The Great Escape, October 2021

Nineteen months, March 2020 to October 2021: the longest time in our adult lives we had stayed in our own country. It wasn’t a bad life because we walked, cycled, played tennis, spent lots of time with grandchildren, gardened and even traveled within England – Norfolk, Northumberland, Isle of Wight. My cooking improved, I played […]

The Ethos of “The Captain”

The Boy’s Own Paper has entered the English language as a name for a kind of sporting cliché which combines the heroic and the far-fetched. “Boy’s Own stuff”, we say (or at least journalists do) when the debutant football arises from a tackle that looks as if it had put him in hospital to score […]

A Box of Love Letters

Most people, I guess, found that in “lockdown” they got round to doing things that were only on their really long list of things to do. In my case this included opening up the box file containing my father’s letters to my mother during the Second World War. He was in the Eighth Army in […]

The “Right Wing” Case for the NHS

I am inclined to be snotty about the NHS. Debunking things that everyone else seems to believe in is one of my stocks in trade and I found all that clapping to be a bit North Korean. Moreover the service is the last proud moral possession of the Labour Party, not an organisation I’m fond […]

The Gun, the Ship and the Pen

Linda Colley, The Gun, the Ship and the Pen; Warfare, Constitutions and the Making of the Modern World, Profile Books, 2021, pp. 502. Warships that encircle the planet; guns that kill at half a mile or more; written constitutions that allocate your rights and duties: all these are crucial features of modernity and, according to […]

Politics and altruism

Thomas Prosser, What’s In It For Me: Self-Interest and Political Difference, Manchester University Press, 2021, £12-99 paperback. What’s In It For Me? is a survey of contemporary political movements and beliefs. It is very up to date – Covid and Brexit get plenty of mentions – and it’s central question concerns the extent to which […]

Sir Stanley Rous

Alan Tomlinson, Sir Stanley Rous and the Growth of World Football: An Englishman Abroad, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, £64 (hardback). One of the most iconic photographs in the history of English sport is of the queen presenting the Jules Rimet Cup to the England captain Bobby Moore in 1966. From the angle most often shown there […]

Bob Lord: Butcher and Visionary

The land in which I grew up was mostly famous for its witches, but there was also an ogre. He was fierce and cruel yet he was able to give the people magnificent gifts because he had absolute power over the thing most people cared about. This was Bob Lord, chairman of Burnley Football Club […]

The True Meaning of Alastair Campbell

About thirty years ago my wife and I attended a wedding at the House of Commons. At the drinks between the ceremony and the reception proper the two of us were talking to a young journalist. We asked him exactly what his job was and he said he was the political editor of the Daily […]

Expat Storm

It would be normal to think of the Scots as the second biggest nation in the British Isles with a population a little under five and a half million. But there is arguably a bigger tribe with a population over five and a half million, which is British expats. Expatriates are people with a country’s […]

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