Features

The moon matters to China

China’s Chang’e-6 moon mission was launched on 3 May. It reached lunar orbit a few days later and began waiting for sunrise over its landing site on the moon’s far side. Chang’e-6 is named after the Chinese goddess of the moon and it will land on Sunday in a crater called Apollo – an ancient

Hell is a rented garden

For the past few years, I have been a joyful Chelsea Flower Show attendee. Every May, my phone’s photo album usually becomes stuffed with pictures of plants: variegated borders in shades of white and purple, hostas bursting from decorative pots, cornus trees providing shade over ground cover of miniature geraniums. I obsess over dahlias, clematis

Can the Tories avoid the fate of Canada’s Conservatives?

As the Conservatives edge closer to disaster in the general election, the hunt is on for a historical comparison. Tony Blair’s dispatching of John Major in 1997 was mild compared with what polls say could be in store. Those wondering how bad it could get should look to Canada in 1993, when a Conservative-majority government

The heyday of the gay guardsmen

In 1943 the music critic Desmond Shawe-Taylor placed an advertisement in Exchange & Mart offering a pair of trooper’s breeches for sale. A number of men replied, one asking ‘Have they been worn by a trooper or just yourself?’, while another observed: ‘It is always good to see the boys pulling themselves into tight troopers

Could Ozempic bankrupt the NHS?

The NHS spends around £6.5 billion every year treating obesity. People who are overweight cost the health service twice as much as those who maintain a healthy weight. Half of all cancer cases are linked to obesity and being severely overweight significantly increases the risk of other conditions, such as diabetes, strokes and heart attacks.

The TikTok stars taking on the Tories

‘Sorry to be breaking into your usual politics-free feed,’ chirrups Rishi Sunak in his first-ever TikTok video. He is awkward, understandably. TikTok is enemy territory for the Tories. What most users learn about the Conservatives is usually damning, from left and right. ‘I think the Tory party deserves to die,’ says Jess Gill, who with

Katy Balls

Are any of the party leaders ready to be PM?

Since Rishi Sunak called the election last week, Tory MPs have been in a state of discombobulation. ‘It’s an absolutely crazy decision,’ pronounces a minister, after seven days of chewing it over. ‘It is the dumbest thing that has ever happened.’ To most Conservatives, every aspect of the campaign has seemed eccentric, even self-defeating –

The shadow fleet helping Russia to evade sanctions

Economic sanctions were meant to be the West’s secret weapon against Russia, a way of crippling Vladimir Putin’s war machine and bringing his invasion of Ukraine to a halt without Nato firing a shot. Instead, Russia’s economy and military remain in rude health. After recent heavy attacks north of Kharkiv, Putin’s troops have seized more

Why is the government making it harder to get an au pair?

You will have heard, I am sure, of the Conservatives’ recent largesse towards working parents, as their ‘free’ childcare policy has been much publicised. Fifteen hours a week for your kid, from nine months old to the grand age of four. You may not, however, have seen the new rules governing au pairs, which came into

Anti-Semitism has returned to French politics

New Caledonia is an archipelago in the South Pacific not far from Australia. James Cook discovered it in 1774, but, after concluding that too many languages were spoken there, he declined to annex it to the British Empire. France, not as cautious, made it a distant colony under Napoleon III. Today, riots are convulsing the

South Africa’s migrant crisis

Johannesburg It’s called the ‘Reverse Jive’, retracing your steps to where your journey began, and you’ll hear it talked about all over Johannesburg, especially now, with an election next Wednesday and immigration such a hot-button issue. South Africa has a huge informal sector where the poor can at least scratch a living In Pretoria, the

In Kharkiv, culture is a form of defence

Kharkiv It was a strange feeling to walk alone through eerie corridors in the basement of the Kharkiv Opera Theatre and suddenly hear a burst of music and applause. As Kharkiv faced the Russian advance, a Kyiv-based drama group had come to the city to hold an Art Fortress concert to raise the spirits of

Ross Clark

What happened to the electric car revolution?

China is often characterised as a copycat when it comes to industry and technology but in one way it has proved to be a pioneer. It was China which saw the first boom in electric cars – and it was China that was the first to suffer when demand for them collapsed. The vast graveyards

Katy Balls

The deluge: Rishi Sunak’s election gamble

‘Only a Conservative government, led by me, will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk,’ said Rishi Sunak as he announced a general election on the steps of Downing Street in the pouring rain. Upon these words, the Labour anthem ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ boomed out from the street. The din made the

The power of restorative justice

In a week when the Chief Inspector of Prisons published an Urgent Notification detailing the horrors of HMP Wandsworth, I found myself revisiting memories of being jailed there for the crime of fraud. Clanging doors, rattling chains, men screaming at night in anguish or despair or because their cellmate was assaulting them. No help coming.

Katy Balls

Shabana Mahmood: The disgraceful treatment of Kate Forbes

It was like a scene from the Blair government: a minister admits inmates are being released before their sentence ends, to free up space. The opposition is furious, saying that ‘never in this country has a government ever been forced to release prisoners over two months early’. But in this instance, the minister is Tory

Gangs of Tehran: how Iran takes out its enemies abroad

‘It was Friday afternoon, around 2.45. I came out of the house and was going towards the car on the driver’s side,’ Pouria Zeraati says casually. Zeraati – a presenter at the London-based TV station, Iran International – is recounting what was probably an Iranian state-sponsored attack. ‘I was approached by a man who pretended

The Church of England’s volunteering crisis

John Betjeman knew that a church cannot run on prayers alone. ‘Let’s praise the man who goes to light the church stove on an icy night,’ he wrote in his poem ‘Septuagesima’, going on to celebrate the ‘hard-worked’ wardens, cleaners, treasurers, the organist and, most of all, ‘the few who are seen in their accustomed