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 October 2013

A Brainy Delight
Collection of Sand: Essays by Italo Calvino, translated by Martin McLaughlin Penguin Modern Classics, £9.99, pp. 240, ISBN 9780141193748, Spectator Bookshop £8.99, Tel: 08430 600033 The Japanese are sometimes said to suffer from 'outsider person shock'...
A New Nuclear Plant Is Better Than a Stab in the Dark
Prediction , as Mervyn King once observed, is 'a stab in the dark'. Who can say with confidence where the wholesale price of electricity will be in ten years' time, let alone 45 years hence at the end of the contract struck by Energy Secretary Ed Davey...
Arbitration by Hedgehog
Since trial by jury is so expensive, government is keen to cut costs on legal aid by 'alternative dispute resolutions' (ADR) and settle e.g. family disputes before they ever come to court. The situation in classical Athens was similar. Though jurors...
Architecture in Defence of Developers
When architectural preservationists meet at the tedious conferences and grim councils of despair that feed oxygen to their nihilistic and unventilated 'heritage' world-view, the word 'developer' is spat out with contempt. It is as though they are speaking...
Ashes to Ashes
The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945 by Richard Overy, Allen Lane, �30, pp. 821, ISBN 9780713995619, Spectator Bookshop � 23.95, Tel: Tel: 08430 600033 'I cannot describe to you what a curious note of brutality a bomb has,' said one woman who lived...
Austerity Works!
High government spending increases unemployment and slows economic recovery Nashville, TN All the drama coming out of Washington in the last few weeks has obscured some seriously good news: federal government spending is falling. And not at a trickle:...
Bertie Wooster in the Commentary Box
Squeezing the Orange by Henry Blofeld Blue Door, �20, pp. 368, ISBN 9780007506392, Spectator Bookshop �16, Tel: Tel: 08430 600033 There can be a strong strain of self-parody in even the greatest commentators. When Henry Blofeld describes the progress...
Bushfire Notebook
Australia One of the odd things about bushfires as we know them in Australia is the unlikely truces declared between species normally very keen to inject toxins or tear out each other's throats. When the state of Victoria burnt and 173 people died in...
Cinema Two Little Boys
The Selfish Giant 15, Nationwide The Selfish Giant is a British social-realism film in the tradition of all such films from Kes onwards, so it never feels particularly fresh, but it does feel real and true, is superbly performed, and it does pack quite...
Clash of the Titans
High Minds by Simon Heffer Random House, �30, pp. 837, ISBN 9781847946771, Spectator Bookshop, �23.95, Tel: Tel: 08430 600033 This is an odd book: interesting, informative, intelligent, but still decidedly odd. It is a history of the Victorian era...
Dance Entertaining Romp
Le Corsaire Milton Keynes Theatre, now touring Bold decisions are at the core of great artistic directorship. And Tamara Rojo, the ballet star leading English National Ballet, knows that well. Le Corsaire is not the usual ballet classic one craves to...
Diary
The last time I wrote for The Spectator I was sitting in a prison cell. I sent the then editor a poem called 'The Ballad of Belmarsh Gaol'. Instead of printing it in the poetry column, Frank Johnson put it on the magazine's cover. It received what is...
Exhibitions Poetic Mists of Memory
Corot in the Light of the North Musee de la Chartreuse de Douai, until 6 January 2014 One sometimes forgets when looking at French 19th-century art that the painting revolution that produced Impressionism coincided with a political one. This is because...
Exposing the Art Mafia
Breakfast at Sotheby's: An A-Z of the Art World by Philip Hook Particular Books, £20, pp. 347, ISBN 9781846146254, Spectator Bookshop, £15.95, Tel: 08430 600033 'S is for Spoof.' There it is on page 86, a fullpage reproduction of a Nat Tate drawing,...
Flight of the Imagination
Georges Braque Grand Palais, Paris, until 6 January 2014 Towards the end of his life, Georges Braque described his vision in the following terms: 'No object can be tied down to any one sort of reality; a stone may be part of a wall, a piece of sculpture,...
How the Tories Can Win the Next Election
The mood was grim when David Cameron, George Osborne and their advisers convened for a crunch meeting on 4 February this year. The economy had shrunk in the final three months of last year; the country was on the verge of a triple-dip recession, unprecedented...
In Papa's Footsteps
The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume II:1923-1925 edited by Sandra Spanier and others CUP, £30, pp. 515, ISBN 9780521897341, Spectator Bookshop £28.50, Tel: 08430 600033 'In the years since 1961 Hemingway's reputation as "the outstanding author since...
'I Shall Surely Sing'
Autobiography by Morrissey Penguin Classics, £8.99, pp. 457, ISBN 97801411194817, Spectator Bookshop, £7.99, Tel: Tel: 08430 600033 A few weeks ago, I was wandering with a friend around West London when our conversation turned to the reliable and inexhaustible...
Letters
Ridley's wrong Sir: In last week's issue the former Northern Rock chairman rejoiced in the 'good news' that climate change would not start to damage our planet for another 57 years ('Carry on warming', 19 October). I am not a scientist. As a minister,...
Music Dangerous Liaison
It's taken 40 years, but I've finally developed a taste for the one type of classical music that I couldn't stand. And last week I broke the news to the man responsible: Roger Hewland, owner of Gramex, the world's finest second-hand classical CD and...
Neither Saint nor Sage
The inventor of 'doublethink' was consistently inconsistent in his own political views says A.N Wilson. And no fun at all. George Orwell: English Rebel by Robert Colls OUP, �25, pp. 304, ISBN 9780199680801, Spectator Bookshop, � 19.95, Tel: 08430...
On Your Marks
One day there simply won't be any strange byways of the English language left to write quirky little books about. Happily that day hasn't arrived yet. Keith Houston's Shady Characters (Particular Books, �16.99, Spectator Bookshop, �13.99, Tel: 08430...
Opera Vocal Heroes
Les vepres siciliennes Royal Opera, in rep until 11 November El gato con botas Linbury Verdi's Les vepres siciliennes is his least performed mature opera, even in its more familiar version as I vespri siciliani. So mounting it with a top-ranking cast...
Passion Player
Zoe Wanamaker on politics, acting and drinking vodka Its all true about Zoe Wanamaker. She's like a wood-nymph from the Tolkien franchise. Pixie features, nut-brown eyes, a mischievous tight-lipped smile and a warm cackling laugh. Next week she makes...
PCs Gone Mad
Crime is falling, but the police are as busy as ever - undermining our freedom Just before the hacking scandal broke, the Sun sent a young and by all accounts decent reporter to meet a woman who said she had a story - a 'walk-in' as we call them in...
Portrait of the Week
Home The government agreed a guaranteed price for electricity that persuaded a consortium led by the French-owned EDF Energy and including Chinese investors to agree to build the Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset. The strike price agreed was...
Sheer Genius
Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner Allen Lane, �30, pp. 629, ISBN 9780713996623, Spectator Bookshop �23.95, Tel: 08430 600033 What, one wonders, will John Eliot Gardiner be chiefly remembered for? Perhaps, by many who have worked...
Tackling Health Tourism
In February, an NHS surgeon came to The Spectator's offices to discuss a piece he felt it was time to write. He wanted to blow the whistle on health tourism. Professor J. Meirion Thomas knew he was taking a tough decision, given the hostile reaction...
Theatre without Motive
The Light Princess Lyttelton, in rep until 9 January 2014 The Love Girl & the Innocent Southwark Playhouse, until 2 November The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner Charing Cross, until 23 November There are many pleasures in The Light Princess, a new musical...
The Battle of the Bushmen
Botswana's shame - and ours For 17 years I have been reporting on one of the most haunting tragedies of our modern world - the ruthless persecution of the last survivors of the original inhabitants of southern Africa, the bushmen, by a policy seemingly...
The Courage of Her Convictions
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb Weidenfeld, £18.99, pp. 288, ISBN 9780297870913, Spectator Bookshop, £15.99, Tel: 08430 600033 In 2012 a Taleban gunman, infuriated by Malala Yousafzai's frequent television appearances insisting that...
'The Last Wild Man of Modern Art'
The Ashmolean Museum has taken the radical step of embracing contemporary art, and is currently hosting (until 30 March 2014) a mini-retrospective of Malcolm Morley's work, curated by Sir Norman Rosenthal and borrowed entirely from the prestigious American-based...
The Morality Gap
The world can now be divided between post and pre-enlightened countries First World, Third World, East, West, North and South; every few years economists come up with yet another supposedly more acceptable way of slicing humanity into manageable chunks....
The Spectator's Notes
I do not know whether the Greek gypsy couple accused of abducting a girl called Maria are guilty, but I am surprised by how the media, even the politically correct outlets, have seized on the story, grabbing the pretext of Madeleine McCann. Why does...
This Charmless Man
The sad end of the Morrissey myth Drinking in Corbieres, a dingy basement bar just off St Ann's Square, 30 years ago, you could bump into any number of groovy young Mancunians clustered round the jukebox, talking about the bands they were going to form....
What a Tease
SITUATION Absolute Beach Man Rubble Whitechapel Gallery, until 15 December Perhaps the greatest irony of many in this first solo London show of Sarah Lucas is that it is sponsored by Louis Vuitton. 'Symbolising French elegance and joie de vivre, the...
What Do We Call the People Who Abnducted Maria? It's a Minefield
How should we describe the people who allegedly abducted that little girl in Greece, having claimed that they actually paid £850 for her to a passing Bulgarian? It is a minefield we are entering now, having asked this question. Clearly the terms which...
What Is Facebook? That's the Problem - Nobody Really Knows
I'd never noticed that there aren't any tits on Facebook. The place always seems brimming with right tits to me. But no. According to this week's mumbling bienpensant scandal, the world's largest social network has decided to allow newsy videos of murder...
Why Can't the BBC Be Impartial in the Climate Change Debate?
'Well, you're arguing facts against opinions. OK, I mean, the fact that the amount of carbon dioxide in the air has rocketed up since the Industrial Revolution, and continues to rocket up, is a fact. Now, it's so much a fact that even the climate change...
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