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 2008

A Festival of Shopping
For me shopping for fashion is something that happens under cover. It is surrounded by stealth, tainted with guilt. Harvey Nichols bags are stuffed at the back of wardrobes. Rarely worn Louboutin heels are hidden from view -- mine as much as anyone...
All the Land's a Stage
Dylan Thomas used to say that a day away from Wales was a day wasted. I share this feeling. But, sacrilegious though it is to suggest it, I think he might have felt less homesick if he had let out his cottage there to tourists. Lending something one...
Ambushed in Somalia
As we entered the old city, the heat shimmered off coral towers half reduced to rubble by cycles of war. We had just exited Mogadishu's presidential palace after a morning's filming. Gemaal was at the wheel and Duguf rode shotgun. Cameraman Jim and...
A Sholar Who Dares to Look Terror in the Face
Michael Burleigh is riding a career high. The author of the 2000 bestseller The Third Reich: A New History has just published the last of a gargantuan trilogy of books on religion and politics in Europe since the French revolution. Earthly Powers and...
Back in Time
Beijing Modern Dance Company Linbury Studio When it comes to new dance, nothing sells as quickly as a multi- or intercultural performance. It matters little that the intercultural approach to art first came to light in the late Sixties; Western modern...
Brave Enough to Say No
WE WILL NOT FIGHT: THE UNTOLD STORY OF WORLD WAR ONE'S CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS by Will Ellsworth-Jones Aurum, £18.99, pp. 320, ISBN 9781845133009 £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The first world war seemed like a good idea at the time. Cheering...
Changing Behaviour
The interior designer charged with decorating the IT suite probably didn't have theatre in mind. I am staring at the pastel carpeting, Venetian blinds and the useless plug dangling from the overhead projector: we could be anywhere. The sex worker casually...
Coming in from the Cold
If there were a premier league for flea markets, the Ecseri site on the hem of Budapest would rank as the coolest. By that I mean that at 7 a. m. on a Saturday morning in the cut of winter it is blanketed in a numbing sub-zero frost. We stand kicking...
Creating a Climate of Fear
BLOOD AND RAGE : A CULTURAL HISTORY OF TERRORISM by Michael Burleigh HarperPress, £25, pp. 545, ISBN 9780007241279 £20(plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 At the outset of this rich, dense and polemical primer on the modern history of political violence...
Diary
I am a late convert to the internet, but it has changed my life. I can sit here in my little farm in the Roman countryside and cultivate my olives -- or, to be truthful, watch Dario the farm manager cultivate my olives -- while keeping up with the world's...
Don't Let Them Kill off the Cheque
Next month I will break the habit of a lifetime and wait until the red reminder before paying my telephone bill. I will do so because BT has decided to charge me £33 a year for the audacity of paying my bill by cheque. BT is penalising people who pay...
Earning an Easy Chair
GOING AS FAR AS I CAN by Duncan Fallowell Profile Books, £12.99, pp.279, ISBN 9781846680694 £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 If you were left a legacy by a friend would you tuck it away, blow it on art, or buy something for your home or the...
Happy Talk
The Day of the Kamikaze (Channel 4, Monday) was really good, I'll bet, but the Fawn wasn't having it so I suppose I'll have to watch it some other time on my own. She'd rather be watching some old rubbish like Ladette to Lady (ITV1), which I sympathise...
I Admired Tony Blair. I Knew Tony Blair . Prime Minister, You Are No Tony Blair
There are few feuds as destructive as the squabble over a legacy. In Bleak House, the case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce provides Charles Dickens with one of fiction's most debilitating contests -- a battle over an inheritance which blights all those involved....
In the End, They May Have to Auction What's Left of Northern Rock on eBay
When the nationalisation of Northern Rock was announced at the beginning of the week, commentators queued up behind the shadow chancellor to declare a return to the dark days of the 1970s and to dance on the ashes of Alistair Darling's career. It took...
Is He Worth It?
Peter Doig Tate Britain, until 27 April Peter Doig has aroused much passion in recent months for the prices his paintings have started to fetch in the world's salerooms. For many, he is not only the acceptable face of contemporary British painting,...
Israel Is Getting Ready to Invade Gaza
This is not the way things were meant to happen. When Ariel Sharon ordered the removal of all Israelis from the Gaza Strip in 2005, leaders from around the world applauded. It was a clear message that Israel was willing to do almost everything it could...
Newmarket Rarity
Entering The Trainers House at Moulton Paddocks is a reminder that preparing racehorses is not a job but a way of life. In the cheerfully cluttered lobby and kitchen, framed pictures of Lucy Wadham's winners vie for wall space with those of jodhpured...
Obama Is an Othello for Our Times
Sitting watching Chiwetel Ejiofor recently in the Donmar's production of Othello, I was struck by the face of the man sitting next to me during Othello's legendary 'Her father loved me, oft invited me' speech of the first act. He was clearly mesmerised...
Pipeline Power
How easily we forget! Who, for instance, was the first of the world's major leaders to talk to George W. Bush after 9/11? No, it wasn't Blair. Or the democratically elected leaders of Canada, Australia, France, Germany or Denmark. It was Vladimir Vladimirovich...
Recent Crime Novels
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (MacLehose Press, £14.99, translated from the Swedish by Stephen Murray) is the first volume of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. Larsson was a journalist who sadly died of a heart attack before publication. But the...
Sins of Omission
MY UNRWITTEN BOOKS by George Steiner Weidenfeld, £14.99, pp. 210, ISBN 9780297853305 £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Readers are defined by what they don't read as much as by what they do. George Moore shunned works of reference. 'An encyclopedia...
Spectator Wine Club
Time for our annual offer of Château Musar from the excellent folk at Wheeler Cellars, sister company to Lay & Wheeler. Once again you have the chance to place your order for the luscious new 2001 vintage Musar red (1), which becomes more popular...
Stealth Tax Cuts
History may not judge the Northern Rock fiasco to be Labour's Black Wednesday. Instead, the banking saga might yet become to Gordon Brown what 'sleaze' was to John Major. The potential symmetry is one of form, not content (there is no hint of personal...
Teenage Kicks
Curious to see how the old whore (103 this year) is faring, I tuned in eagerly to Radio Three's broadcast of a concert performance of Salome (13 February) -- the live event already reviewed appreciatively here by my opera colleague. Utterly besotted...
The Biggest Tent of the Lot: To Stop Blair Becoming EU President
This is shaping up to be the greatest expression of European unanimity and togetherness since Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. From Gdansk in the Baltic to the Straits of Cadiz, the citizens of this fractious and culturally disparate continent...
The Diana Inquest Has Revealed a Real Conspiracy: To Destroy What Is Left of Old Britain
Suddenly, I'm starting to think that maybe Mohamed Al Fayed was only half wrong. Maybe dark forces were, indeed, involved in a cover-up surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Or rather, maybe these dark forces want you to think that there...
The Lost Beauty of Saepinum
For a long time I thought the only parts of Campania worth bothering with were within sight of the sea. I was thrilled by the cragginess of the Amalfi coast, inspired by the lemon groves of Sorrento, struck dumb by the Greek temples at Paestum, and...
The Lying Game
Why do children lie? asks a boring headline in an even more boring Big Bagel magazine article. According to the bores who wrote it, children are encouraged to tell white lies, hence they get comfortable with being disingenuous, and insincerity becomes...
The Name of the Game
I've realised I don't have a game, a sport. A man needs a game. It's important. Says a lot about him; more than his car or his clothes. I asked the builders if they wanted to start a football team. 'We'd have enough for six-a-side, ' I said. 'Come on,...
The Spectator's Notes
The United Nations declared last week that, for the first time in human history, more people in the world live in the town than in the country. If true, this feels momentous, though it is not, obviously, sudden. The imagination of mankind has been shaped...
The Wiki Man
There was formerly a rude custom for those who were sailing upon the Thames, to accost each other as they passed, in the most abusive language they could invent. . . a fellow having attacked him with some coarse raillery, Johnson answered him thus,...
This Turbulent Priest
Sir: Seeing that it was I who wrote the article in The Spectator five and a half years ago advancing the case for choosing Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury the week before he was actually shortlisted for the job, I have something of an obligation...
Too Clever for Her Own Good
QUEEN OF THE WITS : A LIFE OF LAETITIA PILKINGTON by Norma Clarke Faber, £20, pp. 350, ISBN 9780571224289 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'I am sorry to say that the generality of women who have excelled in wit have failed in chastity, ' wrote...
Tough Competition
'Whatever happens, ' said a bloke on the team at the next table rancourously, 'we mustn't let the students win.' I'd not taken part in a pub quiz before and I'd always imagined them to be polite, melancholy affairs. This one, when we arrived ten minutes...
Was ABN Amro a Deal Too Far for Fred the Shred?
The title of the worst deal in British corporate history is hotly contested. Glaxo and SmithKline were worth £107 billion on the day they announced their merger: eight years later, they're worth £57 billion, and they're not quite the 'kings of science'...
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