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 2007

A Driving Sense of Duty
GEORGE III: A MERICA'S LAST KING by Jeremy Black Yale, £25, pp. 475, ISBN 0300117329 The American Revolution is the gorilla in the corner of the room. Some used to pretend that it was safely dead, merely a stuffed gorilla. Others argued that it was...
All That Jazz
Jerry Garcia once compared his band the Grateful Dead to liquorice. As with the pitch-black confectionery, you either loved them or loathed them, he said. It was impossible to feel merely neutral. I adore the Dead, and have a corresponding fondness...
America's Goldilocks Economy
When Goldilocks broke into the three bears' house and stole their breakfast, she found Baby Bear's porridge to be just right -- neither too hot nor too cold. The same is true of today's 'Goldilocks' American economy: it is growing neither too fast nor...
America: You'll Miss It When It's Gone
Don't say Tony Blair didn't warn you that you won't like a world in which America has decided to become a self-centred spectator rather than a player. That day seems to be approaching, a response to the self-indulgent antiAmericanism that has become...
An Ever-Present Absence
OVER by Margaret Forster Chatto, £16.99, pp. 200, ISBN 9780701181253 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 It is a curious phenomenon of the modern novel that so many writers entrust their narrative voice to a character that in real life they...
A Perfect 12?
Just when the size-zero debate was threatening for the first time in ages to stop picture editors from filling pages with six-foot stick-insects, all of whom claimed to have horse-sized appetites, and who all wolfed chips and bread-and-butter pudding...
As Livingstone Reverts to Type, the Tories Look at London with Justified Ambition
Say what you like about Ken Livingstone, you can't accuse him of failing to spot a political opportunity. When the position of mayor of London was created in 2000, other possible contenders turned up their noses, saying its powers, finances and staff...
Barclays' New Head Gardener
Marcus Agius was strolling round his Hampshire garden last summer when a headhunter rang to inquire if he would consider becoming chairman of Barclays Bank. 'It took me a nanosecond to say yes, ' says Agius. 'Barclays is a great brand and I love great...
Behind Protective Glass
TEN DAYS IN THE HILLS by Jane Smiley Faber, £16.99, pp. 449, ISBN 9780571235339 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Jane Smiley suffered a period of writer's block after 9/11. In the middle of writing a novel, Good Faith, she found herself unable...
Bouncy Castles in Spain
BEAUMARCHAIS IN SEVILLE : AN INTERMEZZO by Hugh Thomas Yale, £16, pp. 192, ISBN 9780300121032 Hugh Thomas is widely known as the author of scholarly blockbusters 1,000 pages long. He now excels in what he calls an intermezzo, a learned and lively book...
Bustle and Happiness
Newmarket it isn't. Forget clipped hedges, purring security gates and decorated dovecotes. At Gary Moore's yard in Woodingdean there isn't even a name over the stables the other side of the road from the ten-furlong start on Brighton's racetrack. I've...
Cold War Hero
Gstaad Margaret MacMillan's new book, Nixon and Mao, brought back pleasant memories. It was February 1972, and I'd just returned to Saigon from Phu Bai and Hue in the north, where I was reporting for National Review. I was eager to get back to civilisation...
Colourful Rogues' Gallery
STEALING THE SCREAM by Edward Dolnick Icon Books, £12.99, pp. 270, ISBN 9781840467925 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Munch's 'The Scream' was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo in February 1994. A jeering postcard was left behind,...
Desperate, but Not Tragic
DISTURBING THE PEACE by Richard Yates Methuen, £7.99, pp. 253, ISBN 0413776204 . £6.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 A GOOD SCHOOL by Richard Yates Methuen, £7.99, pp. 169, ISBN 041377520 . £6.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'You know what...
Diary
For years, one of the highlights of the Oscar season was the starcrammed party that über-agent Irving 'Swifty' Lazar threw first at the Bistro in Beverly Hills and later at Spago in Hollywood. Invitations to this party were the most coveted of Oscar...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY I know I should be excited about the move to Millbank -- historic landslide here we come! -- but I'd just got my desk next to Jed's office. It's taken months of 'edging' at rate of one centimetre a day. Now I'll have to start all over again....
Divide and Rule
MARKHAM THORPE by Giles Waterfield Headline, £17.99, pp. 280, ISBN 0755329694 Victoriana is unleashed in Giles Waterfield's third novel, an upstairs-downstairs drama upholstered in period detail, of which he is a meticulous curator. It is a claustrophobic...
Eye-Catching Inanities
To adapt Macaulay, there is no spectacle so ridiculous as the Labour party in one of its periodic fits of ideology. While the heir-presumptive, Gordon Brown, has remained in old-fashioned purdah about his plans as prime minister, the jostling candidates...
First Person Singular
The young Evelyn Waugh, it's said, once declared in a newspaper article that the writing of novels in the first person was a contemptible practice. One would like to think he gave his reasons, but, according to Somerset Maugham, 'he threw out the statement...
Freedom Fighter
Melvyn Bragg stirred up quite a controversy last week by devoting his weekly In Our Time programme (Radio Four) to the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. Or, rather, by making the extravagant claim that here is 'a man who had more influence...
Glower Power
The Illusionist PG, selected cinemas The Illusionist is one of those films that gains points for trying to be clever and different and ingenious but then promptly loses them all for being not clever or different or ingenious enough. It's frustrating,...
Good Vinebrations
Bicycles and wine, on paper at least, do not make the best partners. Wasn't it Virgil who said that good vines love open hills? Well bikes, in my experience, are considerably less keen on them. So how my girlfriend convinced me that our tour of New...
Hectic Romp
The Bull Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, Barbican Michael Keegan-Dolan is to dance-theatre what radical and elusive Banksy is to the visual arts. Indeed, these two acclaimed bad boys of modernday culture have a great deal in common; both derive their...
Home Advantage
By next Wednesday evening, uniquely, five British clubs could be in the last eight of the European Champions' Cup. There is still, as they say, a lot of football to be played, but I suppose even the possibility remains testament to the strength at the...
In a Swedish Log Cabin, I Grasped the Core Truth about New Labour
A log cabin by a frozen lake in the snowy fastness of central Sweden is a good place to contemplate the future of Blairite third-way politics. Scandinavia has some claim to be the spiritual home of social democracy and, though we on the Right have been...
It's Not Cricket
From Richard Mernane Sir: It is a pity that Leo McKinstry, whose writing I find unfailingly compelling, should choose to celebrate the forthcoming World Cup by taking a swipe at the MCC and some of its grandees (The Connoisseurs' Guide to the Cricket...
Lord Jellicoe
George Jellicoe, who died last week, was an early member of David Stirling's SAS, and soon became commander of the Special Boat Service. We first met in pitch darkness soon after midnight on 24 June 1942 in a cove off southern Crete, both of us in rubber...
Lords and the Ring
There are many things I covet. There are in fact, few things I don't desire except herpes, dental work sans anaesthetic, and pictures by -- or indeed of -- Rolf Harris. I want a loft apartment, an Yves Klein sponge, a signet ring and a pedigree that...
Man with a Mission
I used to write a few political profiles in my time, and the one thing I always hoped was that the subject would refuse to co-operate. You had to offer to interview them, naturally, otherwise there might be legal difficulties. But you prayed they would...
Meacher: Why Spectator Readers Should Vote for Me
A leadership election opens up, uniquely, the opportunity to debate and decide on the future course of a government. I am standing because I believe there are several areas of policy where a fundamental change of direction is now needed. And though...
More Angry Young Men
BABYLON'S BURNING by Clinton Heylin Viking, £20, pp. 694, ISBN 9780670916061 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Clinton Heylin is a celebrated Bob Dylan expert, which makes his subsequent concentration on punk rock something of a surprise. But...
Not a Boot on a Face, but a Foot in the Door: Big Brother Is Coming
Two weeks ago, Tony Blair told the road-toll petitioners by email that his government was not trying to impose 'Big Brother surveillance'. That was accurate, if disingenuous. The real Big Brother doesn't announce himself. He comes creeping up on you,...
Not Quite as We like It
WHAT YOU WILL by Katherine Bucknell Fourth Estate, £14.99, pp. 341, ISBN 9780007225101 . £00.00 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'What you will' has a Shakespearean ring to it. It is, after all, the second part of the title of Shakespeare's play Twelfth...
Out of Joint
T. S. ELIOT by Craig Raine OUP, £12.99, pp. 202, ISBN 97805309935 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 At a Clapham dinner party recently I was offered marijuana. Nothing unusual in that, only the joint took me to a far continent of anxiety;...
Pyrotechnic Display
The Excursions of Mr Broucek Barbican Sunday evening at the Barbican was a revelation, no less gushy word will do. Janacek's comic opera The Excursions of Mr Broucek is the Cinderella in his operatic output, if you don't count the very early works,...
Raised in the USSR
From Jana Edmunds Sir: Your leading article 'A nation of babysitters' (17 February) hinted at a truth behind the problem faced by Britain in relation to childcare. I was a teenage mum, and became a single parent aged 22, living on benefit in the 1990s...
Repayment in Full
THE BILL FROM MY FATHER by Bernard Cooper Picador, £12.99, pp. 240, ISBN 9780330447393 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Edward Cooper, the father referred to in the title, was a hurricane of irascibility, a whirlwind of contrariness. By the...
Restaurants
My mother and my father and my partner and I go to the Almeida Theatre in Islington to see There Came A Gypsy Rising (excellent -- I do love a rising gypsy! ) and then it's over the road to Ottolenghi on Upper Street. Ottolenghi had been my mother's...
Righteous Anger
By the time that I arrived -- a good half-hour before the public inquiry was scheduled to begin -- there was hardly a seat left unoccupied. The people of Calver, and their allies from the surrounding villages, had turned out in force to support the...
Saint for All Ages
St Nicholas: Artistic Splendours of East and West Castello Svevo, Bari, until 6 May 'His clothes are drenched in brine, his beard drips with seawater, and his brow is covered in perspiration due to his continual efforts to reach sinking ships to save...
The Best Joke of the Lot Is That Rory Bremner Is to Blame for the Cynicism
Itis always cheering to encounter a politician who refuses to offer up the easy answer to challenging questions but instead delves beneath the surface and, with candour, delivers himself of an opinion which runs counter to the popularly held belief....
The Clunking Fist: An Opera for Brown's Last Budget
Britain doesn't do Lord High Executioners, but if it did, Gordon Brown would probably be the best in the world. The prospect of the Chancellor in this role occurred to me while listening again to Gilbert & Sullivan's masterful satire, The Mikado....
The Poetry of Panic
NOTEBOOKS : TENNESSEE WILLIAMS edited by Margaret Bradham Thornton Yale, £27.50, pp. 828, ISBN 9780300116823 . £00.00 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Tenn -- as friends and sycophants called him -- Williams was one more of those American writers...
The Row about Private Equity Is Mostly the Labour Party Arguing with Itself
The current row about private equity seems to me to have much more to do with the flexing of union muscles in anticipation of a return to influence under Gordon Brown than it has to do with efficiency and fairness in the use of capital. The GMB union...
The Spectator's Notes
One must keep repeating that the bicentenary being celebrated this year is of the abolition of the slave trade by Britain. From the amount of breast-beating, you would think that it was 200 years since the trade got going. There is huge concentration...
The Squinter Triumphs
Guercino: Mind to Paper Courtauld Institute, Somerset House, until 13 May To be called 'the squinter', which is what 'il Guercino' means, might not seem an auspicious nickname for an artist, but it doesn't appear to have stood in the way of Giovanni...
The Wonders of Modern Concrete
'Look! Concrete!' Bruno Lafont crashes his fist on the table. 'You could put 30 tonnes on top of this table and it wouldn't break. Tougher than steel!' The table doesn't look like concrete at all. The top is only a centimetre thick. The surface is painted...
Thrilled and Appalled
For the six weeks that I was in Las Apujarras, I bought provisions from the backs of rural delivery vans. The arrival of one of these vans, one for bread, another for fresh fish, another for fruit and veg, was the most exciting thing that ever happened....
Timeless, Intangible, Spiritual
Were I ever to be placed in the position of castaway on Desert Island Discs -- an unlikely possibility given the diminished status of serious classical music criticism in the media world at large -- there would be a good chance that my eight selections...
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