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 March 2008

An Appeal from beyond the Grave
RECONCILIATION: ISLAM, DEMOCRACY AND THE WEST by Benazir Bhutto Simon & Schuster, £17.99, pp. 328, ISBN 9781847372734 In 1988 I arrived in Pakistan a few hours after the assassination of Zia ulHuq, the military dictator whose aircraft had been blown...
Ancient & Modern
Macavity-like, Brown was never there when he was Chancellor, and rarely seems to be there now he is Prime Minister. When he is, he is always blaming someone else or avoiding the question. This is highly reminiscent of the second Roman emperor Tiberius...
Art for the Masses
Alexander Rodchenko: Revolution in Photography Hayward Gallery, until 27 April There's a whole separate exhibition in the downstairs galleries of the Hayward. It's called Laughing in a Foreign Language and is supposed to explore the role of laughter...
A Time for Resolutions
In the forthcoming volume of his Smoking Diaries (not out till April, but I've been reading a proof copy) my old friend Simon Gray makes a brave admission. Well, he makes a number of these, but this particular one struck me. 'I haven't read him [Henry...
Aural Danger
The Guardian had an interesting -- and, frankly, terrifying -- piece the other day by Nick Coleman, the Independent's long-serving and shamelessly cerebral rock critic. I used to know Nick slightly: we talked drivel on the same radio show for a while...
Boris's Most Brilliant Wheeze to Date Was the Letter to the Guardian Attacking Him
The battle to become Mayor of London is getting dirty. Someone from Boris Johnson's campaign team -- or maybe Boris himself -- put a hilarious spoof letter in the Guardian this week. It purported to be from 100 'academics', luvvies, lesbians and professional...
Charlie Does Surf. Meet the New Wizard of the Web
The man who brought you Bridget Jones is, you might think, an unlikely guide to the deeper philosophical and cultural meaning of the web. But, as he sips his tea in the kitchen of his Highbury mews home, Charles Leadbeater makes an extremely convincing...
Cheating at Food
'Ecraser l'infâme!' Voltaire proclaimed in his war on corrupt priests and crooked government officials. Delia's Smith's new book How to Cheat at Cooking opens up a whole new field of infamy: the culinary crime. As in 18th-century politics, so in 21st-century...
Compare and Contrast
Flight London Coliseum Ballet galas might be the dream of every spectacle-craving balletomane, but they can easily become a nightmarishly boring series of 'party pieces' if they are not properly organised. Luckily, this is not the case when a company...
Cut-Price Torture
My favourite television advertisement at the moment is for EDF energy, which promises us that it can make our bills lower. All we have to do is use less gas and electricity. Please, do not snort. I snorted initially. Then a few days later I received...
Darling Has Offered an Incentive for Chicanery
Imagine the scene at around 10 p. m. last Thursday night in the private apartments at Buckingham Palace. It could well have been past normal bedtime for the Queen and Prince Philip, but they were sitting up -- perhaps aided by a scotch and water or...
Dead End
Salome Royal Opera House What is a producer, or, as they more often like to be called these days, director, to do if he is asked to produce/direct a work about which he has no interesting ideas and none comes along during the production process, and...
Diary
We woke up early on Oscar morning to see the hills of Hollywood wreathed in fog, clouds and spitting rain. I shivered in the unseasonable freezing weather. 'Should be fun on the red carpet this afternoon, ' I said to Percy. Turning on E! channel at...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Thank goodness I keep a diary. I want to put on record here so that future generations of Lightwaters can see that it was my idea to have Our Leader encounter a great white 'shark' while surfing in South Africa! Moreover I picked out the blue,...
Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog Aplenty
DRY STORE ROOM NO. 1 : THE SECRET LIFE OF THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM by Richard Fortey HarperPress, £20, pp. 352, ISBN 9780007209380 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This book is a metaphor: a book about a museum that is itself a museum, crammed...
Family at War
Margot at the Wedding Nationwide, 15 Margot at the Wedding is one of those unsettling and bothersome films which will bother and unsettle you during, afterwards and possibly for much of the next day, like a flea in the ear. If this is your sort of film,...
Good Guys, Bad Guys
An interesting week, to say the least. A Carlton Club speech on multiculturalism which didn't quite come off, a kidnapping in Gstaad, a party in London to celebrate David Tang's knighthood, the mugging of John McCain by the man who committed adultery...
Made in Sweden: The New Tory Education Revolution
Stockholm This summer, at least 25,000 children will drop out of English schools without a single qualification to show for their years of compulsory education. Some 240,000 will graduate from primary school unable to read or write properly. By autumn,...
Money Talks in Mumbai
With Shilpa Shetty, Lachlan Murdoch, Aussie feist-meister Andrew Symonds and more Indian billionaires than you can shake a stump at, the eye-watering player-auction for the new Twenty20 Indian Premier League (IPL) in Mumbai last week was never going...
One Man and His Winery
When his father died, Rob O'Callaghan, the maker of Rockford wines in South Australia's Barossa Valley, was mildly surprised to find that several hundred mourners turned out for the funeral. His father had not been a particularly high achiever and Rob...
Open for Business
I can go for fortnight without a drink -- three weeks at a push. After that I begin to feel disconnected. I try to ignore the feeling, hoping it's a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or the onset of a cold, or overdoing it at the gym. But it persists...
Order, Order
The Speakership of the House of Commons has been aptly described as 'the linchpin of the whole chariot'. This is why the lamentable conduct of Michael Martin, who has occupied the Speaker's Chair since 2000, is more than just another parliamentary 'sleaze'...
Pleasure Boats
If ever you want to murder your husband by hitting him over the head with a bottle, always choose champagne. The glass is over twice as thick as normal wine bottles, and so it's unlikely to smash. It is therefore very unfair to criticise the Duchess...
Plunging into the Hurly-Burly
THE REST IS NOISE: LISTENING TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Alex Ross Fourth Estate, £20, pp.624, ISBN 9781841154756 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'Avoiding both the pigeon hole and the blackboard I have tried to trace a connecting line between...
Portrait of a Director
David Piper, director of the National Portrait Gallery 1964-67, was a brilliant historian and museum director who, while writing a book called The English Face, found that there's no such thing. It vanished like the smile on Lewis Carroll's Cheshire...
Power to the People
GOD'S FURY, ENGLAND'S FIRE by Michael Braddick Allen Lane, £30, pp. 758, ISBN 9780713996326 £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In July, 1642, as the English House of Commons debated whether to raise an army against the king, a dismayed MP, Bulstrode...
Rip Up Blairism by the Roots
Sir: Michael Gove (Politics, 23 February) gives a eulogy to Tony Blair, 'I admired Tony Blair. I knew Tony Blair'. I had hoped that David Cameron's claim to be 'the heir to Blair' was just a silly mistake springing from inexperience. It is more worrying...
Seeking Redemption
The Lady's Not For Spurning (BBC4, Monday) was ostensibly about Margaret Thatcher and the baleful influence she had on the Conservative party after 1990. It was actually about Michael Portillo's long quest for redemption. This has been going on since...
Small Elephant at Dove Cottage
THE BALLAD OF DOROTHY WORDSWORTH by Frances Wilson Faber, £16.99, pp. 267, ISBN 97805771230471 £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This is a lively contribution to that mound of books -- now approximately the height of Skiddaw -- about Wordsworth...
Substance Abuse
Sir: I looked up Venetia Thompson on Google and was not surprised to see, given the lack of any evidence or other proof offered in support of her comments about white men and Obama ('Obama is a modern-day Othello', 23 February), that she does not appear...
The Real Tributaries of Enoch's 'Rivers of Blood'
What was in Enoch Powell's mind when he made his explosive 'rivers of blood' speech on immigration 40 years ago this spring? His repetition of wild allegations against immigrants made by his constituents and his apocalyptic warnings of bloody racial...
The Return of Kureishi-Man
SOMETHING TO TELL YOU by Hanif Kureishi Faber, £15.99, pp. 344, ISBN 9760571209774 £12.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Anthony Powell always maintained that readers who disliked his early books did so on essentially non-literary grounds. Conservative...
The Spectator's Notes
This is what Stubbs's Constitutional History of England says: 'That individual members should not be called to account for their behaviour in Parliament, or for words there spoken, by any authority external to the house in which the offence was given,...
The Truth about the Auschwitz 'Gimmick' Row Is That Labour Exploited Jewish Sensitivities
David Cameron, said the Times last Saturday, 'was facing intense political criticism last night after including student "trips to Auschwitz" on a list of government gimmicks.' The Daily Mail was more shrill: 'Pressure was piling on David Cameron last...
Whatever Happened to Sir Richard Evans?
I had read -- admittedly in the Guardian -- that one needed to count one's fingers after shaking hands with Dick Evans. Anecdotes about the super-salesman who secured UK plc's biggest and most controversial contract, the $80 billion Al-Yamamah arms...
Wild Life
Only this column would persuade me to get up at 6.30 on a Sunday morning. Six-thirty! In my other life I pore over the collected works of the 18th-century writer Dr Johnson, who constantly struggled to persuade himself out of bed before noon. He liked...
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