The Great British break-off

It’s no longer fashionable to wonder whether the latest Great British sporting achievement might—in fact—be the last. Yet as Andy Murray, a Scot in Saltire blue, chipped the ball delicately over the head of David Goffin to claim Britain’s first Davis Cup for 79 years, that insistent question was the only thing that returned. For the team of two Scots and two Englishmen had prevailed on Belgian soil, in the heartland of the European Union: the place that is likely to be pivotal in determining whether there will still be a British team at international championships like this in 79 years’ time. The ‘Scottish question’ was answered over a year ago in a September 2014 referendum, with around 55 per cent of those north of Berwick-upon-Tweed voting to stay in the United Kingdom. Despite this, David Cameron’s election promise of a referendum on EU membership—prompted largely by Euroscepticism both within …

Brian Westby: A Review

It’s a good job Forrest Reid didn’t write to be famous. Almost seventy years after his death, his novels gather dust in libraries: unthumbed and unadmired. Highly thought of by friends like E.M. Forster and Walter de la Mare during his lifetime, the Ulster writer has since fallen into obscurity. Until now, that is. Few of his works are more poignant than his 1934 novel, Brian Westby, which was republished by Valancourt Books at the end of last year. Despite Reid’s best protestations that “[a]ll the characters and incidents in this novel are imaginary”, it’s hard to avoid its semi-autobiographical resonances. Modelled on the relationship Reid fostered with his young protégé Stephen Gilbert, Brian Westby records the chance encounter between novelist Martin Linton and the son his ex-wife has successfully hidden from him for the best part of two decades. So pervasive was Gilbert’s influence that Reid gave him the …

…up in a puff of smoke

It probably came as a surprise to most to see that The Economist’s ‘Country of the Year’ for 2013 was Uruguay.  Their decision was in no small part down to the nation’s recent move to regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. “Prohibition”, observed the late American economist Milton Friedman, “is an attempted cure that makes matters worse—for both the addict and the rest of us.”  It’s time for the industry to be decriminalised and regulated, not because drug taking is acceptable, but because drugs create a problem too complicated to leave to the black market. Think of a friend who desperately wants to use cannabis but who doesn’t use it because it’s illegal.  Stumped?  That’s no surprise.  Whether they’re prohibited or regulated, those who want to take drugs will.  All we do by banning cannabis is shove them into the open arms of dealers, and hamstring society’s ability to …