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 June 2010

A Blow for Fidelity
Così fan tutte In rep until 17 July Billy Budd In rep until 27 June Glyndebourne Glyndebourne has opened this year with two troubling operas, but ones which disturb in quite different ways. Cosi fan tutte is described by Max Loppert, in an excellent...
Ancient & Modern
Experience may count for nothing. Look at Gordon Brown - 'capable of being emperor - had he never been emperor' indeed, as Tacitus said of Galba, emperor for seven months in AD 68-69. But there is something to be said for having been round the block...
Bad Habits
The idea that you can jack up prices - by taxation or other means - and thereby shape society seems to mesmerise politicians. So the new estimates by the Department of Heath that a minimum price for alcohol - of 50p per 'unit' - would mean precisely...
Camp Bastion Takeover
It's the details that resonate. 'Grass seed and weedkiller' have been added to the shopping lists of operational managers based in Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. The grass seed is for the memorial sites planted on the actual places where soldiers (and...
Canny Canid
Dividing my time between town and country leaves me pretty confused at times. The other day a fox streaked across a paddock at the Surrey farm where I keep my horses. The gamekeeper, who was having his tea break, stubbed out his cigarette enigmatically...
Contrasting Characters
Mary Wakefield talks to Roger Allam and discovers that he thinks acting is only a game As I meet Roger Allam's eye, in the bar area of Shakespeare's Globe, I feel a lurch of dread. I love Roger Allam. I've held a torch for him since the mid-Eighties,...
Diary
Along the dank corridors of the House of Commons and in the airy cafes of Portcullis House, new Members of Parliament still swap tall tales from the campaign. Part of the problem these days is not just convincing the electorate of the virtues of your...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
Monday What a way to spend the bank holiday weekend, up to my eyes in sleaze on the Lib Dem vetting unit. Dave rang from Chequers on speakerphone to read us the riot act while playing tennis. Balls ponging v angrily. So far we've found a couple of...
Did David Laws Have to Jump, or Did We Push Him?
In the world of political commentary, to quote Enoch Powell's dictum that for politicians to complain about the press is like ships' captains complaining about the sea has become almost tedious. But the brisk finality of that remark is too useful to...
Don't Let Fear Spoil the World Cup
South Africa has all but bankrupted itself to stage a glorious World Cup, says Rian Malan . Shame that all foreigners can do is worry about the nation's crime rates Here in Johannesburg, the most striking symptom of World Cup fever is a steady procession...
Drawing for Drawing's Sake
Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian renaissance Drawings British Museum, until 25 July The latest exhibition in the Round Reading Room is an awe-inspiring collection of Italian Renaissance drawings, the kind of display likely to be seen only once in a...
Extreme Violence
The Killer Inside Me 18, Nationwide Michael Winterbottom's latest film has already caused outrage and charges of misogyny, and while I did not like it at all, and did spend a good portion of the time hiding my head in my hands moaning, 'Oh, sweet Jesus,...
Golden Youth or Electric Eel?
PATRICK SHAW-STEWART: AN EDWARDIAN METEOR by Miles Jebb Dovecote Press, £17.99, pp. 248, ISBN 9781904749778 Patrick Shaw-Stewart was the cleverest and the most ambitious of the gilded gang of young men who swam in the wake of the not-so-young but perennially...
Hippie Dream
By and large, I try to keep the night job out of this column. I love musicals, and even derive a gruesome gallows pleasure from the really bad ones but, since I review them for the Telegraph, it feels wrong to write about them here. And I don't often...
'His Only Vice Is Women'
Vittorio Sgarbi, the mayor of Salemi in Sicily, is a notorious philanderer who is obsessed with art, beauty - and the mafia. James Silver spends a day with him When Silvio Berlusconi was in trouble last year, accused of trysts with girls young enough...
Insufficiently Honoured Here
HITCH-22 by Christopher Hitchens Atlantic, £20, pp. 448, ISBN 9781843549215 'Next time it's full buggery!' said Christopher Hitchens as I helped him onto a train at Taunton station after a full luncheon of Black Label, Romanee-Conti, eel risotto and...
Laws's Resignation Is a Disaster for the Coalition in All but One Respect
Straight after David Cameron had announced his final offer to the Liberal Democrats - a referendum on Westminster's voting system in exchange for entering into coalition - I bumped into a member of the Tory Cabinet. I asked him if he thought that the...
Let's Do Business
Tanzania Here's this Chinese guy in the midday sun. Straw hat, faggy in his mouth, bright eyes, tanned face. I feel like crying. We're in the middle of nowhere and he's building this fantastic road through the Tanzanian bush. He's fit, young, staring...
Letters
Don't bring it home Sir: Charles Moore is right when he questions the benefit of holding the 2018 World Cup in England (The Spectator's Notes, 29 May), but he doesn't go quite far enough. Given the mindless, violent and xenophobic behaviour of many...
Little Green Guards
What if Lord Triesman had refused to resign his post and had then been forcibly removed by the SAS after they stormed the FA headquarters? This is the improbable metaphor which underscores the bizarre nature of some happenings surrounding the battle...
Mountain Sheep Aren't Sweeter
THE GARDEN IN THE CLOUDS by Antony Woodward Harper Press, £16.99, pp. 295, ISBN 9780007216512 Anyone who can speak Welsh is going to get a lot of fun from this book. Antony Woodward buys a sixacre smallholding 1200 feet up a mountain near Crickhowell...
No One outside England Thinks We've Got a Prayer
Rod Liddle wouldn't risk more than a tenner on the team getting beyond the group stage in the football World Cup. The truth is, we usually perform more or less exactly as well as might be expected given the size of the country Nobody outside of this...
Not British
Search any official document published by BP plc, the oil giant now battling not only to cap the Mexican Gulf oil spillage but to save itself from a terminal collapse of investor confidence, and you will not find anywhere the words 'British Petroleum'....
On the Brink
WINTER ON THE NILE: FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, GUSTAVE FLAUBERT AND THE TEMPTATIONS OF EGYPT by Anthony Sattin Hutchinson, £20, pp. 316, ISBN 9780091926069 Stephen Potter's Lifemanship contains a celebrated tip for writers who want to ensure good reviews....
Painting the Town Together
THE LAST BOHEMIANS by Roger Bristow Sansom, £29.95, pp. 416, ISBN 9781906593193 This book recounts a terrible story of self-destruction by two painters who, in their heyday, achieved considerable renown in Britain and abroad. Robert Colquhoun (1914-62)...
Portrait of the Week
Mr David Laws resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury after it was revealed that he had used parliamentary allowances to pay £40,000 rent over five years for a room in the house of a man with whom he had long had a sexual relationship. 'My motivation...
Reality Deficit
Ingredient X Royal Court, until 19 June Canary Hampstead, until 12 June In the old days the Royal Court knew that the best way to entertain local millionaires was to stage plays that wallowed in distress and squalor and featured four crack addicts in...
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
THE NEW TESTAMENT translated by Rabbi Sidney Brichto Sinclair-Stevenson, £20, pp. 480, ISBN 9780955283311 Two hundred years ago Jeremy Bentham wrote a tract which purported to demonstrate that the Christian religion was in effect manufactured by St...
Shakespeare in School
I really wanted to like When Romeo Met Juliet (BBC2, Friday). Television loves new cliches, and since the success of Gareth Malone in The Choir it has decided that getting a bunch of people who wouldn't know art from a hole in the ground and persuading...
The City Warmed to David Laws Because He Knew How to Play the Bonus Game
'Does anyone remember David Laws?' a former City colleague asked me during the brief interlude between the Lib Dem MP's debut as financial secretary last Monday and his descent into hell on Friday. Judging by the sketchy accounts of his banking career...
The End of Israel?
Once again Israel is judged the enemy of peace, and even its support in the US is shaky. If the Jewish state is to survive, it must persuade us that its war is our war, says Stephen Pollard Perhaps the least important aspect of Sunday night's events...
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Salesman
THE TERRIBLE PRIVACY OF MAXWELL SIM by Jonathan Coe Viking, £18.99, pp. 352, ISBN 9780670917389 If only E. M. Forster hadn't beaten him to it by exactly a century, Jonathan Coe could have coined the enigmatic phrase 'only connect' in this novel. Maxwell...
The Long View
In Competition 2649 you were invited to submit a news bulletin on the outcome of the general election delivered by a well-known figure from history. Well done, everyone: it was a strong entry and a pleasure to judge. Narrowly missing a place in the...
The Papal Visit Is in Jeopardy
Damian Thompson reveals the turmoil behind the scenes in the preparations for Pope Benedict XVI's keenly awaited visit to Britain - and how the trip has been hijacked by a Blairite cadre Last week, the Catholic Archbishops of England and Wales were...
The Spectator's Notes
In Monday's Guardian, Julian Glover wrote that David Laws broke the rules of parliamentary expenses 'because he could not bring himself to reveal that he loved his landlord'. On the same day, in the Times, Matthew Parris, Glover's civil partner, spoke...
The Wiki Man
A few years ago a leisure centre advertised 'Keep-fit classes for the over-60s'. Nobody turned up. To broaden the appeal, they advertised 'Keepfit classes for the over-50s'. The sessions sold out. Not one of those joining was under 65 years of age....
Traveller's Tale
'Carry-on luggage, ' said the trip organiser by email. 'If we all take only carry-on luggage we won't have to do any hanging about at the airport.' I spent the evening before I left packing, unpacking, sifting, making new decisions and repacking my...
Trial and Tribulation
It's a topsy-turvy world when the deputy editor of The Spectator, a lady, is in Afghanistan, while the High life correspondent of the same magazine cowers in a Belgravia basement wearing full body armour and his Wehrmacht helmet. Obviously, it should...
We Need a Compact with Muslim Middle England
Andrew Gilligan says the new coalition must reformulate our relationship with moderate Muslims - and marginalise the extremists for good One of the unsung heroes of this year's election campaign was the Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse, Jim Fitzpatrick....
Where's the Gain in the Capital Gains Tax?
The idea of 'squeezing the rich' may be politically attractive. But, says Arthur B. Laffer , it means less tax revenue - as the coalition may be about to learn the hard way Britain's new coalition government has a simple mission: to walk the thin line...
Your Problems Solved
Dear Mary Q. The other night I took my parents to an upmarket eatery to celebrate my birthday. The food, wine and service were exceptional, but the music was so loud that one had to shout to be heard. My father suffers from slight deafness and had...
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