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 2010

Adventure with a Difference
PARROT AND OLIVIER IN AMERICA by Peter Carey Faber, £17.99, pp. 452, ISBN 9780571253296 £14.39(plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Probably my opinion of this bold book is worthless. Peter Carey, having decided to write a novel about Alexis de Tocqueville's...
Array of Luminaries
SEEING FURTHER: THE STORY OF SCIENCE AND THE ROYAL SOCIETY edited by Bill Bryson Harper Press, £25, pp. 490, ISBN 9780007302567 £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In November 1660, on a damp night at Gresham College in London, a young shaver named...
As Basra Slid towards Hell, Blair Looked the Other Way
It's a mistake to focus on the dodgy dossier, says Fraser Nelson. Blair's real crime was to invade Iraq with no strategy, no understanding of the Islamist factions and no qualms about leaving Iraqis to the mercy of death squads There has always been...
A Society Celebrating Itself
EMPIRES OF THE IMAGINATION by Holger Hoock Profile Books, £30, pp. 514, ISBN 9781861978592 £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The years between the middle of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century, argues Holger Hoock, 'saw Britain...
Cameron and Osborne Must Listen to Their Backbenchers-Or Face Revolt
When David Cameron and George Osborne move between their suite of offices at the eastern end of the parliamentary estate and the Commons chamber they do so with a pomp that would not embarrass a medieval monarch. A crowd of attendants accompanies them,...
Confessions of a Middle-Class Anarchist
We are so overwhelmed by petty laws that it has become impossible to get through the day without committing a crime, says Harry Mount If Gordon Brown really wants to start appealing to the middle-class vote, he could start by picking up my rubbish....
Dear Mary
Q. A new flatmate at university is very likeable but I get the feeling that she only half listens to what I have to say. When we are chatting at the kitchen table, for example, she interrupts me, often midstory, to tell a story of her own. This will...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Mr Maude is ecstatic. 'A hung parliament! I told you so! People hate us!' Dave v grumpy: 'Speak for yourself.' Quietly though, I think he is a bit worried that not as many people love him as unconditionally and totally as previously thought....
Double Vision
MACAULAY: THE TRAGEDY OF POWER by Robert E. Sullivan Belknap Press, £29.95, pp. 624, ISBN 9780674036246 Thomas Babington Macaulay's early essays in the Edinburgh Review were an immediate success, and soon made him a respected figure in Whig society....
Endgame
In Competition No. 2631 you were invited to submit a poem on a subject of your choice in which the last two words of each line rhyme. There was an element of ambiguity in the wording of this challenge, and a handful of you read it as meaning that the...
Extremes of Joy and Suffering
The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters Royal Academy, until 18 April Sponsored by BNY Mellon From time to time we need to remind ourselves of the astonishing fact that Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) produced more than 800 paintings and 1,200 drawings...
Fab Four
The last of 2009's remarkable concatenation of musical anniversaries was celebrated - if that is the word - by Radio Three on New Year's Eve with a chat show in which each of the four great composers was allotted a defence by a noteworthy music lover,...
For Pakistan, America Is the Enemy
Whatever is decided at the Afghanistan conference this week, Christina Lamb says there will never be peace while Islamabad is hostile to Washington Only a Pakistani journalist could have linked a New Jersey school's decision to cancel its Christmas...
From the Horse's Mouth
There are many greetings one might grudgingly accept as adequate when one arrives at a hospital emergency department. But a sign saying 'Helpdesk' is not one of them. 'Reception', 'Report here' or even 'Check-in' would have been a tolerable overture...
Home
'Why aren't you in school then?' they'd ask -- as we ran to play, or went roller-skating, or collected caterpillars -- or got started in on the summer's work of dams, or of blowing up wasps' nests (some carbide, some water -- throw a match, get out...
How Can We Punish Blair?
Readers may remember the Not The Nine O'Clock News parody of those Seventies current affairs programmes in which a professor and a social worker earnestly discussed teenage delinquency. Expecting the usual concerned talk of deprivation, poor parenting,...
In Sight of the Ring
Anniversary-consciousness is no doubt primarily commercially driven, certainly in the music world, where the fact that a scarcely remembered composer has been dead for exactly 300 years is a reason for featuring him as This Week's Composer on Radio...
It's Time to Tackle Student Islamists
Waffling on about free speech and forming committees is no way to deal with nascent terrorists, says Michael Burleigh. Let's hope the Tories do better What would a Conservative administration do about the radicalisation of Muslims at British universities?...
Letters
For richer, for poorer Sir: Ferdinand Mount's article ('David Cameron should honour his marriage vow', 23 January) is not entirely accurate. After noting that Geoffrey Howe was unable to persuade Margaret Thatcher to agree to the introduction of transferable...
Lies, and Damned Lies
Tony Blair's absence has not made the heart grow any fonder. On the not-rare-enough occasions when he returns to our television screens, one feels an instinctive revulsion. Here is the Prime Minister who was as uninterested in economics as he was in...
Mixed Blessings
Precious 15, Nationwide Claireece 'Precious' Jones is a 21-stone, illiterate, black, 16-year-old girl with a father who rapes her - not every day, but still - and a mother so insanely abusive that she throws televisions at her and force-feeds her hairy...
Paris of the Gutter
ALPHABET OF THE NIGHT by Jean-Euphele Milce, translated by Christopher Moncrieff Pushkin Press, £7.99, pp. 148, ISBN 9781901285765 £6.39(plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, lies on a marshy bay encircled by mountains....
Perfect Pitch
Our attitude to the past of our own youth is like our feelings towards an old grandfather: we love him, admire him for what he's done, but, goodness, we don't half patronise him. 'Gosh, grandad, you mean if you weren't at home, nobody could phone you?...
Plague of Pachyderms
Laikipia 'That elephant is almost human, ' my wife Claire said. 'That, ' I replied, 'is the problem.' I called him Stomper. Like people, elephants are sly and voracious. When I bought a farm I became set against elephants. I love big trees. Elephants...
Portrait of the Week
Britain technically emerged from recession, with economic growth of 0.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2009, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, although these might be revised in a month's time. The previous six quarters...
Recent Crime Novels
Blue Lightning (Macmillan, £16.99) is the fourth novel in Ann Cleeves' excellent Shetland quartet. It is just as good as its predecessors. Cleeves has found a way to serve up many of the pleasures of the traditional mystery in an unusual modern setting....
Reputations Rise and Fall, but Lord Richardson Deserves a City Statue
When I first met the former Bank of England governor Gordon Richardson, at a bankers' jamboree in Japan, I remember thinking that he was smaller than I had imagined. So I was not surprised to read Sir Win Bischoff - long ago Richardson's junior at Schroders...
Should We Break Up the Banks?
Barack Obama has proposed breaking up the super banks and wants Britain to do the same. Should we? Ken Costa says no; Mark Bathgate disagrees No The proposal on the American table is simple: break up the so-called super banks. To have the deposit-taking...
Sound Check
Thank heavens for Chekhov! Master of the mundane, the boring monotony of daily life, the meaningless passage of time, he actually makes the random chaos, the pointless repetitions of day-to-day survival seem somehow rather beautiful. Or at least he...
Take Three Books
Reading good books is like making love. Reading bad ones is like masturbating. I've just read three good ones, one of which got on my nerves because it was about a homosexualist, as opposed to a homosexual. Which in fact was what the other two were...
The First Romantic
Peter Phillips on the life and times of Chopin, who was born 200 years ago The year 1810 may seem a little late to look for the beginning of the Romantic movement in music, but with the births of Chopin, Schumann and S.S. Wesley one could make a case....
The Grandest of Old Men
GLADSTONE: A BICENTENARY PORTRAIT by William Gladstone Michael Russell, £18.50, pp. 192, ISBN 9780859553179 Mr Gladstone's career in politics was titanic. He sat for over 60 years in the Commons, was in the cabinet before he was 35, was four times prime...
The Other Club
'Do you want a dance?' she said. She stood there smiling at me with her hand held out invitingly. I'd already decided I wasn't going to get caught up in the dancing. But this woman - well, you should have seen her. She was about 19; as full of health,...
The Purpose of Being Unable to Remember What's on the Tip of Your Tongue
The phenomenon I'm about to describe will be infuriatingly familiar to older readers, but will have been encountered by people of any age. Even in childhood we meet it, and as we grow old it happens more and more often. So common is the experience that...
The Spectator's Notes
Part of the purpose of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is what has become known, post the end of apartheid, as 'truth and reconciliation'. That is why it does not matter much that material already studied closely in the Hutton and Butler reports...
The Wiki Man
I'm not frightened of flying. Or spiders. Nor, like one friend of mine, do I have a crippling fear of tomatoes. But I do suffer from mild koumpounophobia - the fear of buttons. I should add that, in my case, it is more a mild distaste than a full-blown...
Time for a Major Re-Think
Instead of deriding John Major we should celebrate him, says Peter Oborne. His government was stunningly radical and initiated most of Blair's so-called reforms Gordon Brown may be in terrible trouble but he and his allies have a defence strategy. However...
Welcome to the Age of Gaga
Unpredictable, spectacular, bold and contentious - Lady Gaga is the perfect pop star for the 21st century, says Luke Coppen In 1903, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a letter to a young man who yearned to be a great artist. 'In the deepest hour of the night,...
We Should Not Absolve Islam of the Crimes Committed in Its Name
Rod Liddle says it's difficult to ignore the fact that the worst violations of human rights happen in countries dominated by an Islamic ideology A young girl in Bangladesh has been sentenced to 101 lashes for having become pregnant as a consequence...
Will a Brown Bombshell at the Chilcot Inquiry Win Labour the Election? Place Your Bets
I have a theory about Gordon Brown and the Chilcot inquiry. It's a bit halfbaked, but you shouldn't mind that. You want a fully-baked political theory, you don't come around here. You want the Parris page for that, or one of those Nelson or Forsyth...
Writing of, or from, Yourself
'All literature is, finally, autobiographical', said Borges. 'Every autobiography becomes an absorbing work of fiction', responded H. L. Mencken, though not, you understand, directly. Certainly the fictional element in autobiography is evident; Trollope...
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