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 2012

A Bad Week to Bury Relatively Good News F Rom the Econom Ic Front
The news agenda has gone mad. Imagine this is the issue of 27 October 1917, and our headlines are filled with allegations concerning the depravities of the late Mr Oscar Wilde, calls for a new enquiry into police handling of the 1888 Match Girls' Strike,...
Abroad
President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney took part in their third and final TV debate before polling day in the US elections. The President said that his rival was wrong about everything on foreign policy, while Mr Romney said the US...
A Brother's Suffering
It is so wrong that the law against assisted suicide means that dying patients are often left without adequte pain relief. My brother David died recently in the care of the NHS. His death was not their fault: no one can do anything about bone cancer...
Ace of Bureaucrats
Though the name 'Raffles' conjures up exoticism and glamour he man himself turns out to be a bit of a disappointment, says Sam Leith Raffles and the Golden Opportunity by Victoria Glendinning Prole, £25, pp. 321, ISBN 9781846686030 Thomas Stamford Raffles...
Addicted to Chekhoc
Lloyd Evans on why we've all become hooked on the Russian playwright One departs and three more come charging in. It's always rush-hour for Chekhov in the capital. As the Young Vic's production of Three Sisters is drawing to a close, the Vaudeville...
Another Bleak House on the Fens
Dolly: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill Prole, £9.99, pp. 192, ISBN 9781846685743 The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill Chatto, £9.99, pp. 192, ISBN 9780701187866 Some years ago, Susan Hill stated in an interview: 'It's not plot that interests me but setting,...
Bullets over the BBC
Expect more infighting and buck-passing from the corporation. Ring, ring, goes the telephone, every hour that God sends. And it's always some producer from the BBC, ringing me up to ask me on to some programme to stick the boot in to the BBC. Newsnight...
Burning His Bridges
Vanished Years by Rupert Everett Little Brown, £20, pp. 366, ISBN 9780349000220 They have mostly achieved eminence, the original cast members who appeared on stage or in the film adaptation, 30 years ago, of Julian Mitchell's homoerotic spy fable Another...
Cinema the Spy Who Loved M
Skyfall 12A, Nationwide Skyfall is the latest James Bond film, as directed by Sam Mendes, which I felt I should make clear, as there is always so little pre-publicity around these releases. (You'd think the marketing people would splatter the poster...
Colossal Windbags
The Spanish Ambassador's Suitcase: Stories from the Diplomatic Bag edited by Matthew Parris and Andrew Bryson Viking, £16.99, pp. 388, ISBN 9780670921034 'Senior British diplomats really knew how to write, ' declares Matthew Parris in his introduction...
CUL T U R E N O T E S 21st-Century Disney
When, in 1940, Walt Disney released Fantasia, his radical arrangement of animations set to classical music, he fancied that he might add new segments to it every few years so that it could grow with its audience. Alas, it was not to be. The cost of...
Dea R M a R Y Y O U R P R O B L E M S S O L V E D
Q. I work in a large open-plan office and one of my neighbours is driving me to distraction. She has a number of peculiar habits, but the real source of my ire is that she wears at least eight gold bangles on her right arm which jangle loudly every...
Diary
I am standing in the courtyard of HMP Wormwood Scrubs with the Prime Minister. He's there, or so I read, to convince the papers that his approach to law and order has moved from 'hug a hoodie' to 'mug a hoodie'. I'm there to ask him not just about that...
'Die Slowly, Ch R I St Ian Dog ' MARY WAKEFIELD
Lebanon There is one main road stretching north-south along the Bekaa valley between Lebanon and Syria. It runs in a beeline from the prosperous little city of Zhaleh, on through a series of villages each with its own religious bent - some Sunni, some...
Disgusting, but Not Shocking
Jasper Becker reports on Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature The joke doing the rounds in Beijing is that the Swedes gave the Nobel Literature prize to the wrong Chinese. It should have gone to the Communist Party's propaganda department,...
Drink an Italian Secret
miserable day: grey, grizzling, drizzly -- October going on February. Our host had reluctantly given up the crazy idea of lunch in the garden; the first guests helped him move the tables and chairs inside. It may have been an attempt to warm ourselves...
Exhibitions Neglected Master Exhibitions Neglected Master
Mark Gertler: Works 1912-28 Piano Nobile, 129 Portland Road, W11, until 16 November Simon Casson: Smeech and Hrain Long & Ryle, 4 John Islip Street, SW1, until 3 November Every so often, about once a decade, the work of Mark Gertler (1891-1939)...
Gay Marriage Is Going to Happen and That's a Fact
I know this will surprise you, given the shy and retiring violets who largely write in these pages, but one of the main problems with being a columnist is the rampaging ego. In my own case, this manifests not in drunken debauchery or unabashed priapism...
Girls' Own
We still need a women's prize for fiction Everyone was so busy celebrating Hilary Mantel's second Booker Prize victory last week that it was easy to overlook the announcement that another of our literary prizes has been saved from extinction. The Orange...
Home
Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative chief whip, resigned, still denying that he referred to police as 'plebs' for refusing to allow him to cycle through the main gate to Downing Street three weeks ago. The Chancellor, George Osborne, was caught in a first-class...
Is Obama Stalking You?
Is the first ever billion-dollar campaign being fought online? Washington At a wine-tasting-cum-briefing of volunteers at the Democratic Women's Club headquarters in Washington last month, Obama campaign adviser Mindy Burrell stood up in a flowery...
Just a Guy Who Writes Songs
The John Lennon Letters edited by Hunter Davies Weidenfeld, £25, pp. 400, ISBN 9780297866343 There is a famous piece of film - well, famous to those of us who know more about the Beatles than is possibly good for our health - where John Lennon encounters...
Letters
The tox ic centre -ground Sir: I found it hard to be convinced by Matthew Parris's claim ('The centre holds', 20 October) that David Cameron has 'brilliantly understood' that old 'nasty party' problem. It is held by the soft wet left of the Conservative...
Little House on the Pampas
Goodbye Buenos Aires by Andrew Graham-Yooll Eland, £12.99, pp. 211, ISBN 9781906011703 It's hard to tell Argentina's story without moments of despair. Even those who are fond of this country - like me - can struggle to identify the bright spots in its...
Long Life
One of the ways by which I pay for the maintenance of my two Inigo Jones pavilions at Stoke Park in Northamptonshire is to let one of them out for wedding receptions. These buildings, originally a chapel and a library, were once attached by colonnades...
Lost in Europe
How has Britain come to need a EU referendum? Because it has no European policy As you read this, the Conservatives seem to be edging towards some promise, to be contested at the next general election, of a referendum in the next parliament over Britain's...
Low Life
Brazil! What fantasies, mainly erotic, are conjured up by that word! At Salvador airport, as promised, leaning over the rail bearing a sign with my name on it, was a man sent to drive me to the hotel. I gave him a nod (I was too tired to smile) and...
Miami Vice
Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe Cape, £20, pp. 704, ISBN 9780224097277 This is an exhilarating novel. Its general gist is that in a multicultural society so-called honour often trumps virtue, political expediency frequently wins out over inconvenient truth,...
MIN D Y O U R L A N G U A G E Bumfodder
'Look at all this bumf, ' said my husband, shaking some 'guidance' on how to fill in his tax return and sounding like someone out of Much Binding in the Marsh. I mentioned last week the New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew,...
Mother of Sorrows
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin Viking, £12.99, pp. 105, ISBN 9780670922093 This novella tells the story of the Crucifixion from the point of view of Mary. Contrary to art historical belief she was not, we are now told, kneeling at the foot of...
Music Blind Spot
Do you have a mysterious and slightly embarrassing musical blind spot? One of mine is for Dvorak, whom I don't need to be told is a great composer. Maybe it was overexposure to the New World Symphony as a child; or maybe I'm unreasonably irritated by...
Now We Know What Happened Byron Rogers
by Andrew Marr Macmillan, £25, pp. 614, ISBN 9780230755956 First there was Sir Walter Raleigh, who after 'getting one of the Mayds of Honour up against a tree in a Wood' went on to write The Historie of the World. Then there was H.G.Wells, who cut a...
Old Palaces for New Plutocrats
Great Houses of London by James Stourton Frances Lincoln, £40, pp. 352, ISBN 9780711233669 Having lived in London for 35 years, I thought I knew its architectural highlights pretty well, but this book is a revelation. It shows an aspect of the city...
Opera No Laughing Matter
Don Giovanni; The Makropulos Case Opera North, Leeds, in rep until 2 November and then on tour About two of the operas I saw in Leeds this week there is a serious question as to whether or not they are comedies. The third, Gounod's Faust, is clearly...
Policing the Police
Public officials, even retired ones, should not as a general rule attempt to undermine democracy. Imagine if, for example, a permanent secretary in the Home Office took to the airwaves to persuade the public to sit on their hands in a general election,...
Punishment and Retribution
Prime Minister Cameron has argued that 'retribution [against criminals] is not a dirty word' and 'punishment is what offenders both deserve and need'. Many ancients would have keenly agreed. Ancient Greeks argued that society was held together by systems...
Radio Time Switch
It seems an astonishing statistic but 99.6 per cent of radio is broadcast live, delivered straight from the studio mike to your personal loudspeaker: 99.6 per cent! Compared with TV, which must be at least 80 per cent recorded, this is an extraordinary...
Real Life
Any half decent guide to the countryside should include the following tip: if you find an owl by the side of the road, don't pick it up. I was riding along the lane on the skewbald pony when I suddenly realised there were two huge eyes staring up at...
Repeat Offenders
David Cameron's 'new' law and order policy has failed many times before The Pr ime M in is ter gave a s t irr ing speech last week in which he outlined the government's new policy on law and order. The key, he insisted, was to be 'tough and intelligent'...
ROME Shop L Ik E a Rom an Rampant Materialism Is Their Forte, Says John Laughland
When I am in Rome, I do as the Romans - I engage in rampant materialism. The eternal city may be - via the Church which has its headquarters there - the way to heaven; its population, however, is more interested in this world than the next. The city...
Spectator Mini-Bar
Four delicious wines from the estimable Private Cellar. Three are from France, and one from Italy. A mixed case would, I think, cover all your drinking needs for quite a few days. The Italian is a Soave. That's Italian for 'suave', but much of the wine...
Television BBC Goes for It
Which is the worse crime, would you say: eavesdropping on celebrities' answerphones? Or hosting and covering up for a ruthless predatory paedophile ring - led by your biggest, most heavily promoted star - over a period of four decades? Mm, me too....
Theatre Racial Tensions
Red Velvet Tricycle, until 24 November The Revenger's Tragedy Hoxton Hall, until 10 November Covent Garden, 1833. Edmund Kean, the greatest tragedian of his age, has collapsed while playing the title role in Othello at the Theatre Royal. His son, Charles,...
The Conservatives' Major Anxiety
There's a spectre haunting the Conservative party, the spectre of a voteless recovery. Under the gothic arches of the House of Commons, small groups of Tory MPs stand around nervously debating whether 'it's John Major all over again'. Their fear is...
The Spectator's Notes
Instead of looking at the BBC's behaviour over the Jimmy Savile programme through the red mist of selfrighteous hindsight, consider the editorial problem it presented at the time. You have already planned Christmas tribute programmes to one of your...
The Turf Unbeaten Frankel
After Brad Wiggins's Tour de France victory, Mo Farah's Olympics successes and Andy Murray's first Grand Slam title, any other result would have been unthinkable, so praise the Lord that Frankel did win Ascot's Champion Stakes. On unsuitably soft ground...
'The Usual Practice Is for the Male in the Household to Decide That His Outdated iPad Would Make a Perfect Present for His Wife' - Rory Sutherland, P77 High Life
A Greek football team has been warned it will be kicked off the field if its players wear uniforms advertising its two new sponsors. The shirts have been bright pink since the team was founded, and bear the names of local brothels 'Villa Erotica' and...
The Whole Kitchen Caboodle
Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson Particular Books, £20, pp. 364, ISBN 9781846143403 Pretentious, effeminate, sinister and even obscene, the fork of folktale was a sign of loose morals, silly decadence or sexual deviancy. To insist on eating with a fork...
The Wiki Man Fryers vs Phones
At her school interview, my daughter was asked to name the most important technology of the modern age. I'm proud to say she answered 'sewerage'. Some historians now claim the washing machine was, in economic terms, a far more revolutionary innovation...
The Winning Streak
Britain & Ireland's Top 100 Racehorses of All Time by Robin Oakley Corinthian, £16.99, pp. 320, ISBN 9781906850425 Fortunately the author explained how he came to make the choices for this book in his column here (29 September), because otherwise...
What Should Happen Now? John Simpson
If you work for the BBC, you dislike seeing the outfit's name in the headlines. It usually means the BBC is in trouble. No good complaining that much of the British press (to the bewilderment of people outside the country) have it in for the BBC, big...
Why Are We Still Obsessed with Class?
LIFE too badly in the international league tables. I f you measure inter-generational social mobility according to occupation (typically a seven-class model with 'higher managerial and professional' at the top and 'routine' at the bottom), Britain sits...
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