John Smith

The Prime Ministers Who Never Were, Edited by Francis Beckett

When I was taught history we were told by our headmaster, no less, not to waste time on what he called "the what ifs of history". He reckoned that it was no good asking what would have happened if Anne Boleyn had agreed to sleep with Henry VIII out of wedlock, or if the plot to kill Hitler had succeeded, because no one knows and it is all idle speculation.

Kalahari King set to rule back on familiar turf

His wholehearted response to Tony McCoy in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last month was insufficient to rid Albertas Run of the notorious Timeform squiggle, awarded to especially unreliable or uncommitted animals. Perhaps that will change if he digs deep for another Grade One prize at Aintree today, just 22 days after a hard race, but for now you could not know what to expect of a horse who made hard work of a distant third in the equivalent contest last year.

Outside the Box: Have it! Pint of John Smith's tempts Gary Mac to play

One of the more unlikely transfers of the season has been Tadcaster Albion's acquisition of the former Leeds and Scotland captain Gary McAllister for a signing-on fee of a pint of ale and a sports drink. The Albion manager, Paul Marshall, had played alongside him in an over-45 veterans competition and after making the offer "half-jokingly", was stunned by McAllister's acceptance. The deal, he said, was completed at the bar over a pint of John Smith's and a Lucozade Sport. With Tadcaster only one point behind the leaders Brighouse Town and having three games in hand, McAllister, who hasn't played yet, should be in line for another glittering honour to add to his 57 Scottish caps, League championship, FA Cup and Uefa Cup: the Koolsport Northern Counties East League Division One title.

The art of diary writing

January signals not only the arrival of a new year – for many, it will also open another chapter of obsessive diary-writing. What drives these solitary scribblers? Tim Walker delves into their secret world

Andrew Grice: Tax rise is a repudiation of New Labour

Peter Mandelson, one of New Labour's architects, memorably said that it was "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich". Yesterday, after the Cabinet was briefed on Alistair Darling's plan to raise the top rate of income tax for people earning £150,000 a year, Lord Mandelson told the meeting: "In the sweep of history, this will not be seen as the tectonic plates shifting."