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 February 2010

An Axis of Pragmatists
Mark Wood says that David Cameron would do well to ally himself with Germany's Chancellor - Angela Merkel is a conservative realist in the Thatcher mould A new government sweeps into power and orders £20 billion of tax cuts. Fundamental tax reform...
Ancient & Modern
The public fury against MPs generated by everything from Iraq to the expenses scandal seems to leave our MPs baffled. Ancient Athenians would not have been. There was no respite for those who engaged in democratic politics in 5th- to 4th-century Athens....
Bravo, Rio
Roderick Gilchrist visits the Brazilian capital, host of the 2016 Olympics .In Rio they boast that God is a Brazilian, which may explain the other legend, that when the statue of Christ the Redeemer high above Copacabana Beach heard the city had won...
Cruising Along
Taxi touts outside greeted me with a hopeful 'Bula'. Mynah birds squabbled in the jacarandas and teenagers on the nearby parkland were throwing long passes with a rugby ball. Not quite your average UK betting-shop setting, but this was the Fiji branch...
Death in the Afternoon
After weeks of waiting, it was all over in a matter of seconds. Weeks in which I've listened to every episode, just in case. Weeks of enduring night after night the awe-inspiringly-dull Annette and Helen saga. Weeks of wondering how The Archers' scriptwriters...
Diary
The thing about A -47s, a friend of mine once told me, is that when you hear that god-awful crack, you know the bad guys are around. Good guys never use that kind of rifle. The noise reminds me of all the creeps I have come across over the past two...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
Monday Helping Wonky Tom put finishing touches to our exciting plans for Tessa-Jowell-styleJohn-Lewis-style public services. (Possibly that's too many hyphens. We may have to drop the Jowell bit. She won't mind, she's pleased as punch we're using her...
From Gloom to Dispair
THE MAN FROM BEIJING by Henning Mankell Harvill Secker, £17.99, pp. 367, ISBN9781846552571 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In little more than a decade, the cosy world of Anglo-American crime fiction has been transformed by wave after...
Giving Opera a Go
What are 50 teenagers doing at Glyndebourne? Henrietta Bredin finds out This is not the Glyndebourne that most people see - there are no picnic hampers and champagne bottles, nobody tottering across the lawn in unwisely high heels, not a dinner jacket...
Globe Trotting
The Junior Common Room of the School of Oriental and African Studies is a noisy, tatty, paper-strewn room with a curving wall at one end like the stern of a small liner. Tall windows let in plenty of wind and sky, and when I was studying there I used...
Hints of the Numinous
There is something about the music of Arvo Part which does not sit well with Italian fascist architecture. Perhaps I am oversensitive, but vast stone lions and super-size friezes depicting epic battles conflict with Holy Minimalism in its most refined...
Identity Charade
Who can imagine the appalling strangeness of being 'linked' to the assassination of a man whom you have not heard of, in a country you have never visited, for reasons you do not understand? Perhaps Kafka. Certainly Michael Lawrence Barney, a recovering...
If You Don't Want to Be Treated as Crooks, Stop Mugging Your High-Street Customers
'I don't want to be treated like a criminal, ' a senior Barclays trader told me recently, in a slightly menacing European accent. That gives you a clue that he was not Bob Diamond, the bank's American president, or John Varley, its very English chief...
In Arcadia
Andrew Lambirth remembers his friend, the artist John Craxton, who died last year Last year, within the space of five weeks before Christmas, I lost two friends who had illumined the world for me and made it a more enlivening place. Both were artists,...
In a State
Bravo, Goldman Sachs. You've done it again. As in the US subprime crisis, this house of ill repute created a deal which helped the Greeks obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers, then charged the Greeks hundreds of millions of euros for helping...
Irresistible Force
The strange message left me squinting into the middle-distance in abject confusion. I had just emailed a friend to ask if she was still able to meet me that evening. 'I'm meditating right now : ), ' her reply said. And it was crowned with the addendum:...
I Smell a Rat
THE DIARY OF MISS IDILIA edited by Genevieve Hill Short Books, £12.99, pp. 239 ISBN 9781906021818 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The Diary of Miss Idilia presents the reader with an unusual problem. The writing is entirely comprehensible,...
Letters
Trust funds Sir: Your leading article's diatribe against the public sector (13 February) rather missed the point. The categories of deficiency described are not sector specific. The common factor is the failure, in general, of some individuals, irrespective...
Lord of the Rings
The chairman of the London Olympic Games, Sebastian Coe, reveals his favourite spots In 1979, when I was training for the Moscow Olympics, I lived in Olgiata in Rome and I loved the football, the opera and the food - all that lovely pasta, fish and...
Losing Streak
The Gambler Royal Opera House, in rep until 27 February The Elixir of Love English National Opera, in rep until 23 March Prokofiev's opera The Gambler adapts Dostoevsky's novella of the same name, an audacious enterprise. Unfortunately, it fails,...
Mad about the Balls
Jonathan Ray takes the family to New Zealand, which hosts next year's rugby World Cup We armchair sportsmen have a cracking few months ahead of us. We have the football World Cup in South Africa this summer, the Ashes in Australia this winter and, best...
Miraculous Moyes
If the impresario, former Corrie and Carry On actor, Everton owner and allround good-guy Bill Kenwright never does anything else, the nation owes a big debt of gratitude to this last of the old-style football club chairmen for hanging on to his manager...
Missing Maggie
The closer we get to the Great Disappointment - aka the forthcoming Heath administration - the more I miss Margaret Thatcher. Just how much I was reminded by Michael Cockerell's new series The Great Offices of State (BBC4, Thursday). This particular...
Not 'A Boycrazed Trollop'
LIVES LIKE LOADED GUNS : EMILY DICKINSON AND HER FAMILY 'S FEUDS by Lyndall Gordon Virago, £20, pp. 491, ISBN 9781844084531 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 For someone who barely left the house, Emily Dickinson didn't half cause a lot of...
On Our Shoulders
THE PINCH - HOW THE BABY BOOMERS TOOK THEIR CHILDREN'S FUTURE - AND WHY THEY SHOULD GIVE IT BACK by David Willetts Atlantic Books, £18.99, pp. 336 ISBN 9781848872318 . £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Our politics is such a shallow game...
People Power
This was the week when the Conservatives finally started to get it right. After several false starts, disastrous poster campaigns and tragicomic errors, an agenda is now emerging. Handled properly, it could win David Cameron the majority he so badly...
Portrait of the Week
UK Financial Investments, which oversees the British government's stake in RBS, Lloyds and Northern Rock, said it might be 2015 before taxpayers got back the £40 billion used to prop up failing banks. Barclays' profits increased to £11.6 billion in...
Riding for a Fall
THE THIRTIES : AN INTIMATE HISTORY by Juliet Gardiner Harper Press, £30, pp. 974, ISBN 9780007240760 . £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Many attempts have been made to portray the 'Roaring Twenties', or the 'Gilded Nineties', or the something-or-other...
Same Old Story
Crazy Heart 15, Nationwide Crazy Heart is the film in which Jeff Bridges plays a broken-down, washed-up, boozy country music singer who may or may not be saved by the love of a good woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and while I wanted to love this film, and...
Shared Opinion
I'm not saying that anyone who ever posts an internet comment is nuts. But. . . Back when I was a diary columnist, they'd publish my email address in the paper every day. I did love the emails from lunatics. And we're talking proper nuts here, not just...
Stick to Making Your Schmaltzy Films, Mr Curtis
Richard Curtis's films - rose-tinted, upper-middle-class parodies of modern Britain - are bad enough, says Stephen Pollard. But his politics are even worse There are few film-makers whose name instantly conjures up a style, an atmosphere, a set of...
The Deflating World of English Football
As a global brand, English football has never been more powerful. The Premier League crosses all cultural barriers and has devotees in every corner of the world. Fans in Singapore, for instance, even change their sleeping patterns to keep up: on match...
The Ghost of an Egoist
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF FIDEL CASTRO by Norberto Fuentes, translated by Anna Kushner W.W. Norton, £18.99, pp. 572, ISBN 9780393068993 . £18.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Very long books appear at intervals about Fidel Castro and Che Guevara....
The Great Bailout
ON THE BRINK by Hank Paulson Headline, £18.99, pp. 453 ISBN 9780755360543 . £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Hank Paulson's new book is called On the Brink, but it could well have been entitled Over the Edge. The story of his role as US...
The Madness of Turkmenbashi
Turkmenistan is erasing the memory of its lunatic president, who died four years ago. Daniel Kalder profiles a 21st-century despot, and the country he left behind Tearing down the statue of a megalomaniac dictator is usually a joy reserved for the...
The Spectator's Notes
Of all the buzz-phrases which New Labour invented, 'the many, not the few' remains the most effective. Labour may, in fact, have failed the many, but they retain their rhetorical advantage over the Conservatives. Now the government wants to make inequality...
To Win the Election, the Tories Must Learn to Fight Dirty
Having to work on a Sunday is a chore - doubly so when that Sunday is Valentine's Day. But there were plenty of worker bees at Labour headquarters on Victoria Street last Sunday, devoting themselves to the passion of their life: hounding Conservatives....
TRAVEL SPECIAL Good Sport
Charlotte Metcalf says Cape Town is ready to host the World Cup in style From the top of Table Mountain, once the clouds that swath it drift away, you can see the new football stadium 1,067 metres below. The great white ring dominates the city around...
Uncle Sam vs the Dragon
The growing rift between the United States and China has chilling similarities to America's old rivalry with the Soviet Union, says Daniel W. Drezner When Barack Obama burst into the room to disrupt China's meeting with its fellow climate change sceptics...
Why Not Let Politicians Call Each Other 'Scum-Sucking Pigs'?
Twitter may be a moronic medium, says Rod Liddle. But at least it allows public figures to express their true feelings David Wright, the Labour MP for Telford, should get out more, he should be more inclusive. I have attended many onservative party...
You Know It Makes Sense
'Post-normal science' is perfect for climate demagogues - it isn't science at all No it's OK, I didn't mind one teeny tiny bit that Matt Ridley wrote an entire Spectator cover story on Climategate and the blogosphere last week without once mentioning...
Your Problems Solved
Dear Mary Q. I invited a couple to Sunday lunch in the country, giving six weeks' notice. Having had no response after four weeks, I rang, not unreasonably, I thought, to prompt for one. The wife answered her mobile on a train. She apologised for her...
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