion, cashmere sales went through the roof as mothers

Palestinians in Gaza are suffering. That doesn’t mean it’s genocide

Last week Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, expressed his concern that Israel ‘may have breached international law’ in its three-month bombardment of Gaza. Two days later, at the International Court of Justice, South Africa’s lawyers presented their case accusing Israel of genocide.  The number of civilian casualties is indeed horrifically high. According to the ministry

Donald Tusk sends police after journalists

Donald Tusk’s return to power in Poland’s autumn election was interpreted by many as the victory of centrism over populism. The rogue right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) had been cast out and decency prevailed once more: this was, at least, the narrative presented to the world’s media. In Warsaw, things looked very different. On

The day the King could have killed Rishi

We are familiar with the perfectly sensible convention that monarchs should not fly with their heirs. But should they also be discouraged from foraging for their prime ministers? While researching my new book and film on the King, I was at Balmoral to see the visit of the Sunaks. At one point, the King vanished

Why isn’t Lenin as reviled as Hitler?

Around the corner from me is a barber’s shop decorated with black-and-white photographs of icons of the 20th century. James Dean is there with the usual cigarette hanging out of his mouth; Marilyn Monroe is perching on the edge of a pool table. A poster for the film Taxi Driver is alongside a photo of

Notes on...

Why criminals love a tunnel

What is it about a tunnel that excites us so? Last week’s story about the secret one in a New York synagogue fascinated the world, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that no one knew why the thing had been built in the first place. Police attempted to close it, and indeed fill it