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 November 2012

Abroad
Israel bombed and shelled the Gaza Strip from aircraft and naval vessels. Rockets were sent into Israel from Gaza, reaching on occasion as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The conflict followed the killing by Israel in an aerial strike of Ahmed Jabari,...
A Duty to Protest
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe Allen Lane, £20, pp. 352, ISBN 9781846145766 A few years ago, in West Africa, a woman came up to me and said, 'You know what's wrong with our men? They go crazy once they get power....
A Million Little Libels
It goes without saying that Lord McAlpine has been horribly wronged. He has been libely accused of a crime that not only deeply offends decent people but that provokes murderous outrage in others. Yet the zealousness of his lawyers is no cause for...
Athenians on Voting Fatigue
'Politics is polarised' intoned the chatterati after the ObamaRomney race to the White House. 'Sick of party politics' said the people after the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners. Ancient Athenians knew why. One of the many virtues of Athens'...
A World Apart
Although the starving artist in the garret is no longer the favourite public stereotype, painters and sculptors remain something of a mystery even to those who spend time looking at their work. So a f i lm that help s to expla in thei r assorted motivations...
Backbench Driver
Nick Herbert has left government to concentrate on politics. The burdens of office can wear a man down. When Nick Herbert was the minister for policing and criminal justice, he looked exhausted; as if he was carrying the troubles of two departments...
BOOKENDS the One Who Got Away with It
The first track on Neil Young's latest a lbum la st s nea rly 28 m inute s , for while he usually has no problem starting, he sometimes struggles to finish. Some of the same prolixity characterises his memoir, Waging Heavy Peace (Viking, £14.75). No...
Books of the Year
A further selection of the best books of 2012, chosen by some of our regular contributors Byron Rogers When TV presenters write history books it is the mistakes you treasure most, as when David Dimbleby blithely pronounced that Augustine had introduced...
Business as Usual
How Do We Fix This Mess? by Robert Peston and Laurence Knight Hodder, £20, pp. 480, ISBN 9781444757091 Dear old Pesto, we all make jokes about him but we all secretly admire him. The BBC business editor's strangulated elocution and stream-of-consciousness...
Cinema Faking It
Gambit 12A, Nationwide The star of Gambit, it seems, is the Savoy. And why not? Nobody else seems to want to lay claim to this movie, a refashioning of the 1966 art con caper that starred Michael Caine. Not even Colin Firth, who spends a fair amount...
Concealed Treasures
Secret Splendour - The Hidden World of Baroque Cabinets Holburne Museum, Bath, until 6 January 2013 60 The Holburne Museum of Bath is a delight. Its collections were formed by Sir William Holburne (1793-1874), a naval officer who first saw action at...
Cooking for Freedom
A London chef has returned to Mogadishu to make a stand against al-Qa'eda Somalia A few days before I met Ahmed Jama in Mogadishu, three Islamist gunmen from Al Shabaab - al Qa'eda's Somali branch - burst into his new restaurant wearing suicide bomb...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. Even in smart places, waiters have taken my plate away before I have finished, if my head is turned, or they take away a companion's plate while I am still eating. I recently had a whole slice of beef fillet whipped away whilst I was chatting animatedly...
Design the Dagenham Dustbin
For those of us who find passion in national iconography, this is a melancholy historical moment. It's a very bad time for British manufacturing and an even worse one for British symbols. The Chinese-owned maker of the London taxi (which Charles Eames...
Diary
I once bred a racehorse, half-owned by my mother, born at my mother-in-law's farm in Suffolk and named 'Green Moon' by my daughter. He won a race or two but never found his form, so we sold him to an Australian for not much. A few days ago, I was woken...
Dreams That Fade and Die
Roads to Berlin by Cees Nooteboom translated by Laura Watkinson Maclehose Press, £20, pp. 400, ISBN 9780857050267 The Dutch writer, Cees Nooteboom, was living in West Berlin in 1989 when the gates opened and the Wall finally came down. At the time he...
Dressed to Impress
Hollywood Costume Victoria & Albert Museum, until 27 January 2013 62 Does the costume make the man or the man the costume? Well, a little bit of both if the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the V&A is to be believed. Five years in the making,...
Drink in the Colonel's Cellar
Like many soldiers, my old friend is a life-enhancing character. Whenever he phones up and says 'Need your help', one's spirits rise. The help always seems to involve pleasure. This time was no exception. He was long on some young-ish wine, and wondered...
Exhibitions Keeping the Faith
Bruno Munari: My Futurist Past Estorick Collection, until 23 December In 1929 the founder of Italian Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, reported from Milan that, after a wartime setback, the movement was 'in full working order' under the leadership...
Going Overboard
The founder of scientology's stay on Corfu was brief but eventful What is it about islands that appeals to little men with big ideas? It's Corfu I'm thinking about, primarily. Napoleon was obsessed with the place. Kaiser Wilhelm owned a summer palace...
High Life
Why is it that adultery can ruin a man's career but rarely a woman's? In so-called civilised countries, that is. (In Saudi Arabia an adulterous woman is stoned to death. ) An American diplomat slated to become the next ambassador to Iraq, Brett McGurk,...
Hold Brussels to Account
After four years of economic crisis some kind of normality has at last been restored to European politics. The EU is at loggerheads with Britain again. After a prolonged period in which it seemed as if the EU would tear apart, its indebted southern...
Home
The General Synod of the Church of England voted against the ordination of women bishops. The measure required a two thirds majority in each house of the Synod, but the voting was 44 for and three against with two abstentions in the House of Bishops,...
House of Stars
A salute to our parliamentarians of the year The Spectator's Parliamentarian of the Year awards were he ld a t the Savoy Hotel on Wednesday. Here are the winners: Newcomer of the year Andrea Leadsom (Con). For her work grilling bankers on the Treasury...
Israel under Siege
The Jewish state faces an ever-increasing threat from Islamist neighbours The dictators have fallen one by one. Several more look likely to fall soon, and few will miss them. But as popular revolutions approach their demise, something else has come...
'It's Mine, I Spend It:' Guessing the Rapper's Thoughts about Obama's Fiscal Cliff
The most stylish fellow passenger in Delta Air Lines' business class cabin from Atlanta to Heathrow last week was a chap in shades and a hoodie with a couple of kilos of bling round his neck. Inquiries in the galley identified him as '2 Chainz', a Georgia-born...
Length and Quality
The Complete Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, read by Neville Jason Naxos Audio Books, 120 CDs, 150 hours, £380 (also available in separate volumes) The final volume of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, released at the end of last month,...
Letters
For and against Petraeus Sir: The attack on General David Petraeus (17 November) by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos of Antiwar. com was mean-minded, trivial and wrong. After the overthrow of Saddam in 2003, Petraeus garrisoned Northern Iraq, where his determination...
Little Boxes, All the Same
Greater London: The Story of the Suburbs by Nick Barratt Random House, £25, pp. 608, ISBN 9781847945327 This book purports to be a history not of London but of its suburbs. In the end this amounts to much the same thing, because the author is referring...
Lonely Lakelander
F ive years ago I had never heard of Percy Kelly (1918-93). I knew the work of some Cumbria artists, and much admired the dark and moody landscapes of Sheila Fell (1931-79), for instance, but Percy Kelly had not then registered on my radar. He was already...
Long Life
The Daily Mail last week risked alienating its millions of women readers (whom I assume from its normal priorities to be interested only in health, beauty and plastic surgery) by running pages of indigestible stuff about a conspiracy to curb the freedoms...
Low Life
After the open-air night drawing class, the teacher invited anyone who felt like it to repair to the pub afterwards to have a drink and maybe something to eat and maybe a discussion about art. On the way to the pub I'd nipped off to the cashpoint. By...
Movember, Mo' Problems
I'm currently growing a moustache to raise money for various charities associated with men's health - or 'doing the Movember thing', to use the official terminology. I 'm not enjoying the experience. I was a blond child and what's left of my hair is...
Music Matchless Mono
Record companies: if you insist on sending CDs to my home address without so much as a covering note or a press release, well, that's just fine by me. West Hill Radio Archives, I can't say I'd heard of you, but the discs of Toscanini and the BBC Symphony...
Opera Change of Heart
L'elisir d'amore Royal Opera House, in rep until 7 December The Pilgrim's Progress English National Opera, in rep until 28 November I think I have developed a crush on Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, which is strange, considering that it is so evidently...
Passion
Pippa Middleton, I learnt from the Daily Telegraph, has a 'passion' for writing. Justin Welby, the next Archbishop of Canterbury, the BBC said, has a 'passion for resolving conflict'. The Times, in a piece about entrepreneurs, quoted a lawyer as saying:...
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
In Search of Rex Whistler: His Life and his Work by Hugh and Mirabel Cecil Frances Lincoln, £40, pp. 272, ISBN 9780711232303 Had the artist Rex Whistler not been killed in Normandy in 1944 at the age of 39, in what direction would his great talent...
Radio Short Changed
Was that it? Was that the sum total of 90 years of radio? Radio Reunited, the threeminute 'celebration' of the first BBC wireless broadcast in November 1922, was a very odd affair. Billed as a revolutionary simulcast to a 'potential' 120 million listeners...
Real Life
When you start renovating your home, it is like pulling the loose thread of an old jumper. Everything unravels. I only tried to fit a dimmer switch, and now my entire flat has come apart. Actually, that's not strictly true. I was having Stefano the...
Save Our Speech
Parliament must not be given the power to control the press. In 1644 John Milton appealed to parliament in the Areopagitica to rescind its order to bring publishing under government control by creating official censors. I wonder what he would make of...
Shameful Home Truths
Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture by Ian Cobain Portobello Books, £18.99, pp. 388, ISBN 9781846274839 One of our more cherished national myths is that we British do not torture prisoners of war and criminal suspects. We support decency and...
Spectator Mini-Bar
Father Christmas this year comes disguised as Mark Cronshaw of The Wine Company in Colchester. He has offered some huge savings on fine wines for yuletide glugging, and so while this Mini-Bar costs somewhat more than our usual offers, it does include...
Ste E R P I K E
Brian Leveson's epic inquiry into press malpractice is finally drawing to a close. In Britain, the courtroom saga has enjoyed a tiny daytime TV audience of tagged convicts, stoned job-seekers, bored print journalists and ex-employees of News International....
Such Fun!
Counting One's Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother edited by William Shawcross Macmillan, £25, pp. 524, ISBN 9780230754966 Nearly all the pages in this book are filled with thank-you letters. As a child, Elizabeth Bowes...
Television Top of Their Game
God, I'm jealous of Michael Gove. Not for being a cabinet minister in the same coalition as Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, obviously, but for being outed as a queer in the new series of Harry & Paul (BBC2, Sunday). Now that's what I call fame. Harry...
Theatre Warring Outcasts
The Dark Earth and the Light Sky Almeida, until 12 January 2013 Sweet Smell of Success Arcola, until 22 December Are we barmy or what? Our mawkish obsession with the first world war demonstrates that we're in the grip of a mass delusion: institutional...
The Great British Wind Scam
Your taxes are meant ot be supporting smaller turbines. In fact they're making giant ones less efficient. Almost everybody agrees that wind turbines are ugly and inefficient. But you'd think that the government, if it must persist in subsidising renewable...
The 'Ism' That Ruined the West
Constellation of Genius: 1922, Modernism Year One by Kevin Jackson Hutchinson, £20, pp. 544, ISBN 9780091930974 In 1974, as editor of the Connoisseur magazine, I ran an '1874' issue to mark the centenary of Winston Churchill's birth, to which John...
The Leftist Case for Joining a Pall Mall Club
I recently met a friend at the RAC Club in Pall Mall. Leafing through their brochures, I noticed there was an entrance fee of £2,900 and an annual renewal fee of £1,265. Gosh, I thought, that's expensive. Except it is and it isn't. It is expensive when...
The Spectator's Notes
Lynton Crosby will soon be appointed to run the Conservative strategy for the next election, say reports. Unnamed sources accuse him of saying rude things about Muslims; people mutter about the 'dog whistle' campaign of 2005. Such stories involve two...
The Turf Winners and Losers
My favourite racecourse-bar story this year involved a towel-clad jockey who had enjoyed his game of golf so much that in the shower room he demonstrated the iron shot that had gained him an eagle. Hearing a clunk behind him he discovered that his backswing...
Truth and Beauty
Dear Life by Alice Munro Chatto, £12.99, pp. 336, ISBN 9780701187842 Almost 20 years ago, Alice Munro, the Canadian genius of the short story, was interviewed by the Paris Review. She recalled a time when she was having trouble with her writing, and...
Westminster Waits Eagerly for the Return of the Crosby Show
Never before in British politics can the recruitment of a part-time consultant have been given so much coverage. The papers have treated Lynton Crosby's coming arrival at Conservative Campaign Headquarters with the seriousness that used to be reserved...
Within Ten Years You'll Be Buying Cannabis at Your Off-License
The first time I came across skunk cannabis was in an underground out-of-hours bar in Nottingham in 1997. I think I'll leave that as 'came across', if it's all the same to you. I might want to be prime minister one day, and it's important to have my...
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