Dealing with the rising tide of knife crime

  • 4 March 2019
  • From the section UK
Generic picture of a young man holding a knife Image copyright PA

The knife has long been the most common murder weapon in Britain, but increasingly it has become the weapon of choice for teenage gangs in the big cities.

Two-thirds of police forces in England and Wales recently responded to a Freedom of Information request from Channel 4's Dispatches which showed that, in those force areas, the number of teenagers recorded as having killed with a knife had risen from 26 in 2016 to 46 last year.

Patient records from hospitals in England show that seven years ago 141 teenagers were admitted after assaults with a sharp implement like a knife. Last year it was almost twice that - with a clear rising trend.

In London, where knife crime incidents are higher than any other part of the country, both the victims and perpetrators of stabbings are disproportionately young black men from poorer neighbourhoods. In other cities the profile may be different.

It is a crime that feeds on itself. If one young person gets stabbed, similar youngsters locally are more likely to carry a knife for their own protection - and so the infection spreads.

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Crossing Divides: Keeping the peace in Northern Ireland

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Media captionNaomi Burns and Rebecca Coggles have been part of a scheme to improve relations between Protestant and Catholic communities

Why, 21 years after the Good Friday Agreement, does religion still divide the people of Northern Ireland?

The peace walls of West Belfast snake through the city, adorned with colourful street art and murals. Buses and taxis pull up to let cheerful tourists write their messages of hope and love on the bricks.

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Why vox pops are important

  • 21 January 2019
  • From the section UK
Mark Easton vox popping a woman

"A parade of ignorance and prejudice." "Cheap filler." "Lazy journalism." "Can't you find any proper news?"

The vox pop, the news segment where reporters ask the opinions of the public, comes in for some pretty hefty criticism on social media and elsewhere. But far from dismissing it as pointless padding, I believe it is a vital ingredient in trying to understand Britain - and never more than now.

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Boxing Day Family Puzzler 2018

  • 26 December 2018
  • From the section UK
Mark Easton game image

It's time once again for my Boxing Day Family Puzzler - a seasonal distraction now in its 11th year. As regular readers will know, this is the quiz where no-one is expected to know any of the answers.

The questions relate to events in the past 12 months - and all the solutions are numbers. This year, as a special treat in these troubled times, I've included bonus questions, raising the number from 20 to 23.

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Why August's 'silly season' is good for the soul

  • 18 August 2018
  • From the section UK
Aerial image of parasols on a beach in Albania Image copyright Getty Images

Around the world, the phrase "mind the gap" is regarded as a British curiosity.

Thousands of "hilarious" mind the gap T-shirts have been stuffed into holiday luggage since the practical health and safety warning was introduced on London Underground in the late '60s.

Read full article Why August's 'silly season' is good for the soul

How super-rich tourism may help the planet

  • 9 August 2018
  • From the section Africa
North Island, Seychelles

On a remote tropical island in the Indian Ocean, a man in a woman's wig has been hiding in a bush for hours. Armed with an air rifle, he plans to kill the island's last three surviving specimens of an exotic bird.

This, unlikely as it might appear, is the current front line in a conservation revolution.

Read full article How super-rich tourism may help the planet

Do people think heatwaves are un-British?

  • 1 August 2018
  • From the section UK
People sunbathing at the mixed bathing pond on Hampstead Heath, London Image copyright PA

How does Britain, known around the world for its famous grey skies and rain, react to a lengthy heatwave?

"Hallelujah," someone shouted, as a small boy ran into the street and started to dance.

Read full article Do people think heatwaves are un-British?

Can England become optimistic again?

  • 7 June 2018
  • From the section UK
Tower Bridge

The saccharine aroma of reminiscence pervades many an English front parlour. As mantel clocks tick, the faces of England stare regretfully through net curtains, yearning for yesterday.

Nostalgia, the old joke goes, ain't what it used to be. But in England it appears to be making a comeback, with half the country saying things were better in the past.

Read full article Can England become optimistic again?

What lies beneath England's allegiances and rivalries?

  • 5 June 2018
  • From the section UK
The cliffs of the Seven Sisters

Beneath the veneer of national identity, England is an elaborate tapestry of allegiances and rivalries.

For centuries, bureaucrats have drawn lines on the map without understanding the invisible ley lines of belonging that criss-cross the English countryside. There are deep loyalties to ancient counties, proud cities and towns, even legendary kingdoms.

Read full article What lies beneath England's allegiances and rivalries?

The English question: What is the nation's identity?

  • 3 June 2018
  • From the section UK
House covered in St George's flags Image copyright Getty Images

I spent St George's Day this year in Nottingham, among a large crowd bedecked in the red and white of their national saint. "Why can't we celebrate St George?" they asked me. "The Irish, Scots and Welsh have their national days. Why can't we English have ours?"

The irony was obvious. No-one had suggested they couldn't. Indeed, a huge St George's flag was draped across the town hall and police were good-naturedly marshalling hundreds of patriots to the main square. The lord mayor of Nottingham, in full regalia, had given the official send-off.

Read full article The English question: What is the nation's identity?