The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from October 2015

Ancient and Modern: The Emperors of Brussels
As both sides of the great EU debate line up their forces, it is worth reflecting on the implications of the collapse of the Roman republic in the 1st century bc and its transformation into an imperial system under the first emperor Augustus.Romans...
Arts Feature: Of Gods and Men - Egypt at the British Museum
Over the stupefyingly long course of Egyptian history, gods have been born and they have died. Some 4,000 years ago, amid the chaos that marked the fragmentation of the original pharaonic state, an incantation was inscribed on the side of a coffin....
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
An enjoyable aspect of parliamentary rules and conventions is that almost no one understands them. This has become acutely true in an age when the media no longer regularly reports proceedings in Parliament. So when the House of Lords threatened...
Cinema: Spectre
Spectre12A, NationwideSpectre is the 24th film in the Bond franchise, the fourth starring Daniel Craig, the second directed by Sam Mendes, and the first at not much of anything. Nothing new to report, in other words. It probably delivers what the die-hard...
Converting the Corbyn Cult
Before they can talk to the wider electorate, Labour MPs must win a life-or-death argument with their core supporters If Labour is ever to clamber out of its cage on the fringe of politics, it will have to convince the 250,000 supporters who voted...
Dance: Romeo and Juliet; without Stars
Romeo and JulietRoyal Ballet, in rep until 2 DecemberWithout Stars; There We Have BeenThe Place You always remember your first time, don't you? And in ballet one imagines that Juliet wants to remember her first Romeo as a thunderclap. So the Royal...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. Many of our best and oldest friends have done so well they have stopped work. Meanwhile my husband still does a 50-hour week. Our friends must have forgotten what it's like to have to get up at six because they're always amazed when we try to...
Diary: Barry Humphries
I'm counting 'Wows!' Suddenly everyone is using this irritating expletive expressing incredulity, amazement and nothing at all. I've heard it from the lips of daughters in law, professors of literature, rabbis and housewives. No doubt at least one...
'Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka', by John Gimlette - Review
Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka John GimletteQuercus, pp.517, £25, ISBN: 9781782067962 For a genre that is frequently dismissed as dead, travel writing is proving a remarkably stubborn survivor. If anything, this year's Stanford Dolman Travel...
Exhibitions: Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual Evidence
Burden of Proof: The Construction of Visual EvidenceThe Photographers' Gallery, until 10 January 2016 I hadn't really thought much about pixels before, despite spending a large portion of my day looking at them. After all, a pixel is just a tiny unit...
Exhibitions: Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965
Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, until 26 June 2016Modern Scottish Men , a new exhibition celebrating the achievements of male artists in the 20th century, opens next month in Edinburgh....
Exhibitions: The World of Charles and Ray Eames
The World of Charles and Ray EamesBarbican Art Gallery, until 14 February 2016 Peter Mandelson, in his moment of pomp, had his portrait taken by Lord Snowdon. He is sitting on a fine modern chair. Mandy would no doubt have been aware of the ancient...
Food: Tanya Gold
Penny is an all-day café in the former Pit Bar in the basement of the Old Vic, a famous and charismatic theatre on the road to south London. I love the Old Vic on its pavement peninsula on The Cut by Waterloo. Sirens screech past; after a particularly...
Forty Is a Feminist Issue
For older women, the battle for equality is far from won If Emily Hill is right in her cover piece for the magazine last week headlined 'The end of feminism', then women like me are in a whole world of trouble. And by women like me, I mean women over...
France's New Reactionaries
The nation's intellectuals are being roiled by issues of immigration, sovereignty and freedom of expression When President de Gaulle was asked to authorise the criminal prosecution of Jean-Paul Sartre for civil disobedience during the Algerian war,...
'Frost: That Was the Life That Was the Authorised Biography', by Neil Hegarty - Review
Frost: That Was the Life that Was The Authorised Biography Neil HegartyW.H. Allen, pp.438, £25, ISBN: 9780753556702 On 13 March 2014 a congregation of 2,000 people, including many of the great and the good, gathered in Westminster Abbey for a memorial...
Germany's Dark Night of the Soul
The migrant crisis is testing the country's post-war idea of itself As Angela Merkel approaches her tenth anniversary in power, Germans are talking about a possible Kanzlerinnendämmerung -- a 'twilight of the chancellors'. Anger is growing at Merkel's...
High Life: Taki
To Cleveland, Ohio, where middle America's middle class begins its great Midwest sprawl. I've always wanted to visit Cleveland because the so-called sophisticates poke fun at it. And the place did not disappoint. Beautiful municipal buildings of...
Hugo Rifkind: Are We All Potential Cyberterrorists Now?
Hollywood got there first, of course. Back in 1983, before most of us even learned -- then forgot again -- what a modem was, Matthew Broderick starred in the seminal and brilliant WarGames . He played a computer hacker; a teenager who goes hunting...
James Forsyth: Lords of Misrule
A few days after the general election, I bumped into one of David Cameron's longest-standing political allies, one of those who had helped him get selected for Witney back in 2000. I remarked that he must be delighted that Cameron had now won a majority....
'John le Carré: The Biography', by Adam Sisman - Review
John le Carré has been writing about a mirror world for over 50 years -- and he'll continue to do so for as long as his father haunts him, says Andrew LycettJohn le Carré: The Biography Adam SismanBloomsbury, pp.652, £25, ISBN: 9781408827925 'Have...
'King of Kings: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia', by Asfa-Woosen Asserate, Translated by Peter Lewis - Review
King of Kings: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia Asfa-Woosen Asserate, translated by Peter LewisHaus Publishing, pp.374, £20, ISBN: 9781910376140 Great men rarely come smaller than Haile Selassie. In photographs, the...
Leading Article: The Australian Example
For many years, Australia has been turning away boats filled with migrants. From a remove, this looks cold-hearted -- a nation built by immigrants showing no compassion for others who want a better life. But it is precisely because Australia is an...
Letters
We should all be feministsSir: Articles proclaiming the death of feminism are appearing like clockwork in the press at the moment ('Bad winners', 24 October). Each time, it prompts feminists to respond passionately, demonstrating that far from being...
'Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995', by Avril Horner and Anne Rowe - Review
Living On Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995 Avril Horner and Anne RoweChatto & Windus, pp.666, £25, ISBN: 9780701187057 Iris Murdoch's emotionally hectic novels have been enjoying a comeback lately, with an excellent Radio 4 dramatisation...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
The Metropolitan Club in Washington is so close to the White House that President Obama chose to walk there for lunch on Tuesday through Lafayette Park while his motorcade followed behind. The lunch was described in the media as 'secret', and American...
Long Nights of Delicious Horror
The thick of autumn is upon us, dear reader, and with it the shivers. Around Hallowe'en you may be tempted to go and see yet another edition of Paranormal Activity (a quotation from the trailer: 'There's, like, obviously something going on here')...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
The fag end of October. Dark evenings. My smelly old Barbour. Chopping and splitting wood. Uncanny stillnesses. Psychedelic maple trees. The thin winter piping of robins. Sodden leaves clinging to the soles of my boots. And Liberty Caps dotting the...
Martin Vander Weyer: TalkTalk Tells Us the Internet Is Only Three Clicks from Anarchy
I'm not a customer of TalkTalk, the phone company which revealed last week that a hacker had potentially compromised the personal data of four million users. But I feel I'm on the front line of the cyberwar nevertheless. In August, someone unknown...
Matthew Parris: Without a Word, Paul Methuen Set Me Free
At the time he will barely have noticed me. In his mid-forties and (to me at 18) middle-aged, he was our host at a dinner in his beautiful old house in Kingston, Jamaica: a wooden mansion that in its time had seen the town spread up from the harbour...
Mind Your Language: Fulsome
It's funny that two much misused words end in --some : fulsome and noisome . Noisome is the less often used at all, and then usually as though it meant noisy . There is a word noisesome that does mean noisy , coined 80 years ago, but noisome ...
Music: Bob Dylan Live
Bob DylanRoyal Albert Hall We were like four hapless contestants on University Challenge . None of us knew the answer. But just like they do on the telly, I leaned learnedly across towards my 28-year-old son, who in turn looked despairingly towards...
Notes On. the Lake District
Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling is the best thing in the Lake District. I lived near Wigton, just north of the fells, for two years and escaping the shadow of the clingfilm factory to witness generations of champions, all called Brocklebank,...
'Now Is the Time', by Melvyn Bragg - Review
Now Is the Time Melvyn BraggSceptre, pp.357, £18.99, ISBN: 9781473614529 Considering that it was, as Melvyn Bragg rightly puts it, 'the biggest popular uprising ever experienced in England', the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 hasn't proved particularly...
Opera: Guglielmo Ratcliff; Koanga
Wexford Festival Opera It's Halloween, and right on lightning-flash cue enters an operatic ghost story exhumed from the grave of long-since-buried works. You couldn't hope for more discerning grave-robbers than Wexford Festival Opera, however, who...
Portrait of the Week
HomeAfter it was twice defeated in the Lords on its plans to reduce working tax credits, the government announced a review of the workings of Parliament, to be led by Lord Strathclyde, the former leader of the House of Lords. Peers had voted for a motion...
Radio: Sunday Worship; the Media Show; Good Morning Sunday
Can anyone explain this sudden enthusiasm for Agincourt, that unexpected victory over the French, now being celebrated, or rather commemorated, on radio, on digital, online? It was so weird to switch on Radio 4 on Sunday morning (which just happened...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
'This is a two Voltarol day,' I thought, as I popped another pill and settled into the bath after Darcy's first hurdling session. Well, three Voltarol if you count the one I gave to the young jockey who parted company with his horse at the first...
Rod Liddle: The Hatred That Amis and Corbyn Share
Everyone loves an underdog. It doesn't matter how incompetent they might be -- indeed, incompetence works in their favour. You do not expect underdogs to be adept, do you? It doesn't really matter how vile, otiose or absurd their beliefs are, either....
'Scarpia', by Piers Paul Read - Review
Scarpia Piers Paul ReadBloomsbury, pp.367, £16.99, ISBN: 9781408867495 You don't need to know the opera Tosca to understand and enjoy this book about Puccini's most notorious villain, Vitellio Scarpia, portrayed on stage as a 'sadistic agent of...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
Not since Walter Palmer, a cudddly Minnesota dentist, put down his drill and vanished off the face of the earth having made sure that Cecil the Lion took a crossbow bolt for the team, has there been a disappearance quite like it. I refer of course...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
I'm getting a lot of abuse on Twitter for saying that having been a member of the Bullingdon is more of a hindrance than a help in contemporary Britain. My comment was a response to a piece by Charlotte Proudman in the Guardian on Monday that Oxford...
Television: House of DVF; the Apprentice; the X Factor
Girl is back for half-term so I've been able to watch nothing but crap on TV this week. Some of you will say, 'Oh come on! You pay the bills, so you get to control the remote.' But that's not how things work when you've got a teenage girl at home....
Theatre: Plaques and Tangles; Treasure
Plaques and TanglesRoyal Court, until 21 NovemberTreasureFinborough, until 14 November Here are three truths about play-writing. A script without an interval will be structurally flawed. A vague, whimsical title means a vague, whimsical drama. And...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
Thank God for jump racing. The Flat has its glitz and speed and glamour, and we could not help but thrill to the sheer quality on view at Ascot's Champions Day this year with Solow and Muhaarar strutting their stuff. But as Jack Dowdeswell, champion...
The Years of Pain
I'm an old hand at cancer. I've had it nearly half my life I remember the exact day my illness first declared itself. Twenty-seven years ago. Thursday 20 October 1988. My then wife and I were at a viewing of Harry Hook's The Kitchen Toto at the Strode...
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