It was the explosive interview in which a doe-eyed Diana, Princess of Wales, appeared at her most dangerous. Determined to capitalise on Prince Charles’s confession of infidelity, the then 34-year-old hoped her hour-long chat with Martin Bashir on Panorama would finally bring the “War of the Waleses” to an end. Yet as a Channel 4 documentary is now set to reveal, that interview set in progress a chain of events that eventually led to Diana’s downfall. Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview, will claim that the mother-of-two consented to her epic sit-down chat while in a fragile state of mind, following an elaborate plot involving forged documents designed to show that her family was being spied on. Bashir is accused of commissioning two phoney bank statements, which he allegedly showed to Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, to suggest that a former member of staff was acting as a paid informant. The BBC insists the princess never saw the documentation, saying she met Bashir before it existed and that it “played no part in her decision to give what was, and still is, one of the most iconic interviews of the last half of the 20th century.” Bashir was unavailable for comment. What is not in doubt is that the airing of the sensational programme on November 20 1995 had huge repercussions for Diana and her role within the Royal family – and took her down a path she might, had she been able to see the bigger picture, have swerved altogether. Little wonder, then, that she began to question whether she should have taken part in the programme even before it was broadcast on a windy Monday night to an audience of 23 million. According to Patrick Jephson, her former private secretary and contributor to the new Channel 4 documentary, she “deeply regretted” the interview. Diana described Charles’s camp as “the enemy”, said the monarchy was in desperate need of modernisation and discussed her depression and bulimia – as well as claiming that she wanted to be the “queen of people’s hearts”. Jephson subsequently revealed that she had only told him about the interview a week before the broadcast and was “not at all confident about what she had done.” Soon after, he quit Kensington Palace, having spent eight years as Diana’s right hand man. The princess’s nearest and dearest still believe Panorama played a part in her heightened sense of paranoia – highlighted during a meeting with her personal lawyer, Lord Mishcon, in which she claimed the Queen would abdicate in April 1996. She also suggested she would be murdered, in a plot masterminded by her estranged husband. According to veteran royal reporter Phil Dampier, who covered the interview for national newspapers at the time, the interview marked “the beginning of the end” for Diana. The Queen was horrified by what her daughter-in-law had done and called it a “frightful thing”. She ordered Charles and Diana and the Duke and Duchess of York – who had also separated in the so-called “annus horribilis” of 1992 – to get a “double” divorce. “Panorama was the watershed moment when the Queen finally decided enough is enough,” says Dampier. “Diana then became increasingly isolated and started to fall out with the people closest to her. “She fell out with her mother, her brother, Fergie and other close friends – seemingly convinced she was being spied on. Her former butler Paul Burrell described how she made him rip up the floorboards at Kensington Palace looking for bugs. “Because she died as this iconic young woman, people tend to put her on a pedestal but actually in the run up to the Paris car crash she was an unguided missile.” An increasingly detached Diana then embarked on a series of relationships with men, including Dodi Fayed. This led to a flaming row with her mother Frances Shand Kydd, who Burrell revealed had accused her daughter of behaving like a “whore”. He told the inquest into the princess’s death that the “dreadful” conversation took place in June 1997 — just two months before Diana’s death. It followed her disastrous decision to get rid of her Scotland Yard bodyguards following her divorce, against the advice of her royal protection officer Ken Wharfe. “If she hadn’t done that, she might still be here today,” added Dampier. “If it wasn’t for the Panorama interview, who knows what might have happened?” Diana: The Truth Behind The Interview will be broadcast on Channel 4 on October 21 at 9pm READ MORE: ‘Diana didn't regret the Bashir interview – but it changed her’
As I was being taken into hospital with Covid-19 in March, I put a post on my Instagram telling my friends and family what had happened. I had developed pneumonia and blockages in my right lung – a total shock considering I am 27 with no previous health problems. When the man I was dating ended things shortly afterwards, I made a decision: this would be the year I froze my eggs. I had always thought about doing it if I hadn’t met anyone by the time I was 30 but, with my love life looking forlorn and lockdown making the prospect of meeting someone new nearly impossible, now was the time to act. I’m not alone: inquiries for egg freezing shot up by as much as 50 per cent at some clinics as lockdown put the brakes on dating, and made it harder for women to find someone to start a family with before their fertility dwindles. I can imagine there being even more interest now that anyone living in a Tier 2 or 3 area (as I do in London) is banned from spending any time indoors with anyone outside their household – it’s been described as a “sex ban” on couples who don’t live together, but spare a thought for singles who can’t even meet someone for a drink. Instead, we’re all stuck at home thinking about what it is that we want from life, and it turns out that a lot of us want a family, including Telegraph columnist Sophia Money-Coutts who recently launched a podcast called Freezing Time about her decision to freeze her eggs at the age of 35. My family weren’t completely sure when I told them about my decision. My dad is a feminist, and has always supported my career, so thought it was a great idea to take off some of the pressure of finding the perfect man in the next few years. Mum needed a bit more persuading, as she would prefer me to get married and have babies naturally like she did. In the end she came round after I told her that egg freezing would only increase her chances of having grandchildren.
The recent appointment of Allegra Stratton as No 10’s new press secretary has once again shone the spotlight on the power couples at the heart of Westminster life. The former Guardian journalist is married to James Forsyth, the political editor of The Spectator, whose best man was none other than the chancellor, Rishi Sunak. Little wonder then, that the couple, who have two children together, now feature in a top 10 of the most powerful partnerships in politics. Published by Mace, a new glossy magazine for politicos, the influential index lays bare the relationships that confirm the old adage that behind every successful person is... another successful person. “The Westminster bubble is small and quite hermetic,” explains Marie Le Conte, author of Haven’t You Heard?: Gossip, Politics and Power. “Whether you’re a journalist, adviser or politician, you will be working very long hours in a space that is the size of a small village. The line between professional and personal becomes a blurry one after drinks in Strangers.”
It was the pen pot on the desk that tipped us over the edge. I wanted it there so I could grab a pen during an important work call. My husband thought it was cluttering up a workspace that should ideally be kept as clear as possible, given that it was also our bedroom. Voices were raised, doors were slammed and pens were thrown, at which point we realised that something had to give. Quite simply, six months of trying to conduct two highly-pressurised jobs from the flat we share with our three children, an au pair and the cat, was not working for us any more. So I did what any enraged spouse might do after a particularly explosive row – I checked into a hotel. Luckily, for the sake of our marriage, it was just for the day. But I’m not ashamed to say that I jumped at the chance to spend a rainy Friday working, not from the desk in our bedroom, but from a suite at the Athenaeum Hotel on London’s Piccadilly. In a bid to try and halt the desperate slide towards Covid-induced unviability, the hotel has started to offer its rooms up as private office spaces during the working day, complete with all the amenities a five-star hotel has to offer. It’s the latest example of how the hospitality industry has had to pivot to survive tough times. During lockdown, suddenly empty hotels offered accommodation to key workers such as police officers and hospital staff. Now, as cabin fever sets in for those who have worked from home for half this year and face another six months of pen-based arguments, hotels, cafes and pubs are offering up their tables as desks, with some pubs charging between £10 and £20 a day, in exchange for Wi-Fi, some food and drink, and a change of scenery.
A couple of years ago, I published my first book . An alternative history of modern Britain focused on the women who did sterling work fighting wars, running businesses or inventing things but had been left out of most accounts of the period. Something that surprised me when I chatted to readers at talks and book festivals (remember them?) was their interest in the stories I’d unwittingly included and that involved collaboration between couples: not just married or romantically linked pairings, but also partnerships in business, politics and science.
Aged just 19, India Oxenberg went along to a seminar near her family home in Los Angeles, run by a group purporting to offer an “executive success programme”. The teenager had just left university in Boston and was trying to start a catering brand, when her mother heard about the supposed self-help organisation from a friend. “She said it increased her business exponentially, she made more money, was a better communicator, and improved her critical thinking,” explains Catherine Oxenberg, best known for her role as Amanda Carrington on Dynasty. “I thought: India’s starting a business, she hasn’t finished college, this is an opportunity for her to learn some business skills. It was as simple as that,” she adds. “Little did we know,” Catherine sighs in her cut-glass English accent, “it had nothing to do with business at all.” It would be seven years before India returned home, after being enslaved, sex trafficked and repeatedly raped by Keith Raniere, leader of the cult she had unwittingly been drawn into. The brutal practices and cataclysmic fall of NXIVM (pronounced “Nexium”) are detailed in a new four-part documentary series coming to the UK. Seduced is the story of India’s entrapment and her mother’s desperate attempts to free her. It’s an astonishing tale of mass indoctrination and shines a light on the organisation founded by Raniere in 1998.
When I was pregnant with my first child, there would scarcely have been enough hours in the day to accommodate all of the magazines, supplements, appointments, support groups and antenatal exercises that society suddenly proffered. Yet as Rebekah Brown, founder of MPowder, points out: “We don’t all choose to be mothers – but we are bound together by menopause because we all go through it.” Despite this, the years between fertility and fertiliser remain largely unrepresented – although online platforms are pioneering change in this area. In the health arena too, this universal phase of women’s lives has only recently begun to be recognised – indeed, this October 18th marks just 11 years since the first World Menopause Day. With more conversation around the subject, a number of supplements aimed at alleviating those mid-life symptoms have entered the market. At Holland & Barrett, sales of these are up by a year-on-year average of 10 per cent. “Women have used herbs and supplements to ease menopausal symptoms for centuries,” says Sophie Rose, Trading Director VHMS (Vitamins, Herbs, Minerals and Supplements) at Holland & Barrett. “Many of these now have robust scientific research demonstrating their efficacy for symptoms including hot flushes and mood changes.” Among the retailer’s most popular products, she lists sage and black cohosh supplements; the latter has been shown to reduce hot flushes and night sweats by as much as 26 per cent. Despite their “natural” tag, these supplements should not be taken without medical advice warns midlife trainer and health coach Mary Nash. “Some, such as St John’s wort, can interact with medication, while black cohosh can cause issues with the liver.” In her practice, she has seen beneficial results from essential oils, including clary sage, to support hormone balance. “Others can help relieve unwanted menopausal symptoms, such as lavender improving sleep, peppermint cooling hot flushes, copaiba reducing anxiety and rosemary improving brain function,” she says. “As with supplements, however, the efficacy of remedies is largely down to the individual and what is going on with their body at the time.” For MPowder’s Brown, who has over 20 years’ experience as a researcher, the available offerings did not go far enough. Turned away from her GP because she was “too young” to be experiencing symptoms, she set out to create a MPowder – a range of vegan-friendly supplements aimed at specific stages of midlife. The Peri-Boost formulation, designed for women who have begun to experience symptoms of perimenopause such as irregular periods, is available now; Meno-Boost and Post-Boost will be available from next year. Peri-Boost’s star ingredient is Moldavian dragonhead extract, which Brown was led to because of changes she had begun to notice in her own skin. A traditional botanical remedy, it “has a positive effect on skin elasticity and density; it seems to impact on hair and nails, too,” she says. Other ingredients include Vitamin D, calcium, protein, soya and cacao, which has antioxidant properties and boosts energy levels, as well as plant extracts and fibre.
Throughout my childhood, dancing was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I spent my time watching musicals like A Chorus Line and dreaming of being on Broadway (I lived in the US as a kid). From the age of five, I trained four days a week in ballet, jazz, and contemporary; then as a young adult, I studied dance formally at the Boston Conservatory in 1996, often practising for 12 hours a day. The four-year course was intense, but it was my passion and I put all my effort into it. Years later, I changed path and threw myself into a new pursuit. The area? Tech – or, as our Government might put it, “cyber”. Yes, I’m a pre-Fatima Fatima. When I first saw the advert, attributed to HM Government, that depicts a ballet dancer tying her shoelace and reads “Fatima's next job could be in cyber (she just doesn't know it yet). Rethink. Reskill. Reboot," I was naturally disappointed.
This week, Joanna Trollope announced that the 20 years since she divorced her second husband had been the happiest of her life. Unlike some women she knows, who settled for a “substandard” man rather than be on their own, she has no interest in Sub Man and is happy to call him out as such. Men, how can you avoid being substandard? Here are a few suggestions: Don’t get red-faced and sweaty drunk. Don’t have subjects you like to debate with men and then get the OH GOD, WOMAN TALKING expression, should one have the impertinence to jump in. Don’t say “I like my women feminine.” Meaning – urgh dread to think – very long tonged hair and high-heeled slippers? Feminine in the 21st century means women can drive a 10-ton truck and dress like a fairy cake. Don’t have the “must get away from the clucking women” attitude. Do we really cramp your style, if you’re honest? No. Don’t fall asleep in front of the TV. Don’t genuinely think of women as women you marry and women you don’t. Don’t be the man who spends the whole time nuzzling the dog, and that’s the extent of your physical contact. Don’t (really don’t) be the innuendo king or the chap who watches TV for the sexy bits, and tells everyone as much. (You may remember Sasha Swire in her diaries hinted that David Cameron watched the film Atonement expressly for the Keira Knightley fountain moment.) Also, do not have words for sex like “bonk”, “roger”, or “rumpy pumpy”. That’s a red line. Don’t be a greedy scoffer or buyer of red wine that’s superior to the white (that’s two Sub Man’s in one: assuming the men will drink the red, and that the women have less discerning palates). Erase forever the idea that there is such a thing as “woman’s work” and never use that expression. The other day, Claudia Winkleman remarked that she does not analyse why her marriage works – but her husband has not once asked her “What’s for dinner?”, which may have something to do with it. Good tip. Don’t mansplain. There’s a misconception about mansplaining, which is that, should a man say to a woman, “Want any help changing that tyre?”, her head will explode. Actually what she would say is, “No thanks” or, “Yes please”. In our experience, the real mansplaining problem involves a man explaining what women really want. As in, “They love it when you buy them red satin suspenders.” The whole “They” thing is not music to our ears. Don’t be an “I can’t” man. As in, I can’t wrap presents; buy tampons in the supermarket; talk to my daughter about her girlfriend. Don’t wear shirts with straining buttons. Come on. Don’t be a Sub Man. You will get our vote. Is it just me...
It’s a dank Monday morning in a small clinic west of Harley Street the week before London locks down back in March, but it’s not Covid-19 that’s worrying me at present. No, all my attention is focused on the 50 hertz of magnetic stimulation being fired repeatedly into my pelvic floor from the seat of a giant reclining chair, along with the feeling that – how to put this politely? – my uterus is about to fall out of my… Well, you get the picture. It’s all part of the programme prescribed by physiotherapist Maria Elliott in her new Menopause MOT: 20-minute sessions of pelvic-floor stimulation on the Swiss-made PelviPower machine, which equates to an eye-watering 11,000 Kegels, paired with a tailored exercise routine to target the physical problems associated with declining oestrogen levels. At 51, I am a lumbering perimenopausal cliché. I can’t sleep. My joints ache. I’ve got a wobbly tyre where my waistline used to be. And I’m just so hot. Add to that the night sweats, low mood, memory loss and fluctuating libido and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what’s going on here. The blood tests from my GP only confirm it. But what to do? Where “put up and shut up” used to be the only option for the majority of women, now the conversation around menopause is getting louder – and infinitely more confusing. HRT, nutritional supplements, bio-identical hormones and phyto-oestrogens are just some of the options on offer. But Elliott has other ideas, and she’s the first physiotherapist in the UK using PelviPower to implement them. “The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommended in 2011 that all women should have a menopause MOT at 50. But there’s still very little out there. We wanted to focus on the physical side here: how you move, if you have pain, what your sleep’s like, what your pelvic floor’s like – women just don’t realise how important that is.” The MOT starts with a detailed history. “We need to think about physical, mental, emotional, sexual, spiritual, even financial health,” says Elliott. We talk about pregnancies, surgeries, STDs, UTIs, supplements, nutrition, hormone levels, thyroid, skin conditions, allergies, digestion, bone density, mental health – Elliott can refer you on to specialists if you have issues with any of these. “We don’t want to give you a huge to-do list,” she says wryly, “just what’s most relevant for you.” From a physical point of view, my two biggest problems are sleeplessness and knee pain. I’ve taken up running to tire myself out – but I’ve had two injuries in six months as a result. “Running will help your bones, your heart and your lungs,” says Elliott, “but at this point in your life you might also be diminishing your muscle strength. You need to build up the joints. We can give you exercises to do that.” A movement assessment with Elliott and her colleague Marta Kinsella Montes reveals more. As I squat, lunge and single-leg dip, I listen to the running commentary between them. “Is there a problem with the right hip?” “Left glute is weak. Longer, stronger right leg.” “Uphill running might be better.” So it’s not my knees that are the issue? “No, it’s your glutes,” says Kinsella Montes. “Though this is about retraining your brain, too. At the moment, your body is compensating to protect your knees. But if you don’t sort out your gait and the position of your pelvis, you’ll only do them more damage.” While Kinsella Montes devises a rehab exercise plan, Elliott checks my pelvic floor – from outside and in. It seems I’ve got off pretty lightly so far. “In some women at menopause, issues they may have had after childbirth with their bladder or uterus can recur. So while they’re fine in their forties, in their fifties they can’t play tennis without leaking and, in a yoga class, their organs are prolapsing. Now, do you do pelvic-floor exercises?”
Amanda Holden is showing me where a human female’s nipples should normally be found. ‘They are not here,’ the Britain’s Got Talent judge explains, stabbing at the centre of her chest with a perfectly manicured nail, ‘are they?’ So when 235 viewers contacted Ofcom to complain about her low-cut navy Celia Kritharioti gown during the semi-final of the ITV show last month, claiming to be able to see Amanda’s nipples, ‘I was really quite insulted! I mean they would have had to be either in the middle of my cleavage, or the size of saucepans – which they’re not.’ It’s all faux outrage, of course. I know this, not because of the wild cackle of laughter that follows her anatomy lesson, but because she’s been a friend of mine for 15 years. In public, private and in the handful of times I’ve interviewed the 49-year-old over that time, I’ve enjoyed watching her play the end-of-the-pier pin-up role that suits her so well. She racked up so many Ofcom complaints during the latest season of BGT, ‘the producers had to start doing a “tit test” before the show – and, by the way, they absolutely put that blue dress through. But you know,’ she whispers, ‘I like to be a little bit shocking.’
Gogglebox. What’s there not to love about the ultimate reality show? Could there be anything more compelling than watching the great British public in all its glorious diversity lounging on the nation’s sofas with a plate of fancies and telling it like it is? Except not everyone lounges. And not everyone has snacks. Some, like Mary and Giles, sit so straight-backed, upright and marvellously uptight they could be auditioning for a job share (whisper it) as the new heads of rivals the BBC. With his mop of hair and owlish glasses, professional artist Giles Wood fidgets with schoolboyish energy. Ensconced in an old armchair upholstered with a William Morris print that memorably (weirdly) matches the wallpaper, his wife, Spectator agony aunt Mary Killen, bristles at him with a mix of fond exasperation and school ma’amish disapproval. He is fabulously impervious to both. Mary is an etiquette expert and stubbornly old school; she cries at Dame Vera Lynn, won’t tolerate swearing and is convinced modern Britain is a quagmire of “skunk and pornography”. Needless to say, she is a royalist. So much so she has just written an entertaining, if slim, volume titled What Would HM The Queen Do? It is a follow-up to her 2012 publication How the Queen Can Make You Happy and aims to nudge us all into behaving with grace and decorum, regardless of our own pedigree. Free of scandal or gossipy revelation, it contains nothing that might frighten the horse guards and makes for entirely pleasant if featherlight reading. But when I refer to it as the perfect loo book, Mary visibly shudders on our Zoom call. “Absolutely not, that would be entirely inappropriate!” she cries. “It is for the bedside table, a little study of the ultimate role model who has pursued a life of duty and dignity and can still walk four miles a day at 94. “We take her for granted because she’s always been there but what would we do without her as a symbol of national unity? I think we would all be happier if we adopted and adapted some of the principles she lives by.” I’m not entirely convinced that reviewing random telly shows on Channel 4 would warrant the royal seal of approval but Mary, a self-styled child of the Sixties, credits Gogglebox for saving her marriage. “Giles and I were like ships that pass in the night; I got up early, he went to bed late and we rarely even ate together. Sitting down and watching television reminded us how much we enjoyed the same jokes,” she says. “Lockdown wasn’t a great hardship for us; more like an open prison with comfortable beds, but I know a few couples who have split up because they have decided they can’t stand one another.” Like a great many relationships, Mary and Giles’s marriage is a union of opposites. There may be tensions – he has selective deafness when repeatedly called in from the garden, she gets cross when he “lurks” in doorways. But somehow it hangs together despite – possibly because of – the gentle bickering.
It was in an unremarkable house, on an unremarkable street, in an unremarkable English village that Helen Hancock was killed. The 39 year-old former P.E teacher was stabbed to death by her ex-husband, Rhys Hancock, who was sentenced to 31 years in prison. Helen’s death was so violent that prosecutor Michael Auty QC told Derby Crown Court there were “elements of sadism” to it. So much force was used against her body that one of the knives used to stab her was found totally buried inside her flesh. In total 66 injuries were inflicted on her and 37 on her new partner Martin Griffiths. When police arrived at the scene they found Rhys Hancock waiting for them. He immediately confessed. "I have clearly done it haven’t I? I have blood all over my clothes and it is clearly theirs. I have just lost it haven’t I?”, he said. I was staying in the Derbyshire village of Duffield when Helen was killed last New Year’s Eve. When I heard what had happened I walked over to her house, through the pretty village’s quiet, leafy streets, past terraced cottages. Duffield is a friendly middle-class village full of families, a community so tight-knit that people can tell you the names of the children playing on the street. Helen lived in a road of smart, matching houses: All with the same red-bricks, white windows and pitched roofs – as simple as if drawn by a child. Each has the same tidy front lawn, with the same neat bushes and rows of recycling bins outside. The blue and white police tape that had been hung to close off the street, the neon yellow police cars and blue pathologist’s tent pitched outside Helen’s house looked as alien in that suburban street as if a UFO had landed. It seemed as impossible to imagine then, as it still does, that in such an ordinary family home something so brutal had taken place. Yet the disturbing reality is that for women it is with the people they have loved most that they are least safe. An Office of National Statistics analysis of homicides, released in February this year, showed that female victims of homicide aged over 16 years were more likely to be killed by a partner or ex-partner than anyone else (by contrast men were more likely to be killed by a friend or acquaintance). Over the last 10 years in the UK, a woman has been killed by a partner or ex-partner, every four days. Last year the number of women killed by a current or former partner escalated to their highest levels in 14 years. Since the pandemic started things have got worse. Domestic abuse and violence increased by 20 percent during the lockdown with the UN describing the worldwide increase as a “shadow pandemic” alongside Covid-19. At least 16 suspected domestic abuse killings in the UK identified by campaigners since the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were imposed. When I asked those who knew Helen what she was like they said “normal”. Typically I was told “when I heard who it was I was just so shocked”, “she is probably the last person I’d have imagined” and “she was just a normal mum”. People described her as “vivacious”, “outgoing”, “always smiling” and “really down to earth”. Her father said she was a “beautiful, thoughtful and lovely daughter”. But the thought to which people returned was that “Helen was just so normal, that’s what’s so shocking about it”. I wish I had been as shocked. But having covered murder cases before I had already learned that terrible truth – that heinous crimes don’t happen in the underground, to shady figures in foreboding settings on dark streets. They happen to ordinary people, in family homes, in the places where we all live. It is that horror of everyday terror, which is key to the latest Netflix documentary everyone is gripped by American Murder: The Family Next Door. (If you have not seen it then stop reading now as I am about to reveal what takes place).
When it comes to the drama between Dominic West, his wife Catherine FitzGerald and young actress Lily James there are many unknowns – but there’s one thing that is certain. No wife sees her husband being that tender, that physically close with another woman, without feeling blindsided. Especially if said woman is Lily James. Luscious, beautiful, bewitchingly goofy. Who wouldn’t fall in love with her? She’s any wife’s basic nightmare. I know how it feels to be rocked to the core by your husband’s behaviour. To feel the stabbing pain of rejection, the sucker punch of humiliation, and the gnawing agony of doubt. To be devastated and broken by the person you trust most. Until a few years ago I thought my marriage was rock solid. I thought we were happy. We were the couple least likely to… We met at university, moved to London to make our fortunes, got married on a cloudless August day and then left the city for a chocolate box cottage in the shires to raise our two children. I wrote a magazine column for 10 years about our perfectly imperfect life. I remember one friend saying it all made her vaguely nauseous. I thought we would be together till death do us part. But then I found out we weren’t, and we wouldn’t be. He wanted out. For me it was sudden and shocking. Some marriages erode slowly, a protracted agonising demise, bleeding out till resuscitation is no longer possible. But mine was a cataclysmic implosion. An unforeseen ending that no one (except possibly him) saw coming. Is a body blow worse than death by a thousand cuts – who knows? What I do know is that it inflicted pain like nothing else ever has.
It was a wild, snowy drive through the Bosnian forests; howling wolves stalked the two women whose 1930 Ford A model was running dangerously low on fuel. The wiper had broken and, smoking furiously, the heiress Dolly Rodewald hung out of the window to scoop piles of snow from the windscreen while her English chauffeur, Claudia Parsons, tried to keep the car on the rutted road. Eventually, the pair arrived at the Europa Hotel, Sarajevo, just before midnight as the Ford drank its last drop of petrol. While in the Twenties and Thirties, American heiresses made a habit of embarking on hair-raising treks across Europe it was more unusual for their chauffeur to be a woman – let alone one holding a diploma in engineering from Loughborough (then College). Since qualifying in 1922, Parsons had taken a string of chauffeuring jobs; experience that eventually, in 1938, would prompt her to circumnavigate the world, a dream she had cherished since she was a small girl growing up in Guildford. What circumstances had prompted this pronouncedly left-handed, rather clumsy young woman to break pretty much every social code going, codes that firmly kept young women chained to the home, the only excitement normally available to them held within the pages of romantic novels? Parsons was born in 1900 in India but, while still a baby, was sent with her sister to live with her strict Aunt Muriel in Guildford where she endured an unhappy and repressed childhood. The clocks ticked slowly through the endless hours. Punishments for “naughty” behaviour were random but frequent. Once she had to spend an evening laboriously copying out the line “I must not watch the puddings coming in” a hundred times. Small moments of joy for the young Claudia came when her tyrannical aunt left the house and, using plasticine and copper piping from the lavatory cistern, she constructed Heath Robinson-esque water gardens and fountains. She asked for a carpentry set for her seventh birthday and, by the age of nine, she had worked out how to fix bicycle tyre punctures and broken chains. All this while Edwardian England was mostly still content to lock up its daughters and considered any young girl who deviated from the correct role of demure young lady, for whom physical exertion was limited to playing tennis and stretching an octave on the piano, to be dangerously radical.
What I remember most about my first trip to the Maldives is the colours: the turquoise sea against the white sand, the bright green of the palm trees. They’re so vivid that it’s almost as if you’re imagining them. I’d gone from a crazy filming schedule and grey London skies to all this colour and complete calm. In January I went back, and this time I took my parents. I really like going away at that time of year: having that moment to reset and to say goodbye to the previous year. Personally and professionally, I was feeling quite burnt out because I’d done a play and then gone straight into filming [upcoming BBC and Netflix drama] The Serpent in Bangkok for five months, playing a French-Canadian serial killer. In my line of work, you spend lengthy periods away from the people you love, so it was really special to have that time with my parents. The last time I went on holiday with them, I was 15. I get my love of the sand and the sea from them. When I was a kid, we’d do a trip down to Cornwall in summer or hire a villa in Portugal – my dad was happy anywhere that had a big fish market.
On the first day of his new job, psychologist Dr Mark Freestone received an unnerving lesson in just how easy it is to be manipulated by a criminal psychopath. He was taking part in a government scheme that saw him visit Britain’s most notorious psychiatric hospitals in a bid to understand the minds of their most dangerous inmates. Two months of training had taught him how to incapacitate an attacker without leaving a bruise, and instilled in him a fear of letting a psychopath trick him into causing a security breach – a blunder that could well end his career. That worry was top of Freestone’s mind as he walked onto the secure admissions ward at one hospital and saw a fellow psychiatrist in a well-fitting charcoal suit, reading a newspaper. Feeling shy, Freestone approached him and noticed he wasn’t wearing any NHS identification. “He must have been terribly important,” he recalls thinking. The other man, who introduced himself as ‘Tony’, said: “I expect you know who I am, everyone else around here does.” Freestone was instantly worried he had made a “dreaded cock-up” by forgetting the name of an important superior. But a nurse suddenly appeared at his shoulder. “Come on Tony,” she said, “you know you’re not supposed to be wearing that suit after the ward round has finished.” With a sinking feeling, Freestone realised the man he was speaking to was a criminally psychopathic inmate – one who had duped vulnerable victims out of their money by setting up a series of fraudulent companies and Ponzi schemes in a bid to become an “international playboy conman.” Clearly, he was pretty convincing.
Dear A&E;, I’ve just broken up with the man I’ve been dating for nearly a year. Due to his childhood he suffers severe bouts of depression. I’ve had my own difficulties in the past but have addressed them through therapy; I’m now fairly stable and wanted to share my happiness with him. It’s not the first time I have entered a relationship intending to ‘help’ someone. Last time it ended painfully. If I could understand why I’m predisposed towards men with ‘fixable’ psychological problems, I could avoid it better in the future. I’m in my 30s and can’t spend the next decade on car-crash relationships. —Fixer Dear Fixer, Oh there is so much to love about you. You are currently stuck in the horrid helper hamster wheel of setting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. This is not a victimless crime because you are doing damage. To yourself. And there is no virtue to be found in being broken by relationships. You say that you wanted to share your happiness with him even if it meant becoming slightly less happy yourself. Trouble is, the maths doesn’t work. There is no equation that says, ‘If I give you a bit of my joy, leaving me living in the lack of joy, then that equals “OK”.’ You don’t end up with more, you both end up with less. We have to be wholehearted humans to be able to love other wholehearted humans. We don’t want lack, we want abundance. You are a brilliant, kind person with some baggage who is attracted to others with baggage. So far, so everyone. We are all a bit broken. What you need is someone who complements these fractures and strengthens your structure, rather than have you fold yourself into tiny bits to plug their emotional gaps. In Untamed, her bestselling call to the women of the world, American author Glennon Doyle writes about the broken marriage that she desperately tried to fix. These days, the truth that she holds most absolute is this: ‘I love myself now. Self-love means that I have a relationship with myself built on trust and loyalty. I trust myself to have my own back, so my allegiance is to the voice within. I’ll abandon everyone else’s expectation of me before I’ll abandon myself… Me and myself: We are til death do us part.’ So here’s our advice: it begins with you. Do not ignore the red flags, the inner voice that says, ‘This feels wrong somehow,’ or, ‘Here we go again!’ When you meet a man, those early whisperings in your gut are warnings to be heeded from now on. You have a habit to break – you’ve had therapy but now you need to do some work in the field. You need to truly understand that you are enough for a partner, without fixing them. Mending men is not your purpose; it’s not even fun and it never works. Maybe if you change your internal monologue, you will find that the force field around you changes and you start to attract men who contribute more than their oversized baggage. Sometimes if you change the thoughts, you can change the feelings too. You could start the work with a cognitive behavioural therapy workbook like Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky, which we have both done (Annabel may not have finished it), and we’re absolutely FINE… Seriously though, it’s about starting to put the brakes on unhelpful automatic thoughts and outdated coping mechanisms, and slowly untangle knotty self-love issues. Because when you can only measure your happiness in relation to someone else’s – well, that’s a very unstable emotional economy. You don’t want high investment, low yield, Fixer. You want all the riches. You deserve them. Now start by telling yourself that. Do you have a dilemma that you’re grappling with? Email Annabel and Emilie on firstname.lastname@example.org All questions are kept anonymous. They are unable to reply to emails personally. Read more from The Midults: I have a good marriage, great kids, a stable career. So why am I unhappy? My grown-up son is rude to me. What should I do?
I had a hunch it was happening, but hadn’t quite put it into words until, last weekend, I saw it confirmed in letters 10 feet high, on a huge, bright yellow hoarding advertising the dating app, Bumble: ‘It’s not just any old cuffing season’. Cuffing season, for the uninitiated, is the autumn window when the nights begin drawing in and singletons cast their net for a candidate with whom to share a duvet through the dark days of winter. Cuffing’s not designed to be permanent – come spring, such seasonal couples might well cast off the cuffs to explore other entanglements unimpeded. This year, however, with a second lockdown looming (or, for many, already under way) cuffing season is being dubbed coving season, due to anxious singles – particularly those who saw out the spring lockdown solo – frantically seeking partners to save them from stir-crazy solitude. There’s also, of course, a well documented correlation between times of great terror and frenzied sexual activity (see: the Blitz, 9/11, Hurricane Sandy); we’re simply not designed to be scared and single – it’s dating Darwinism. I spent the first lockdown very single. And, while I made a good fist of keeping myself sane, I’d be lying if I told you those long, monotonous months in my own company (bar the rat that decided to move in with me briefly in May) didn’t get dull, repetitive and lonely. I briefly considered reconnecting with a hyper-local ex, who lives a 10-minute walk away, then remembered that he was awful. But the hunger for physical contact, partly to help distract from the existential dread, was real. Pre-pandemic I’ve generally found partners in late night bars, at parties, on planes, at the gym. I’ve also never been a fan of app dating, which makes me behave bizarrely, hurling me into a destructively Pavlovian cycle. But, this year when life was suddenly devoid of late night bars, of parties, of planes, of the gym, I desperately craved new company and caved in and started online dating. To my surprise, the men I struck up conversations with weren’t angling for a fast hook-up as they may normally have done; the risks of contracting Covid, coupled with a dramatic reduction in casual sexual opportunity, appears to have made fickle and flaky men significantly nicer.
For most of her professional life, Dr Hannah Fry has dreamt of a day when mathematics hits the front pages. A day when scientists are treated like the public figures they should be; when Britain really cares about numbers; when the streets are abuzz with chatter about not just lies and damned lies, but also statistics… Well, be careful what you wish for. “It has been a strange year, in a lot of ways,” says Fry, 36, after a slightly despairing laugh. “All I do is try to get people to pay attention to numbers, now they’re paying attention for the most horrible reason ever.” I tell her, quite truthfully, that Covid-19 has made me think about stats in more detail than any year since my GCSEs. Probably quite a bit more than that year, actually. Fry – who is quickly becoming the David Attenborough of maths, thanks to a slew of BBC programmes, as well as books, TED Talks and public lectures alongside academic work at University College, London – is sympathetic. “I think that’s the case for everyone.” We meet outside a plush shopping complex in central London, and shiver in our coats. The arranged indoor option requires we wear masks. Based on all the available evidence, Fry reckons we’re probably better off out here without them. So then, as the nation’s foremost communicator of impenetrable concepts, does she think Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance have done a good job in their near-daily efforts to explain complex graphs and stats to us laypeople? “Broadly, yes. It wasn’t an easy job. A good description of those press conferences was ‘number theatre’, because there are subtleties that require nuance to communicate, like false positives and herd immunity. Sometimes, the communication has been blunter than it should have been.” She gives an example in the daily death toll. A lot of people assume that is the number of people who have died in the last 24 hours, “but it’s the number of deaths reported, so someone could have died months ago. Calling them ‘daily deaths’ masks an important nuance.”
My five year journey researching care began in a very specific – and unlikely – place. A neighbour suggested that I join a group of women who swam every Sunday morning in Hampstead ponds. My first swim was on Christmas Eve and the temperature was well below five degrees; it felt like an act of complete insanity and as I gasped for breath, and the nearest ladder to get out, I swore I would never do it again. But I did, and it is now a regular fixture of my week (Covid permitting). Buoyed by the group of 10 women, we gave each other courage and inspiration not just to plunge into the icy water, but to navigate the complexity of our mid-life. Gulping coffee afterwards to warm up, we shared crises – of marriage, of teenage and young adult children, of stricken friends and elderly parents. We all had demanding careers but, in much of our conversation, they were the backdrop – far less demanding than the relationships we were managing every day. Two things struck me; firstly, that this stage of life required a resourcefulness and wisdom – there is no other word – to face the multiple challenges and, secondly, how little recognition or value is attached to this vital emotional labour of care, of nurturing troubled adolescents, providing back up for young adult children and supporting frail parents. All the attention is focused on that tumultuous early stage of parenthood – babies and toddlers. I was once the same; I thought the intensive demands for care was a tough sprint of 4-6 years of early parenthood, then things would settle down again. I’d be able to put in more time at work and enjoy evenings out again. I laugh now at the memory, because I have learnt from experience that the need to provide care erupts repeatedly – and often unexpectedly – throughout life - and it can prove just as all consuming as those early years. I’ve seen friends whose lives and careers have been upended by the need to care for a child, sick partner or dying parent, and I look at the generation ahead of me (I am in my mid 50s) and see how the requirement to care can intensify even further. More than 1.3 million people aged over 65 are dedicated carers. I was of a generation of women who believed that our lives would be dominated by a career and that everything else would be squeezed into a "private life" in the evenings and weekends. It was summed up for me when I was 23, studying in America, by an advertising campaign for a women’s brand of cigarette. An image of a glamorous woman was superimposed over a black and white photo of women scrubbing floors, with the strapline: "You’ve come a long way!" We had been freed by technology of dishwashers and microwaves, and a new world awaited us. But the expectations to provide care crept up on us, just as they had done for our mothers. Only this time with the added complications of the prolonged dependence of offspring who can’t afford to move out of the family home, and parents’ lengthening life expectancy which is creating an entirely new need for care, involving multiple healthcare appointments and slowly increasing frailty. Not to mention how much-needed services such as mental health and social care, which might have been able to offer support, are desperately under resourced. This midlife reckoning prompted two types of question at the heart of my book. Firstly, why does the enormous task of care throughout life, from birth to death, so often get ignored, taken for granted or pushed down the political agenda? Secondly, why aren’t we even curious about what care is, what it entails, how people learn (or don’t) to do it, and who supports the carer, financially or emotionally? Answering the first led me into the history of care and its invisibility as women’s work, and how centuries of philosophical and economic thinking has routinely omitted any reference to the essential activities which sustain human beings. Only in the last few decades have philosophers and economists begun to seriously correct this distortion embedded into the traditions of Western thought. Answering the second set of questions entailed criss-crossing the country to interview and shadow all kinds of people for whom care is their job or a huge part of their lives. From GPs to nurses, from care workers, to parents of children with disabilities, and those caring for the dying, I started every interview with the same simple question: what exactly is care? What emerged was a rich variety: take the decades-long care worker who described to me how she had put all her effort and commitment into the job to ensure care passes, like a baton in a relay race, from one generation to the next, and would be there when her time came to need it. Or the young woman who had shifted from working in a beauty parlour to care, and argued that her life had far more meaning and purpose, knowing that she made a difference to her clients’ lives. Or take the professor of nursing and mathematician, Alison Leary, who argued that only through complexity theory could we begin to grasp the multiple issues that a nurse juggles as she allocates her time, emotional engagement and clinical expertise on a busy ward. Or the foster parent who described the attentiveness required to interpret what her troubled charge is not saying as much as what they are. Or the doctor who knew there was nothing he could do to help a patient in intense mental and physical pain, but offer some time and patience. The roots of the current crisis of care go back many decades. Rising female employment has diverted time and energy into the labour market, divesting the household economy of vital capacity, while often men have showed little inclination to step up. Instead of the state stepping into the gap – as in some Scandinavian countries – public services have been cut to the bone. Too many parts of the care infrastructure in this country were desperately precarious long before Covid: social care so tightly rationed that it excluded over a million vulnerable elderly, care homes which tottered under a huge weight of debt, a childcare system built on the worst levels of pay in the labour market. Meanwhile, in the private sphere of friends and family, too often women were left to stretch themselves to cover gaps, cobbling together solutions. Early this year as I finished the book, I wrote that "care was a quiet crisis buried in individual lives". Two months later, Covid ripped into all the care system’s shortcomings accumulated over decades of botching with utterly tragic consequences and an estimated 19,000 deaths in care homes, one of the highest tolls in the world. In lockdown, women were often catapulted back into picking up the pieces after schools and nurseries closed their doors, undertaking the bulk of childcare on top of their own jobs. Suddenly, the headlines were dominated by the subject of care in one form or another: it became starkly visible as the essential barricade protecting our health and dignity. My hope is that once glimpsed, that truth will be hard to forget and that, out of the pandemic, we might see a shift in which the labours of love are finally recognised. Madeleine Bunting is the author of Labours of Love, The Crisis of Care (Granta). 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At first blush, a former Guardian journalist might not seem like the obvious choice as the face of a Conservative government. But Allegra Stratton’s credentials don’t exactly fit the left-leaning mould associated with her former employer. Tatler magazine has hailed her Tory connections as “exemplary”, as well they might; she is married to James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator magazine, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak – with whom she’s been working in her current role as director of communications at the Treasury – was best man at their wedding in 2011. In 2017, Politico dubbed Stratton and Forsyth a “Westminster power couple”. Forsyth and Sunak, meanwhile, have been friends since their schooldays at Winchester College. So who is the 39-year-old former journalist, set to be announced as the Government’s new press secretary, with responsibility for leading Number 10’s controversial televised press briefings? Born as one of four siblings in Chiswick, West London, Stratton was educated at Latymer Upper School, an independent school nearby, and went on to read archaeology and anthropology at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Her father, an international translator, and her mother, a retired librarian turned textile artist specialising in embroidery, named their daughter after Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, who died of typhus aged five. “I was told the story growing up and I remember feeling trepidatious as my fifth birthday approached in case I would die,” Stratton once told The Telegraph. She grew up determined to become a journalist and has said that even, as a child, she “couldn’t help posing questions and trying to understand how the world worked and how it all joined up”. Her media career began with a job as a BBC producer, before she was appointed as a political correspondent at The Guardian. In 2006, her non-fiction book Muhajababes was published, taking as its subject matter Middle Eastern youth culture and based on Stratton’s own travels in the region at the age of 24. In 2011 she returned to the BBC as political editor of Newsnight, a role in which she didn’t always succeed in avoiding criticism. In 2012, she interviewed a young single mother called Shanene Thorpe for a segment on the Coalition Government’s planned welfare cuts. Thorpe was incorrectly portrayed as unemployed, and the programme was accused of humiliating and demonising a single mother. Newsnight’s editor later apologised to the interviewee, and an apology also ran online and on air. A more redeeming episode for Stratton came when she refused to take part in a misjudged Newsnight broadcast that saw Lord McAlpine wrongly smeared as being implicated in child abuse. The BBC subsequently had to pay out damages to him after he brought a libel claim. In 2015, Stratton left the BBC again, this time to take up the job of national editor at ITV News. She also co-presented Peston on Sunday. She lives in Islington with Forsyth (who proposed to her on Primrose Hill in North London) and their two young children, Vaughn and Xanthe. She was once a keen rower, and has cited as her heroes the 19th century novelist George Eliot, journalist Stephanie Flanders and comedian Tina Fey. She also once declared she would like to put up a statue to 18th century womens’ rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft on Newington Green near her home, in the hypothetical scenario of her becoming London mayor. It wasn’t until this year that she quit journalism and went to work for Sunak. Her new role at Number 10 has been criticised for undermining Parliament’s sovereignty by bypassing the Chamber and bestowing a more presidential role on the Prime Minister. For Stratton herself, it is arguably an interesting move for someone who once told The Telegraph “I don’t do spin”. She also once said the best piece of advice she’d been given came from her old boss at The Guardian, then political editor Patrick Wintour: “It’s as important to be good as to get a good story.” In following the well-trodden path from journalism to politics (some would say too well-trodden), Stratton has moved from speaking truth to power, to speaking on behalf of power. How easy it will be for her to avoid doing “spin” remains, of course, to be seen.
How would you spend your last night on earth? A Last Supper now looks like queuing for last orders if Scotland was anything to go by on Thursday, with drinkers desperate for a final pint in a pub before resigning themselves to a 16-day, prohibition-style existence. And as all of us face the prospect of rising cases and further lockdowns, a hedonistic counterculture is taking hold across the UK. In our modern dystopia, the 10pm kick-out from pubs and restaurants is moving vice behind closed doors, and all the usual suspects are present: sex, drugs and rock-and-roll – albeit played quietly in order to avoid the detection of the local authorities and fines of up to £10,000. When the first lockdown was announced, we had no time to think or make plans to commiserate. But this time, hedonists everywhere are seeking a last hurrah. In the last days of disco, “lockdown eve” is the new Christmas Eve; the announcement of the 10pm curfew last month had a group of lawyers I know in London wringing every last drip out of the bars on the night before it came into force.
I had always been a career girl. Through my 20s and early 30s, I was focused on my work in broadcasting and had given precious little thought to marriage or babies. It was something I assumed would just happen. By the time I neared my mid-30s, most of my friends were married and had already started having children. It was around this point I met Justin, at the opening of my friend’s wedding shop. From the moment I saw him, I just knew he would become my husband. It was quite an extraordinary feeling. Sure enough, five weeks later we were in the Maldives and engaged. We married shortly afterwards and I couldn’t have been happier. I was, and still am, head over heels in love with Justin and had a sudden, desperate, biological urge to make him a father. On our first anniversary, we returned to our wedding venue of Babington House in Somerset. I was overjoyed to learn I was pregnant. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have met the man of my dreams and to be carrying his baby. I was totally unprepared for my first miscarriage. I had assumed everything would unfold as it should. So when we attended our first 12-week scan and the sonographer excused himself, offering us “a moment alone”, I had no idea what he meant. Once I had understood that what he was saying was ours was not a viable pregnancy, I felt stunned and utterly devastated. Each pregnancy I had after that was shorter than the last. I didn’t know then that a worsening medical condition was causing my multiple miscarriages. Neither the name of the condition nor the number of miscarriages I had are what matters here: the reason I have finally decided to speak out is that the trauma of losing a baby, or babies, remains too great a taboo. This is why I have decided to tell my own story here and in a documentary. I promised myself at the time that if I was ever successful at having my own children, I would use my voice to help others. No one can be prepared for the experience of a failing pregnancy. The emotional heartbreak and the horror of what happens is frightening. In my case, the horror was deepened by media attention. At that time, I was anchoring the BBC Six O’Clock News and was the holder of the first Strictly Come Dancing glitter ball trophy. I did not announce any of my pregnancies which had not gone beyond the 12-week mark. So I was left reeling when a journalist was patched through to me on the news desk, just moments before going on-air, to “offer me her deepest condolences for the baby I had just lost”. I had no idea how she knew. Confused and dismayed, I accused the clinic of breaching our privacy; I accused friends of failing to support us; I even cut ties with some of those who I believed had betrayed me. Only eight years later did I learn from the police that my phone was being hacked by The Daily Mirror. But as violated as I had felt, this was not the worst of it. My real shame was the feeling that I had failed Justin as a wife. I felt barren, responsible for taking away his chance of becoming a father.
Female-founded, equity-backed businesses demonstrated high levels of resilience throughout the pandemic, a new report has found. The report from the Female Founders Forum, shows that over 60 per cent of female-founded businesses are now operating with minimal disruption to their business. This is despite the fact that female-led businesses’ suffered more disruptions, such as closures in premises or delaying a product launch, from the fall-out of the pandemic than male-led ones. The Resilience and Recovery report, which was part of a project by think tank The Entrepreneurs Network, in partnership with Barclays, used data from Beauhurst’s Covid-19 Business Impact Tracker to explore why female-founded businesses were more likely to be disrupted as a result of covid-19. The disruption was partly down to the number of women doing unpaid work during the pandemic, the report found. During lockdown, women in the UK have done two-thirds more childcare than men. Prior to the pandemic mothers worked 80 per cent of the hours’ fathers did; however, during covid-19 this has dropped to 70 per cent. These figures come just months after research demonstrated that women will be worse off as a result of the economic fallout from Covid-19 - the subject of the Telegraph’s Equality Check campaign, which launched in June. Women are also more likely to work in industries which have been worse affected by the pandemic, such as retail, hospitality and leisure. Research by think-tank the Resolution Foundation shows that almost 20 per cent of women work in sectors such as retail and hospitality that have suffered job losses and earnings cuts, compared to 13 per cent of men. Research shows that equity funding remains a big problem for female entrepreneurs. In 2020, just 13 per cent of total equity investment went to female-founded start-ups and when it did, it tended to be for smaller amounts. However, the 2019 Female Founders Forum report shows that the share of funding to women-led firms has doubled in less than a decade. The report also demonstrated that women are less likely to seek external finance to bolster their cash flows. Previous research published in the Telegraph shows that female founders of SMEs are twice as likely to be discouraged from borrowing money than male entrepreneurs. However, female-led businesses are crucial for the economy. The gender gap in entrepreneurship is equivalent to an economic shortfall of £250 billion according to the Female Founders Forum. Women-led businesses in the UK generate 10 per cent more revenue, deliver double the return on investment for financial backers and are less likely to lead businesses that fail than their male counterparts. The latest research shows things are looking up for women. Once female-founded businesses have received an initial investment, they are just as likely to raise additional rounds of funding compared to non-female-founded firms. Furthermore, out of 590 businesses to receive funding through the Government’s Future Fund scheme, 83 per cent have all-female or mixed-leadership teams. To aid female businesses on their road to recovery, Barclays has pledged to help 100,000 women start-up and run their businesses over the next three years. The bank will target local events and mentoring via Barclays’ UK-wide network of Eagle Labs and Rise hubs, increasing training and tools for Barclays coverage teams, as well as dedicated regional champions across the UK. Alongside providing support to help female businesses recover, the report also recommended several policy changes. It detailed that the Department for International Trade should commit to publishing statistics on the gender breakdown of SME exporters, and that the Government should include crisis planning in business support applications. It also suggested that the Government should make Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SSPP) the same as Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). Juliet Rogan, Barclays Head of High Growth and Entrepreneurs, said that there is still “some way to go to level out the playing field” for female entrepreneurs. "It’s absolutely critical to the economic recovery that we tap into female-led business potential, and drive forward the UK as one of the best places to be a female entrepreneur," she said.