Philip Hensher

Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Exeter, Philip Hensher was among Granta 20 Best of Young British Novelists in 2003. The author of six novels, a collection of short stories and an opera libretto, he has won numerous prizes including the Somerset Maugham Award and the Stonewall Journalist of the Year. His 2008 novel, 'The Northern Clemency', was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Commonwealth Prize. A regular presence in the British media, alongside his Wednesday column for The Independent, he writes for The Spectator and Mail on Sunday.

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Philip Hensher: Abolish all grades. Only then will GCSEs be useful for pupils and employers

One of the interesting things about the past week, as GCSE and A-level grades fell for the first time in more than two decades, was hearing outraged commentators saying that educational attainment shouldn't be subject to political manipulation. I quite agree. But what the hell do they think has been happening over the past quarter of a century?

When Carl Hester, pictured, the dressage rider, won a gold medal this week, he may have been the first openly gay athlete to win a medal at the summer Olympics
What Mrs Thatcher used to wear defined the flavour of the 1980s in ways that the youth cults never did

Philip Hensher: Only Jeremy Kyle believes in lie detector tests. Oh, and the Government

Fans of The Wire will remember a deathless scene where the policemen extract a confession from a murder suspect with a homemade lie detector. First, they load a photocopier with three sheets of paper reading TRUE, TRUE and LIE; they bring in the suspect and ask him three questions. Is your name X? Do you live in Baltimore? Did you kill your friend Rashid? TRUE, TRUE, LIE. The suspect is horrified, and starts blabbing.

Hans and Eva Rausing at a function in 2003

Philip Hensher: The postcode lottery of drug-related deaths

Probably on the same day another woman was killed in the same way as Eva Rausing, leaving behind an addicted partner

The Yips, By Nicola Barker

Barker's novel spins outwards, sucking into an elaborate narrative bizarre characters in steadily more unpredictable scenarios

Philip Hensher: I only scraped my O-levels but Gove is right

When Michael Gove announced that he was preparing to introduce a new two-tier system of examinations at 16, resembling the old O-levels and CSEs, the response from the teaching profession and the Government's coalition partners was predictable.

Rural ideal: a model of how the Olympic Stadium will look next month

Philip Hensher: Danny Boyle and the myth of country life

Round our way, there's an excellent annual event in a Brixton park called the Lambeth Country Show. All sorts of country practices are rounded up and brought to civilisation for the day – there's Hold an Owl, some Morris dancing and a Rare Breeds tent.

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Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'