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

A Girl's Best Friend
THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF MAF THE DOG AND OF HIS FRIEND MARILYN MONROE by Andrew O'Hagan Faber, £18.99, pp. 279, ISBN 9780571215980 £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 If you wanted to write about Marilyn Monroe, how would you go about it?...
A Great Individualist
Andrew Lambirth talks to Jeffery Camp about the primacy of drawing in an artist's practice More than 20 years ago, when I first interviewed Jeffery Camp, he forbade me to bring a tape recorder as he would find it off-putting. 'I speak slowly enough...
Ancient & Modern
Paul Johnson recently wrote about the use of Athenian-style ostracism to send bores of one's choice into exile. The device would better serve a hung parliament. The point about Athenian ostracism is that it was not a random way of exiling anyone that...
Arbiter's Swansong
I interrupt my coverage of the world championship in Sofia to note the passing at the age of 83 of the former president of the World Chess Federation (Fide), Florencio Campomanes. Campo, as he was usually known, shot to global prominence, in a way most...
Beyond Brown and Blair
Labour has to reinvent itself to fight the next general election, says Phil Collins. The leadership contenders must look to the party's radical roots So, they were looking in the wrong place all along. For years now the Labour party has been seeking...
Blood Relatives
SONGS OF BLOOD AND SWORD by Fatima Bhutto Cape, £20, pp. 470, ISBN 9780224087537 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The last time I saw Benazir Bhutto was at Oxford, over champagne outside the Examination Schools, when she inquired piercingly...
Can This Marriage of Convenience Work?
If successful the coalition could realign British politics, says James Forsyth. But will the Lib Dems walk out at a crucial moment? There are great risks to this Con-Lib alliance, but also huge potential rewards 'It is not the prize. It is a means to...
Caravaggio the Confessor
Caravaggio's paintings were inextricably bound up with his life and provide a virtual narrative of his turbulent development, a story fraught with ambiguities and alternative readings. This almost confessional aspect of his works, along with the immediacy...
Cherchez la Femme
THE TEMPTRESS: THE SCANDALOUS LIFE OF ALICE, COUNTESS DE JANZE by Paul Spicer Simon & Schuster, £14.99, pp. 308, ISBN 9781847377821 £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The 22nd Earl of Erroll, Military Secretary in Kenya in the early part...
Classic Treasure
The Greek and Roman Collections Sculpture Promenade 2010 Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 28 January 2011 Virgil was wrong - don't be afraid of Greeks bearing gifts, particularly if you're a British regional museum. While our government has cut...
Contemporary Crackers
Triple Bill Royal Opera House, last perf. 15 May There was a time when the thrill of a ballet premiere could be sensed the moment you entered the theatre. Today, the disillusioned public, tired of the high percentage of choreographic garbage it is frequently...
Crying in the Wilderness
RESISTANCE: THE ESSENCE OF THE ISLAMIST REVOLUTION by Alastair Crooke Pluto Press, £17.99, pp. 288, ISBN 9780745328850 For 30 years Alastair Crooke was ostensibly a British diplomat working in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Columbia and Pakistan....
Desperate Horsewives
One of the highlights of the horsey year for me and my equine girlfriends is our expedition to Windsor Great Park for the annual sponsored cross-country ride. And so with no sleep since the election I hauled myself bleary-eyed to the stable yard at...
Diary
Alastair Campbell had a cynical term for the attempts to recruit Tories and others to Tony Blair's big tent: 'Operation Gobble'. In 1916, the Tories went into coalition with Lloyd George's liberals. They gobbled them, spat out Lloyd George and reduced...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
Sunday Well, that wasn't so bad, was it? ! OK, we'd have liked the voters to grasp just how brilliant Dave is - if only so I could have knocked back that bottle of champagne with Poppy and Wonky Tom on election night. And I'm sure Gary is feeling a...
Elegant Evening
Juan Diego Flórez Barbican It was an ideal way to spend the evening after Polling Day: a relaxed recital, undemanding and not too long, by one of the most individual of present-day singers. At the same time there was an element of risk: Juan Diego...
Figuring It Out
Being a figurative painter today is probably no more challenging or rewarding than it has ever been. When immersed in the business of putting paint on a surface you are faced with the same problems: colour scheme, composition, gesture and the task of...
Genetics, God and Antlers
THE PRICE OF ALTRUISM: GEORGE PRICE AND THE SEARCH FOR THE ORIGINS OF KINDNESS by Oren Harman Bodley Head, £20, pp. 451, ISBN 9781847920621. £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and...
Going to the Dogs
In Competition 2646 you were invited to submit a poem that might have been included in T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Dogs. Many of you followed Eliot's lead and used long lines, so space is limited. I will pause only briefly, then, to...
Hot Competition
It was to have been Ascot on Saturday. But alternative political duties for CNN intervened. 'OK, ' said the little green man descending from his flying saucer in Parliament Square, 'I appreciate that "Take me to your Leader" won't do right now. But...
Into the Woods
Robin Hood 12A, Nationwide Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is 'the untold story of the man behind the legend', and if it had remained untold I do not think it would have been a tragedy. At nearly two and a half hours it is horribly long. (If they ever ask...
Is It All over for Sarko?
The French President's chances of re-election look bleak. But the problem is not his politics, says Patrick Marnham, so much as his embarrassing personal life Gordon Brown is not the only European leader who is regarded as an electoral liability by...
It Is Left to Me to Point out This Regrettable, Overlooked Fact: Dave Blew It
This is a column I never thought I'd have to write. I'd assumed that the conclusions to be drawn from the general election were so bleeding obvious that I could leave all the post-match analysis to the experts, while I distracted you with something...
Letters
What matters most Sir: In last week's Spectator there was an interesting section where writers and thinkers were invited to advise the new Prime Minister what his administration should urgently address ('What the new government must do first', 8 May)....
Lurking beneath the Surface
TONY AND SUSAN by Austin Wright Atlantic, £14.99, pp. 352, ISBN 9781848870208 £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 One's past life is, usually, comfortably past. Susan Morrow's first husband, Edward, is so firmly in her past that his second...
Not Our Finest Hour
EDWARD II by Seymour Phillips Yale, £25, pp. 679, ISBN 9780300156577 Ever since Edward II's deposition and grisly murder in the dungeons of Berkeley Castle in 1327, his reign has always been regarded as a particularly embarrassing interlude in English...
Paranoia and Empty Promises
THE BETRAYAL by Helen Dunmore Fig Tree, £18.99, pp. 330, ISBN 9781905490592 £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 It has taken more than half a century, but at last the Anglophone world has woken up to the fact that 20th-century communist history...
Portrait of the Week
Five days after the general election, Mr David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative party, accepted the Queen's request to form an administration and kissed hands upon his appointment as Prime Minister, the 12th of her reign, and at 43, the youngest...
Requiem for a Heavyweight
Gordon Brown saw it as his duty to reconcile equity and efficiency in pursuit of a fairer Britain, says Irwin Stelzer. Attempting to achieve that goal is what brought him down It's a dirty business. When you're on top, everyone wants something from...
Scottish Clash
Highlands and Islands: Paintings and Poems Fleming Collection, 13 Berkeley Street, W1, until 5 June Pictures are usually exhibited with closed-shop segregation from the other arts, so it is a joy to find the bounds broken by this exuberant celebration...
Speaking Up
My boy and I have fallen out. It happened like this. He decided to drive his newborn son, his partner and his partner's three kids up to the Outer Hebrides, where his partner's mother lives. The mother wanted to see the baby, and my boy and his partner...
Spectator Mini-Bar Offer
Here is an unusual offer, but a terrific treat for fans of vintage Bordeaux. The Colchester Wine Company has secured a large quantity of clarets, some nearly 40 years old. They come from a firm in Switzerland which has been recently taken over by a...
Spectator Sport
The last Wednesday in May will never be the same. What always used to be an annual highlight, the European Cup, now Champions League Final, has been brought forward to the weekend before - on the say-so of ever-tinkering Uefa chief Michel Platini so...
Tales of the Unexpected
The closest I've come to seeing a ghost was a few months ago when we went to stay in a haunted house. We had a deeply uncomfortable night during which it was cold and hard to sleep, and in the small hours my wife was awoken by a mysterious pressure...
The Credit Crunch with Jokes
THE BIG SHORT by Michael Lewis Allen Lane, £25, pp. 266, ISBN 9781846142574 £20 plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Unlike most financial writers, who are too serious for their own good, Michael Lewis has a sense of humour and he deploys it deftly....
The Lying Game
As I write, the political situation in Britain has many of her citizens bewildered. Despite the staggering deficits and economic shocks, the good people of Britain voted with their hearts, rather than their heads. Not being a medium, I will not try...
The Real Political Fight Was Boulton V Campbell
Why can't Alastair Campbell understand that proper journalists aren't partisan and malevolent, asks Rod Liddle. Most of them just genuinely want to uncover the truth Who were you rooting for in the real political battle of the week, Adam Boulton of...
The Spectator's Notes
The most moving thing was the photograph of the handshake between the Queen and her new Prime Minister. It is an excellent innovation to allow the ceremony to be seen, because it reminds people how the constitution works. After the days of uncertainty,...
Victory!
This magazine had hoped for a Conservative government. We have what is arguably the next best thing: a government led by David Cameron but supported by some political mercenaries put in the positions where they inflict the least harm - and reform-minded...
White-Knuckle Ride
Rainy Season on the Cattle Stock Route From the side of the track, a Samburu youth waved me down. I stopped the vehicle. He was gorgeously dressed for market day: all feathers, beads, disks of aluminium, with ochre on his head and bare shoulders. He...
Wolfpack? Markets Have Been Behaving More like a Truckload of Stolen Puppies
'Why do we care what the markets think?' asked the comedian Jeremy Hardy on Radio 4's News Quiz last Friday. Whingeing leftie though he may be, Hardy had a point. 'The markets' were identified by spokesmen of all three political parties as the invisible...
Word Power
It's like entering another country, listening in to the BBC's World Service, and such a relief to escape for a while the interminable chattering about what's going to happen in Westminster. On the half-hourly news bulletins, the Eurozone, elections...
Yes, Scotland Skewed the Election Result-But That Shouldn't Make Us Anti-Union
You never really hear much from unionists, do you? I don't mean the Irish ones, with their leery hate and wannabe milf wives and surnames which you always assume are going to be Paisley. I mean the original ones. Act of Union unionists. The Scottish...
Your Problems Solved
Dear Mary Q. I am of an age when I'm invited to coming-of-age parties for my friends' children. As several of them are wellheeled and the children over-indulged, it has become customary to buy very lavish gifts, which I find ostentatious and can ill...
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