Archive December 2019

The government’s illogical ban on energy drinks shows they are in the grip of moral panic

A ban on tea or coffee to young people would be ridiculous. So why should we ban energy drinks?

Banning the sale of energy drinks to young people is perhaps the least controversial part of the government’s new Childhood Obesity Plan. Unlike most of the policies in the document, the ban actually targets children – which is a start – and we accept a greater degree of paternalism towards minors than towards adults. But it is not clear what the ban is intended to achieve, nor whether such a heavy-handed response is appropriate.

You might expect a policy from a Childhood Obesity Plan to be aimed at tackling obesity, but there is no evidence that energy drinks play much of a role in making kids fat….

Letters: Experienced ‘amateurs’ could offer added protection in the Channel

SIR – The idea of second-hand patrol boats, in conjunction with light spotter aeroplanes (Letters, December 28), might help stem the flood of illegal immigrants. It would also free up both the Royal Navy and the Border Force to confront drugs and arms smugglers, unlawful fishermen, real criminals and the Queen’s enemies in general.

However, in both the RN and RAF there is a manpower problem. As the crews of the proposed small vessels and light aircraft need not be trained to service standards, may I suggest the reintroduction of the Second World War’s successful Royal Naval Volunteer (Supplementary) Reserve, along with an RAF equivalent?

Before 1939, the ranks of the RNV (S) R were drawn from…

For two decades the West has appeased Putin as he turned Russia into a neo-Soviet kleptocracy

When Vladimir Putin became president of Russia, 20 years ago today, the country was reeling from Boris Yeltsin’s alcohol-fuelled mishandling of the transition from communism to capitalism. Over the course of the previous decade, the country’s economy had almost halved in size, suicide rates had doubled, and its enfeebled military had lost a war in tiny Chechnya.

Two decades on, Russia is a place of Starbucks and Mercedes showrooms; of takeaway apps, budget airlines, and cheap holidays in Turkey. Per capita income has nearly doubled in hard currency terms, from less than $6,000 to almost $12,000 today. Russians are more globally connected than at any period in the country’s history. On the surface,…

What are our national parks really for?

Attracting more visitors is a noble aim, but it raises potential conflicts with their mission to preserve our natural heritage

We have the Romantic poets to thank for the Lake District, as we understand it today. Previous generations had not cared much for mountain scenery. In the 19th century, the aesthete John Ruskin, a rhapsodic enthusiast for the Lakes who built a house on Coniston Water, poured scorn on classical authors for failing to appreciate natural grandeur. “As far as I recollect, without a single exception, every Homeric landscape intended to be beautiful is composed of a fountain, a meadow and a shady grove,” he wrote.

In the medieval period, Petrarch was the only writer to view…

Sooner or later, even Vladimir Putin’s luck will run out

On this day 20 years ago, a somewhat reserved and undemonstrative technocrat became acting president of Russia, succeeding Boris Yeltsin, the very opposite in temperament. Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer chosen by Yeltsin to be his prime minister, stepped into the role that he has held ever since in one guise or another.

On that New Year’s Eve 1999, few in the West, probably not even Mr Putin himself, could have imagined he would still be at the helm two decades later. Post-Soviet Russia was undergoing a massive transformation and faced severe economic difficulties. The chances of an inexperienced politician clinging to power for even a year or two seemed fanciful.

Yet he won the election…

The complexity of the care system is only making life harder for the elderly

Our reports about how NHS contractors are offering their paid consultancy services to people trying to navigate their way through the care system will have touched a chord with many readers in similar positions.

In some cases the advisers are part of the health service teams whose job is to assess whether elderly, sick individuals qualify for state help. They charge up to £300 a day to relatives who may have been turned down by the very same outfit.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has asked NHS chiefs to report on whether this is a loophole that needs to be closed. But the question they should be asking is why the system is so labyrinthine that finding a way through without expert guidance…

Let’s enter the new decade with pride and optimism for the future

Now is the moment for patriotism and confidence in British identity, the product of a glorious past

As the decade draws to a close, Britain has got its mojo back. In the election less than three weeks ago, we snatched victory from the jaws of self-defeat and the annihilation of our identity. Just like Disraeli, Churchill, and Thatcher before him, Boris Johnson stands now at the helm of this great nation, ready to steer it towards a new age of unity and prosperity. 

For too long, Islington intellectuals, heirs of Karl Marx, have poisoned every cup of knowledge with their culture wars. For them, to be British is to be ashamed and meek, head hanging low with guilt. Imperialism, colonialism, and…

My Thoughts for the Day on the biased BBC

On Saturday, I was guest editor of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. I enjoyed it very much, but I feel a little envious of the reverential treatment accorded to Greta Thunberg when she filled the same slot this morning. 

Since all the other guest editors (with the possible exception of the unclassifiable Grayson Perry) – Greta, George the Poet and Lady Hale of the Supreme Court – were Leftists, I felt it was my job to stick in as many issues as possible that might challenge the BBC’s usual views. I therefore lined up abortion, hunting, the revoltingness of the Iranian regime, the danger of climate-change alarmism, the bias of the BBC in approaching these and many other subjects, and its iniquitous…

Why life drawing really is for everybody

No nudging. No winking. No giggling at the back. And absolutely no jokes about needing to sharpen one’s pencil. This was the gist of the lecture given by our art master to his mixed GCSE group before our first life drawing class. Anyone seen to so much as snicker would be sent to the library in chalk-dusted shame.

When it came to the great kimono-dropping moment, he was more flustered than either we or the model were, fussing with the settings on the storage heater – no goose pimples, please – and stopping the gaps in the shutters with rags.

He needn’t have fretted. Even the jokiest, blokiest boys in the class were rapt and respectful. Every life class that year was marked by a hum of concentration….

A lot goes into a PM’s choice of holiday. So what does Mustique tell us about Boris?

It will be a very happy New Year for Boris Johnson as he sees in the next decade on a sun lounger on the tiny paradise-island of Mustique. 

An unexpectedly thumping election victory under his belt, he might be forgiven for taking a few days off to enjoy cocktails pool-side a la Princess Margaret, or stroll along the shore in the elegant footsteps of Kate Moss and Mick Jagger.  

But while the rest of us fight back our envy and wonder what 2020 will bring ourselves and our country, we could perhaps return to the two-square miles of scrub and beach in the Grenadines for clues to what a majority Johnson premiership might look like.

For few aspects of a person’s life give greater clues to their personality…