‘If I ever see you in the street, I hope you get shot’

The first time I wrote an article for a newspaper, the first online comment said: ‘If I ever see you in the street, I hope you get shot.’ The article was about being abused and harassed in the street, specifically while cycling. I wasn’t surprised that the online comments mirrored the behaviour the article addressed. But unlike the men who shouted at me as I waited on my bike in Clapham, the online commenter could be sure I wouldn’t spit in his face in response. More »

Mourinho Returns

As someone who struggles to remember basic facts about my family (middle names, dates of birth), I’m grateful when online security questionnaires give the option of naming the sports team you most want to lose. I know the answer to that one: Manchester United. I have sometimes wondered how much use it is as a security filter. Isn’t almost everyone’s answer to that question Manchester United?

Now I face a dilemma. If the question asked me to name my favourite manager I’d also have no trouble supplying an answer: Jose Mourinho. That, I realise, is a more unusual response. More »

In Madrid

Seventeen members of the Andalusian Workers Union (SAT) have been on hunger strike, camped out in central Madrid, since 16 May. ‘It has weakened us, and people are shaky,’ Juan Pastrana Serrano told me. He’s an SAT secretary in Jódar; his daughter is one of the hunger strikers. A movement of rural farm workers founded in 2007, SAT is famous for occupying fallow land, left uncultivated by large landowners, and returning it to the collective use of jornaleros (day labourers). They have also organised Robin Hood style ‘expropriations’ from supermarkets to feed the homeless, unemployed and destitute. Some 574 union members collectively face more than 600 years in jail and €700,000 in fines. The hunger strikers are demanding the release of an SAT spokesman, Andrés Bódalo, imprisoned in March for allegedly assaulting the deputy mayor of Jódar. More »

Homage to Madeleine LeBeau

madeleine-lebeau-casablancaIt’s one of the most memorable close-ups in film: Madeleine LeBeau, as Yvonne, tears streaming down her face, shouts ‘Vive La France!’ after joining the patrons of Rick’s Café Americain in the ‘Marseillaise’ to drown out the Nazis’ singing of ‘Die Wacht am Rhein’. LeBeau died on 1 May, at the age of 92; she was the last surviving cast member of Casablanca. More »

Rise of the Superbugs

Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Neisseria gonorrhoeae

In 2014 the prime minister commissioned Jim O’Neill to conduct a review and make recommendations to ‘defeat the rising threat of superbugs’. O’Neill’s final report, published on 19 May, predicted that superbugs could kill 10 million people a year by 2050, the equivalent of one person every three seconds, more than cancer, with a cumulative cost of around $100 trillion. More »

No thank you, Jeeves

A few years ago, NewSouth Books provoked controversy by issuing an edition of Huckleberry Finn with the N-word (which appears more than 200 times in the novel) altered to ‘slave’. Who would be bowdlerised next? Conrad? Kipling? No one seemed to think of P.G. Wodehouse and yet, rereading Thank You, Jeeves (1934) a few days ago, I was shocked to discover his repeated use of the N-word. After all, the world of Wooster and Jeeves is a faux-Edwardian comic idyll in which near everyone is a splendid fellow or a thoroughly decent chap, and anyone who isn’t receives his comeuppance. More »

Labour’s Identity Crisis

On Newsnight last week, Gillian Duffy, the 71-year-old branded ‘a sort of bigoted woman’ by Gordon Brown during the 2010 election campaign, was interviewed in a segment on the European Union referendum. The EU, Duffy claimed, wasted ‘trillions’ each year, but she also said she was ‘frightened of losing our identity, that’s what I’m afraid of, we’ll never get England back to how it was.’

In the five years since Brown’s gaffe, Duffy has been hunted down repeatedly by journalists, to be asked her views on Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, the direction of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and now the EU referendum. Duffy’s insights into politics aren’t groundbreaking in their perspicacity: she’s treated as a curio, trotted out as a bellwether of working-class feeling. More »

Trump’s Final Foxwashing

Acquiescence, co-option, appeasement? It’s hard to tell what’s been going on between Donald Trump and the American right since he became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Tuesday saw Trump’s final Foxwashing, the end of the feud between the candidate and Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly. More »

The Intertitle Vanishes

One of the earliest movies on which Alfred Hitchcock is known to have worked is the 1922 British silent Three Live Ghosts. The original is gone, together with Hitchcock’s intertitles, but last year a copy was found in Moscow. When the organisers of the British Silent Film Festival asked me to translate the Russian intertitles back into English, I wondered how to go about trying to recreate Hitchcock’s style, but I needn’t have worried: the Russian intertitles have little in common with the lost originals. ‘The film treats of the consequences of the World War in a positively dangerous and unacceptable manner, promotes friendship between socially antagonistic classes, and should therefore be banned,’ the Soviet censor concluded in 1925. But it wasn’t banned; it was re-edited instead. More »

‘Keeping London Safe’

Last Thursday, Sadiq Khan announced that from April next year there will be 400 more firearms officers in London. ‘Nothing is more important than keeping London safe,’ the mayor said in his first major announcement concerning the capital’s policing. The Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, had asked for more armed police after last November’s terror attacks in Paris. On 1 April, Downing Street announced that £143 million would be spent on ‘increasing the number of specially trained armed officers’. But senior figures in the police are telling the BBC that still isn’t enough. More »

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