Westminster has a new parlour game. Since Monday, a conversation with anyone in or around politics will open with a round of “So what are the chances for this new Independent Group?” Players are encouraged to produce ever smarter reasons why the cluster of 11 MPs who broke from their former parties – eight from Labour, three from the Tories – is doomed to fail. Bonus points are awarded for historical references or imaginative use of polling data. By way of a warm-up, there are the obvious early arguments. New or third parties do notoriously badly under our first-past-the-post electoral system: just look at the SDP. There are no heavyweight figures to match the Gang of Four, who broke from Labour in 1981. The Independents have no leader and no clear policy stance.
Monthly Archives: February 2019
Such is the upside-down, topsy-turvy state of our world, that the children are now the adults and the adults are the children. In Westminster, our supposed leaders – men and women of mature vintage – keep stamping their feet and demanding what no one can give them.
It’s a fair bet that the new rules announced today aimed at preventing the gambling industry from targeting children will be welcomed by almost everyone. Who could be against a ban on betting ads popping up on sites, computer games or apps popular with kids, such as the promos that were once embedded in the I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here or Mario Kart apps? Given the extraordinary stats that show no fewer than 370,000 children aged 11 to 16 gamble each week – with 25,000 of those classed as problem gamblers – surely any move to keep young eyes away from temptation is to be applauded.
Sounding the klaxon and warning of imminent disaster is, it turns out, an even older British tradition than you might think. A tour of the spellbinding Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition at the British Library confirms that back in the year 540, a scribbling sermoniser by the name of Gildas – surely the Guardian columnist of his day – was writing “on the ruin of Britain”. Even before the country properly existed, there were Cassandras to prophesy its demise.
There’s a new work that has the publishing world gripped, with editors in London and New York confessing themselves hooked. It races along like a thriller, with several dizzying twists and turns and a compelling central character. What’s more, this sensational story is not fiction but a detailed, well-sourced work of journalism.
I’m referring to the New Yorker’s 12,000-word profile of Dan Mallory, whose debut novel, The Woman in the Window, published under the pseudonym AJ Finn, has been a monster hit. The report makes an unsettling read, charting what the magazine calls the “trail of deceptions” left by Mallory, including claims that he has endured and survived cancer in various forms – with tumours in both his brain and spine – that his parents were dead, and that his brother took his own life.Continue reading...
It took 35 years but now, perhaps, comes the final act of the miners’ strike that tore Britain apart for one long, bitter year in the mid-1980s. Decades later, the second woman prime minister is promising balm to heal the wounds inflicted by the first, as Theresa May offers bundles of cash to areas of the country punched hard by Margaret Thatcher’s war on the pits.