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 October 2010

A Brief Scuffle on the Bridge of the HSBC Supertanker Doesn't Mean a Change of Course
'HSBC shareholders should remember that slavish adherence to corporate fashion is usually what gets banks into trouble, ' I wrote in May, in response to whispers that executive chairman Stephen Green was under pressure to make way for a conventionally...
Age Concern
The Makropoulos Case; Faust English National Opera, in rep until 5 and 16 October English National Opera seems, at the start of the season, to be preoccupied, as we should all be, with how long we want to live, and in what kind of condition. In Janacek's...
An Artist of the Sinking World
Levitating houses and uprooted trees: Andrew Lambirth uncovers the artist Julian Perry's obsession with coastal erosion Julian Perry (born 1960) paints images of genuine topicality in an immaculate high-definition realist style. His last show in 2007...
Anti-Depressant
'Get inside the creative mind, ' urges the website of Studio 360, an innovative radio programme based in New York. Set up by Kurt Andersen (of Spy magazine), it offers a weekly magazine programme about the arts, a sort of Front Row crossed with Night...
Barometer
Among the quangos The government is to axe 177 quangos. Here are some of the most obscure, and their stated purposes: Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees 16 regional bodies which hear disputes over tied housing on farms Commission for...
Big Spender
Three months ago I wrote here about my chronic Amazon habit, in which I recklessly buy books, DVDs and CDs I will never have time to read, watch or listen to. It has been costing me as much as drink did when I was still a practising alcoholic. I made...
Blu-Ray Earns Its Stripes
Peter Greenaway's A Zed & Two Noughts, recently released on Bluray disc by the BFI, proves that the high-definition format isn't just for blockbusters: it could have been invented for the British director's first collaboration with the legendary...
BOOKENDS - Jump! by Jilly Cooper
Never eat at restaurants where they picture the food on the menu. Steer clear of books which explain the characters in a glossary. If you have to give your customers an idea in advance of what to expect, then it follows that your cooking/narrative may...
Cameron's New Model Army
The Conservatives are planning to chip away at the lower middle-class voter and release his inner Tory Two inconvenient truths will put the dampeners on what could have been a celebratory Conservative party conference in Birmingham next week. First,...
Coalition Wear and Tear
Yes, Prime Minister Gielgud, booking until 15 January 2011 The Big Fellah Lyric, Hammersmith, until 16 October Let's talk about Tucker. The Beeb's mockumentary The Thick of It has been hailed as a brilliantly incisive glimpse into the corridors...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. How can I, before accepting an invitation to dinner, find out if the person issuing it has a sweep? The question seems so snobbish but the truth is that unless they have one, my husband and I can't go. To explain: our normal car was in an accident...
Diary
Waiting in the Scottish sunshine to meet the Pope, my eye is drawn up Arthur's Seat. I feel a sudden, strong desire to climb it. A long walk is overdue, especially after a night on the 'sleeper train' - surely one of the crueller oxymorons in the English...
Earth to Earth
The Arte Sella sculpture park has an unusual policy even as open-air museums go, with all the exhibits destined in due course to disintegrate and biodegrade. The park was founded nearly 25 years ago by a trio of friends from Borgo Valsugana, a small...
Ed Miliband Owes His Victory to the Unions, and Whatever Pact He Made with Them May Haunt
At Labour party conference in Manchester last week, David Miliband's supporters could be spotted at 20 paces. They were the ones walking around in a daze, still not quite able to take in what had happened. They felt that their man had not so much lost...
Ed Miliband Seems to Be All for Marriage, So How Come He's Too Busy for One of His Own?
Look, I get it. I know how it is. You've got a lot on. You're overdue a haircut, your parking permit is about to run out, and you got something from the tax man the other day, which you wrote a phone number on and took to work, and brought home again...
Find Yourself in Thurso
You don't need to go abroad to eat, pray or love The Kensington branch of the upmarket travel company Kuoni has a poster on the window bearing the cryptic legend: Eat, Pray, Love. It's intelligible probably only to women passers-by and for them, it...
From Marble Angels to Pebbledash People
It doesn't take long for a new political leader to decide that he or she is uniquely placed to capture the hearts and votes of the lower middle classes - the C1s and C2s as they call them. Disraeli was perhaps the first Tory to try, conjuring an image...
Great Dane
This week I continue my tribute to the Danish grandmaster and World Championship candidate Bent Larsen, who died recently at the age of 75. Larsen was dangerous with both colours and did not subscribe to the supine point of view that one tried for a...
House Rules
The other weekend the Fawn and I were invited to stay at Chilham Castle. Obviously, if you're Charles Moore, this is no big deal because it's the kind of thing you do 24/7, 365 days of the year. For us, though - me especially, the Fawn being slightly...
How I Provoked the Wrath of Mumsnet
Apparently I'm in the doghouse. It's because of a piece I wrote in Tatler which asked the question: 'If you had a boy and a girl and could only afford to educate one of them privately, which would you choose?' All other things being equal, I foolhardily...
In a Greene Shade
Chasing the Devil by Tim Butcher Chatto & Windus, £18.99, pp. 325, ISBN 9780701183608 Some travel writers, in an attempt to simulate the hardship of Victorian journeys, like to impose artificial difficulties on themselves. A glut of memorably...
In Bed with Politicians
Who on earth wants to know about the leaders' children, pets, kitchens and favourite biscuits? I am sitting in the audience at Labour party conference, watching a tribute video to Gordon Brown. As Brown smiles, walks, talks, scowls and moves his limbs...
I Refuse to Buy Meat from Supermarkets until They Ban Halal Slaughter
There is a view, prevalent among a sizeable minority of people in this country, and particularly within the angry, fat and drunk white underclass, that one day very soon the green flag of Islam will fly above Westminster and Britain will have become...
It's Their Party
Right-wing Tea Party activists might well reshape the US Congress - but they have already routed the Republican establishment When angry right-wing American voters started taking to the streets to protest against the Obama administration's policies,...
Letters
Darwinian faith Sir: I am always amazed at how little Darwin's devotees seem to know about his theory of how evolution came about. In addressing the familiar riddle of why the fossil record does not show 'intermediate forms' between one species and...
Liberating Visions
Victor Willing: A Retrospective Casa das Historias Cascais, Portugal, until the New Year Victor Willing (1928-88) is perhaps the least classifiable of the brilliant early-1950s Slade generation, which includes his wife Paula Rego. So it is uniquely...
LIFE - High Life
When Tom Wolfe harpooned Leonard Bernstein in his famous Sixties essay, he did it by quoting directly from those attending the infamous cocktail party Lenny gave for the Black Panthers. Wolfe had finagled an invite to the grand 5th Avenue Bernstein...
LIFE - Low Life
I thought I'd never see the day when Sharon would be content to spend a quiet hour with me looking at my holiday snaps on the laptop. Alcoholic nymphomaniacs, I suppose, must mellow over time like everybody else. Her interest was unflagging, even when...
LIFE - Real Life
Tack shops. You can't live with them, can't live without them. There is no logical explanation for how compulsively these places draw you in. It is entirely probable they put something addictive in the air supply. Or would they even need to? The intoxicating...
Moral Authority
Baroness Warnock, atheist pillar of the liberal establishment, on the need for Christianity in schools and the folly of human rights Baroness Warnock has had many battles with religion over the course of her long and distinguished career. In 1984, when...
Nothing like a Dame
Handling Edna: The Unauthorised Biography by Barry Humphries Weidenfeld, £18.99, pp. 338, ISBN 9780297860839 Kafka was right: 'Strange how make-believe, if engaged in systematically enough, can change into reality.' But Barry Humphries, at the age...
Portrait of the Week
Home Ed Miliband, aged 40, was elected leader of the Labour party by 50.65 per cent of the vote, to 49.35 per cent for his brother David, aged 45. Ed Miliband had gained 15.522 per cent from MPs, 15.198 from party members - both lower figures than...
Pseuds Corner
In Competition No. 2666 you were invited to supply an example of pretentious tosh in the shape of a review of a TV or radio soap opera or any other piece of entertainment aimed at the mass market. It is tempting with this type of comp to go over the...
Rescue Remedy
Asked why he had sent a wreath in the shape of a lifebelt, a friend at the funeral of a man who had drowned replied, ' It's what he would have wanted.' Does Flat racing, which keeps convincing itself it is drowning, need a lifebelt in the shape of a...
Ride on in Majesty
Image Wars by Kevin Sharpe Yale, £35, pp. 665, ISBN 9780300162004 Governments in early modern England, having no standing army nor a civil service to speak of, required the consent of the governed. Authority had to be 'culturally constructed'. That...
Satellite Superiority
It is a critical moment for the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris - and for the French art trade. For this year's edition of this most august art and antiques fair (which ended last week) - ostensibly celebrating its 25th anniversary - came as a real...
Self-Awareness
Walking to Hollywood by Will Self Bloomsbury, £17.99, pp. , 448, ISBN 9780747598442 Will Self loves to go a-wandering; this much we know. For the past few years, he has followed the lead of authors such as Iain Sinclair, and undertaken huge, looping...
Smells like Team Spirit
People who think that life is always about money will have a hard job explaining the Ryder Cup. Top golfers earn serious cash these days, and fairly so-so golfers do too. But once every two years they play for nothing; nothing, that is, beyond the honour...
Spectator Mini-Bar Offer
An unusual mini-bar, celebrating the complete revamp of the Harrods wine department next month. Not only will it be much larger but it will have a terrific sampling bar where you can try out wines you might not feel able to afford by the bottle - which...
Straining for Effect
Decline & Fall by Chris Mullin Profile, £20, pp. 443, ISBN 9781846683992 A saint of self-deprecation, Chris Mullin closed the first volume of his diaries A View from the Foothills 'contemplating oblivion' after his dismissal from ministerial...
The Spectator's Notes
It is surprising that the Cameron camp is so pleased that it was Ed, not David. Miliband ma does, indeed, have the more centrist politics of the two, but it was clear from Ed's speech to his conference on Tuesday that he has a freedom which his big...
The Tories Need to Talk
Liam Fox has certainly given the Tories something to talk about as they gather for the party conference this weekend. Everything that he wrote in his leaked letter to David Cameron is true: the Conservatives in opposition promised to be tough on defence;...
Troubled Waters
Heartstone by C. J. Sansom Mantle, £18.99, pp. 633, ISBN 9781405092739 This is the fifth in C. J. Sansom's engrossing series of Tudor crime novels. His hero is Matthew Shardlake, a middle-aged, hunchbacked property lawyer who lives on the fringe...
We Need Your Vote
To celebrate 25 years of The Spectator/Threadneedle Parliamentarian Awards, we invite you to nominate the best MP of the past quarter-century The question hangs in the air: what makes a great parliamentarian? And the answer echoes back: many things....
Women on Top
Made in Dagenham 15, Nationwide Although Made in Dagenham is far from perfect and has a particular fondness for those impromptu speeches which turn out to be stirringly spot-on, it is so warm-hearted and affectionate it wouldn't be right to take against...
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