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. 295, No. 9181, 2004

A Coalition That Failed
A coalition that failed INTERVENTION IN RUSSIA, 1918-1920 by Miles Hudson Leo Cooper, £19.95, pp. 210, ISBN 184415033XMiles Hudson is a military historian with several interesting books to his credit, especially his War and the Media (1981), written...
A Matter-of-Lie Affair
A matter-of-lie affair THE LAMBS OF LONDON by Peter Ackroyd Chatto & Windus, £15.99, pp. 216, ISBN 0701177446Mary Lamb once wrote to a female friend of 'a knack I know I have of looking into people's real characters, and never expecting them to act...
Ancient & Modern
Aitios in ancient Greek means both 'responsible' and 'culpable'. Since Greeks were well aware of the distinction, they would have much enjoyed the nuances of the Butler report and the responses to it.The Athenian orator Demosthenes (384-322 BC) comes...
Best of Friends
I was looking for the Palace of the Kings of Mallorca, and lost my bearings in the maze of narrow side streets that comprises the old quarter of Perpignan. In a street so narrow I could span it with outstretched arms, a youth on a motorbike roared past...
Breaking the Rules
WHEN you've been playing bridge for years, it's easy to forget how complicated the game can seem at first. All the rules and conventions certainly confused me. I can still remember everyone laughing when my partner doubled a contract and, sharing his...
Bring Back the Sixties
As the 1960s drew to a close, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the Moon, pop's dopeheads were experimenting with ten-minute-long guitar solos, and a mop-haired Tony Blair was in the sixth form at Fettes where, in between canings for insolence,...
Chips with Everything
'But, my dear, the noise and the people,' exclaimed the apocryphal first world war cavalry officer when asked why he cut short his London leave to return to the trenches. After a 1,560-mile round trip from the south coast to Wester Ross, via Lincolnshire,...
Cricket's Itself Again
However the Test match pans out, it is a treat to have the West Indies back at Lord's. Their matches there have provided unforgettably resonant trumpet flourishes right down the past half century and more. All around this week there has been an evocatively...
Cynical Con
Every year I receive a letter from my insurance company with regard to the cost of protecting my rented house in St John's Wood. Generally the insurance premium is around £3,000. I can just about live with that. But stick around.A few days ago, as I...
Darkness in Morocco
Darkness in Morocco THIS BLINDING ABSENCE OF LIGHT by Tahar Ben Jelloun The New Press, £14.99, pp. 195, ISBN 1565847237The chilling facts of the matter are soon told: on 10 July 1971, an armed uprising against King Hassan II of Morocco was swiftly suppressed;...
Diary
To Portcullis House at Westminster, to take part in a Reuters debate on war and journalism. I notice John Reid, the Prime Minister's most prominent capo regime these days, lurking at the back. His minder tells me that 'the boss would like a word' but...
Elusive Reality
Theatre 1Elusive realityOld TimesDonmarThe Old MastersComedyWhen an extremely young Alan Ayckbourn asked Harold Pinter for biographical details of Stanley in The Birthday Party, the playwright told him to 'Mind your own f***ing business,' and 'just say...
Eyes, Ears and Other Means
Eyes, ears and other means THE PUPPET MASTERS: SPIES, TRAITORS AND THE REAL FORCES BEHIND WORLD EVENTS by John Hughes-Wilson Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, pp. 478, ISBN 0297846159Colonel Hughes-Wilson has written a powerful book about what, even within...
Gamesmanship
In Competition No. 2350 you were given 12 names of games and invited to incorporate them, in any order, into a plausible piece of prose, not using them in their game sense.Certain words are scarcely ever used without a cliche companion: 'downright' is...
Get Thee to a Nunnery
Theatre 2Get thee to a nunneryHouse of DesiresSwan Theatre, Stratford-upon-AvonThe face of a Spanish nun, her unhappy face encrusted with pustules characteristic of the plague, is the RSC's peculiar choice of publicity image for House of Desires, the...
Globophobia
The UK Independence Party, according to the manifesto which won it 12 seats in the recent European Parliament elections, 'is the only party to support free and fair trade for a free country'. The document goes on to assert that the EU is preventing us...
Labour Is Stealing Your Country
'We're going to build the Tories out of London,' proclaimed Herbert Morrison, the leader of the London County Council in the 1930s, boasting that Labour's vast council-house programme would ensure that the Tories never returned to power in the capital....
Letters
Why Blair went to warFrom Dr Jeremy StockerSir: The fuss surrounding first the Hutton report and now the Butler report ('Blair is forced to face the truth', 17 July) obscures the real reason for Britain going to war.On the grounds of WMD, one would go...
Lobster Treats
Do we keep enough British lobsters for ourselves? I was pondering this question a couple of weeks ago as I watched a container lorry leaving the Hebridean island of Tiree which would deliver its load of live lobsters four days later to the fish market...
Me and My White Mates
Me and my white mates THE LIKES OF US: A BIOGRAPHY OF THE WHITE WORKING CLASS by Michael Collins Granta, £12, pp. 274, ISBN 1862076006Michael Collins, he tells us, was brought up in a terraced street south of the River Thames in Southwark, a district...
Mistress of the Royal Game
Mistress of the royal game LAST CHAPTERS OF MY LIFE: THE LOST MEMOIR OF QUEEN MARIE OF ROMANIA edited by Diana Mandache Sutton, £20, pp. 224, ISBN 0750936916Marie of Romania (1875-1938), though little known to most readers today, was probably the most...
No Way to Grieve
Like most things (well, apart from dentistry), sex and death were done better in the past. You saw someone who caught your fancy in church, a couple of months a-wooing and come springtime she was yours. There would be a few years of getting-to-know-you...
Out of Tune with the Times
'Extraordinary how potent cheap music is,' says the newly-wed Amanda Prynne in Noël Coward's Private Lives. She is right, but following the launch of the compact disc in the early 1980s even cheap music became rather expensive. Then came Napster - a...
Read Me a Dirty Story, Mummy
'I sit on the toilet, pushing it all into my hand, and then I paint the walls brown. Brown to wash out the white of my anger. Brown to make them hate me. Oh, how they hate me. Back in my room, I tear off my pyjamas and rip them to shreds. . . . 'Well,...
Second Opinion
I was discussing death with my closest friend recently, and we discovered that we had both caught ourselves envying the dead. They were lucky to be out of it; and neither of us would be particularly disturbed if we discovered that we had a fatal illness...
Seeing Success
Jacob Aagaard's new book Excelling at Chess Calculation (Everyman Chess, £16.99) assists the reader with various techniques to navigate the multifarious reefs of the chess middlegame. Aagaard discusses resources such as visualisation, stepping stones,...
Snap Happy
ExhibitionsSnap happyJacques Henri Lartigue: Photographs 1901-86About Face: Photography and the Death of the PortraitHayward Gallery, South Bank Centre, until 5 SeptemberOne of the most remarkable things about Lartiguc (1894-1986) is that he did not...
South Africa: Rejection and Rapprochement
South Africa: rejection and rapprochement THE WORLD THAT WAS OURS by Hilda Bernstein Persephone, £10, pp. 394, ISBN 1903155401This book, repuhlished after almost 40 years, has survived as a South African classic while most other memoirs about life under...
Tact and Taste
GstaadNow I understand why Ella, the Oxford Union treasurer, turned down my marriage proposal. According to research, one woman in four has a younger husband. Ella is 19, I'm no toyboy at 67, but still it's a tough pill to swallow. And speaking of old...
Tales of a Scottish Spa
Tales of a Scottish spa TIME IN CARNBEG by Ronald Frame Polygon, £8.99, pp. 293, ISBN 0954407555I will cheerfully own to having struggled in the past with Ronald Frame's novels. Brooding once over a stack of photographs brought back from a fortnight's...
Thai Justice
Although I've never personally smuggled 5,000 Ecstasy tablets or a belly bag full of heroin through an international airport, I can well conceive of circumstances in which one might. You could be a dirt-poor Nigerian struggling to feed his family; a...
The Spectator's Notes
L'affaire Soames was famous. In February 1969, Christopher Soames, the then British ambassador in Paris, attained a long-sought private lunch with President de Gaulle, who had earlier blocked British entry to the EEC. De Gaulle aired his vision of a...
The Stauffenberg Plot to Kill Hitler Failed - and a Good Thing Too
If only the assassination attempted 60 years ago last Tuesday had succeeded, we have heard all this week. But what was the conspirators' idea of success? In particular, what did the awesome man whose sonorous name we have heard this week really believe?...
The Tories Are in Such a Poor Way That They May Have to Start Telling the Truth
Between the revolution and the firing squad, there is always time for a bottle of champagne. In this case, it was Sky TV's champagne at its summer party on Monday evening. Though a lot of Tory MPs turned up, I did not find one who was cheerful about...
The Triumph of the East
A year ago I had lunch with an eminent figure who asked if I thought she was mad. 'No,' I said politely, while thinking, 'Yup.' She had said she thought there was a secret plot by Muslims to take over the West. I have never been into conspiracy theories,...
Time to Contract
Under the new chairman and director-general, the BBC, we are led to : believe, intends to cut costs and waste. The problem with the corporation is that in the past it has been incapable of contracting or even retrenching; its dynamic is to grow constantly...
Up High and Running
Up high and running FEET IN THE CLOUDS: A TALE OF FELL-RUNNING AND OBSESSION by Richard Askwith Aurum, £16.99, pp. 339, ISBN 1854109898Some years ago, while climbing the track towards the Vann Lake in Carmarthenshire, my old friend Alan Jones and I were...
Upstaging the Prussians
Upstaging the Prussians WELLINGTON'S SMALLEST VICTORY by Peter Hofschröer Faber, £14.99, pp. 340, ISBN 0571217680'The victor writes the history,' says Peter Hofschröer in his latest attempt to rewrite it himself. 'Rarely has this old adage been more...
Utter Hell
LaikipiaLast week I was in my clapped-out old Range Rover on a supply run to Nairobi with Celestina riding shotgun. We were stuck in a ghastly traffic jam outside the old US Embassy, which was blown to smithereens by al-Qa'eda in 1998, when a beggar...
Why Is the British Taxpayer Supporting a Sinn Fein Newspaper Group?
Whenever a new newspaper launches in any part of the world, a little voice inside one's head cheers. Naturally that voice is all the louder when the paper is in one's own country. So I rejoiced when I heard that a new daily title is under consideration...
Why the British Are So Mean
Much as I sympathise with those caught up in petty local government bureaucracy, every so often there emerges a sob story which somehow fails to tug the heartstrings. Last week in the Daily Mail, cancer fundraiser Ipek Williamson was moaning that Cotswold...
Young Talent
OperaYoung talentVilar Young ArtistsRoyal Opera HouseIt seems a very good idea to give the Vilar Young Artists, singers who throughout the season appear in walk-on parts in major productions at the Royal Opera, an evening to themselves where they will...
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