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 2012

Age of Ideas
Thinking the Twentieth Century by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder Heinemann, £25, pp. 413, ISBN 9780434017423 When the historian and essayist Tony Judt died in 2010 of motor neurone disease, among the books he had planned was an intellectual history of...
ANCIENT AND MODERN - Aristotle on Balls
The reason why shadow chancellor Balls is such a liability is that he is incapable of understanding how other people feel. That may not matter in relation to the opposition - they do not care how he feels either - but it does, for what one would have...
A Yacht? Wouldn't the Queen Prefer a Really Nice Soap? Eggs, a Box of Snail Shells, a Grove of Maple Trees, a Dozen Tins of Tuna and 7kg of Prawns', According to Her Website. Thank God There's No Underwear -
Gove, a man so unsuited to the satanic machinations of high office that he looks like a permanently startled guppy, made a really strange boo this week by suggesting a collection of rich monarchists buy the Queen a £60 million yacht for her Diamond...
Bearded Maniacs Deserve Justice, Too
I'd like, this week, to draw your attention to the United Kingdom's unjust treatment of some bearded maniacs. I realise, in writing this, that bearded maniacs may not be near the top of your list of stuff to worry about at the moment, or perhaps ever....
Breaking Records
Ed Miliband should be worried. He's not as yet been invited to choose eight 'favourite' pieces of music for that staple of the Radio 4 diet, Desert Island Discs (or DID to those in the know). Nick Clegg, David Cameron and even Alex Salmond have all...
Cinema - Who Does She Think She Is?
W.E. 15, Nationwide W.E . is Madonna's second outing as a film director, and this tells 'the greatest royal love story of the 20th century' via two women separated by more than half a century: Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and a modern-day New...
CULTURE NOTES - Unfinished Business
The phrase 'community drummers' strikes fear into me . When I read it in the programme notes for Survivor, Antony Gormley's collaboration with Hofesh Shechter, premiered at the Barbican, I paused a beat. The elder cerebral artist paired with the young...
Dear Mary - Your Problems Solved
Q. A close neighbour has a two-car garage that occupies her entire street frontage. However, she has developed a habit of parking her car outside my house so that I then have to park way up the street (I only have one car). When her many children visit,...
Diary
Is it OK to tell all concerned with the French film The Artist 'merci beaucoup'? I mean, we have the word from Newt Gingrich that primary voters should abominate Mitt Romney, his rival for the Republican presidential nomination, because he speaks French....
Drink - Stars by Any Other Name
Eheu fugaces. It is 1989 and I am off to Paris for the Sunday Telegraph, to cover the Sommet de l'Arche. Intended to commemorate the F rench Revolution's bicentenary, it was a characteristic Gallic blend of grand projet, grandiloquence and frippery....
Exhibitions - Rich Rewards
Graham Sutherland: An Unfinished World Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, Oxford, until 18 March For as long as I've been interested in Modern British art, I've been fascinated and intrigued by the work of Graham Sutherland (1903-80). One of the...
Fear and Loathing in Baden-Wurttemberg
Everyone is frightened of the euro. So said the sweet old lady who runs the small hotel where I am staying. She and her husband are Germans who came to Stuttgart from Slovenia 50 years ago. They have worked 'day and night' to build up their modest fortune,...
Have You Wondered Why There's Only One John Lewis Partnership, Mr Clegg?
'A John Lewis economy' was a strong soundbite from Nick Clegg, even if it failed to resonate with Netto shoppers lower down the social scale than the Cleggs. The Deputy Prime Minister is 'pushing for real, early, radical action' to make this 'the decade...
Helping Our Unbelief
Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton Hamish Hamilton, £18.99, pp. 320, ISBN 9780241144770 Over 125 of the 320 pages in this book are either blank, or taken up with black-and-white illustrations, of subjects as various as Madonna and her former husband...
Holy Law
Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law by Sadakat Kadri Bodley Head, £18.99, pp. 332, ISBN 9781847920164 In the autumn of 1347, the Black Death arrived in Egypt. In the 18 months that followed, mosques turned into mortuaries across North Africa...
Is Britain Ready for an Optimistic Prime Minister?
David Cameron is a sunny-side-up politician. At his first party conference as leader, he declared, 'Let optimism beat pessimism. Let sunshine win the day.' This attitude infused his approach to policy as well as politics. His economic doctrine was all...
Is This Labour's Next Leader?
In Yvette Cooper's home, an entire room is given over to memorabilia of her husband's life in politics. Pictures of Ed Balls hang on the walls and the room is kitted out with phone lines and computers so it can function as a nerve-centre for the shadow...
Letters
Full speed ahead Sir: William Astor ('Signal failure', 14 January) writes that High Speed 2 is supported only by 'northern Labour MPs who relish the thought of the beauty of the Chilterns being destroyed'. He seems to have missed the MPs from across...
LIFE - High Life
Gstaad 'Mick Flick invites you to the Roaring Twenties' read the invite, a black-and-white stiffy with a flapper and a Rudolph Valentino type in white tie and tails, flirting in the old-fashioned manner, she dreamlike, flapping her eyes upwards, he...
Low Life
A week into the New Year I drove to town early to do a spot of shopping. The sun was shining, I felt well again, and I marched up the high street with a spring in my step. The still-thriving high street is predominantly Georgian, with here and there...
Olden but Golden
We are already more than halfway through January and I am still managing to stick heroically to my new year's resolution. This is to keep smoking throughout 2012 - with a particularly large intake of nicotine and tar planned for the dreaded Olympic...
Opera Look at Life
Giulio Cesare Opera North, on tour until 16 March Die Meistersinger Royal Opera, Birmingham Giulio Cesare was the first of Handel's operas to return to general favour after more than a century and a half of neglect, and I suppose that it is still the...
Portrait of the Week
Home Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, commenting on the public sector wage freeze, said: 'I can't promise to reverse that now.' Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said it was 'absolutely right' to place employment before pay rises. But Len McCluskey of...
Queen of Sorrows
Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset Harper Press, £25, pp. 626, ISBN 9780007203758 She was the ill-educated younger child of the Duke of York; a mere female, she was sickly and not expected to survive, let alone become Queen. But, as...
Radio - Communal Listening
Where mostly do you listen to the radio? In the kitchen, on the M25 or M62, under the duvet, soaking in a bathtub? We've got used to moving around with the wireless, often listening with just half an ear, not really connecting at all, and with no opportunity...
Real Life
The visit from the accident assessor appointed by the insurance company sent me on a cleaning spree involving industrial quantities of bleach. I spent the hours preceding his arrival subjecting every corner of my flat to a thorough going-over. Then...
Ship of Fools
Ah, those Italians. Let's just blame the bloody Eyeties for the catastrophe of the Costa Concordia and have done with it, shall we? That way we don't have to think too much about the perils of floating citadels in general. There was something peculiarly...
Spectator Mini-Bar
The latest Burgundy harvest was very small, not much more than half normal quantities. What's more, the Far Eastern market has woken up to the charms of this fabled area, and as claret prices fall in Shanghai and Hong Kong, Burgundy rises. Which is...
Spirit of Place
Cairo: My City, Our Revolution by Ahdaf Soueif Bloomsbury, £14.99, pp. 202, ISBN 9780747549628 There are two ways of viewing the changes sweeping through the Arab world in general and Cairo in particular. There is the significance of individual events,...
Stronger Than Fiction
Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real Warhorse by General Sir Jack Seely, illustrated by Alfred Munnings Racing Post Press, £14.99, pp. 176, ISBN 9781908216106 I think it was a Frenchman - it usually is - who observed that the English love their animals...
Television - Adult Viewing
How in God's name did Jonathan Meades ever get a job presenting TV programmes? I ask in the spirit of surprised delight rather than disgust, for Meades is that rare almost to the point of nonexistent phenomenon: the presenter who doesn't treat you like...
Theatre - Secret History
The Art of Concealment Jermyn Street, until 28 January Man in the Middle Theatre 503, until 4 February A year late but worth the wait. Last year's centenary of Terence Rattigan's birth brought two excellent revivals of lesser-known works, Flare Path...
The Spectators Notes
In Thought for the Day, of all places, the weird bitterness behind much Scottish nationalism was revealed. On Wednesday, John Bell of the Iona Community complained of the suffering of the Scots and asked people in the south-east of England how they...
The Turf - Emerging Names
Every sport needs renewal and the most heartening thing about this jumping season is the growing prominence of a bunch of comparatively new, comparatively young trainers. A little older than some is the phenomenon John Ferguson. Moonlighting from his...
The Wiki Man Class System
1) Imagine you have the choice of living in two worlds. In World A you have a five-bedroom house and everyone you know has a six-bedroom house. In World B you have a four-bedroom house and all your friends have three-bedroom houses. Which world would...
Web of Tyrants
Even those who are wary of the utopianism the net has generated tend to take it for granted that the new communications technologies have saved us from the need to worry about censorship. Sceptics fear that the web provides us with too much information,...
What Colour Is Wednesday?
If you are one of that small band of people who happen to see days of the week, months of the year, even single numbers and letters in colour, you are considered either very peculiar or very lucky. It also means you are a synaesthete. I am one of them....
Work in Progress
It is often claimed that the Lords, unencumbered by the rivalries and ambitions of the Commons, have a greater affinity with ordinary people than MPs. Certainly, this is the spin which opponents of the Welfare Reform Bill would like to put on its rocky...
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