From Harry and Meghan to Brexit, our system isn’t so ‘broken’ after all

The word “unprecedented” has been bandied around a lot recently to describe events that have precedents, even if the circumstances were different. The brouhaha involving the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is less problematic than past moments of peril for the Crown, such as the divorce of the Prince of Wales, or the abdication of Edward VIII – correctly referred to as a crisis. This is not a crisis for the monarchy, even if it has been a sad breakdown in family relationships, that everyone hopes will not last long.

If there was an unprecedented event, however, it was the statement issued on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen at 5pm on Monday. No-one could recall anything quite like it, though why it…

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…

After 20 years in Brussels, even I feel a bit wistful now about the thought of leaving

You know that awkward moment when you say a long and involved goodbye to someone only to find that the two of you are then walking the same way? Well, my past 10 months in the European Parliament have been like that.

It keeps happening. A Brexit date is announced. I pack my office, hold a farewell dinner, do my best to see that my amazing Spanish staff have good jobs to go on to – and then, with thundering bathos, find myself slinking back again.

First we were leaving in March. Then in June. Then in October. Then in January. Even my German colleagues, rarely the first to see the funny side, began to have an amused twitch around their mouths. “Ach, Hannan, you are back again? You love it here…

Even by Donald Trump’s incredible standards, this press conference was truly bizarre

You never know what Donald Trump’s going to say next. Maybe not even he knows what he’s going to say next. But then, at times he doesn’t seem to know what he’s said before, either. Take the extraordinary press conference he gave today in London.

The president was expected to take only a few questions, to mark his arrival in Britain for the Nato summit. Instead, however, he treated reporters to a 48-minute outpouring, a deluge, an unstoppable dam-burst of comment, during which he pronounced upon everything from what he calls “the impeachment hoax” to the seemingly endless failings of Barack Obama (“If you’d listened to him, we’d be in World War Three by now”). 

The one subject he tried not to…

What if meat-eaters become even bigger bores than vegans?

Troubling news. This week a panel of scientists suggested that going vegan was not only “completely unnecessary”, but potentially even bad for the planet. “If everybody went vegan, it would be devastating for the UK environment,” said Professor Mike Coffey, from Scotland’s Rural College. “Animals bred for food help boost biodiversity.”

No doubt these comments will worry the more fashionable metropolitan types among us. In recent years, more and more of them have been boasting about their conversion to veganism, and lecturing everyone else about the dangers of meat. If it turns out they’ve been on the wrong track all along, it would be horribly embarrassing.

On the other hand: maybe they’ll simply…

Corbyn will do anything to distract attention from his disastrous interview with Andrew Neil

It is quite legitimate for trade deals to be part of this general election campaign. A couple of years ago, few voters even realised that EU membership prevented us by law from contracting our own bilateral agreements (which seems odd for a nation whose wealth was built on overseas trade). We should be able to discuss the competing visions our aspirant government ministers have for international trade after we have left the EU.

But we can’t. Because after a three-year rear-guard action by Remainers to try to overturn the first referendum by holding a second one, no political party (other than the Conservatives) has even thought about what needs to be done to expand our horizons and take advantage…