Diary

Don’t cancel Queen

Another week, another whitewash. The latest chunk of culture to be painted out of existence is ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, Queen’s 1978 hit. Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve never liked the song. I think it’s crude, patronising and misogynistic. It was pretty dated even on the day Queen recorded it. But that’s my problem. Millions loved it.

London theatre needs Kevin Spacey

Lee Anderson, deputy chairman of the Conservative party, popped a few monocles by saying asylum seekers reluctant to stay on a Home Office barge could ‘fuck off back to France’. Wash your very mouth out! Where did Anderson think he was performing? At the Royal Court theatre? The Guardian, which long teased Mary Whitehouse for

Why on earth did The Spectator support Brexit?

The temperature has hit 40°C in Crete, where I am writing this, and although there have been no fires, nothing is quite how it ought to be. I can’t work out whether this is a great opportunity to get a tan or, effectively, the end of the world. My 60-year-old taxi driver tells me that

My run-in with Nigel Farage

To think I once thought cricket dull. For more than 40 days and 40 nights, I have been gripped by the Ashes. I still couldn’t tell you where short third man ends and deep backward point begins, but I have fallen in love with the rollercoaster ride that Ben Stokes and his team have taken

I sledged Steve Smith for England

In this summer of sporting dramas, every patriotic sports fan likes to think he’s done his bit to help. I went up to Manchester with my brother last Thursday and in the evening we found ourselves in an Indian restaurant with the England wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow at the next table. I feel sure it was

In defence of ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees

When someone asks ‘How are you?’ you have to assume your interlocutor is only being polite.Anyone who returns a ball-by-ball commentary about their aches and pains, work-life balance and reduced chances of summer fun thanks to the heat storm should immediately be sent to Coventry for the rest of time. That said, I am just

George Washington’s lesson for Ukraine

The Australian morning TV host called me darlin’. We’d never met, but she opened with: ‘Good to have you on, darlin’. Be with you in a moment.’ Then the picture went black. When the live show returned to my Zoom screen, I was just another viewer, watching the three hosts seated on a couch half

In defence of Australia

What a week it has been for cricket. It began with that scalding ICEC report on the ‘racist, sexist and elitist’ state of the game in England. This report was commissioned by Ian Watmore, briefly the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, as a kneejerk reaction to Azeem Rafiq’s accusation of institutional racism.

Why I won’t dish any dirt on Vogue

I’ve spent every evening of the past week in the midsummer gloaming, making the most of the longest days of the year. London has been en fête. The National Portrait Gallery’s long-awaited reopening was occasion for an enormous party, but I found it to be a weirdly disorientating experience. As an ex-trustee, for eight years

How to plan the ultimate English road trip

Huge excitement last week, as archaeologists announced the discovery in Southwark of the best preserved Roman mausoleum ever found in Britain. I heard the news on the radio while driving with a friend, and both of us – living as we do south of the river – cheered. Shortly afterwards, I was invited on to

Boris was a superb prime minister

I’ll always remember where I was when my brother resigned again. I was sitting on the dock of a bay in the Adriatic, one G&T down (plus a couple of glasses of the cooling local white), halfway through the ‘signature menu’ of the Michelin-starred Alfred Keller restaurant, when that dopamine urge made me flip over

My hope for Ukraine

Kyiv When Winston Churchill visited bomb sites during the Blitz, the most common sentiment he heard was, ‘We can take it!’, followed closely by ‘Give it ’em back!’. That emotion is very evident in Kyiv, where Ukrainians are understandably nonplussed at opposition in some British newspapers like the Times to their drone attacks on Moscow.

My return to dating

The Coronation Street writers have produced 26 scenes to ease me out of the show for long enough for me to nip down to London to do a play for four weeks in the West End. They are long scenes – one is 13 pages – with my screwed-up, long-lost daughter, played by Claire Sweeney.

My lunch with Salman Rushdie

I have just come back from spending some days with David Hockney at his house in Normandy. We are making a film about him – the longest film about a single subject I have ever attempted. Like Monet’s, Hockney’s environment is his subject. The great sequence of ‘The Four Seasons’ is from his grounds. He

Turkey is at an existential crossroads

The wonderful Barbara Kingsolver wrote that hope is something you should not admire from a distance, but rather live inside of, ‘under its roof’. Last week I lived under the roof of hope as the campaigns for the first round of the Turkish presidential elections drew to a close. This is an existential crossroads for

Sorry Harry, I’m the real media intrusion victim

What an emotional wringer the royal family has put us through in the past two years, from the sadness of Prince Philip’s death to the joyful Platinum Jubilee, then Queen Elizabeth II’s own extraordinarily moving funeral, and now the coronation of her son. I’ve felt so privileged to have been at Buckingham Palace for the

The comedy of the Queen’s coronation

Once, years ago, making small talk with Elizabeth II, I asked her if it was true that many peers attending her coronation in 1953 had taken sandwiches into Westminster Abbey hidden inside their coronets. ‘Oh, yes,’ she said. ‘They were in the abbey for something like six hours, you know. The Archbishop of Canterbury even

Don’t cancel Diane Abbott

Browsing my local Oxfam, my eye was drawn to a faded hardcover with the title The Merry Wives of Westminster. As some readers may know, my Twitter handle is @WestminsterWAG, so I bought it for the princely sum of £2.99. It wasn’t until I got home and started reading it that I realised who the

The truth can’t be racist

You can’t please all of the people any of the time. But a core part of my job is ensuring that I don’t consistently displease a majority of them. Last week a radio show had a phone-in asking listeners to debate whether I’m a racist. I thought about calling in as Margaret from Fareham, to suggest

How to prepare a musical feast fit for a King

Years ago, as a penniless young musician, I sometimes played the organ at weddings and learned a bitter lesson: the congregation hadn’t come for the music. I was used to concert audiences who listened attentively and rewarded pleasure received with appreciation given, and it came as a shock to discover that wedding congregations chattered or