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20-21 August

Inside politics

Why radicals were Rushdie’s staunchest supporters

The trouble with liberals, says Janan Ganesh in the FT, is that they’re hopeless at conflict. “When a liberal says, ‘There is no culture war’, what I hear is: ‘Please let there be no culture war. Otherwise, I shall have to fall out with my friends.’” It was the same in 1989, when Ayatollah Khomeini called for Salman Rushdie’s death over The Satanic Verses. An old clip of Liberal Democrat Shirley Williams shows her “almost physically pained” at having to stand by her free-speech convictions; John le Carré, “at his relativising worst”, said Rushdie had “nothing to prove but his own insensitivity”. It’s telling that in the end his staunchest supporters – Susan Sontag, Christopher Hitchens – were not liberals but radicals. “Knowing the extremist temperament from the inside-out, they had no illusions about it.”


Politics is the new religion

The decline of Western religion is one of the most important trends in postwar history, says Helen Lewis in The Atlantic. Fewer than 50% of Americans are now church members, down from 70% in 1999. You’d expect that “fire-and-brimstone” concepts – “repentance, hellfire, heresy, apostasy” – might have also waned. “But that’s not the case.” For devout liberal activists, politics has usurped religion as the “source of meaning and purpose” in their lives. Crowds protesting the release of Dave Chapelle’s Netflix series, which featured a long riff criticising trans activists, urged the comedian’s fans to “repent”. When University College London decided to stop paying Stonewall to conduct diversity audits, students brandished a sign saying “REJOIN STONEWALL OR GO TO HELL”.


Good on Gen Z for dumping the bra

I would no more leave the house braless “than without brushing my teeth”, says Sarah Vine in You Magazine. Aside from feeling rather exposed, I would find it extremely uncomfortable – my “large, unruly appendages” simply cannot be relied upon to behave themselves without adequate support. So my initial reaction on seeing Gen Zs trotting down the street braless – undaunted by the prospect of “their nipples catching the attention of unsuspecting passers-by” – was to roll my eyes. “To old prudes like myself, it smacks of attention-seeking youth.” But since then I’ve realised there’s something more to it: it’s “an act of rebellion” against the conventions that have always been imposed on us women.


It’s the time of year to play “holiday cottage bingo”, says illustrator Stephen Collins on Twitter. If you enjoy his take on rental cliches, above, you can buy a print here for £45.

Gone viral

Will Young, 23, is the “handsome protagonist of his very own rural reality show”, says Will Coldwell in the FT. Better known to his 900,000 TikTok followers as Farmer Will, he is also the “first farmer I’ve ever met who has an agent”. Young is part of a new generation of Millennial and Gen Z farmers who are sharing the bucolic life online. Many joined social media during lockdown “simply as a novelty or to stave off boredom”, only to find that rural life held a special appeal to those trapped at home. In a recent post, Young narrates his flock being taken for shearing: “I can just tell she’s buzzing for that hot girl summer look.” In another, he dances to Lizzo against a backdrop of “blank-faced alpacas”. In the comments beneath one video, Young mentions his plans to start a petting zoo. “Can we pet you?” someone replies. “Asking for a friend.”


Quoted 20.8.22

“Life is one discrepancy after another.”

English novelist Henry Green

The great escape

If you’re looking for a truly spectacular view, you can’t beat a clifftop hotel, says CNN. Among the best: Secret Bay in Dominica, which offers exceptional views of the turquoise waters below; Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar in Oman, with a balcony overlooking the rugged landscape that wowed Princess Diana back in 1986; and California’s Post Ranch Inn, with an infinity pool offering breathtaking vistas 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean.

Quirk of history

In 1663, part of the fossilised skeleton of a woolly rhinoceros was discovered in Germany. Otto von Guericke, mayor of the nearby town of Magdeburg, interpreted the bones as those of a unicorn. A reconstruction of the absurd relic still stands in the Natural History Museum in Magdeburg today, as a lesson to excitable would-be archaeologists.

On the money

Making the mafia pay

Since the Ukraine war began, Italy has led the way in seizing the villas and superyachts of Russian oligarchs, says Elisabeth Braw in Foreign Policy. This is largely down to the Guardia di Finanza, the country’s financial police force, which is run on military lines. The elite group has a long history. It was set up in 1774 by King Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia, who decided he needed a military unit that could track the money entering and leaving his kingdom.

Inside politics

Truss: a Taylor Swift fan who’s “allergic to tax”

When she entered the Tory leadership race, says Katy Balls in The Times, many colleagues presumed Liz Truss would “naturally implode”. But after coming last in the first TV debate, the Foreign Secretary put in a “seven-hour weekend practice session” before the next one. A close confidante isn’t surprised: “She’ll rarely mention that she’s had to work twice as hard because she’s a woman, but it’s true. She’s not part of the old boys’ club.” Her favourite Taylor Swift song is The Man, which includes the lyric: “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can. Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man.”

Tomorrow’s world

Nearly two decades after Concorde taxied off the world’s runways for the last time, supersonic flight may be back. American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, has put in an order for 60 ultra-fast Overture jets from the aerospace startup Boom. The Overture, due to enter production in 2024, is capable of travelling at 1.7 times the speed of sound, meaning three-hour hops from London to New York.


You’d be surprised how many iconic movie lines are thought up on the spot by actors, says Far Out magazine. Take “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” from Jaws. It started out as an offhand quip: crew members were upset with the movie’s stretched budget and lacklustre props, so actor Roy Scheider sneaked in a dig about the substandard tugboat to get back at the film’s producers.



This classic Spanish villa is located in the picturesque town of Santa Maria in Mallorca. It has five bedrooms, spectacular panoramic views of the Tramuntana mountains, and a seven-acre garden complete with its own well. There’s also a pristine swimming pool, perfect for cooling off in the summer heat. Palma airport is a 20-minute drive away. €3.5m.


This 19th-century Grade II listed church sits a stone’s throw from the Bybrook river in Ford, Wiltshire. Its 2,850 sq ft interior includes four bedrooms, a gym and a spiral staircase. Among the more traditional features are a spectacular stained-glass window with a panel by Edward Burne-Jones, and a tower complete with functioning church bell. Bath is a 20-minute drive away. £1.3m.



Quoted 21.8.22

“The secret of happiness is not doing what we like but in liking what we do.”

JM Barrie