When plagues meet: if we can learn from the past we can change the future


“I guess the last lesson I’ve learned as an AIDS activist and the hardest one to learn, is that fights are never won. They just go on and on. They are. And yet they must be fought. They must, must, still, continually, and forever, be fought. Over and over and over, they must be fought.” […]
There are reasons to be cheerful…but only for a moment


Half a lifetime ago, on a bright, crisp December day in Harrogate, I was reunited with an old friend. We had first met 12 years before at university — as politics students, fellow Labour Club members and union hacks. Tragedy had brought us together again — the premature death of a mutual friend who had […]
The Pope may be late to the party, but make no mistake — he’s a star guest


“Go for a long hard run, take a cold shower, and avoid the occasion of sin.” My dad’s closing words in a letter he wrote to me 40 years ago. And the first that came to me as I read this afternoon that Pope Francis has said he thinks same-sex couples should be afforded legal […]
Mayflies — a homage to the enduring power of friendship in all our lives


I have only ever met Andrew O’Hagan across a signing table. Such meetings are odd, often full of anticipation for the reader, sometimes mild exhaustion on the part of the author. Occasionally they are memorable too. The signing may be no more than the briefest of exchanges to confirm who you’d like the book dedicated […]
A call to action for Edinburgh which every one of us must heed


‘This is not a set of recommendations, it’s a call to action’, said Jim McCormick introducing the final report of Edinburgh Poverty Commission’s report today. With characteristic calm candour, McCormick, the commission’s chair, levelled with us. That call to action is not merely for officialdom. It is for all of us — the citizens of […]
Cummings must go – but whatever happens trust is the real casualty


The Prime Minister has bottled it. Astonishingly to even the most disinterested observer, he has argued that Dominic Cummings acted responsibly, legally and with integrity. But his defence won’t stem the tide of calls for Cummings to go. Quite the reverse. The case for Cummings’ departure was made with characteristic brilliance by the commentator, Alex […]
When plagues meet – a lesson from history about bad blood


Here we go again. New plague. Same stigma. Gay and bisexual men have been told they cannot donate their plasma to a trial hoping to provide a treatment for COVID-19. To be clear this is not about access to treatment. It merely reinforces a discriminatory provision already in place for blood donation. Men who have […]
We will meet again: but the world has already changed


A long time ago, in another world, I was with a group of trade union colleagues in Belfast. Drink had been taken. Late in the evening, our Northern Irish colleagues just out of earshot, one of our number, Pete, commented on how remarkable they were. And how we couldn’t do what they did. Pete was […]