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 September 2011

A Failure of Planning
David Cameron has been struggling to get across what he means by his Big Society project, but he has nonetheless succeeded spectacularly in motivating previously apathetic and distant neighbours to get together and give up their time for a common purpose....
Amen to an Era
Patrick Lichfield: Perceptions by Martin Harrison Quadrille, £30, pp. 224, ISBN 9781844009480 It must be said that Patrick Lichfield - the outer man - wore his ego proudly and loudly on his sleeve. And with his aristocratic yet trendy good looks, his...
Amy Was Right
Just say no, no, no to rehab culture Something queer has happened to Amy Winehouse in the six weeks since her death: she has been turned from an anti-rehab rebel into the poster girl for rehab. The tragic Camden songstress was famous for singing 'They...
ANCIENT AND MODERN - Time to Learn from Poverty
As Greeks howl for other people's money and the EU coughs up, both should reflect on Aristophanes' comedy Wealth (Ploutos) , which pinpointed the mindsets 2,400 years ago. Chremylus, a poor man, brings home a blind man, who turns out to be the god Wealth....
An Upside-Down World
The Bloody Meadow by William Ryan Mantle, £16.99, pp. 320, ISBN 9780230742741 Last year, with William Ryan's The Holy Thief, detective-fiction aficionados welcomed the thrillingly horrific first instalment in a new series set in 1930s Moscow. In his...
A Rich Man for All Seasons
Multibillionaire Warren Buffett may sound cuddly, but he's talking from both sides of his mouth August was a typical month for Warren Buffett, America's second richest man. While the leisure classes lolled, he called for higher tax rates for the rich....
A Thunderous Collapse Could Drown out the Clamour over Banking Reform
The banking lobby doth protest too much, methinks - to misquote Hamlet's mother - and so doth its enemies, not to mention the opponents of planning reform. In fact, there's a whole lot of grandstanding going on in the public arena which I fear may suddenly...
Barometer
Squatters' rights A judge has described squatting as 'good for society' and called for lists of empty homes to be made available to an agency for squatters, while the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, is attempting to strengthen the law against squatting....
BOOKENDS - Bleak Humour
Harry Enfield has said that 'comedy without Galton and Simpson would be like literature without Dickens, ' and he may be right. Their two most lasting creations, Hancock's Half Hour (illustrated above) and Step toe & Son, influenced almost everything...
Bottom Fishing
In a panicked market, private-equity funds can offer hidden value Here's the good news. Share prices are falling. Investors are panicking. Talk of crisis dominates the headlines. These are precisely the conditions in which bargains tend to become available...
But Is It Any Good?
Writing to his friend and fellow-author William Dean Howells in 1907 about the Prefaces to the New York edition of his novels, Henry James said, 'They are, in general, a sort of plea for Criticism, for Discrimination, for Appreciation on other than...
Can the Coalition Survive the Crises Ahead?
For something cobbled together by eight sleep-deprived men over four days, the coalition agreement has proved remarkably durable. Even now, with relations between the Tories and Lib Dems arguably more strained than ever, the document's writ still runs....
Convenience Seems a Small, Mean Word - but Sometimes It's All We've Got
The reason why everybody gets so shrill over abortion, I've often thought, is that nobody is quite prepared to admit what they are talking about. By which I don't mean 'the slaughter of babies'. I mean the pros and cons of a system of morality that...
CULTURE NOTES - Killing Comedy
There is a ban on comedy flyering in Leicester Square. Westminster Council ha s decided that flyers are litter and that the flyerers - usually anxious baby comedians - 'harass' the tourists. This is ridiculous. Most comedians would scream at their own...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. I was amused by your correspondent 'J.P.' (16 April) who complained of her daughter-in-law's 'bosom flashing' at dinner parties. A similar thing happened at a house party in France this year: one of the female guests wore an open shirt so loosely...
Diary
Having spent the best part of a year writing my memoirs, I spent most of the summer trying to put them out of my mind. On a brief holiday in the Isle of Lewis, catching lobsters and catching up with friends, I stopped thinking about it. You can consider...
Divine Punishment
The God of Soho Shakespeare's Globe, until 30 September Ruby Wax: Losing It Duchess, until 10 October Once or twice a season Shakespeare gets booted out of the Globe. In his place a modern author is given a chance to shine. The Scottish writer Chris...
Fatal Flaw
Jane Eyre PG, Nationwide I love the story of Jane Eyre more than life itself, which has never been much cop but, infuriatingly, I could not love this adaptation. I say 'infuriating' because what it does right it does very right. It is stunningly mounted,...
High Life
To Aix-en-Provence for a young friend's wedding to a celebrity DJ in a beautiful tent in an olive grove. A short chat with the beautiful Kate Moss and her hubby, followed by some heavy boozing under the disapproving eyes of my two children and their...
Homage to Gloriana
Jonathan Bate takes a fresh look at the most vibrant period of English history The Elizabethans by A.N. Wilson Hutchinson, £25, pp. 448, ISBN 9780091931513 The period between the defeat of the Spanish fleet in 1588 and the death of Queen Elizabeth I...
Human Smoke Alarm
Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors Macmillan, £16.99, pp. 246, ISBN 9780230758018 For five months of the year Philip Connors (once an editor at the Wall Street Journal) has a fascinating job: he is a firewatcher in...
In the Face of Terror, Britain Has Surrendered to Men in Yellow Fluorescent Jerkins
Had your fill of 9/11 porn yet? I guarantee if you turn on the TV at this moment on some channel there'll be a plane crashing into a building and a nutter from the Midwest telling you it was organised by the Jews via the offices of the Zionist Occupation...
Leave It to the French
La Séduction by Elaine Sciolino Beautiful Books, £8.99, pp. 308, ISBN 9781908238702 Elaine Sciolino was advised to find herself a French lover for research purposes; as far as it's possible to tell, she didn't, but this may be the only stone left unturned...
Let's Bring the Abortion Debate to Life
In Germany, they perform half as many terminations as we do. Why are we so keen on them? No one ever really expected Nadine Dorries's ill-fated abortion bill to succeed - not after the Lib Dems had made a fuss, and the PM had withdrawn his support with...
Letters
Valuable lessons Sir: The Spectator deserves great credit for having so long trumpeted and encouraged the free schools agenda, which finally came to fruition this week. British education is a mess, and we are lucky to have, in Michael Gove, an Education...
Looting for Scoops
In Tripoli, the rebels are orderly, but the journalists are ransacking buildings in search of exclusives Tripoli Coming pretty much straight from the London riots to the Libyan revolution has made me more contemptuous than ever of Britain's self-pitying,...
Low Life
My sister got married twice last week, both times to the same bloke, thank goodness. She was married on the Thursday by the state in a register office, and on the Saturday she and Stan stood in front of an Anglican clergyman in a church and asked God...
Lucky Charms
I have just finished a book (writing one, not reading one, you fool) and, as ever, I am hoping that it's good enough and people will like it. Can you ever know? In this respect, and in quite a few others, it's a little like a band putting out a new...
Modern Maladies
In Competition No. 2712 you were invited to come up with your own additions to the ever-lengthening list of modern maladies. The assignment was prompted by reports in the Daily Mail and New York Times of the growing epidemic of Fear of Missing Out....
Money for Nothing
When future historians sift through the wreckage of Western Civilisation to try to find out where it all went wrong, I do hope they chance upon at least one episode of The World's Strictest Parents (BBC3) and one of Deal or No Deal (Channel 4). The...
More Dark Material
The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond Viking, £12.99, pp. 256, ISBN 9780670919055 The Adventures of the New Cut Gang by Philip Pullman David Fickling Books, £10.99, pp. 256, ISBN 9780857560223 Milicent's Book by Charlotte Moore Catnip,...
One Day
'History is not a dull subject, ' warned Caryl Phillips, the novelist, at the end of his 9/11 Letter. 'It's a vital, contested narrative, peopled with witnesses to events which touch both head and heart. It's the most important school subject because...
Out of This World
Lloyd Evans meets Tara FitzGerald and is struck by her uncanny beauty and her desire to hear what he thinks Tara FitzGerald's beauty is fabulous. Literally, there's something unworldly about the surfaces and contours of her face. It's as if the codes...
Pawn or Game-Changer?
Where China Meets India by Thant Myint-U Faber, £20, pp. 358, ISBN 9780571239634 The British were in Burma for more than 120 years, but were never sure what to do with it. They completed their conquest in 1885, annexing Upper Burma and abolishing the...
Portrait of the Week
Home George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a speech in the City: 'We have all had to revise down our short-term expectations over recent weeks.' Industrial production for the United Kingdom fell by 0.2 per cent in July. House prices,...
Prince of War
Why shouldn't one of Liberia's most infamous psychopaths become its president? Human rights are universal and indivisible, existing as they do in an unexplored metaphysical sphere in which the European Court of Human Rights plays the role of Christopher...
Real Life
The experts keep telling me I've got to put her to bed and leave her, but I can't do it. I know I'm making a rod for my own back but when she starts crying in the night I get up and bring her into my bed. I try to sleep when she sleeps, but I'm so besotted...
Rules of the Game
We should all eat humbly. There is no sense in foraying to far-flung continents in search of fancy victuals. We should be content with the near-at-hand: the harvests of our fields, hills, rivers, seas and moors. The Chinaman has his bowl of rice, the...
Spectator Mini-Bar
As the price of wine goes on rising, and what with the low value of sterling, the cost of fuel and the increase in duty, we have to find treasures where we can. Jason Yapp of Yapp Brothers had an excellent idea for this new offer: super substitutes....
Spirit of Place
Artists' Laboratory 03: Nigel Hall Royal Academy, until 23 October William Gear 1915-1997: Paintings from the 1960s Redfern Gallery, 20 Cork St, London W1, until 6 October 20/21 British Art Fair Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7, 14-18...
The Billionaires Who No One Seems to Hate
Two interesting news items coincided the other week. The growing debate about the relatively light tax burden shouldered by the massively rich and the partial retirement of Steve Jobs. One dog failed to bark in the night. No one, as far as I can see,...
The Doom Boom
How the Austrian school taught the world a lesson Not for nothing is economics known as the dismal science. Having failed to foresee the global bubbles in credit, banking and housing, mainstream economists have compounded the problem by advocating entirely...
The Horror Movie Experience
The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex by Mark Kermode Random House, £11.99, pp. 328, ISBN 9781847946034 Mark Kermode is not happy. And his discontent is a joy to witness. The centrepiece of his new book about Hollywood blockbusters is a brutally hilarious...
The Social Network Bubble
Are investors repeating the mistakes of the dotcom era? It's an irritating daily occurrence. The names of two or three people I barely know pop up in my inbox asking me to join their 'professional network', LinkedIn. Early on, I was tempted by the idea...
To Catch a Spy
How Islamists learnt to sue MI6 When Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens next week, it is likely to have all the spooks in London flocking to the cinema. John Le Carre, who wrote the book and helped direct the film, created a wonderful, almost romantic...
Token Gestures
My problem with supermarket charitable giving Charity might begin at home, but worrying about charity begins at Waitrose. Those little green tokens they give you with your receipt - nice touch, I used to think. If the store won't give me any of my money...
Vishy's Victory
World champion Vishy Anand has scored a notable victory in the Botvinnik Memorial in Moscow. The final scores (Anand 4 1/2; Aronian and Kramnik both 3; Carlsen 1 1/2) reveal an astonishing superiority over his rivals which mirrors his overwhelming match...
Wild Life
Nairobi My friend Philip Coulson was shot at midnight while driving home after the theatre in Nairobi recently. He had slowed down to go over some rumble strips when a white car halted in front of him. 'A man got out and I could see in silhouette that...
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