The trials and tribulations of getting a plumber

‘Please, I’ll do anything,’ I told the plumber. ‘I’ll give you all the money I have if you just come back here for one day and connect the new hot water system.’ The plumber said no bother, he would come this weekend. But he says that every week, and every weekend when he doesn’t come he says he’ll come the next week. And the next week he says he’ll come at the weekend, and so on. And this has been going on for months. Which is nothing, apparently. Frankly, the builder boyfriend could go to college and get a degree in plumbing faster than we could get a plumber It is

Why Biden’s Gaza ceasefire proposal failed

Ceasefire deals to end the war in Gaza have come and gone. President Biden’s unexpected announcement of the latest formula for a settlement, supposedly proposed by Israel, has already fallen by the wayside. In fact, Biden’s three-stage ceasefire deal looked remarkably like the previous ones: a six-week halt to fighting and withdrawal of Israeli troops from populated areas, with a release of some hostages in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners; a negotiated Israel/Hamas settlement for a permanent end to the war; and finally, comprehensive reconstruction of Gaza. However, Israel’s attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the growing hostility around the world towards Benjamin Netanyahu’s grim determination to

Netanyahu thinks he’s Churchill, Israelis see Chamberlain

Aleading member of Israel’s wartime cabinet has threatened to resign should Benjamin Netanyahu fail to present a strategy for ending the war in Gaza. The liberal politician Benny Gantz, who would win an election were one held now, has given a public ultimatum. He will collapse Netanyahu’s fragile coalition if no peace plan is delivered by Saturday. Netanyahu might believe he’s a Churchill; most Israelis consider him a Chamberlain Meanwhile, the largest protest since 7 October took place last weekend when 120,000 Israelis marched in Tel Aviv. Families of the 120 hostages held in Gaza (at least a third of whom are presumed dead) have joined the growing demonstrations against

Who is allowed to play Richard III?

On Tuesday night I was body double/understudy for the brave, brainy, beautiful Rachel Riley, at a packed ‘support Israel’ evening. The keynote speaker was the brave, brainy, beautiful lawyer Natasha Hausdorff. I was slightly out of my depth but I hope I provided some light relief. Natasha was dazzling in defence of beleaguered democracy, but the facts are sombre and the audience went home a little more concerned about our future in the diaspora. Anti-Semitism is known to be a light sleeper. I fear it may become insomniac. I’ve been arguing vehemently with my brother Geoff about everything and nothing for 75 years. Inevitably, these days, our arguments are about

Portrait of the Week: Farage returns, Abbott reselected and Trump guilty 

Home Nigel Farage took over leadership of the Reform party from Richard Tice and is standing for parliament in Clacton. This came as news on Monday to Tice, and to Reform’s candidate for Clacton, Tony Mack. Outside the Wetherspoons pub where he launched his campaign, Farage had a McDonald’s banana milkshake thrown over him. Farage proposed net-zero immigration. The Conservatives then said they would ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee for a recommended level for an annual cap on visas, and put that to a parliamentary vote. Invasive Asian hornets, which can eat 50 bees a day, were found to have survived a British winter and might stay permanently. Rishi

Will Netanyahu declare war on Hezbollah?

The war in Gaza is perceived internationally as a limited affair, pitting Israel against the Islamist Hamas organisation within the confines of a narrow strip of territory on the Mediterranean coast. This view has long been reductive. A number of other fronts are active as a result of the outbreak of war in Gaza. And one of them – Lebanon – is currently showing signs of erupting into full conflict. In November, the Yemeni Ansar Allah (Houthis) movement commenced their targeting of shipping in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. In the same month, the Iran-allied Shia militias in Iraq began attacks on Israel, and on US and

Joe Biden’s ceasefire proposal could sink Benjamin Netanyahu

Joe Biden’s introduction of the three-stage deal to end the war in Gaza was a clever rout to bypass Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden has lost confidence in Netanyahu’s readiness to present things to the Israeli public, and to his own cabinet, in an honest and truthful way. By presenting the terms of the deal clearly and independently from Netanyahu’s spins, Biden was in full control of the message, in the hope that the Israeli public will back the deal and make it impossible for Netanyahu to back out of it. Netanyahu’s already unstable coalition is on even shakier ground now Netanyahu has spent the past eight months manoeuvring between the demands

I’m setting up a ‘climate crisis hub’

‘We thought the house would make the most fantastic centre for climate action,’ I heard myself telling the cat rescue lady as she let the two moggies out of their carriers into the living room. I was trying to reassure the socially conscious liberal who had brought the two cats we were adopting that she was leaving them in what she would consider a good place. I said: ‘We want it to be somewhere schoolchildren can come to learn about biodiversity…’ What was I on about? Still, pretending I was turning my house into a climate crisis hub was a bit much. I had just come back from the bank

Portrait of the Week: Sunak’s downpour, national service and the ‘triple lock plus’

Home Parliament was dissolved, leaving no MPs until the general election on 4 July. With hours to go, Diane Abbott had the Labour whip restored to her, and Lucy Allan MP was suspended from the Conservative party for endorsing the Reform UK candidate for Telford. Among bills that were lost was one prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 31 December 2008. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, had provided an abiding memory by announcing the election standing in heavy rain in Downing Street and making a speech as though it weren’t raining. The Conservatives suddenly said that everyone should do a form of national service at the age of 18.

Netanyahu’s strategy in Rafah isn’t working

On 7 April, six months after the October massacres in southern Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the public that the country was just ‘one step away from victory’ in its war against Hamas in Gaza. Nearly two months later, Israel hasn’t taken that step yet. The war continues. No more hostages have been released alive. Hamas rockets still fall inside Israel, including a barrage earlier this week that rained down on the suburbs of Tel Aviv. The two leaders of Israel’s war effort haven’t spoken to each other for a fortnight In the meantime, international public opinion has hardened against Israel. Some countries, like Colombia, have broken diplomatic relations.

Israel may have to stop its offensive in Rafah

The devastating fire that, according to Hamas, killed dozens of displaced civilians in Rafah and that reportedly started because of an Israeli attack on Hamas terrorists, has come at the worse possible time for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.  Four days ago, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Israel must immediately halt activities in Rafah. Although the language used by the court could imply that Israel may carry out some activities in the city as long as it conforms to its obligations under the Genocide Convention, there were international calls on Israel to cease all activities, and warnings of a disaster have sadly come true. Israel’s ability to carry on in

The grandstanding against the Hay Festival is short-sighted 

When the country’s largest literary festival parts ways with its main sponsor, it is not usually a cause for rejoicing among writers, performers, and the sorts of people who like to go to literary festivals. It is usually a disaster for the festival. Yet when on Friday the Hay Festival sacked (yes, it was that way round) the investment fund Baillie Gifford as its main sponsor, it was felt that a mighty blow had been struck against injustice. The decision was the result of a campaign that took exception to the colour of Baillie Gifford’s money, seeing the company as part of a disaster-capitalist enterprise that profits from the destruction of the planet by investing in fossil fuels, and that indirectly

What is Trump’s new foreign policy?

26 min listen

Freddy Gray speaks to author Jacob Heilbrunn about what another term in office for Donald Trump might mean for America’s foreign policy, its relationship with Israel, and the war in Ukraine. How have his views changed since last time? And what will his relationship with Putin be like?

How Benjamin Netanyahu and Joe Biden fell out

After the atrocities committed by Hamas in southern Israel on 7 October, President Biden offered his total and unflinching support for retribution against the terrorist-designated rulers of the Gaza Strip. Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu vowed to annihilate every member of Hamas and to gain the release of the 252 Israeli and foreign hostages abducted and taken into Gaza. Biden agreed that these objectives were right and proper. So, too, did the UK government and other like-minded nations, appalled by the images and reports of slaughter, rape and brutality by Hamas. Relations between Washington and Tel Aviv are not beyond repair Nearly eight months later, that policy of unflinching support for Israel

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 territory. Supposedly ‘decolonial’ in aim, they are most certainly violent and fuelled by the anti-white racism that, from London to Brussels and Paris, has become the trademark of the new radical left. The strangest thing is that among the flags of the Kanak independence movement, one also sees Azeri flags. Why Azeri? Because Azerbaijan, which

Portrait of the Week: Infected blood apologies, falling inflation and XL bully attacks 

Home Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said: ‘I want to make a wholehearted and unequivocal apology’ for a ‘decades-long moral failure at the heart of our national life’, as described in the report by Sir Brian Langstaff from the Infected Blood Inquiry, which found that successive governments and the NHS had let patients catch HIV and hepatitis. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, apologised too. So far more than 3,000 have died, of the 30,000 infected with HIV or hepatitis C from blood products or transfusions between 1970 and the early 1990s. Interim compensation of £210,000 will be paid to some within 90 days. BT postponed until January 2027 a

The dignity of Eden Golan

Two questions dominated last night’s Eurovision Song Contest final in Malmo, Sweden. First, whether 20-year-old Eden Golan, Israel’s entrant, would defy the odds and actually win. And secondly, whether some kind of security breach involving pro-Palestinian protesters would result in the final being disrupted. In the end, proceedings passed off relatively peacefully. The eventual winner was Switzerland’s Nemo with ‘The Code’, a song mixing rap, pop and opera. A huge public vote helped lift Golan’s entry ‘Hurricane’ into fifth place. The winning song will be forgotten soon enough, suffering the same fate as the vast majority of entries into the Eurovision Song Contest – a competition that has always been

Britain doesn’t need an Iron Dome

Air defence was in the news this week, after Israel, with the help of allies including the UK, shot down around 99 per cent of over 300 cruise and ballistic missiles and drones fired at it by Iran. The perils of depleted air defences were shown by Russian missile and drone bombardments of Ukrainian energy infrastructure and cities, leading again to many civilian deaths. Eighteen civilians were killed in a Russian strike on Chernihiv. In the wake of the Iranian attacks, Tobias Ellwood, former chair of the House of Commons Defence Committee, told the Telegraph that the UK needs to build ‘a permanent umbrella of security defending our key locations’. This required, he said, ‘investments,

Inside the new Arab-Israeli alliance

As Jordanian fighter jets shot down Iranian drones heading for Israel on Saturday night, there were joyful cries of Allahu Akbar on the ground as some people lent out of their windows to cheer the drones they thought were getting through. King Abdullah II was depicted on social media wearing an Israeli military uniform complete with the Star of David and he must dearly wish that Israelis would shut up about their ‘new strategic alliance’ with old enemies like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Jordan’s foreign minister was forced into an unconvincing declaration that they would shoot down anyone’s drones, not just Iran’s. Yet, the important fact remains: this is

Svitlana Morenets

Why does the West protect Israel but not Ukraine?

When Israel and its allies shot down hundreds of Iranian drones and missiles, they demonstrated what an effective air defence looks like. The slow-moving Shahed-136 suicide drones were not hard for the Israeli, Jordanian, British, American and (probably) Saudi air forces to find and eliminate. Even Iran’s cruise missiles were thwarted. It was an overwhelming victory for Israel and a humiliation for Iran. In Ukraine, all this was watched with desperation and even anger. While Israel boasts robust air defence systems and, with its allies, can deploy hundreds of combat aircraft to repel Iran’s attack, Ukraine must ration its defence munitions. Kyiv is forced to choose which cities to protect. Ukraine’s