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 May 2010

Adventures in La-La Land
As the Coalition forces prepare to pull out, other Brits commit to real 'nation-building' - educating the next generation. Mary Wakefield reports from rural Afghanistan Worsaj, Afghanistan Snow melts in the Hindu Kush, trickles through the foothills,...
Ancient & Modern
A 'bonfire of laws'! How agreeable! But European law is sacred; government will make the final decision, whatever we want; and it cannot be done sensibly without a far more demanding operation. The Lex Aquilia (after its proposer Aquilius, c. 287 BC...
Carry on Up the Nile
Antony and Cleopatra Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in rep until 28 August In this deplorable new production, it is not just the great general Antony who's taken leave of his senses but Michael Boyd, its director and generalissimo of the RSC,...
Charming, Cold and Unreliable
THE ROYAL STUARTS: A HISTORY OF THE FAMILY THAT SHAPED BRITAIN by Allan Massie Cape, £20, pp. 370, ISBN 9780224980644 When you consider what a bloody mess the Houses of Lancaster and York made of the business, it is easy to see why, since the death...
Cottage at a Click
This is how it goes for flibbertigibbet morons like me. I'm at the laptop processing words and it's not going well. I'm beginning to bore myself. With so much to see and do within reach of the tip of my middle finger, I take a break and go shopping....
Diary
Just as America does 'the fall' far better than Britain (crisp days and coloured leaves versus fog and soggy grass), so Britain does spring better than America, where the switch from headache-cold to inside-of-a-dog's-mouth heat happens all too suddenly....
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
Monday Frantic Queen's Speech rewrites. We're having to take out references to 'Dave' and insert 'my government' - boring! I don't see what's wrong with 'My Dave will build a Big Society where Britain is no longer broken, and chocolate oranges are...
Don't Fear the RIPA: Regulations Have to Be Enforced, Sometimes Even Covertly
You can't trust the disabled. A lot of them are faking it. In the last year, there were 16,535 blue badges and 21,000 free bus passes cancelled by local councils, due to fraudulent use. Bloody disabled. They're having a laugh. Imagine you were a local...
Family Favourites
The best racing yards combine experience and tradition with youthful energy. Walk into Park House Stables, Kingsclere with the blackbirds swooping about their brood-raising business and you feel the vibes immediately. There is grandeur and solidity...
Hollywood's Introspective Icon
As Clint Eastwood celebrates his 80th birthday, Peter Hoskin salutes his artistic legacy My life at the movies began with Clint Eastwood about a decade ago. Channel 4 was screening A Fistful of Dollars (1964) one night, and my brother insisted that...
Home and Away
AT HOME: A SHORT HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE by Bill Bryson Doubleday, £20, pp. 544, ISBN 9780385608275 Rats cannot be sick, says Bill Bryson. Not many people know that. Rats can have sex 20 times a day. Further down the same page, we read that they also...
In Search of Disorganised Religion
Theo Hobson attends Grace, an alternative Christian service in west London, and finds it arty, irreverent, postmodern - and full of people seeking a new way to worship I went to church last weekend. Sort of. It was a Saturday evening service run by...
Letters
Press Complaints complains Sir: Reluctant though I am to point out inaccuracies in Rod Liddle's work, I would like to correct some of his suggestions about the Press Complaints Commission (Liddle Britain, 22 May). Mr Liddle claims that Paul Dacre is...
Losing Heart
Sex and the City 2 15, Nationwide There has already been a lot of talk about this second Sex and the City film along the lines of whether the franchise is feminist, pre-feminist, postfeminist, not feminist, was feminist once, for ten minutes, but didn't...
Missing Link
The Hungarian grandmaster Andor Lilienthal passed away earlier this month at the age of 99. He was the world's oldest grandmaster at this time and the last player to have faced such mighty world champions as Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe and Botvinnik....
Missing Person
On board S/Y Bushido, off St Tropez My book party's best line was Claus von Bulow's, as told to Antony Beevor, Piers Paul Read, Paul Johnson and Sir V.S. Naipaul, among the literary worthies who took the time to attend the poor little Greek boy's launch...
Murder Most Fine
Tosca English National Opera, in rep until 10 July La Fille du régiment The Royal Opera, in rep until 3 June Tosca has had several new productions at ENO in the past 20 years which have proved rapidly perishable. It'll be interesting to see whether...
My Moment of Rock-Star Glory at a Climate Change Sceptics' Conference in America
Wow! Finally in my life I get to experience what it's like to be a rock star and I'm loving every moment. OK, so the drugs are in pretty short supply. As too is the meaningless sex with nubile groupies. But what do I care, the crowd love me and I love...
New Wave Challenge
Maggi Hambling: Sea Sculpture, Paintings and Etchings Marlborough Fine Art, 6 Albemarle Street, W1, until 5 June Stephen Chambers: The Four Corners Kings Place Gallery, 90 York Way, N1, until 11 June Ceri Richards: Retrospective Jonathan Clark &...
New World Vision
Miami Beach seems an unlikely venue for a noble, idealistic artistic venture. Yet it is here that the New World Symphony has made its base for more than 20 years. It's a sort of equivalent to our own National Youth Orchestra, with the same sense of...
Not So Slick, Mr President
Philip Delves Broughton says that Barack Obama has not dealt well with the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico - and his party will pay at the congressional elections in November I suppose £260 million isn't all that much in the scheme of things. Not when...
Now the War on Poverty Can Begin
In his first interview since becoming Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith explains his plans for reform to Fraser Nelson and James Forsyth Iain Duncan Smith comes striding into his office with the look of a man who still can't quite believe...
Portrait of the Week
In her 58th speech at the state opening of Parliament, the Queen said: 'My government's legislative programme will be based upon the principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility.' Among the 22 bills proposed were provisions for a 'significant...
Prince Philip Is My Favourite, but in Fact I Love All the Royals
The royal family have taken a bit of stick recently, says Rod Liddle , but the truth is that they were right about Sarah Ferguson all along, and the Queen has managed the affair far better than any ghastly president would I became a monarchist in the...
Recent Crime Novels
Tudor thrillers are thick on the ground nowadays but this one is rather special. The Bones of Avalon (Corvus, £16.99) is something of a departure for Phil Rickman, best known for his excellent Merrily Watkins series about a diocesan exorcist in contemporary...
Religious Skirmish
Love the Sinner Cottesloe, until 10 July Ditch Old Vic Tunnels, Waterloo Approach Road, until 26 June Bickering vicars at the National. A new play by Drew Pautz invites us to consider whether the Church should ordain gay clergypersons. It's a paradox...
Rescued by Balanchine
Triple Bill Royal Ballet, in rep until 11 June After a number of successfully conceived and well-performed mixed programmes, the Royal Ballet's latest triple bill, its last offering of the season, was a bit of a let-down. This was a pity, for the dancing...
Roving Revolutionary
Albert Marquet Connaught Brown, 2 Albemarle Street, W1, until 26 June Amid the usual hype about the record price achieved by an Andy Warhol self-portrait at Sotheby's New York on 12 May, another artist's record passed unnoticed. At the Impressionist...
Sex Change
In Competition 2648 you were invited to recast Kipling's 'If ' addressed to women. The nation's favourite poem (rescued from a wastepaper basket, to which Kipling had consigned it in disgust, and reassembled by his formidable wife) was famously branded...
Some Are Born Great
BOUNCE by Matthew Syed Fourth Estate, £12.99, pp. 269, ISBN 9780007350520 Are great sportsmen born with high talent, or do they win prizes through years of application? That question, as old as sport itself, forms the basis of this book, which tries...
Spectator Wine Club
The late and hugely lamented Alan Watkins, as well as being a savant of politics and rugby union, was a very knowledgeable wine drinker and for a spell wine columnist on the Observer . We would have long discussions in which I tried to persuade him...
Stalwarts of the Airwaves
The BBC was not included in the Guardian's poll of the UK's 'leading arts institutions' at the weekend, which asked for their opinions on the new Coalition government and the prospect for 'culture' in an era of crunch. Strange? Perhaps the editor regards...
Surface Pleasure
I know this is going to get me into an awful lot of trouble, but I really don't think the TV adaptation of Martin Amis's Money (BBC2, Sunday, Wednesday) was that bad. Of course, though, I do see the main problem - which was neatly described in the Telegraph...
Taking on the Turmoil
TELLING TIMES: WRITING AND LIVING, 1950-2008 by Nadine Gordimer Bloomsbury, £35, pp. 742, ISBN 9781408800249 Nadine Gordimer is now in her mideighties. For as long as I have been alive, she has been the towering figure of South African literature, a...
Team Sky's the Limit
There was a remarkable picture in the Independent's sports section the other morning showing a lone cyclist tearing up a mountain road in the Italian Alps. The high pastures were thronged with people - thousands of them - and most are cheering like...
The Coalition May Be United, but in the Commons Its Adversarial Politics as Usual
In this era of 'new politics', one might have expected a new, more consensual style of debate in the Commons chamber. But judging by the opening days of the debate on the Queen's speech, we have got quite the opposite. MPs are keener than ever to shout...
The Death of the Male Working Class
This recession is a global 'mancession', says Matthew Lynn, with male-dominated industries collapsing and women getting a greater share of new jobs. But if work is turning into a female domain, what are we going to do with all the redundant men? Remember...
The Modern Vanitas
FULL CIRCLE: HOW THE CLASSICAL WORLD CAME BACK TO US by Ferdinand Mount Simon & Schuster, £20, pp. 256, ISBN 9781847377982 Unexpected parallels between our age and another are a staple of the jobbing journalist's trade. Usually coinciding with a...
The Revolution Starts Now
Why would a parent want to set up their own school? Aren't exhausted parents busy enough without doing the job of the state as well? This has become the latest line of attack on the Conservatives' radical proposals for school reform, launched this week....
The Spectator's Notes
Last Thursday, I got a rushhour train out of London and sat down in a second-class carriage. Soon I found myself sitting opposite a minister in the new coalition. I was surprised by how much pleasure it gave me that, following the new guidance, he was...
Unions Need a Voice and HSBC Needs a Chairman: I Name My Candidates
The British trade union movement needs to get a grip on itself. These days, the public associates the brotherhood of organised labour chiefly with the bizarre antics of the highly politicised Unite union, with its warring and tweeting joint general...
Weight Watching
Can there be anything more disorientating than turning up at a restaurant to have dinner with someone who has brought a pair of digital scales with them to weigh their food? 'What the hell are you doing?' I said, as my friend pulled the state-of-the-art...
Your Problems Solved
Dear Mary Q. What should I do when other people in church begin clapping, for example following a confirmation service or a wedding? I cannot bring myself to endorse this terrible breach of etiquette by clapping myself, but it seems terribly pompous...
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