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 February 2011

Aims of the Brotherhood
Make no mistake: the Muslim Brothers' vision for Egypt is a frightening one Hosni Mubarak should be given cred - it for at least one achievement in his three decades in power: his deft exploitation of Washington's fears about the Muslim Brotherhood....
ANCIENT AND MODERN - the Emperor of Egypt
Romans would have regarded Hosni Mubarak as effectively the emperor of Egypt. But they would not have thought he had played a very intelligent hand. The Roman emperor held supreme authority. As head of state ( princeps ), he ruled the Treasury, controlled...
And Then There Was One . .
The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming HarperCollins, £12.99, pp. 406, ISBN 9780007337798 The English fascination with spies is gloriously reflected in our literature, from Kim to A Question of Attribution , and while their Egyptian and Israeli counterparts...
Animal Magic
The Cunning Little Vixen Festival Theatre, Edinburgh The annual collaboration between Scottish Opera and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama is, as the principal of the RSAMD writes, 'a model . . . for partnership working between professionals...
A War of Nutrition
The Taste of War by Lizzie Collingham Allen Lane, £30, pp. 634, ISBN 9780713999648 The long summer that led up to the last days of peace in Europe in 1939 - the vigil of the Nazi assault on Poland on 1 September and the ensuing Phoney War - gave...
Barometer
Long-serving leaders Hosni Mubarak entered Egypt's crisis as one of the world's longest-serving political leaders. Here are five others: Leader Achieved power Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe 1980 Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Angola 1979 Teodoro Obiang Ngeuma Mbasogo,...
BOOKENDS - Hang the Participle
An awful lot of books are being published these days about the English language. David Crystal has a new one out every few weeks, and John Sutherland probably has half a dozen on the go. The Language Wars: (John Murray, £17.99) is Henry Hitchings's...
Care or Cure?
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee Fourth Estate, £25, pp. 571, ISBN 9780007250912 Cancer is usually associated with death. For the cancer specialist, however, cancer is more about life: not just patients'...
Consummate Con Artist
The True Story of Titanic Thompson by Kevin Cook Picador, £12.99, pp. 247, ISBN 9780330529945 'Taylor, I dreamt of your lecture last night, ' the polar explorer Captain Scott was once heard to exclaim, after sitting through a paper on icebergs by...
Dear Mary - Your Problems Solver
Q. At a drinks party I was introduced to a senior politician and found myself lost for words. I was not overawed, Mary, the problem was that although I admire the man, every gambit which went through my head seemed to be intrusive, patronising, critical,...
Diary
You may remember Ruth Turner, the Blair aide woken at dawn as 'Yates of the Yard' pursued allegations from the SNP about so-called cash for honours. How very different from YotY's handling of phone-hacking. The News of the World hack Paul McMullan told...
Empire of the Bouncer
The cricketer Chris Cowdrey tells a charming and self-deprecating story about his one match as captain of England. It was at Headingley in 1988 in the fourth Test against the all-conquering West Indies. They had won ten of their last 11 Tests, and had...
Faithful Servant
And so to my 72nd car (71st if you don't count the horsebox). Oppressive financial responsibility has slowed the recent rate of change and I've had my 1999 old-shape Discovery 2 for an unprecedented eight-plus years, although one or two others were...
Grown-Up Viewing
Sky's new channel, Atlantic, kicked off this week with two big shows: Boardwalk Empire , which is set in 1920 and is about gangsters, and Blue Bloods , which is set in the modern day and is about a family of New York law enforcers. As in all American...
High Life
Gstaad In 1940, Leo Amery, speaking in the House of Commons, rebuked Neville Chamberlain and his colleagues with the Oliver Cromwell quote, 'In the name of God, go!' This was after the fall of France with England on the brink. Those asking for Mubarak...
If Western Islander Want Miserable Sundays, What Right Have the Rest of Us to Interfere?
Sunday was a fairly dismal time for me, as a kid - and indeed for our dog, Skipper. Church I could just about put up with, but Sunday school was an embarrassment too far: I would scurry home from it in fear that my friends might see me, wracked with...
In Times Such as These, a Government Need S a Proper Strategic Foreign Policy
The coalition's approach to foreign policy is not to have a foreign policy. There is no Cameron doctrine. As events unfold in Egypt, the government does not even know what it wants to hap - pen. Alistair Burt, the Middle East minister, summed up this...
I Thought I Was Having a Nobel Laureate for Tea. Instead , the BBC Had Me for Lunch
Last week I was stitched up like a kip - per by the BBC. Perhaps you saw the programme - a Horizon documentary called Science Under Attack . Perhaps you were even among the dozens whom it inspired to send me hate emails along the lines of, 'Ha ha. Think...
Less Time, Less Crime
The case for a leaner prison system I have a confession to make. In 18 years in government, I have never come up with a policy that was instantly popular. Today, as Justice Secretary, my job is to mend Britain's broken prison system and make it less...
Letters
The route to Westminster Sir: Andrew Neil is admirably fair in his article on the over-representation of Oxbridge types and the privately educated in both the Labour and Conservative parties ('The fall of the meritocracy', 29 January). In my view,...
Look and Learn
Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work National Gallery, until 22 May Bridget Riley turns 80 this year, a fact easy to forget when looking at the surging energy and contemporaneity of her pictures. She is a remarkable artist who, although imposing...
Low Life
I was invited to the local garage's postponed Christmas party this year not just because I'd been a good customer. Perhaps more importantly I'd spent a good deal of time in the tiny office, leaning on the counter, chatting to Jim, the owner. It's warm...
Morphine Memories
Chapman's Odyssey by Paul Bailey Bloomsbury, £16.99, pp. 224 ISBN 9781408811474 Chapman's Odyssey became quite famous before it was published, largely because it nearly wasn't. Paul Bailey's long and distinguished career, complete with two appearances...
Names to Conjure With
Sebastian Faulks's latest book, examining the great characters of British fiction, may be scorned by the literary establishment, but Sam Leith salutes its enthusiasm and humour Faulks on Fiction: Great British Characters and the Secret Life of the...
Nowhere Becomes Somewhere
Bright Particular Stars by David McKie Atlantic, £25, pp. 368, ISBN 9781848872486 There have been quite a few anthologies of British eccentricity. Usually they are rollcalls of the lunatic: a sought-after heiress so snobbish she finally gave her hand...
One for the Gipper
'Government is like a baby,' said Ronald Reagan, who if he were still alive would be this Sunday celebrating his 100th birthday, 'endless appetite at one end, and no responsibility at the other.' British politicians tend not to make such jokes - and...
Portrait of the Week
Home The Health and Social Care Bill, which changes the organisation of the National Health Service, passed its second reading by 321 votes to 235. Lawyers opined that the European Court of Human Rights required the government to give prisoners in...
Prisoners of Strasbourg
Does it matter if prisoners are allowed to vote or not? Save for in the odd council ward in Brixton or on Dart - moor, some 84,000 prisoners - among an electorate of 46 million - are unlikely to have a material effect on the outcome of British elections....
Privatising Forests Must Be a Sensible Policy If So Many Celebs Are against It
The more passionate the outcry against the government's plan to privatise its English forestry estate, the more I feel the urge to cash in my meagre investments and bid for one of the forests in question myself. For a start, any policy which attracts...
Real Life
My local minicab firm has installed an auto - mated booking system. This means ordering a taxi now generates so much bureaucracy that I have to factor in an extra ten minutes to my morning routine so I can process all the red tape. It is no longer a...
Save the World Service
All this talk about cuts might not be such a bad thing, if it forces us to think about what really should not be left to rot and wither away for lack of funding. Take the BBC's World Service. Do we really need it in these post-imperial times? After...
Second Sight
Brighton Rock 15, Nationwide Rabbit Hole 12A, Nationwide Although I can't generally get too worked up about remakes, just as I can't get too worked up about most things these days - too old; too tired; too long in what teeth I still have left (four,...
Speak to Me
The surprising return of the public lecture Critics have been predicting the death of the public lecture ever since Johannes Gutenberg got his printing press going in 1450. Why bother negotiating the market-day crowds in downtown Mainz to hear someone...
Talk like an Egyptian
How to become an expert in time for your dinner party Few of us understand what is going on at the dusty end of the Med. There may be a few chinstrokers who cup, in their wizened palms, a concise comprehension of the Cairo crisis - see pages 14 to...
The Death of the Private Conversation
'Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading the newspapers, ' said the American writer Ben Hecht, 'is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.' This is as true of commentary as of news, and presents a Fleet...
The Dominoes Rally
Autocrats left standing in the region now share a single overriding aim: not being the next to fall First Tunisia, then Egypt. Whatever next? The laws of the Arab world are sup - posed to prohibit any domino effect: the military is supposed to be...
The Hangover from Hell
If a drunken woman and a drunken man have sex, our legal system treats the man as a rapist. That's wrong - and patronising Imagine, for a moment, that you've had a few sherries. Perhaps, even, more than a few; perhaps you have enjoyed that most pernicious...
There Is No Alternative
Stand-up comedians now stand in for the establishment Stand-up comedians: is there anything they can't do? Not only do they make up a huge proportion of chat-show guests - and of chat-show hosts - they also present Horizon , give us guides to the night...
The Spectator's Notes
Last week, I was airing to a sceptical Cabinet minister this column's moan (see Notes, 4 December) that the BBC is so obsessed with the Israel/ Palestine question that it ignores what is happening in the rest of the Muslim world. 'Why, ' I complained,...
The World after Mubarak
Experts debate what happens next in Egypt and the countries around it The mob will decide In his retirement, Dwight Eisenhow - er admitted that the biggest foreign policy mistake of his presidency had been not supporting Anthony Eden over the Suez...
'This Is Our City Now'
Cairo It's strange how quickly a revolution becomes ordinary. For decades, Egypt was the quintessential Middle East police state, but now the sight of freshly sprayed 'Fuck you Mubarak' graffiti seems normal. Cairo's famous traffic gridlock is long...
Top-Heavy
Writing racing books you can turn an honest penny but you can't expect to hit the bestseller lists. 'Why not try fiction?' some friends ask, and Mrs Oakley chivvies. I haven't yet for one reason: the odds against success, even if you do find a publisher....
Wedding Belles
The pedants who say fly-on-the wall documentaries are cheap, meaningless television could not be more wrong. They are the postmodernist answer to David Attenborough, the Life on Earth de nos jours . Anyone who doubts this should watch My Big Fat Gypsy...
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