Hopelessly out of date and ruinously expensive: Tory knives are out for HS2

Will there ever be a better time for Boris Johnson to take unpopular decisions? The Labour Party lies in ruins, seemingly determined not to learn the lessons of its election defeat. The Conservatives are at his feet, unable to believe the size of the majority he won.

His Cabinet meetings have become a chorus of sycophancy, with even the Prime Minister looking bored by the various declarations of admiration. He will perhaps never have as much personal political power as he has now. The question facing No 10 is what he intends to do with it.

His stated mission is to get Brexit done, which will keep him busy this year – but now is the time to kill off expensive bad ideas. He has started to draw…

Intolerant Labour can’t afford to become the anti-Catholic party

Fifty-nine years ago today, the first (and so far, only) Roman Catholic president of the United States was inaugurated. It was an easier journey for John F Kennedy than for many other presidents of less privileged origins, but in at least one regard, he found the going extremely tough: the question of his faith almost ended his campaign.

The issue of who President Kennedy would be taking orders from – the country or the Vatican – was raised continuously by political opponents, even before he won his party’s nomination. Only when he made his famous address to a gathering of Protestant ministers in Texas on September 6, 1960, that he believed “in an America where separation of church and state…

Until Labour learns the lessons of history it is doomed to irrelevance

Jess Phillips, one of the contenders for the Labour leadership, yesterday said the problem for the party at the recent election was no one trusted it to deliver on its promises. It does not seem to have occurred to her or any of the other potential candidates that the country thought the precise opposite.

Sir Keir Starmer, who has also announced his candidacy, said his aim was also to restore “trust” in Labour. The manifesto, he conceded, was “overloaded”, yet he did not resile from its ambitions.

But voters did not reject Labour because they felt Jeremy Corbyn could not implement a full-blooded socialist programme; they did so because they feared he would. The internal analysis of Labour’s worst…

The real reason why Dracula hates the Cross

Why are vampires afraid of crosses? The BBC’s latest adaptation of Dracula gives the wrong answer, and it shines a light on just how dramatically different this age is from Bram Stoker’s.

This is not a pedant’s complaint. On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed Steven Moffat’s and Mark Gatiss’s witty reworking of the classic text, at the centre of which is a rollicking good performance by Claes Bang, conveying the impression of an animal dressed as an aristocrat – or even the other way around, as when he leaps from the body of a wolf and quips: “I don’t know about you, but I love a bit of fur.” 

It was doubly clever, after two deliciously gothic episodes, to have him wake up in 2020 where he suddenly…

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…

Our New Year’s resolutions are no match for the joy of accidental life

In the quiet days after Christmas I had a email from an old friend in meditative mood – a sort of mid-life casting-up of accounts, and a reflection on the paths not taken. Reading this, two thoughts occurred to me. The first was that, despite an extensive back catalogue of folly, wilfulness and sheer stupidity,  I harbour very few regrets.

The second was that if I find myself at this stage of life’s journey in a shady spinney, rather than a dark wood, this cheerful state of affairs has nothing to do with me.  Every significant event of my existence so far has been the result of happenstance, rather than foresight.

I was steered into journalism by a boyfriend who, on hearing that I had been fired…

The Jonathan Fletcher I knew was talk, dark and handsome – but we know abusers don’t all have bad teeth and dirty macs

I first met Jonathan Fletcher when I was a young teenager; he a curate in Cambridge. Charismatic; tall, dark, handsome; with a personality so powerful I instantly wanted him to like and approve of me.

He didn’t. (Approve… though it’s possible he liked me.) Not being an Evangelical – nor male, nor public-school educated – I could never have counted for much.

He had a wide influence, over decades. A friend told me recently, eyes shining, how he inspired her to ordination. She is not alone. His church grew from tens into hundreds. Many of his protégés became clergy. Many escaped unscathed.

Others, dozens, were – it seems – less fortunate. Any vulnerability – bereavement was common to several – led…

The PM can negotiate a proper Brexit by the end of 2020 – so long as he avoids these 5 cardinal errors

The PM’s overwhelming Commons majority means he can avoid repeating Theresa May’s mistakes

It is important that the new UK government, powered by a spectacular landslide at the polls, does not repeat the mistakes of its predecessor May administration as it embarks on phase two of the EU talks – the all-important Future Economic Partnership. Amid the media clamour about how the length of negotiations for an EU-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), we are in danger of falling into yet another trap. Luckily, the PM’s overwhelming Commons majority means he can still avoid it.

There are five cardinal errors that should not be repeated.

First, no-one knows how long Phase Two will take, or what its contours…

Boris won because he has never pretended to be anything other than himself – unlike Jeremy Corbyn

The real reason why Jeremy Corbyn failed so spectacularly to win the general election is down to Marxism – but not the kind associated with the socialist revolutionary. 

Labour may blame Brexit, but the best explanation for why it went so wrong for Corbyn is because he shared his politics with Groucho, not Karl. 

For Magic Grandpa and his hard-Left Momentum faithful became the embodiment of that famous quote: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”  

In a way there is something poetic about a group of anti-Semites unwittingly aping one of America’s most celebrated Jews. 

Although a self-confessed Democrat, Groucho once commented: "The whole political left…

A day of delirium for Boris Johnson… while sour Corbyn refuses to take the blame

Sleep? Forget it. Boris Johnson didn’t need sleep. He was high on triumph. Bubbling with elation. Surfing a wave of pure euphoria. He was like a small boy bouncing up and down on his parents’ bed at five o’clock on Christmas morning. Beaming, squealing, and pointing with glee at what Santa had brought him.

“We did it!” hooted the Prime Minister, to a cheering roomful of Tory staff. “We did it!” 

Dawn had barely broken, and the heady blend of exhilaration and exhaustion was clearly making him, and his equally sleepless colleagues, giddy. “Let’s get Brexit done!” he blared. “But first, my friends – let’s get breakfast done!” 

An unreal night dissolved into an unreal day. It felt as if no one, from…