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

After the Cuts, a Growth Strategy-This Is an Electoral as Well as Economic Plan
On Monday night, all new Conservative MPs were summoned to a meeting with the chief whip in Portcullis House. The chief, a former miner who couldn't be more different from the gilded youth of David Cameron's A list, impressed on them the line for the...
Ancient and Modern
Today's top 15 per cent of earners have been whingeing away at the belts they will have to tighten to deal with the financial crisis. Ancient historians like Livy would not have been impressed. In the Roman republic, crises were life-or-death ones,...
A World of Ignorance
America's politicians are hopeless at understanding other countries - but they're not alone in that Ever since the United States rose to great power status, it has displayed bouts of appalling ignorance about the politics and cultures of the rest of...
Bilbao
With an average rating of 2789, the recently concluded super-tournament in Bilbao was able to boast the highest total of any official tournament since ratings were first instituted. Former world champion Vladimir Kramnik emerged in top place with two...
BOOKENDS - A Tiny Bit Marvellous
Criticising Dawn French feels like kicking a puppy. She's so winning that the nation was even tempted to let The Vicar of Dibley slide. The same is true of her debut novel, A Tiny Bit Marvellous (Michael Joseph, £18.99), which has its heart in the right...
Cross Country Guide
The Shell Country Alphabet edited by Geoffrey Grigson Penguin, £9.99, pp. 440, ISBN 9780141041681 This is a book which, along with a packet of extra strong mints, deserves a place in the glove compartment of every car. Any motoring trip into the...
CULTURE NOTES - Eastern Promise
The Singapore Symphony Orchestrais like a teenage athlete just about to hit peak form. This could be one of the great orchestras of the 21st century. So could its rival, the Malaysian Philharmonic. We all know that Asia produces dazzling soloists. But...
Dancing with Admirals and Painted Ladies
The Butterfly Isles By Patrick Barkham Granta, £20, pp. 372, ISBN 9781847081278 Everyone loves butterflies. Of course we do. Possibly more than any other living thing, they represent to us the terrible fragility of life, the knowledge that however...
Dea Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. I recently spent three hours in the hairdresser undergoing an expensive hair straightening technique (£200) so that my hair now looks sleek, like Jennifer Aniston's, rather than frizzy. I was delighted with the result, which is expected to last for...
Design for Giving
Support for the arts is vital - if the government will no longer help, it must create tax incentives for philanthropists to do so The quest ion I'm most often asked is this. How did I end up living and working in south London instead of doing what most...
Diary
One of the joys of working early mornings is not having to work after 9 a.m. But there are pitfalls. My colleague Jeremy Bowen, during a stint on morning television, went for a pleasant lunch in central London and emerged from the restaurant to see...
DIVING - into the Blue
Freddy Gray takes the plunge into scuba off the Maldives I am 15 metres deep, trying to make Darth Vader noises through my underwater breathing apparatus, when I see the manta ray. My word, it's big: at least four metres wide and just as long. It looks...
Forget the Cuts
While Westminster is fixated on public sector cuts, no one has noticed that the cost of living is surging. Ministers ignore the 'misery index' at their peril To listen to the reporting of the Chancellor's phased and rather limited spending cuts, you...
For His Next Trick
Derren Brown wants to avoid the posturing of most illusionists. But he can give a remarkable impression of transparency while keeping his cards very close 'I think he is probably the devil, ' said the work experience boy when I was going to meet Derren...
Gang of Four
Red 12A, Nationwide Red is not a very good film and neither does it try to be. It puts in very little effort and, instead, relies almost entirely on the pulling power of its all-star line up: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman,...
GERMANY - Culture Vultures
Charles Moore explores how Berlin is marking the horrors of its past It sometimes feels as if Berlin has been more fought over than lived in. European cities like Rome, Paris and London have accumulated their greatness over two and more millennia....
Groupthink and Doubletalk
Obama's Wars: The Inside Stoy by Bob Woodward Simon & Schuster, £20, pp. 464, ISBN 9780857200440 Soon after his historic victory over John McCain, Barack Obama was ushered into a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) located deep...
Healthy Competition
The 2010 Gramophone Awards took me by surprise the other day - quite possibly because I took no interest in the 2009 Awards and therefore may have missed out on a trend. It was as if the recording equivalent of the Campaign for Real Ale had come along,...
High Life
New York It's open season against whites over here. A couple of weeks ago, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate, also 18, and a female student accomplice used a webcam to film him surreptitiously...
HORSERIDING - Away on the Range
Bernard Lyall sets aside his motorbike to discover the life of a Wyoming cowboy It's one of those things that needs no explaining. Like swimming with dolphins, maybe, or boating gently down the Thames in summer. So when I told friends I was going horseback...
Letters
Dutch tensions Sir: Rod Liddle's magnificent portrayal of Dutch politics is marred by one error ('Orange alert', 16 October). The antiimmigration and anti-Islam leader Geert Wilders is not 'almost bizarrely Aryan', as Liddle states. His grandmother...
Low Life
I made her acquaintance in the ladies' lavatory towards the end of a fantastic birthday bash held in the upstairs room of a north London pub. I was incoherently drunk, and I think she was too, because I can't remember either of us managing anything...
Not Going Forward
Strictly English by Simon Heffer Random House, £12.99, pp. 322, ISBN9781847946300 This is a brave book, quixotic even. Simon Heffer, an associate editor of the Daily Telegraph, believes English has a settled framework of grammar that is today often...
Not Good Enough
The Verdict: Did Labour Change Britain? by Polly Toynbee and David Walker Granta, £18.99, pp. 314, ISBN 9781847081483 Tony Blair gave his record in government ten out of ten, though an ungrateful electorate scored rather less well and his Cabinet colleagues...
Out of Time and Place
The Life of an Unknown Man by Andrei Makine Sceptre, £16.99, pp. 250, ISBN 9780340998786 The misleadingly titled Life of an Unknown Man is in fact the story of two men, and the dualities that their characters embody - fame and anonymity, unhappiness...
PARAGLIDING - Vulture Culture
Graeme Green learns the ways of birds - by flying with them across the Himalayas I meet Kevin on the edge of Lake Phewa, in the foothills of the Annapurna mountains. Kevin is the perfect guide: intelligent, fit, charming and an expert on these parts...
Pass the Cheese, Louise
The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens Persephone, £12, pp.320, ISBN9781903155806 Widowhood in 1955 was not a desirable state. Not, at any rate, for Louise Bickford, heroine of The Winds of Heaven (first published in 1955, now reprinted by Persephone)....
Portrait of the Week
Home The coalition government announced cuts under the Comprehensive Spending Review of £23.1 billion, or 3.3 per cent of total government spending, over four years. The schools budget joined the NHS and international aid in being protected from cuts....
Postmodern Spirit
Dance Umbrella Candoco Dance Company Alesandra Seutin & Vicki Igbokwe Trisha Brown Southbank Centre Raimund Hoghe Laban Theatre Choreographing You Hayward Gallery, until 9 January Royal Ballet Royal Opera House Once upon a time, in America,...
Ready for Take-Off
Brideshead Abbreviated by John Crace Random House, £12.99, pp. 355, ISBN 9781905211555 In the recently published Oxford Book of Parodies, John Crace clocks up five entries, thus putting him just behind Craig Brown as our Greatest Living Parodist....
Real Life
On the face of it, giving my house keys to an Albanian builder I bumped into on the street might be deemed a silly thing to do. But to those traditionalists who quibble with such a sally, I would make certain points in defence of giving a strange man...
Revolting Listeners
A rare but threatened species, in dire need of a campaign to save it from extinction, could be heard on Saturday night. Stages of Independence, showcasing the work of ten African playwrights, is likely to be one of the last-ever original World Service...
Sex and Drugs and Rock 'N' Roll Is a Thoroughly Conservative Philosophy
The guitarist Keith Richards is perhaps most famous for having constructed a short and very simple rhythmic musical phrase, over the top of which his colleague Mick Jagger expressed an increasing irritation at being unable to acquire, in both general...
Spending Review Barometer
The misery index The index below shows the real average take-home pay after ination and tax falling at a steeper rate than at any time since the 1980s. Our thanks to Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, for compiling the graph for us. The data...
Take Two
n Competition No. 2669 you were invited to take one of Shakespeare's soliloquies and recast it in the style of the author of your choice. This was an exceptionally strong field, with winners enough to fill several columns. Honourable mentions to G.M....
Taking a Firm Line
A Life in Pictures by Alasdair Gray Canongate, £35, pp. 303, ISBN 9781841956404 This book collects nearly 300 examples of Alasdair Gray's work as a painter and illustrator. As an art student in 1950s Glasgow, he scorned the conservatism of tutors...
That Turbulent Decade
No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s by Andy McSmith Constable, £14.99, pp. 342, ISBN 9781849010092 On 2 January, 1980, a new decade was ushered in with a strike by steelworkers. It was their first national stoppage for half...
The Chilean Miners Have Shown World Leaders How to Settle the Currency War
MARTIN VANDER WEYER If I hear one more clunking metaphor about how we're trapped in the debt mine but there's light at the end of the tunnel, I think I'll bury myself in the garden. But the grit, faith and, most of all, mutual support of the Chilean...
The Point of Osborne's Scalpel
To govern is to choose. For nine years, Gordon Brown delayed choosing between higher taxes or lower spending, which is why the last time he balanced the government's books was 2001-02. Since then, we have been building up to the spending cuts announced...
The Spectator's Notes
There was dismay in Whitehall at the way decisions on the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) were left until the very last moment. But those who were at Oxford with David Cameron explain that this is his preferred method. He collects information...
The Wiki Man-A New Dimension in Uselessness
In the less politically correct age which was my childhood, a series of stocking-filler paperbacks sold in their millions. The first was called The Official Irish Joke Book - Book Three (Book Two to follow). The only joke I remember concerned the Irish...
Toddlers Know What 'Fair' Means. Do Politicians?
Two words have been everywhere touted during this political season: 'fairness' and 'equality'. By the time you read this, after Wednesday's comprehensive spending review, occurrences of the first will have reached epidemic proportions. Let us examine...
Tomas Alfredson: Outside the Frame
Without warning, Tomas Alfredson jumps up and starts wading about the room like a water bird treading over lily pads. 'There's a famous sketch by a Swedish comedian, ' he explains by way of a voiceover, 'in which he's walking through a meadow of tall...
Two of a Kind
Philip Hensher wonders why the warmth of Larkin's poetry is never reflected in his letters to his mistress They were 'soulmates' according to people who knew both of them. The word has a double-edged quality; it may suggest that they got on well together...
Unfair Sex
Are women athletes right to fear that their sports will be invaded by transsexuals? Lana Lawless, a stocky blonde in her fifties, stepped up to the tee at the 2008 World Long Drive Championship and smashed the ball into a 40 mile per hour headwind....
United Nations
There have been the usual moans about the BBC spending £100,000 on coverage of the Chilean miners. I suppose the figure includes wages that would have been paid whether the people were in South America or Shepherds Bush, and, if accurate (I suspect...
Venetian Visions
Andrew Lambirth finds the National Gallery's new exhibition on Canaletto and his contemporaries both illuminating and enjoyable Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697-1768), better known as Canaletto, is a safe bet and a crowd-pleaser, and the weary critic is...
Who's Deceiving Whom?
The Turn of the Screw Opera North, touring until 17 November The Duenna English Touring Opera, touring until 27 November The more often I see Britten's The Turn of the Screw, the more I am bewildered and fascinated by it. There is no question that...
Whose Side Are They On?
The Conservatives have proved unafraid of making enemies with their cuts. It's less clear that they know who their friends are With all the spending review figures published, one question still hangs in the air: whose side is the coalition on? Families...
Who's the Daddy?
Paternity can now be verified by a simple test - but that doesn't mean it should be It's a wise child, they say, that knows its own father. Nowadays, however, wisdom is hardly required; DNA tests can do the job with scientific certainty. For the entire...
Wild Life
Bangkok 'Any Thai man who is not married is gay, ' said a Thai woman to me. 'You could say that about many places, ' I observed. 'Yes, but 80 per cent of Thai men are also effeminate, ' said a second Thai woman in the room. We were waiting to see a...
Your Nominations - Spectator/threadneedle Parliamentarian Awards
Who would have thought it? After the shattering disappointment of a general election defeat, Gordon Brown can finally dig out some solace from our search for the greatest parliamentarian of the last 25 years. Andy Miles nominates our former prime minister...
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