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 Vol. 294, No. 9163, 2004

Absolute Tosh
I have to say that I feel real, gung-ho sympathy for Beverley Hughes, the immigration minister. Hughes is under savage attack for allegedly misleading the Commons over the true extent of her department's covert policy that relaxed checks on foreign immigrants.Further...
All Human Life Is There
All human life is there MY NAME IS LEGION by A. N. Wilson Hutchinson, £16.99, pp. 506, ISBN 0091795354Like many of A. N. Wilson's keen readers, I suspect, I'd slightly lost sight of him as a novelist in recent years. As a biographer, historian and polemicist...
Ancient & Modern
Statistics show that in the United States more people die in hospital because of medical blunders than from Aids, breast cancer and car accidents combined. But who carries the can?Ancient Greek doctors are remarkable for being prepared to describe their...
An Inspector Recalls
An inspector recalls DISARMING IRAQ by Hans Blix Bloomsbury, £16.99, pp. 285, ISBN 0747573549When Hans Blix first became the UN's chief Iraqi weapons inspector, journalists joked that his name made him sound like one of those sinister baddies who lurked...
A Thing of Beauty
When I was three my passion was a bulbous blue Austin J40 pedal car. When Henry Pearman was three his was a red E-Type Jaguar, but a real one. He used to see it parked in someone's drive whenever his father took him to the beach. Our different passions...
Behaving Badly Abroad
Behaving badly abroad THE FIRST CRUSADE: A NEW HISTORY by Thomas Asbridge Simon & Schuster, £20, pp. 408, ISBN0743220838The First Crusade is one of the great historical adventures. Whatever one may think of the consequences or the moral issues, the...
Blundering after a Bird
Blundering after a bird PENGUIN LOST by Andrey Kurkov, translated from the Russian by George Bird Harvill, £10.99, pp.255, ISBN 1843430959Anyone who gave themselves the pleasure of reading Death and the Penguin should certainly treat themselves to this...
Chris Patten Did Not Get Where He Is Today by Being a Troublemaker
Mr Chris Patten, in a newspaper interview the other day, said he wanted to be thought of as a 'troublemaker'. He added that one of the people who most inspired him was the late Roy Jenkins.Mr Patten is European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Chancellor...
City of Danger
I sat down and calculated that if I had continued to live in London I would have died about seven years ago. Sixty is not a bad age to drop off, but I'll take 67 and kicking any time. The problem is not London, it's my friends. I've got too many good...
Class Act
Exhibitions 3Class actGerald Wilde: A Forgotten GeniusThe Millinery Works Gallery, 87 Southgate Road, London, N1, until 4 April'All modern art puzzles me. I don't understand it, I really don't.' Philip Guston's remark to David Sylvester will strike a...
Death in the Morning
We arrived at Atocha station in Madrid at 7.25 a.m., groggy and hungover from a night on the town. Some of us hadn't gone to bed until 3 a.m.I was accompanying a party of British chefs from restaurants such as Nobu, Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Spoon...
Diary
By now they must have finished sifting the 79 applications and be drawing up the actual shortlist for the chairmanship of the BBC. Nothing as remotely exciting has ever happened in that strange Trafalgar Square annexe of government, the Department for...
Doing Something about Your Mind
Doing something about your mind GOING BUDDHIST: PANIC AND EMPTINESS, THE BUDDHA AND ME by Peter Conradi Short Books, £9.99, pp. 183, ISBN 1904095631Peter Conradi is a retired academic best known for his critical work on Iris Murdoch and, more recently,...
Down with Superstition
The thoughts of Richard Dawkins, the atheist, and Paul Johnson, the Christian, lie on my bookshelves. I love the writings of both men. Both have changed the way I view the world. I was already an atheist before reading him, but Dawkins convinced me that...
Exemplary Taste
I've been writing this column for two-and-a-half years now, and am uneasily aware that I have only ever mentioned the Beatles, the greatest of all pop groups, en passant. The reason isn't hard to find. Though I have almost all their albums on CD, plus...
Fear, Loathing and Respect
Of all the many fashionable phobias that we are meant to reach inside ourselves and disavow, Islamophobia is the most stubbornly resistant to expulsion. Islamophobia, we might argue to ourselves and to others, is an entirely rational state of mind. After...
Globophobia
At last, some good news for the anti-war lobby. British servicemen will not be forced - in fact will not be allowed - to do America's dirty work for it. That is my interpretation, at any rate, of Dodd Amendment no. 2660 to the Jumpstart Our Business...
How a Coalition of the Willing Could Save Blair - and Howard
Could terrorism turn the British political landscape on its head, much as it has done in Spain? Government sources naturally give this scenario short shrift. They argue that Tony Blair faces no comparable electoral test here any time soon. They add that...
Is Gannett Poised to Swoop on the Daily Telegraph?
Amid all the chatter about who may buy the Telegraph Group, the names one hears most often are those of the Daily Mail group, the Express group and Richard Desmond, and the Barclay Brothers. Occasionally various venture capitalists are also mentioned....
Jaunts and Jollities
Jaunts and jollities ANNABEL: AN UNCONVENTIONAL LIFE by Lady Annabel Goldsmith Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, pp. 274, ISBN0297829661After all the hype about Lady Annabel Goldsmith's memoirs - the serialisation, the fawning interviews, the launch party...
Joy and Verve
Exhibitions 1Joy and verveGillian AyresThe Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, until 17 AprilThe RWA must be congratulated for staging this scintillating exhibition of recent work by Gillian Ayres. Ayres is one of our finest abstract painters, a...
Just Think about It
They had dined well and were warming their Armagnac. From the inclination of the ebony cigarette-holder, Charles Morse could deduce that his host was in didactic mode, and it was with little hope of success that he attempted a diversion: 'Well, as you...
Letters
Bad timing?From Bernard J. BaarsSir: What a fine day it is for Simon Jenkins ('Nothing to fear but fear itself', 13 March): 200 dead and over 1,000 wounded in Madrid. Ten bombs went off simultaneously to maximise civilian pain - the al-Qa'eda signature...
Missing Blowers et Al
A friend emailed from abroad wondering why there was no Test Match Special broadcasting the first Test against the West Indies at Sabina Park in Jamaica on Radio Four long wave. He normally receives it on his satellite television system. He was unaware...
Mother's Ruin
A fortnight ago my mother had a cancerous growth removed from her calf and a section of skin grafted over the hole. The doctor advised her not to put any weight on that leg for a while so she's been lying on the sofa with her leg up. My mother is living...
Move over, St Patrick, We Need Your Day for the Blessed Prudence, Virgin and Martyr
The Spectator is a broad church, so an issue devoted to faith and reason may surely reflect on the Budget. I propose that March 17, hitherto St Patrick's Day, should commemorate the Blessed Prudence, virgin and martyr. The Golden Legend tells of her...
Neither Short nor Sharp nor Shocking
Neither short nor sharp nor shocking A BAEDEKER OF DECADENCE: CHARTING A LITERARY FASHION, 1884-1927 by George C. Schoolfield Yale, £30, pp. 415, ISBN 0300047142To be fair to him, George C. Schoolfield, of Yale University, does admit in his opening sentence...
Old Hat
OperaOld hatToscaEnglish National OperaHansel and GretelWelsh National OperaTosca is one of the most surprising operas, in that you never know how it will take you. I suppose I see more performances of it than of any other opera, and though it is never...
Overbearing and Undermining
Overbearing and undermining LORD CROMER by Roger Owen OUP, £25, pp. 436, ISBN 0199253382A hundred and twenty years ago, the global hyper-power invaded a strategic Middle Eastern country. It talked of self-government but imposed its own rule. Other powers...
Peace without Honour
ValenciaFew election results are wholly unpredicted. Punditry is a trade that places a premium on being counter-cyclical. As soon as a consensus begins to emerge around a particular outcome, someone - often Mark Steyn - begins to forecast the opposite....
Reign in Spain
In spite of general excoriation attendant on his numerous drawn games, world champion Vladimir Kramnik finally triumphed at the elite tournament in Linares, Spain. Oddly enough, this is the first occasion during his reign as world champion that Kramnik...
Restaurants
I had my niece - the little one, aged 5 - to stay again recently and her quote of the week came one night when I was putting her to bed and she asked of my partner, 'Do you find him boring?' In his defence I should say that she largely feels this way...
Resumption of Warne
Shane Warne is back and doing what he likes most - writing his own notices. The Australian wrist spinner, banned for a year after taking a diuretic to assist his attempts to lose weight, returned to the national side last week in Sri Lanka and immediately...
Second Opinion
It is well known that patients swear blind that they have never been told a thing by their doctor about their illnesses and treatment immediately they leave the consulting room. Is it that the doctor mesmerises them as a stoat mesmerises a rabbit? Many...
Senior Moment
BRIAN SENIOR is undoubtedly one of the best bridge players in the country, and is constantly in demand as a professional, but you have to develop rather a thick skin to play with him. Forget any notion of bridge being just a game - mistakes or lapses...
Shock Therapy
Just before the end of the season, I am hunting once more. Roosevelt was right about freedom from fear being the big thing. Fear is always somewhere in the background in hunting - unless you are a lunatic - and when you return after injury it is in the...
That Was the Week That Was
That was the week that was ONCE IN AUGUST LONG AGO by Liam Nolan Greylake Publications, £9.95, pp. 174, ISBN 0954386701Autism is in the air. Newspaper articles, television programmes and new books abound. It was not always thus; when Liam Nolan's son,...
The Einstein of Maths
The odds are that the name Alexandre Grothendieck will mean little or nothing to most Spectator readers. It's a name I heard for the first time in high summer two years or so ago, not long, as I remember it, after the film A Beautiful Mind had come out....
The Equality of Mankind
I read Spinoza's Ethics for the first time when I was 13 years old. Of course we studied the Bible at school - which for me is the ultimate philosophical work. However, reading Spinoza opened up a new dimension. I am still dedicated to it. Spinoza's...
The Evil That Men Do
For personal reasons that it would be tedious to explain, my entire adult life, at least in its professional aspect, has been a search for the source of man's evil. Besides this question, all other questions - at least those pertaining to mankind - seem...
The Greatest Show on Earth
The greatest show on earth PALACE OF THE PEOPLE by J. R. Piggott C. Hurst & Co., £22.50, pp. 121, ISBN 1850657270This generously illustrated book serves two purposes. First of all, it celebrates the centenary of the reopening of the Crystal Palace...
The Love Bug
WOMENSeeking MenATTRACTIVE WRITER, Oxford graduate, 39, seeks gentleman of intellect, culture and traditional values, must be kind, interested in politics and soundly right wing. London and SE. Call me now on 0906 644 6844 Voicebox 63672PRETTY, intelligent,...
The Spectator's Notes
Encouraged by the success of her memoirs, which have captivated the nation thanks both to their literary excellence and the glittering launch party, Lady Annabel Goldsmith is planning a follow-up book. This volume will be a biography - or homage, if...
The Year of the Comet
The year of the comet 1066: THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY by Andrew Bridgeford Fourth Estate, £20, pp. 309, ISBN 184115041XTHE BATTLE OF HASTINGS, 1066 by M. K. Lawson Tempus, £25, pp. 252, ISBN 0752426893The Bayeux Tapestry, nearly 75 yards...
Tinned Treats
On leave in the foothills of the Himalayas, an Indian army officer and sportsman wrote in 1865: 'Unless I shoot something or other, I shall have to fall back on biscuits and sardines.' The canning of food, which had begun in the early part of the century,...
Tough Love
The closest I ever came to splitting up with my wife was before my stepson the Rat went to boarding school and we had to go through the daily hell of persuading him to do his homework. Had the Rat settled down and done it straight away, of course, he...
Truth and Consequences
In a democracy, the sovereign people are entitled to sack the politicians who serve them. But this was a dangerous moment for the voters of Spain to exercise that right. They have not only dispensed with a successful government that had a sound economic...
Unexpected Discoveries
Exhibitions 2 Unexpected discoveries Playing with Fire: European Terracotta Models, 1740-1840 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, until 25 April; Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 12 May to 29 AugustCheap, prolific and infinitely varied, clay has been...
Ungumming the 'Papist' Label
Ungumming the 'papist' label THE CATHOLIC REVIVAL IN ENGLISH LITERATURE, 1845-1961 by Ian Ker Gracewing, 2 Southern Avenue, Leominster, Herefordshire HR 6 0QF, Tel: 01568 616835, £14.99, pp. 231, ISBN 085244625XThis book is so important and good it deserves...
Watching the Ranks Closing
Watching the ranks closing BERLIN EMBASSY by William Russell Elliott & Thomson, 27 John Street, London WC 1N 2LL £9.99, pp. 239, ISBN 1904027148William Russell was a young American who worked as a clerk in the US embassy in Berlin at the time of...
What It Means to Be Human
Human beings are animals, composed of nerves and sinews, cardiovascular systems and digestive tracts. We hang from the tree of evolution on the same branch as the chimpanzee and the bonobo and not far from those of the elephant, the zebra and the mouse....
What's Morality Got to Do with It?
Every generation lives a little longer than the last - it's the sign of an advancing society. A hundred years ago the average British life expectancy at birth was 45. Now it is 75, giving us a blissful free decade at the end of our working lives to spend...
When Passion Rhymes with Fashion
When passion rhymes with fashion SENTIMENTAL MURDER: LOVE AND MADNESS IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY by John Brewer HarperCollins, £20, pp. 340, ISBN 000257134XLate one night in April 1779 a fashionable woman was murdered on the steps of her carriage outside...
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