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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