No sacred cows

What Labour could learn from Australia and New Zealand

I’m just coming to the end of a four-week speaking tour Down Under and have spotted some worrying signs of what our new government might have in store for us, particularly on the free speech front. During its six years in power, the Labour party in New Zealand tried to criminalise ‘hate speech’ against minority

The funny side of being cancelled

Douglas Is Cancelled, the new drama series on ITV, should come with a trigger warning – for me, anyway. Watching it brought back memories of my own cancellation six years ago, which I found so traumatic that I lost half a stone. Admittedly, the middle-aged white man at the centre of this drama (Hugh Bonneville)

The joy of my new allotment

I was pleasantly surprised when I got an email from the Acton Gardening Association last October telling me that a plot had become available at the Bromyard allotments. I had put my name down so long ago, I’d completely forgotten. I asked if I could come and see the plot before making up my mind,

New Zealand’s culture wars backlash

I’m in New Zealand on a speaking tour organised by the Kiwi Free Speech Union, and in some ways it’s like visiting Britain in a more innocent era. This struck me when I went on a tour of the Hobbiton movie set, where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. The Shire

Why an ex-Spectator editor told me to back Reform

When I told an ex-editor of this magazine that I was planning to write about why I’m voting for Reform he didn’t react as I expected. ‘For God’s sake, don’t write another of those more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger pieces,’ he said. ‘Make it a furious, tub-thumping endorsement of Nigel and his gang.’ When it comes to the ‘War

The Tories have failed us over debanking – again

On Saturday morning, when I was helping Caroline prepare for a lunch party, I got an urgent request for help from the leader of a populist, right-wing campaigning group. His organisation had just been debanked. He had five days before the account was closed, during which time the bank would return the money it had

Labour’s plans to rewrite the National Curriculum

Michael Gove’s decision to stand down in this election was a reminder that the one really bright spot in the past 14 years was the education reforms he steered through between 2010 and 2014. These policies were vindicated in the most recent PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey, which showed England climbing the OECD’s

The real reason Ofcom has gone after GB News

I don’t envy the people who run Ofcom. On the one hand, they’re under enormous political pressure to sanction GB News, which, in the eyes of its establishment critics, is a contaminated river of far-right propaganda that’s polluting the ‘delicate and important broadcast ecology of this country’ (Adam Boulton). But on the other, they want

Confessions of a catnapper

As Christopher Snowdon recently pointed out, the past few governments have had a habit of passing laws that are either wildly ambitious or incredibly trivial, while neglecting the real problems Britain faces, such as the housing shortage, the productivity crisis and the eye-watering dysfunction of the NHS. An example of the former is the net-zero

Do voters really prefer Starmer?

Rishi Sunak has been widely ridiculed for trying to spin the local election results as bad news for Keir Starmer. While acknowledging they were ‘bitterly disappointing’ for the Tories, the Prime Minister cited an analysis by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, the renowned psephologists, showing that a similar showing by Labour in a general election

Who decides which politicians are liars? 

This week the Welsh parliament has been debating a law that would ban politicians from lying. Assuming it ends up on the statute books, any member of the Senedd, or candidate standing to be a member, found guilty of the new criminal offence of ‘deception’ will have to give up being a politician for at

Why won’t Chris Packham have a real debate on climate?

On Sunday, the BBC did something unusual. It invited Luke Johnson, a climate contrarian, to join a panel with Laura Kuenssberg to discuss net zero. As followers of this debate will know, the BBC’s editorial policy unit issued guidance to staff in 2018 saying: ‘As climate change is accepted as happening, you do not need

Even Orwell’s Thought Police didn’t go as far as Trudeau

You’d assume the reaction to the SNP’s new hate crime laws would make other authoritarian governments hesitate before introducing similar legislation. Humza Yousaf has become a laughing stock and his approval ratings have fallen by 15 points. But apparently not. The new Irish Taoiseach, Simon Harris, is determined to railroad through the Criminal Justice (Incitement

My father’s greatest act of kindness

I’ve been busy planning a trip to New Zealand and Australia. I’ll be gone for about five weeks from mid-June, which is by some distance the longest holiday I’ve ever had. Except it won’t be a holiday, since I’ll be spending quite a bit of time raising money for the Free Speech Union’s sister organisations

Could J.K. Rowling be Oxford’s next chancellor?

Among my generation of Oxford graduates – late fifties, early sixties – there is currently a great deal of talk about who the next chancellor should be. In February, the present incumbent, Chris Patten, announced he was stepping down at the end of this academic year, thereby triggering an election to find his successor. The

I’ve found the cure for climate anxiety

A new documentary, Climate: The Movie, by the maverick filmmaker Martin Durkin, is becoming a phenomenon, though it’s received almost no publicity in the mainstream media. It rejects the idea that we’re in the midst of a ‘climate emergency’, so that’s hardly surprising. But it has already racked up millions of views online and been

I’ll never surrender my car

I got a letter this week informing me how much it would cost to renew my car insurance: £2,671.47, up from £1,587.86. It could be worse, I suppose. Owners of Range Rovers tell me that the cost of insuring one in London for a year is about the same as the replacement value of the

Is Gove handing Labour a dangerous weapon?

Michael Gove is back in the news, having come up with a new definition of extremism that he wants to roll out across Whitehall and beyond. Those captured by this definition, whether persons or groups, won’t be able to take up official roles or receive taxpayers’ money, with the primary purpose being to stop Islamic

Help! I’m a full-time dad

For the past ten or so years, Caroline has taken herself off to Barbados for two weeks every winter, leaving her long-suffering husband to hold the fort. To be fair, it’s a freebie, so she can hardly be blamed. Her best friend, Bridie, is a tennis instructor and in return for giving lessons to the

Joe Biden’s dog is out of control

I was shocked to read about the behaviour of Joe Biden’s dog, Commander. According to a CNN report based on freedom of information requests, he bit US Secret Service agents on 24 separate occasions between October 2022 and July 2023. There were also numerous other incidents involving the White House staff. These were not playful