Privacy and the fine art of making a fool of yourself

I was at a sports centre in north London a few months back, taking my eldest to a children’s party. It had one of those multi-level soft -play areas, which her two-year-old brother immediately disappeared into. Ordered to bring him back for cake, which I delivered with the usual supply-teacher lack of authority, I had to crawl through two foam bars to get him. But as I squeezed through it occurred to me that I was in fact stuck, and… Read on

As the world gets wealthier we just get more divided

Me, in today’s Evening Standard

The Nice attacks highlight frailty of modern France

From the Evening Standard As in Michel Houellebecq’s timely novel Submission, there is a general air of weariness about the escalating violence in France, and the fear of if and when it will spread to Britain, the Netherlands and Germany. Only this week the country’s intelligence chief warned that France was heading towards civil war, and its population is by far and away the most pessimistic about the future (although existential despair is part of the Gallic charm)…. Read on

Evening Standard: Britain’s lack of family values will come to haunt us

Today, on the emptiness of friendship. This problem may be most extreme here because Britain is probably the least family-orientated country on earth. There are historical reasons for this; as the Cambridge medieval historian Alan Macfarlane discovered, England broke out from a peasant society very early on, which meant children left home in their teens and never lived as extended families. This is why there are no big fat English weddings with lots of relatives called Rupert or Nigel. To… Read on

Standard: London’s housing issues are really driven by taste

So why does London not have more beautiful Islington squares? Partly it is to do with architectural, artistic fashion; in 1987 a young psychologist called David Halpern asked students to rate buildings by attractiveness. Almost everyone had similar tastes, except the architecture students, whose favourite was everyone else’s least favourite and vice-versa. In its report, Create Streets recalls the director of housing and regeneration at one London borough speaking of the “horrid Edwardian streets that most of us live in”… Read on

Evening Standard: Comforts of the West have let radicalism grow

In today’s paper: In his recently published book Not in God’s Name the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explained that Westerners, in their “effort to eliminate identity by abolishing groups altogether and instead enthroning the individual”, had created the perfect vacuum for the return of hardline religious identity. Radical Islamism thrives in the absence of other identities, which is why it is especially prevalent among second-generation immigrants, who are more likely to feel alienated and torn between cultures. This alienation, which… Read on

Evening Standard: Why big business loves to appear Lefty

In today’s paper. 

Evening Standard: Jeremy Cobyn is proving to be an admirable irritant to David Cameron’s foreign policy

Today’s column. Also, football, Bridget Jones and geek liberation 

Our own London caliphate is doing nothing but good

Me in the Evening Standard today: An e-mail I received recently began: “30,000 Muslims in London pledge allegiance to the caliphate”. Well, it certainly got my attention, but the caliph in question was not that rather humourless chap in Syria but Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the softly spoken leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. You may have seen their slogan — “Love for all, hatred for none” — or noticed their young men selling poppies outside Tube stations, an… Read on

Evening Standard: Corbynmania is all about high housing costs

In the Standard today, on the issue driving middle-class discontent: Housing is an intractable problem because the Tories don’t want rural development, which upsets their Nimby supporters, and Labour are pro-immigration but unwilling to accept that four million new residents means four million new residencies, and that building them is not easy on an already crowded island. When it suits neither major party to accept a cause or a solution, you have problems. Read it there