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 June 2007

A Female Colossus
COMING ON STRONG by Joan Rhodes Serendipity, £9.95, pp. 151, ISBN 9781843942283 During the post-war years, the author of this book was a much-talked about variety artiste, famous for breaking ten-inch nails, bending steel bars in her teeth and throwing...
A Long Time in Politics
By the time the next issue of The Spectator hits the news-stands, Tony Blair will have battled his way through his last EU summit; the Labour party will have elected a new leader and deputy leader; and Britain will have a new Prime Minister who will...
A Pevsner for Paintings
There is a remarkable project of great enterprise and diligence in progress throughout the land -- a plan to catalogue all the oil paintings (as well as those in acrylic or tempera) in national collections. This gigantic task is being undertaken by...
Blair Is Going, but Thatcher Still Rules
When Tony Blair entered Downing Street in 1997 he had to decide whom first to invite to his new home. Surely it would be one of his Labour predecessors, Jim Callaghan, Michael Foot or Neil Kinnock, all itching for an invitation? The answer was no. The...
Brick Lane Booty
Unless you are desperate to buy a semi-useless kettle for £2, the irresistible lure of a carboot sale is that you might find something of astonishing value hidden in the muck. The hand-painted Picasso tie, the Poussin sketch covered in kitchen grease...
By Appointment Only
I am a terrible snob when it comes to apparel. I have been having clothes made for me since the beginning of my twenties. There are times when I leave my house and the only items of clothing that I am wearing that have not been made for me are my socks...
Cruise Control
When my first wife left me back in 1968 I moped around the house feeling sorry for myself until my father took pity and told me to go out and buy myself a boat. My only regret after accepting my father's generous offer was that I had not thought of...
Decryption and Deception
THE INNER CIRCLE : A VIEW OF WAR AT THE TOP by Joan Bright Astley The Memoir Club, £12.95, pp. 212, ISBN 9781841041667 THIRTY SECRET YEARS : A. G. DENNISTON'S WORK IN SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE , 1914-1944 by Robin Denniston Polperro Heritage Press, £18,...
Devolution of the Human Brain
Ominous predictions could be heard on Radio Four on Saturday morning in a programme hosted by Rory Bremner. If by chance you missed it, having already dragged yourself out for your weekly exercise run or trip to Sainsbury's, here's why Speak on the...
Diary
Ihave long thought there is no analogy quite so perfect for the process of writing a book as childbirth. There is the initial stage when it's little more than a fond idea, until you sell it to the publisher. The months of research as the deadline marches...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY A day of high drama. Heart-stopping parliamentary meeting at which Dave put the party on stand-by for an election in October. . . THIS October! Ordered everyone to start digging for dirt on Gordon. This would mean certain political death for...
Everything under the Sun
The sun comes up over the sea at Valencia, and no one shows this better than Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, a painter who reached the height of his powers in the first two decades of the 20th century. The seaside that he depicted was not thronged by sunbathers...
Fretting about the Internet
THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR by Andrew Keen Nicholas Brealey, £12.99, pp. 228, ISBN 9781857883930 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In its early days, the telephone was expected to be of most use in listening to musical concerts. If it had been,...
Gaza Is Just Another Front in Iran's War on the West
Britain gazes upon the butchery in Gaza and is shocked. Shocked! How could the Palestinians be behaving in this way, it wails? The Palestinian butchery of blowing Israelis to bits by human bomb or rocket attacks leaves Britain unmoved. The videos of...
Gone Missing
Last week -- defying the traffic jams and the most restrictive parking regulations in western Europe -- I ventured into Bakewell, our local metropolis and the home of the pudding which must never be called a tart. While stationary behind the wheel in...
Good News for Everyone except Mr Chu: The Post-Prescott Era Dawns at Last
On Wednesday, when John Prescott finally steps down as Deputy Prime Minister, the city of Hull will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Just as Joseph Chamberlain defined Birmingham in the 1870s, so Prezza personified Hull for the past decade. Chamberlain...
Hello, Sailor! the Real Pirate of the Caribbean
The Pirates of the Caribbean films, the third of which has just been released, have revived the ageold interest in all things piratical. But the average Victorian schoolboy would probably have choked on his porridge if he'd known the real nature of...
I'm in Heaven
Well, what can one say except they don't throw parties like this one any more. The dress code was devilishly or angelically black tie. (Think horns and wings and other heavenly things. ) I, of course, went as an angel, but my wings snapped off just...
It Is Time for Cameron to Shape the Team That He Thinks Can Chase Brown from Office
Boris Johnson is being rather coy about his chances for promotion. 'Statistically, I am due to be fired again, ' he tells this month's GQ magazine. 'It may be that the psychological effort needed to haul myself around into a more gaffe-free zone proves...
It's Wrong to Punish Private Equity
It will come as little consolation to Guy Hands, the financier who complained this week that he must be the last person in Britain still prepared to defend the private equity industry's generous tax breaks. But I have a confession to make: I, too, am...
Just the One Regret
FULFILMENT AND BETRAYAL ,1975-1995 by Naim Attallah Quartet, £25, pp. 796, ISBN 9780704371219 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Is he a monster, saint, genius or lunatic? In this massive book Naim Attallah attempts to lay to rest the gossip,...
Lie of the Land
Sir: In the past few weeks Hamas has shown itself to be a merciless, power-hungry organisation with little interest in the well-being of its own people, let alone that of its Jewish neighbours, so Dr Hamad must be laughing into his cup of Earl Grey...
'L' Is for Luxury
The telephone beside the bed bleeped discreetly. 'Excuse me for disturbing you, sir. It is the bar here. After a search of the island, we wanted to inform you that we have at last found your Famous Grouse whisky.' Two days earlier in the hotel bar,...
Local Heroes
When I was six or seven I went up to London with my father in his car. As we passed through Whitechapel in the East End, he pointed out a pub called the Blind Beggar. 'That's where Ronald Kray shot George Cornell, ' he said. There was an element of...
Lord of the Crags
There is a corner of Northumberland, in the valley of the River Coquet, where the climate has been changed for ever by the actions of one man. In the mid-1860s, William Armstrong set out to transform vast tracts of raw, bleak moorland into what he described...
Musical Grossness
Don Giovanni Royal Opera House Capriccio Guildhall School of Music & Drama The latest revival of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera, in Francesca Zambello's 2002 production, now directed by Duncan Macfarland, is so bad as to be almost sensational....
Radio Days
BBC radio's Test Match Special will deservedly be celebrating particularly special champagne moments in a couple of weeks when their tardis settles on Edgbaston for the one-day international; for it was at Birmingham's pleasant ground they began their...
Redemptive Power
Sex, the City and Me (BBC2, Sunday) might just as well have been called 'All Men Are Bastards -- based on a true story'. Sarah Parish played Jess, a horrible person, a fund manager who is better at her job than all the men around her. She was offensive...
Restaurants
I went out for lunch the other day. Usually, I don't much care for going out to lunch. Too much of a faff -- and think of the daytime TV I might miss. I might even miss A Place in the Sun, in which couples spend a whole hour investigating properties...
Return of the Native
THE ROAD HOME by Rose Tremain Chatto, £16.99, pp. 365, ISBN 9780701177935 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 We know the pressures the steady flow of immigrants has caused in our society though we hear less about the benefits of having them...
Sailing to Victory
In the Mediterranean waters off Valencia in a moderate sea breeze on the afternoon of 23 June, two 80ft yachts will begin a first-to-fivewins series of races for the oldest continuously contested trophy in any sport -- the America's Cup. Each of them...
Sins of Commission
Venice Biennale Castello Gardens, Arsenale and other venues, until 21 November 'They order, said I, this matter better in France.' It is the norm at the national pavilions (a record 76 nations are present this year) for a new commissioner to be appointed...
Spain's Brain Drain
THE DISINHERITED : THE EXILES WHO CREATED SPANISH CULTURE by Henry Kamen Penguin, £30, pp. 508, ISBN 9780713997672 . £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 England, by the 18th century, had ceased to drive large numbers of English citizens into exile....
Stars in Their Eyes: Undercover with the Celebrity Scientologists
'A culture is only as great as its dreams and its dreams are dreamed by artists, ' wrote L. Ron Hubbard, who founded the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre in 1969, 15 years after he formed the church itself. So, in a sense, the Scientologists have...
Terry Wogan and Ken Bruce Are Beloved Because They Soar above English Ideas of Class
Presenting Pick of the Week on Radio Four the other day, I was determined to feature (and did) BBC Radio One's Annie Nightingale, and Radio Two's Janice Long -- both excellent presenters who take us through the watches of the night; but my producer...
'That's Shriti Vadera - Gordon's Representative on Earth'
Margaret Thatcher's speechwriters always struggled to get her to do the jokes. I once had a similar problem with Shriti Vadera, the former banker who will next week become, arguably, the most powerful woman with a paid job in Downing Street since Lady...
The Changing Faces of London
WEST END CHRONICLES by Ed Glinert Allen Lane, £25, pp. 322, ISBN 9780713999006 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 At the commissioning stage, this must have looked like a terrific idea for a book; history told through a tiny geographical focus....
Thechildren of Marx
COMRADES : A WORLD HISTORY OF COMMUNISM by Robert Service Pan Macmillan, £25, pp. 547, ISBN 9781405053453 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Italian intellectuals, Cambodian peasants, Hungarian workers, Russian colonels, Angolan insurgents, French...
The Need for Speed
As a child, I spent my summer holidays camped out on Weymouth beach during Weymouth Speed Week watching what looked like big toys being thrown into the big bathwater. While my father and my uncles performed miraculous repair jobs on their hydrofoil-borne...
The Phantoms of the Opera
No doubt Mr Blair will soon be at work on his memoirs; or perhaps his ghost will. Ghosts play a necessary role in the publishing business. Indeed all those firms who rely for their profits on the autobiographies -- and even occasionally the novels --...
There Is No One More Deserving of a Knighthood Than Salman Rushdie
At last an issue to unite all of us -- right, left, Muslim, Christian and Hindu, liberal and conservative. The decision to knight the author Salman Rushdie has brought together, in angry concordat, almost the entire world. There are those who, even...
The Rules of the Meddling Game
SWORDS AND PLOUGHSHARES by Paddy Ashdown Weidenfeld, £20, pp. 338, ISBN 9780297853039 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Paddy Ashdown was standing by a muddy roadside in mid-winter outside Sarajevo enduring the daily humiliation of the assembled...
The Scourge of Hong Kong
Every city needs a David Webb. Hong Kong, a heaving, sweating shrine to capitalism, cronyism and cartels, is lucky it has the real thing. Shareholder rights and corporate governance remain largely alien concepts in this former British colony, which...
The Spectator's Notes
Tyranny is most successful when most extreme. Because we all know that North Korea is absolutely foul, we do remarkably little about it. The new report into mass killings, torture and arbitrary imprisonment there by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (North...
The Tame Englishman
MY FRIEND THE ENEMY : AN ENGLISH BOY IN NAZI GERMANY by Paul Briscoe and Michael McMahon Aurum, £12.99, pp. 212, ISBN 9781845132316 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This is an unusual, disturbing and powerful book. It is part autobiography...
Trump Card of a Joker
Royalty and racing have long been intertwined. We would not have been racing at Ascot this week were it not for the prodigiously fat Queen Anne, who, when she could no longer be hoisted into a saddle, used to follow the royal buckhounds for hours in...
Victors and Vanquished
THE KINGDOM OF ASHES by Robert Edric Doubleday, £16.99, pp. 400, ISBN 9780385612562 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In the immediate aftermath of the last war I spent most of a vacation at an international summer school for students at Göttingen...
What a Life
La Vie en Rose 12A, Nationwide Do go see this biopic of Edith Piaf, if you so fancy. Marion Cotillard is excellent as Piaf, and those Piaf songs are as gloriously wretched and desolate as ever. (She didn't exactly go in for 'The Sun Has Got Its Hat...
With Ségo's Love Split, France Is Going Tabloid
This week, shortly after the defeated Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal declared that her relationship with François Hollande was over, a lone insider's voice made itself heard above the sympathetic murmurs, giving credence to a growing sense of unease...
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