The mortal sin of myself-abuse

I call it the “estate agents’ self”: the pointless upgrading of “me” to “myself”, or “you” to “yourself”. “We’ll arrange a meeting between the client and yourself at a later date”; “Myself and the vice-president of accounts will be reviewing your pay scale at the end of the fiscal year.” If you watch The Apprentice,…

Sticks and stones? For humans, words do real damage

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me, m’colleague Bryony Gordon wrote this week. She was talking about the latest spat between AA Gill and an arbitrarily selected member of humanity, on this occasion Prof Mary Beard, presenter of BBC2’s Meet the Romans. He called her too ugly for TV,…

Paul Ehrlich still prophesying doom, and still wrong

Paul Ehrlich, the author of The Population Bomb and the 20th century’s keeper of the Malthusian flame, has popped up in The Guardian. “The world’s most renowned population analyst has called for a massive reduction in the number of humans and for natural resources to be redistributed from the rich to the poor,” it reports,…

George Galloway’s Muslim conversion: why the big secret?

Why did George Galloway feel the urge to keep his conversion to Islam secret? The New Statesman reveals today, in an interview by Jemima Khan with the fiery new MP for Bradford West, that Galloway converted 10 years ago at a ceremony in Kilburn, north-west London. On one level, it’s not surprising: he peppers his…

Fazil Say and Turkey’s war on atheism

Here in Britain, we are told there is a war on Christianity. Quite why people think that is a little beyond me, since we’re still technically a Christian country, we have 26 bishops automatically appointed to the House of Lords, and whenever a former Archbishop says “Christian voices are being silenced” it silently gets plastered…

Lessons from the Death Zone

In the weeks before his death from oesophageal cancer, the Labour strategist Philip Gould filmed this intimate portrait of his thoughts. Whatever you think of his politics, it’s deeply moving: sad, yet full of hope. Please do watch it. • Warning: it’s a bit of a tearjerker, so if it leaves you feeling a bit…

How much is that bottle of wine really worth?

I’m not a wine expert. I enjoy it, but my expertise is limited to saying whether or not I like a given glass. All the heady-hints-of-pomegranate, redolent-of-a-misty-autumn-morning-in-Dijon, cheeky-zesty-little-number stuff is pretty much a closed book to me. Plus I prefer scotch, although again I can’t get much more in-depth than “peaty” or “sweet”. I mention…

For news about the death of Ceefax, go to Ceefax page 418

If you’re of my age or a few years older, and a football fan, you will have a particular memory of Saturday afternoons: sitting in front of a dark screen saying “Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool” for an hour and a half, prodding the TV remote periodically to get it to refresh. The Saturday three o’clock…

‘Derek’: Ricky Gervais really ought to lay off the disabled

In 2001, the Brass Eye “paedophilia special” was released. It caused widespread anger, especially in the tabloid press (which in one memorable case ran the story alongside an image of a then 15-year-old Charlotte Church, saying approvingly “She’s looking ‘chest’ swell”). And Beverley Hughes, the MP for Stretford and Urmston, was moved to describe it…

Step away from my bank statement, Polly Toynbee

Politicians avoiding, or evading, or generally finding ways not to pay tax is a bad thing. I think that’s something we can all agree on. Whatever the reality of George Osborne’s tax affairs, or Ken Livingstone’s, in general, it’s only fair that they should suffer the consequences of the taxes they impose. After all, they…