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 January 2015

Ancient and Modern: Greek Tragicomedy
The German chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her desire for Greece to remain part of the European 'story'. Since Greeks -- together with the Romans and Jews -- actually created that story over the past 2,500 years, it is hard to see how they...
Arts Feature: Japan, Pop Culture Superpower
There is an island nation, just off the main body of a continent. It gained an empire from the force of its military and the finesse of its trading contracts. The empire withered, as they all do, under the gaze of history. But that didn't finish...
Cinema: Trash
Trash15, NationwideTrash is the sort of film one desperately wishes to be kind about -- heart supremely, if not burstingly, in the right place and all that -- but it doesn't make life easy for itself. Directed by Stephen Daldry, with a script by Richard...
Dance: London International Mime Festival
London International Mime FestivalSadler's Wells and Linbury Studio Theatre, until 31 JanuaryYoung MenBalletBoyz, Sadler's WellsOneginRoyal Ballet, until 27 February January is something of a palate-cleanser for the year, as the London International...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. My husband -- currently unemployed -- has started 'sourcing' logs from our own smallholding. Chopping down perfectly good trees, sawing logs, drying them ... to say nothing of trying to get a fire going without proper kindling or firelighters,...
Diary: Nigel Farage
Dry January is tougher than it sounds. Well, for me anyway. It's now been some 28 days since I've had a drink, and you should see what that means for my campaigning strategy. 'Ginger beer? Lemonade?' Pub-goers around the country can't believe it...
Dresden Notebook
Sachsenschweine -- Saxon pigs -- said the graffiti as my train moved out of Berlin on its way to Dresden. Germany is not as monolithic as it can seem: not only do some of its ancient kingdoms continue a ghostly existence as states of the Federal...
Drink: Bruce Anderson
It is an old adage, but still pertinent. 'Every generalisation about India is true, and so is the opposite.' The other night, some of us were discussing the US and wondering if the same applied. Certainly, there are lots of paradoxes. Although Americans...
Exhibitions: Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne
Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to CézanneRoyal Academy, until 10 April The main spring offering at the Royal Academy, Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne , teaches two useful lessons. One -- not much of a surprise -- is that Peter Paul Rubens...
Flowering Obsession
The roots of snowdrop fever I think I'm coming down with galanthomania. It's a rare affliction, but one that's hard to shake, and it's affecting more people every year. Galanthus are snowdrops, and galanthomania is a 21st-century version of that 17th-century...
Gove's Silent Victory
Schools are the one area where this government has made a real, positive difference - but it's scared stiff of saying so The most significant achievement of this coalition, the only thing they really have any right to crow about, and possibly all...
High Life: Taki
Thick snow is falling hard and heavy, muffling sounds and turning the picturesque village postcard beautiful. I am lying in bed listening to a Mozart version of 'Ave Maria', a heavenly soprano almost bringing tears to my eyes with the loveliness...
'If This Is a Woman: Inside Ravensbrück: Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women', by Sarah Helm - Review
If This is a Woman: Inside Ravensbrück: Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women Sarah HelmLittle Brown, pp.768, £25, ISBN: 9781408701072 Concentration camps in Nazi Germany were originally set up in 1933 to terrorise Hitler's political enemies; as...
James Delingpole: The Hottest Year on Which Record?
Did you know that 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded in the entire history of the world? Probably you did because it's been all over the papers. Not only that but President Obama slipped it into his State of the Union address and the president...
Leading Article: Green for Danger
The Green party has been likened to a watermelon: green on the outside and red on the inside. But that is to do a huge injustice to generations of socialists and communists. Misguided though they were in many of their ideas, nobody could accuse them...
Letters
What's a degree worth?Sir: Mark Mason's article ('Uni's out', 24 January) hits the nail on the head. A brief addendum: it is generally stated that graduates earn more over a lifetime than non-graduates -- obviously a selling point to would-be students....
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
Whether or not you believe in the afterlife, death remains an impenetrable mystery. One moment a person is making jokes and comments and observations about life; the next he is gone. What has happened to that store of wit and wisdom acquired over...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
I'm rubbish at public speaking and detest it. Even the thought of reciting an English poem of my choice at a Burns Night Supper cast a long shadow beforehand, in spite of the strong probability that everyone at the table would be blootered when the...
Making History
Wolf Hall is a work of the imagination - like all the best history In a recent interview, the celebrity historian and Tudor expert David Starkey described Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall as a 'deliberate perversion of fact'. The novel, he said, is 'a wonderful,...
Martin Vander Weyer: Austerity Really Is a Virtue, Whatever the Greeks Think
The only question I remember from my Oxford moral philosophy paper was 'What is integrity and is it a virtue?' In the margins of all the politicking that follows the victory of Syriza in the Greek election, I hope someone asks: 'What is austerity,...
Mary Wakefield: Do I Care about Liberia? Do You? Does Oxfam?
It's strange how quickly we all forgot about Ebola. Speak for yourself, you might say -- and I will. Until a friend sent me a report this week on the progress of the epidemic, Ebola had, I'm sorry to say, almost faded from my mind. The report contains...
Mind Your Language: Coloured
Benedict Cumberbatch apologised at length: 'devastated', 'shaming', 'offended', 'inappropriate'. What had he done? Been caught in a compromising situation or stolen from a shop? No he had used the word coloured with reference to black people.It...
Music: Saved by Spotify
We have all read about the current woeful state of the CD industry -- how it is 28 per cent down on last year, which was 25 per cent down on the previous year, and so on -- but do we know why? Is it the endless financial crisis? Or is it that CDs,...
Notes On. Glasgow School of Art
I was working on the final edit of my book -- a fictionalised account of the year Charles Rennie Mackintosh spent in Suffolk -- when news came in that his most famous architectural creation, The Glasgow School of Art, was on fire. My heart lurched....
Only Capitalism Can Save Nigeria
Is West Africa's powerhouse headed for a boom - or a coup?Abuja was eerily quiet when I arrived. The capital of Nigeria is normally bustling, but that morning the wide boulevards were empty. The red dust was undisturbed; the call to prayer echoed through...
Opera: Das Rheingold (Excerpts); the Miserly Knight
Das Rheingold (excerpts); The Miserly KnightRoyal Festival HallThe Marriage of FigaroOpera North, touring in rep until 28 March In one of the more peculiar concerts that I have been to at the Royal Festival Hall, Vladimir Jurowski conducted excerpts...
Portrait of the Week
HomeParty leaders mercilessly launched 100 days of campaigning before the general election on 7 May. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said he would reduce the annual maximum household receipt of welfare to £23,000 from the current limit of £26,000....
Radio: Ebola Shakes
By some quirk of fate, just as news reached the papers that the Scottish nurse who had contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone was now recovered, the guest on that Radio 4 staple Desert Island Discs was the scientist who first identified...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
My iPad is dead, that's what's wrong with it. The plumage don't enter into it. But since the blasted thing fell off its perch last November, it has somehow run up crippling excess data charges.At first, I could think of only two possible explanations:...
Rod Liddle: Benedict Cumberbatch and What's Really Offensive
How should we refer to non-white people, and foreigners in general, given that of course we do sometimes need to mention them, perhaps over dinner in White's or when mulling over where to go on our holidays? This is an important question, because...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
For a brief moment earlier this week, I thought education might become an issue in the general election campaign. The Commons Education Select Committee's lukewarm report on the government's academy and free school programmes was leaked to the Guardian...
'Stranger Than Fiction: The Life of Edgar Wallace, the Man Who Created King Kong', by Neil Clark - Review
Stranger than Fiction: The Life of Edgar Wallace, the Man Who Created King Kong Neil ClarkThe History Press, pp.256, £17.99, ISBN: 9780752498829 At the time of his death in 1932 Edgar Wallace had published some 200 books, 25 plays, 45 collections...
Television: Wolf Hall
In January 1958, the British government began working on the significantly titled Operation Hope Not: its plans for what to do when Winston Churchill died. The plans, it turned out, wouldn't be needed until January 1965 -- but the intervening seven...
Theatre: My Night with Reg
My Night With RegApollo Theatre, until 11 AprilIslandsBush Theatre, 21 FebruaryGay plays crowd the theatrical canon. There are the necessary enigmas of Noël Coward, like The Vortex or Design For Living , which are slyly aimed at an audience of knowing...
The Great European Revolt
For Angela Merkel, it's a crisis. For David Cameron, it's an opportunity Napoleon notoriously preferred his generals to be lucky -- and on that score at least, he would have approved of David Cameron. The triumph of the Syriza party in Greece presents...
The Joy of Big Families
Why I'm glad to have five children, with a sixth on the way Let's face it. Whatever Pope Francis actually means when his head is in the clouds during those in-flight press conferences of his, we Europeans need to breed like rabbits if we want to preserve...
'The King's Bed: Sex, Power and the Court of Charles II', by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh - Review
The King's Bed: Sex, Power and the Court of Charles II Don Jordan and Michael WalshLittle Brown, pp.354, £20, ISBN: 9781408704882 In a tone of breezy bravado in keeping with their concept of their subject's character, Don Jordan and Michael Walsh...
'The Match Girl and the Heiress', by Seth Koven - Review
The Match Girl and the Heiress Seth KovenPrinceton, pp.464, £24.95, ISBN: 9780691158501 This is the tale of Muriel Lester, once famous pacifist and social reformer, and Nellie Dowell, her invisible friend. Nellie Dowell is invisible in the sense...
'The Nightwatches of Bonaventura', by Translated by Gerald Gillespie - Review
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura translated by Gerald GillespieUniversity of Chicago Press, pp.162, £11.50, ISBN: 9780226141565 In the early 19th century, the Romantic movement was in full swing across Europe. You could probably date its birth from...
The Prince Charles Problem
The Prince of Wales has shown himself too vain to accept the limits of constitutional monarchy When republicans meet, we console ourselves with the thought that our apparently doomed cause will revive. The hereditary principle guarantees that eventually...
'The Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution', by Patrick Cockburn - Review
The Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution Patrick CockburnVerso, pp.164, £9.99, ISBN: 9781784780401 The Sykes-Picot agreement will be 100 years old next year, but there will be no congratulatory telegrams winging their way to the...
The Wiki Man: Rory Sutherland
Some time in the 1960s, a group of people in an advertising agency (among them Llewelyn Thomas, son of Dylan) found themselves debating the direction of causation in the purchase of electric drills. Their dispute revolved around one question: do...
'Young Eliot: From St Louis to the Waste Land', by Robert Crawford - Review
T.S. Eliot may have put much of his early life into his poetry, says Daniel Swift , but The Waste Land remains a marvellous mystery that defies explanationYoung Eliot: From St Louis to The Waste Land Robert CrawfordJonathan Cape, pp.493, £25, ISBN:...
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