Archives





The Janus-faced triumph of Joseph R. Biden, Jr

I used to think elections were the epitome of drama and excitement: the concatenation of millions of crosses on pieces of paper that can change a nation, even the world, overnight. But since June 2016, my experiences have...



As Florida goes, so goes the nation?

Just seven days after leaving hospital, Donald Trump touched down last Monday evening in the muggy swampland of Sanford, Florida, in the first jolt of a final defibrillation to save his presidency. Following steroid treatment for...



Naomi Osaka Picks Up the Baton: The Trailblazing History of Women’s Tennis

As her opponent jettisoned a final backhand into the net, Naomi Osaka let out a guttural roar of delight - “COME ON!” - puffed her cheeks, and stared towards the heavens. Two years on from her first Grand Slam triumph at Flushing...



British broadcast media must take an urgent lead on climate awareness

How many people in the UK know that the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth occurred on Tuesday? Pending verification, the mercury at the Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, California, reached 54.4C (130F) –...



Can Democrats avert the Trumpocalypse?

Review: David Frum, Trumpocalypse: Restoring American Democracy (HarperCollins, 2020) There are 99 days to go until the 2020 United States presidential election. Having privileged economic imperatives over public health, many...



Like Dominic Cummings, Novak Djokovic took the public for fools – and seems unlikely to face the consequences

Tennis had its Dominic Cummings moment this week, when four Top 50 male players tested positive for Covid-19 after playing in Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour. This series of exhibition tournaments, held in Belgrade, Serbia and Zadar,...



The Whig Interpretation of Cricket

Review: The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team (Amazon Prime Video, released 12th March 2020) A chest infection sparked my interest in cricket. Prostrate on the sofa on a hot afternoon last August, I was enthralled by the...



Amid pandemic and climate crisis, apocalyptic thinking is a luxury we can’t afford

Review: Mark O’Connell, Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back (Granta Books, 2020) It is a fundamental part of the human condition to be preoccupied by thoughts of destruction and our...



Podcasts are a vital tool for understanding – and bearing – our new world

Like most people, my state-mandated exercise regime under lockdown is very simple. Every few days, it’s off on the bike for a dart around the hinterlands of East Norfolk – invariably taking a liberal attitude to the one-hour time...



Lukewarm in lockdown? Attitudes to the UK government and media Covid-19 response

I compiled a survey through Google Forms over a 7-day span between Saturday 18th and Friday 24th April 2020. Respondents were asked a range of questions related to government and media handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, principally in...



Male, pale and stale: The optical problem of Britain’s political response to Covid-19

What unites every one of the eight Cabinet ministers that has participated in one of Downing Street’s daily coronavirus briefings? They are men. Despite highly relevant briefs – the Home Office (Priti Patel); Work and Pensions...



Why we must stay cheerful amid the coronavirus lockdown

As we enter the bleak realm of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s remarkable to consider how quickly the barometers of life have shifted. Just three weeks ago I remember enjoying the dividends from a £25 pub quiz bar tab on a...



Bercow, Djokovic, Bloomberg… and Alexa: my 22nd February diary

Home Alone with Michael Scott Perhaps foolishly, my parents have entrusted me with the defence of the family home this week as they take off for a half-term jaunt. I’ve not encountered any incompetent criminals and spooky old men...



The world of entertainment has saved a bleak January

January 2020 has set an ominous benchmark for the new decade. Almost beginning with World War Three, it ended simultaneously with Britain exiting the European Union and President Trump’s acquittal in impeachment proceedings which...



From one blog to another: my response to Dominic Cummings

Dominic Cummings, Number 10 strategist and professional book swallower, has set out his invitation: from data scientists and economists to researchers and oddballs, he needs a cognitively diverse army to join his operation to...



British politics has reached its nadir – but at least Corbynism is over

I won’t be trying another election prediction any time soon. For the third time in four years, I found myself turning in at 4:30am despondent after a seismic result which realigns the Conservative party formally as the Brexit party....



Predicting the 2019 UK General Election

Using a lethal combination of polling data, random number generation and wishful thinking, I have devised a seat-by-seat prediction for Thursday’s general election. This is a critical poll for the direction of the United Kingdom:...



My 10 Book Countdown for 2019

10. Serhii Plokhy, Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy (Penguin Books, 2019) The central message of Serhii Plokhy’s sensitive account of the April 1986 Chernobyl reactor explosion is simply how avoidable it was. Drawing extensively...



An emotionally bereft sovereign leads The Crown into a new realm of mediocrity

For two series, Netflix’s The Crown provided a lavish, sensational admission to the private world of the planet’s most famous family from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Mighty personalities, anaemic premiers and profligate...



Concorde: a missed opportunity or an elitist extravagance?

In the 21st century, flying is a means to an end. For Britons, it is the easiest method by which to escape a cool, rainy island for the warmer climes of a continent we seem desperate – in a different context – to leave. But our...



Nick Kyrgios needs a suspension from tennis – and professional help

Is Nick Kyrgios crying out for an escape? Will he ever fulfil his limitless potential? Does he even like tennis? As he continues to grab headlines for almost always the wrong reasons, fans, commentators and umpires alike have been...



First Past the Post politics needs to go: here are the alternatives

The ongoing Tory leadership contest epitomises the democratic deficit in this country. As I detailed in my last blog, a dedicated selectorate of about 150,000 pensioners – perhaps 0.3% of British adults – will choose the next...



Johnson is Sideshow Boris – it’ll be Prime Minister Farage by Christmas

We are witnessing the collapse of the post-war political order in the UK. The Brexit conundrum has destroyed long-standing class and regional loyalties. The Labour party’s traditional coalition has frayed under Jeremy Corbyn’s...



The Independent Group represents me – but can it represent Remainer Britain?

With just under 900 hours until Brexit Day and no negotiated withdrawal agreement, it should come as no surprise that the British political status quo is dissolving before our eyes. Since 10 ‘o’clock on Monday morning, eleven MPs...



NAOm1 and Djokov15: Australian Open Predictions Results

For the first time since 1995, a male and female champion have won consecutive grand slam titles. Novak Djokovic produced two of his best career performances to bludgeon Pouille and then Rafael Nadal into submission, making the...



Jefford’s Predictions Challenge #3: Australian Open Finals

The 2019 Australian Open has been such a satisfactory tournament: a healthy share of stunning upsets, balanced with the ultimate triumph of the giants. Each final is a tantalising prospect – not least, on the women’s side, with...



Jefford’s Predictions Challenge #2: Australian Open Semifinals

Well, that didn’t all go quite to plan. Serving at 5-1, 40-30 up in the final set against Karolina Pliskova, Serena Williams managed to lose six games in a row, and with the match, another chance to reach Margaret Court’s 24 Grand...



Jefford’s Predictions Challenge #1: Australian Open Quarterfinals

With another pulsating Grand Slam tournament in full swing, I’ve decided to do something a little different with this blog. One of Huddersfield’s finest tennis champions, Rohit Gupta, suggested I host a Mark Lawrenson-style tennis...



“I gave everything I had”: an epitaph to Andy Murray’s stunning career

This morning at the Australian Open, Andy Murray proved to the world why he deserves to be regarded as Great Britain’s greatest ever sportsman. Last Friday, he had tearfully revealed the futility of his comeback on an “extremely...



Carlos Ramos during the infamous match

A homage to inconsistency: thoughts from the US Open

It started with on-court coaching from supposedly tennis’ most impartial source, a match umpire. At the change of ends in his second-round US Open match against Pierre Hughes-Herbert, with the mercurial Australian “tanking” at...



Black and white photo of Roosevelt and Johnson

Summer Reading Review: The Path to Power (1982)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson Volume 1: The Path to Power Robert A. Caro ​ Robert A. Caro is the consummate chronicler of political power – its acquisition, use and abuse. The New Yorker has spent half a century writing 4,500...



Jewish protesters holding placards

Regardless of the evidence, Jeremy Corbyn is allergic to toeing a line

Jeremy Corbyn’s backbench image was the quixotic hard-left ideal: the recalcitrant rebel. On matters of principle, he opposed his own party 428 times during the Blair-Brown years, on legislation from football disorder prevention to...



Serena and Venus Williams embracing on the court

Serena shouldn’t get special exemptions – let’s just celebrate her return to tennis

It was a spectacle which the Indian Wells Tennis Garden has spent seventeen years waiting for. Venus vs. Serena Williams: a symbolic match to overcome the racially-tinged acrimony which surrounded their aborted semi-final here in 2001...



2017's 12 Days of Christmas

2017 has been another year to suspend belief, exceed expectations and defy prediction – or, in the case of Donald Trump, a year to meet expectations by continuously defying what could never be predicted of a sitting U.S. president....



A selection of headlines from old Cambridge newspapers

Student comment journalism cannot be allowed to descend into self-parody

The guarantee of free speech and the creation of spaces where all opinions – no matter how unsavoury – can be aired, is a thorny and well-worn issue. I’ve had to think carefully before immersing myself in its hazardous waters....



Hillary Clinton sat in front of a microphone

Hillary Clinton’s insight remains crucial – even if we don’t want to listen

Several months ago, I greeted the somewhat inevitable news that Hillary Rodham Clinton had written a post-mortem memoir of her 2016 presidential defeat with cynicism and limited curiosity. What could the former First Lady and...



Maria Sharapova standing on court with her arm in the air

Maria Sharapova: The Unstoppable Victim

Returning from a 15-month suspension from tennis for drug offences, Maria Sharapova seeks to rewrite history in her September 2017 memoir, Unstoppable: My Life So Far. Recounting her turbulent life born to a family displaced by the...



The long queue waiting to buy tickets for the tennis

Second-degree burns, a dangerous sleeping bag and a great line up: A Day at the Championships

It seems only right that an excursion to the most famous British sporting tournament should be defined by the activity we perform best: standing in line, for hours on end. The Championships at Wimbledon annually produce a meticulous...



Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn superimposed in front of a Union Jack

May must clear up her mess – look at the alternatives

With last night’s passage of the Queen’s Speech – or, should I say, the remnants of a content-free Conservative manifesto reliant on tautology and the whims of 10 Stone Age parliamentarians drafted in at a cost of £100m each to...



My keyboard

“She must be revelling in it”: Keyboard warriors and partisanship in national catastrophe

I don’t feel it’s my place to attempt any further comment on the specifics, beyond simply reiterating shock and support for the 22 killed and 59 hurt in the Manchester attack last night. These have been rightly shared across...



A triptych of Theresa May, Andy Murray and Kevin Spacey

1983 all over again?

It is as if the world is plotting for me to fail my exams. Starting on 1st June, they come two days after the much-anticipated release of House of Cards Season 5, and, for a tennis nut like me, three days from the start of the French...



Angela Merkel holding a beer

One too many? Drinking cultures in politics and university

There can be few more stressful occupations than that of Member of Parliament in the opening weeks of spring 2017. Representatives of the opposition parties, and indeed many Tories, will be mourning their powerlessness in the...



Federer and Nadal posing on the court

Age is just a number: Roger Federer and longevity in tennis

The unpredictability of life isn’t all bad. When I consigned Roger Federer to parentheses when discussing the likely trajectory of the 2017 tennis season last December, not even the man himself could envisage his...



The History Faculty (Seeley Library) to Cambridge University

Telephonic distractions, phantom limbs and the Seeley Library

Constantly flicking Facebook must be more than just a procrastination technique – it’s an addiction. Eventually, it is going to prove supremely unhelpful when I am revising for five exams, actually attending useful lectures, and...



John Bercow in the House of Commons

John Bercow: Is standing up for sanity above his pay grade?

John Simon Bercow is determined for his tenure as Speaker of the House of Commons to make a meaningful difference. Not only has he rehabilitated the image of Parliament in the aftermath of an expenses scandal that ousted his inept...



The interior of a large tropical Center Parcs swimming pool

If You Go Down to the Woods Today: A Return to Center Parcs

For a small, perilously flat country of 16 million people, the Netherlands has proven incredibly resourceful in its history. Many of the inventions central to our lives are, unexpectedly, Dutch: the Compact Disc, the eye test, the...



A parody of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

2016: My annus mirabilis; Earth’s annus horribilis

A year ravaged by war, demagoguery, fear, lies, and anger which make any progressive question the basic decency of mankind? Or a brilliant year of excitement and success, albeit one in which I peaked in my excessive consumption on New...



The Queen wearing all white

The Perfect Christmas (Serves 6+)

Roll out the snow on a flat surface. Knead until it becomes soft and warm; add the caviar to create texture for the more sophisticated palate. Empty the stuffing, potatoes and Bucks Fizz into a bowl and mash until light and creamy....



Andy Murray posing in front of a trophy

Andy, Champion of the World

In some ways, it seems ironic that tennis world No. 1 Andy Murray should win his third Sports “Personality” of the Year award. Unfortunately for the dour Scot, he makes Courtney Wood (Sunday’s Apprentice runner-up) – or, for...



Cambridge College Bar Guide: Part I (image)

Cambridge College Bar Guide: Part I

Practically since I was in the womb, I have always loved listing and counting things – American states, the number of differently-coloured cars on the motorway, all those banal yet crucial objects detailed in innumerable I Spy...



Hillary Clinton stood in front of a backdrop of the American flag

8th November, 2016: A Day Which Will Live in Infamy

As soon as the rain started on that cold November night, I almost knew he would win. Of course, I suppressed that inkling of doubt and convinced myself that Clinton would triumph comfortably by 5 or 6 percentage points, as I fuelled...



A house covered in Christmas lights

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - there's still eight weeks to go!

It’s official – Christmas has become as perpetual as the DFS sale. We had not even seen off Hallowe’en on Monday (which, coincidentally, begins in July) when I was angered to find a considerable stack of mince pies on sale...



Former US presidents talking happily to each other

Predicting the American election - a history since 1992

With the U.S. presidential election two weeks away, it seems that Hillary Clinton has finally dispatched the scourge of Trump. The crucial “October Surprise” came in the form of a 2005 tape of the Republican candidate in peak...



Famous tennis players in a lineup

Sport: the ultimate procrastination?

Sport seems to be a bizarre international obsession. As a populace we are engrossed by people who throw things, kick things, drive things, hit things, and move quickly in the direction of things for a living. We revere most the...



Ed Balls and Katya Jones dancing on Strictly Come Dancing

Glitterballs and fears for the direction of British politics

I wonder how Craig Revel Horwood might react to the Labour Party’s re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader? ‘Pedestrian’, he might lament, ‘better luck next time, darling’. At least, that was his comment on Ed Balls’ first...



Primary school children playing around a table

Britain's attainment problem

There is a road out of Norwich which seems to demonstrate the mistaken priorities of British society. As you turn onto Hethersett Lane, on the left is the John Innes Centre, a pioneering scientific research institute, its car park...



Alexander Armstrong

The scourge of summer lethargy

I am very much an all or nothing person. Some days – mostly while at university – I can wake up at 7am, do a morning of work, go out for lunch with friends, do some writing, go for a bike ride, then have a few hours watching a...



Skeleton of a raptor standing upright

Notes from the American South

America is the pre-eminent power in the world in one surprising field. Not economic power. Not military power. Certainly not the function of democracy. It’s museums. The United States know how to create fascinating, challenging,...



Fat man sitting down wearing a vest with the American flag

Travels to the Land of the Free(ly Expanding Waistlines)

It is a struggle to write a travel diary, particularly in the United States, without thinking of the prescient and utterly hilarious work of Bill Bryson, who will be the stimulus throughout my visit to the American Deep South. I...



Theresa May and David Cameron in the House of Commons

Newsflash: Theresa May is NOT Margaret Thatcher

Even in the second decade of the 21st century, British media commentators still cannot help but infer that all women who reach the top echelon in politics must be the same. Columnists cannot reconcile themselves to having a second...



Boris Johnson performing a salute

Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary - crude or shrewd?

Harold Wilson famously remarked that a week is a long time in politics, but judging from the events of the past five days, I think it's worth revising that observation down to a day, even an hour. As I sat down on Monday morning to...



Three football players laying on the pitch looking disappointed

The English Disease: Politics and Football

This week, with one exit from Europe already guaranteed, I did not relish the prospect of an English loss in the European football championship, particularly against a country with the population of Leicester and with (almost) their...



David Cameron's Resignation

We need to calm down and accept this mess, or democracy is done for

Jeremy Clarkson is rarely a reputable political barometer for the United Kingdom. But on the subject of his Twitter response to Thursday’s exit from the European Union, the disgraced presenter was remarkably prescient. “Right. We...