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Daughters of Night — out now.

Novelist Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s debut Blood and Sugar was an award-winning bestseller set against the evils of the transatlantic slave trade. Her latest — Daughters of Night — is out this week, set amidst the Georgian sex trade. PAUL RICHARDS caught up with her to explore the craft of writing a successful novel, including plots, characters, editing, agents, and when to use the f-word.

What is Daughters of Night all about?

‘It is set in London in 1782, as a loose sequel to Blood and Sugar. It inhabits the same world, but with a different protagonist, Caroline Corsham, and a wholly…


Why Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech packs a mighty punch

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Arnie gets his trusty sword out.

The Republican ex-governor of California’s remarks on some issue of domestic politics would usually not trouble the world’s news editors. Unless, that is, the ex-governor is box office, and the issue is the gun-toting insurrection aimed at the heart of American democracy.

Even then, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s intervention over the weekend might have been lost amidst the cacophony of voices denouncing the flames of violence at the Capitol, and the emotionally-stunted arsonist who lit the touch paper. …


The uncomfortable truth behind those festive favourites

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I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus but my therapist says I’m nearly better.

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

It’s easy to condemn the efforts of all those coke-fuelled, coiffured mid-eighties popstars for their self-righteous, tuneless, foray into geo-politics, so I’m going to. In recent years, the whole Band Aid phenomena has been revisited through the lens of the ‘white saviour’ framework, whereby western white people take the credit for helping/saving/feeding impoverished or enslaved black people, especially on the continent of Africa. It’s why everyone’s heard of William ‘white saviour’ Wilberforce but few have heard of Queen Nanny who successfully led a guerrilla army against the British in Jamaica. Doesn’t fit the narrative, see.


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No surprise to bump into Cilla.

When the lovely John Sessions died recently I was reminded of the series he put together with Phil Cornwall and Peter Richardson, about a suburban neighbourhood incongruously populated by celebrities. On Stella Street, one could bump into Marlon Brando, Alec Guinness, Dustin Hoffman or Michael Caine, or least brilliant impersonations of them. Hilarious.

Then I remembered I grew up there. Well, not quite, but I did spend the 1970s and half of the 1980s growing up in Gerrards Cross, in South Buckinghamshire, where it was perfectly usual to see the stars of film and television in Budgens, the Post Office…


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Keir Starmer: rebuilding the Red Wall

Perhaps the most significant thing about Keir Starmer’s speech to his party’s virtual conference was the person introducing him. Ruth Smeeth represents the former MPs who lost Red Wall seats in 2019 thanks to Jeremy Corbyn. And yes, the speech was delivered in Doncaster (near Don Valley, another Red Wall seat that fell). Starmer even contrived to speak in front of an actual brick wall that was red, just in case the message wasn’t clear.

But the deeper significance is that Ruth Smeeth is a respected Jewish Labour activist and steadfast opponent of Labour antisemitism. The online Corbynites went apeshit…


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The UK Labour Party has unveiled the slogan for its (virtual) annual conference: A New Leadership. It suggests someone at the heart of Keir Starmer’s outfit knows their onions, because as any communicator will tell you the word ‘new’ is one of the most powerful in the language.

It certainly works in commercial advertising, where products described as ‘new’ or ‘new and improved’ fly off the shelves. Gillette cut to the chase with a ‘new, improved’ razor in 1921 and everyone from Shreddies to Apple has been doing it ever since. We crave novelty, stimulation, being the first, something to…


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Labour conference in the 1980s — before women were invented.

If you know what ‘late accreditation’ means, then this article is for you. Like Dante’s purgatorio, lying between hellfire and paradise, late accreditation is a place, behind a seaside hotel, filled with lost, wandering souls waiting for their passes to allow them in to Labour Party conference. They have left it too late, or failed to post the application, or have committed the sin of being called ‘Murphy’ or ‘Shalhoub’ or ‘Trotsky’ and have attracted the attention of special branch.

In my 30 years of attending party conference, I have found myself in the queue for the magic pass more…


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Labour Party conference, just a few weeks before the biggest defeat since 1935

You may know Andrew Fisher, Corbyn’s former head of policy, for his dramatic resignation two months before the 2019 General Election and the ‘leaked’ memo which excoriated the dysfunction at the heart of the Corbyn campaign and predicted its defeat. Somehow a widely distributed memo found its way into the hands of political correspondents. Who knows how these things happen?

You may also know Fisher from when he was suspended from Labour for publicly backing Jonathon Bigger, the Class War candidate standing against Labour’s Emily Benn in Croydon South in the 2015 general election (he got 65 votes) and for…


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What have the Romans ever done for us? They’ve given us a lot of useful rhetorical devices for a start. And roads.

Is there any rhetorical tool as ubiquitous as the rhetorical question? Are you kidding? Is the Pope Catholic? Do bears defecate in arboreal settings? From Shakespeare to Michelle Obama, the rhetorical question, known in the trade as erotema, is always making its appearance in great speeches.

A rhetorical question is not, as is sometimes said, a question without an answer. The questioner has an answer — but one which they want you, the audience, to concoct in your own mind, or at least engage with possible answers.

Like imagery or anecdotes, the speechwriter uses the device to connect speaker to…


On the 75th anniversary of Animal Farm, Orwell’s Fairy Story is more powerful than ever

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Orwell: ‘I proceeded to analyse Marx’s theory from the animals’ point of view’

If you’ve read Animal Farm, published in August 1945, and I know you have, you probably read it when you were a teenager. Unlike some of the more impenetrable horrors of the O-level or GCSE syllabus, Orwell’s straightforward prose suits the teenage brain perfectly. He called it a fairy story, of course, but with a secret code of double meaning, which once cracked allows you to look clever.

I did once meet someone in the first term of University who had been taught Animal Farm

Paul Richards

Writer. London and Sussex.

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