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 December 2010

A Crackdown on Kleptocrats
The law is catching up with Russia's corrupt oligarchs Moscow's White House is a fairly pleasing pile, at least by the standards of late Soviet architecture. Its colonnaded white stone facade enjoys handsome views over the Moscow River, and its interiors...
A Lifetime of Lent?
What divides the left from the right nowadays is almost never the wildly divergent aims each group claims to believe in: it's simply that, at a personal level, each finds the other bloody irritating. The left finds people on the right selfish and self-satisfied....
Ancient and Modern
President Saleh of Yemen has refused to hand over the terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki because it contravenes the Yemeni tradition of hospitality. If the fate of Hannibal is anything to go by, al-Awlaki had better run for it quickish. In 218 bc the Carthaginian...
Bad Lads and Bogwoppits
Juliet Townsend selects the best of this year's reading for toddlers through to teenagers In these straitened times one can only be grateful for the excellent value offered by picture books for young children, which have remained at the same price for...
Barometer
Happy talk David Cameron wants to measure our happiness alongside GDP. The first measure of happiness - the Gross National Happiness index - was instigated by the former king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972. - Heavily influenced by Buddhist...
BOOKENDS - Pearls before Swine
The Poor Little Rich Girl memoir, popular for at least a century, nowadays slums it in the misery department. 'One particularly annoying aspect of being sexually abused or traumatised as a child, ' writes Ivana Lowell in Why not Say what Happened? (Bloomsbury,...
Box of Delights
Sitting on my desk as I write are two objects of wonder and delight. They are a pair of box sets from the Deutsche Grammophon label celebrating the company's 111 years of existence. An odd anniversary to celebrate, you might think, and I suspect the...
Broken Hearts
In a bleak St Louis tenement, the Wingfields are buckling beneath the Depression and their mother's old-fashioned aspirations. A framework of fire escapes and raised walkways provides convenient perches from which Tom (Leo Bill) can narrate and look...
China's Spy Network
We are at war online - and we are losing Almost exactly two years ago, an American army officer found a memory stick in a car park in the Middle East and, out of curiosity, inserted it into his military laptop. It seemed to be empty, but there are a...
Classic
The second London Chess Classic swings into action at Olympia next week. The stellar line-up is composed of the following: world champion Viswanathan Anand, former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen, 2009 US champion Hikaru...
Come Together
Niru Ratnam invites you to join in and take off your trousers in the name of art at the taxpayer's expense -- while you still can In the week before the G20 summit in early 2009, I found myself sitting at a large, round, glass-topped table in the new...
Dear Mary - Your Problems Solved
Q. I volunteer for a charity one morning a week. This happens on one of the mornings when my cleaner comes. I have a feeling that as soon as I have gone out she knocks off early, knowing I won't be back, although she still has another 45 minutes to...
Diary
New Hampshire Just back from London, 40 years to the week since my first visit. It was a wonderful city then, in a cold rooms, dark-streets, early-pub-closing, single-TV-channel way. And the food. . . I ordered a steak, it arrived boiled. But London...
Everything's about Geoff
Sam Leith on an intellectual dandy and essayist of peculiar talent Working the Room by Geoff Dyer Canongate, £20, pp. 400, ISBN 9781847678621 I don't remember who it was who said 'memory is genius', but they were on to something. I'm not sure, either,...
Feeling Pleasantly Uncomfortable
The Sounds of Crime by Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, Christopher Fowler, Peter James and Val McDermid Whole Story Audio Books, £14.99, 3 CDs, 23/4 hours It is rare for stories to be specially commissioned for an audio book, but as Maxim Jakubowski,...
Forget the Matchstick Men
L.S. Lowry: The Art and the Artist by T. G. Rosenthal Unicorn Press, £40, pp. 320, ISBN 9781906509064 Here at last is a book that takes L. S. Lowry's art seriously and treats it with the scholarly attention it deserves. Tom Rosenthal has been a...
Hard Labour
Moralising doctors and nature-worshipping feminists are driving women to accept needless pain during childbirth More women than ever are having their babies by Caesarian section. Not the old last-resort emergency type, either ; the ones where mothers...
High Life
The irony is such that the word itself loses meaning. The ultimate Afghan conman, an oxymoron if ever there was one, is someone Hollywood couldn't make up. A catch-himif-you-can type of script wouldn't make it past the first rewrite. Even 'based on...
Homing Instinct
Elfreda Pownall explores a variety of styles, ranging from the restrained elegance of 18th-century Sweden to the frank excesses of modern American kitsch For Jasper Conran the country is about 'the scent of ripe apples or freshly-baked bread', about...
Incredible Journey
Monsters 12A, Nationwide Monsters is a sci-fi alien film and is being promoted as a sci-fi alien film but it's not really a sci-fi alien film as it's a love story with a beautiful and unexpected ending. It just happens to be set in the future and happens...
In Praise of Secrecy
The word 'transparency' is being bandied around as if there is no greater good; as if the best society would be one in which we all knew exactly what our government was up to and the best relationships completely free and frank. But secrets have their...
Less Heat, More Light
We have heard surprisingly little about the climate change jamboree currently underway in Cancun. Before last year's Copenhagen summit, there was much hullaballoo. Gordon Brown told us that we had 'fewer than 50 days to set the course of the next 50...
Letters
Pecksniffian bureaucrats Sir: I bought your 27 November issue purely on the promising cover illustration and was not disappointed. Josie Appleton's masterly article ('A common sense revolution') held up to deserved ridicule the Criminal Records Bureau,...
Light Relief
Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880-1900 Royal Academy, until 23 January 2011 Colin Self: One Thousand Sketches James Hyman Gallery, 5 Savile Row, W1, until 18 December The so-called Glasgow Boys had no manifesto, common background or style,...
Low Life
Cow girl, my first encounter on the dating website, said she wanted to see me again, so the next weekend we met at the same hotel for another portion of the same. During the week she sent an email saying she couldn't eat, and I'd assumed she was joking....
MacMillan's Loyalty
In the first week of September, the Scottish composer James MacMillan sat in the 'composition hut' in the backyard of his Glasgow house, finishing the music he'd been commissioned to write for the Pope's Mass at Westminster Cathedral. 'I'm enjoying...
Magnificent Mozart
Glyndebourne on Tour Norwich The subtitle of Mozart's Don Giovanni is 'Il dissoluto punito' (the rake punished), that of Rossini's La Cenerentola is 'La bonta in trionfo' (goodness triumphant), while Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea might well...
Of Course Diplomats Are Frank in Private-But Not , I Fear, for Much Longer
It can be a diplomat's duty to be undiplomatic. When asked for a candid assessment by senior colleagues or by his political masters, the murmured ambiguity and the Ferrero Rocher are for the birds. Diplomacy is for dealing publicly with the other side,...
Playing It Safe
Fela! Olivier Theatre, in rep until 23 January 2011 Jasmin Vardimon: 7734 Sadler's Wells Put the life of a legendary music-maker/campaigner in the hands of a controversial choreographer and you'll possibly end up with some explosive stuff. This is...
Potrait of the Week
Home The Office for Budget Responsibility said it thought economic growth for 2010 would be 1.8 per cent, not 1.2 per cent as it had previously predicted. It expected 330,000 public sector workers to lose their jobs over the next four years, not the...
Reader Repellent
In Competition No. 2675 you were invited to submit a book-jacket blurb for a well-known work of fiction that is designed to be as offputting as possible. You were on sparkling form all round this week, especially Marion Shore, Robert Schechter and John...
Real Life
I once met a woman who claimed to have been incarcerated in an addiction unit because her family found her scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush. She said cleaning had become a mental and emotional obsession and that the amount and regularity of her...
Spectator Wine
Christmas can be something of a balancing act as far as the booze is concerned. Obviously you want grand and delicious wines for the day itself. But you also need less grand, less expensive but still delicious bottles for all the events that attend...
Street Life
It is the 50th anniversary of Coronation Street and there seems to be as much celebration and feasting as there was for the Queen's own golden jubilee, in 2002. I have to declare a personal interest here. The inventor of Corrie is Tony Warren, who told...
The Making of the Coalition
22 Days in May by David Laws Biteback, £9.99, pp. 335, ISBN 9781849540803 5 Days to Power by Rob Wilson Biteback, £9.99, pp. 293, ISBN 9781849540810 David Cameron was despondent on the evening of 10 May. Although the election result was pretty...
The Spectator's Notes
Part of the pleasure of the WikiLeaks revelations is that they confirm the view now universally reviled as 'neocon'. It emerges that whereas the public pronouncements of the Arab world all concentrate on Israel as the villain of everything, what really...
Watching and Waiting
Phew! We've just had a narrow escape, if reports are true that the Today programme has been 'in talks with' Katie Price, aka Jordan. In talks with? Is international-style diplomacy really necessary for Ms Price to be persuaded to accept such an invitation,...
What Ireland Lacks Now Are Statesmen Who Can Make the Case That Recovery Is Possible
The screen at Manchester airport tells me I'm about to board an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin, but there's a Lufthansa plane at the gate. 'Blimey, ' I mutter, 'this bailout's moving fast.' I'm looking at the wrong gate, however, and it's an Aer Lingus...
What Is the Racial Composition of a Hobbit?
What colour are hobbits, do you suppose? When I read J.R.R. Tolkien's book, as a child, I gathered that they were very short, hirsute, quite swarthy and fairly stupid - so probably Portuguese, or at a pinch Galician. They didn't seem to be, from the...
White Mischief
Boris Johnson's enemies are hoping for a final snow-down London woke to snow and people wondered whether this time Boris Johnson would show true grit. His enemies reckon there's no business like snow business for catching him out. They trust he will...
Will the Milibands' Drama Turn into a Revenge Tragedy?
'If this was a play, David would come back in two years' time and take the crown from Ed, ' one David Miliband supporter whispered to me moments after the Labour leadership result was announced. As we shuffled out of the hall together he chuckled at...
Wrong Footed
I picked up the Bristol 410 from Spencer Lane-Jones, the Bristol specialist in Warminster whose clean and cheerful workshop had swiftly eliminated the petrol smell. It had to have been something simple: the (replaced) fuel tank was from a later Bristol...
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