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 April 2006

A Man for All Parties
From Mira Bar-Hillel Sir: Before saying that I agree with every word in Roger Scruton's article about Quinlan Terry and his Modernist enemies ('Hail Quinlan Terry', 8 April), I must declare an interest: Richard Rogers has twice sued me for defamation,...
Beware: The Voters Blair Neglected Are Angry -- and Looking Elsewhere
Phil is wearing an England football shirt. He lives in a quiet crescent in central Dagenham. He's shaven-headed and has two small children. He regrets voting for Margaret Thatcher: 'She lost me my business, she did.' In 1997 Mark moved to Tony Blair....
Breath of the Mediterranean
Van Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collectors Compton Verney, until 18 June The slightly warmer blustery weather of late March found me en route for Compton Verney, the charming Robert Adam house in 120 acres of Warwickshire park landscaped by Capability...
Club Ties
Palm Beach This place is good news for senior citizens everywhere. It is the Mecca for the rich where even my old friend David Metcalfe is considered middle-aged. It is also one of the few resorts in America where religion counts a hell of a lot. In...
Complacency Virus
I wrote in The Spectator 18 February of a friend who ordered a new Mercedes 320CDI E-class estate through an online supplier, www. multimarques. co. uk, thus saving himself £5,000. It was an anxious wait -- was he mad to pay £30,000 for something he'd...
Diary
When I told my husband I had been asked to write the Spectator diary by the editor he retorted, 'Nepotism.' 'No darling, ' I explained, 'not Boris' (whose brother Joe is married to my husband's niece) 'the new editor of The Spectator.' 'Ummm, ' he said,...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY A strange post-Manchester memo has arrived with a list of approved adjectives. I don't know what was wrong with all the old adjectives but apparently we have to use new ones -- 'new' is one of them, in fact. Poppy claims that 'new' is, in fact,...
Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?
Easter is the most important feast in the Christian calendar. 'If Christ be not risen, ' wrote St Paul, 'then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.' The Spectator approached politicians, churchmen, media folk and entertainers -- and members...
Housemates from Hell
THE YELLOW HOUSE : VAN GOGH, GAUGUIN AND NINE TURBULENT WEEKS IN ARLES by Martin Gayford Fig Tree/ Penguin, £18.99, pp. 356, ISBN 9780670914975 . £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 You know the plot already: Van Gogh and Gauguin establish themselves...
Is Rape a Legal Term or Is It Just a Matter of Opinion?
Of all the people in the country against whom this government bears a politically motivated grudge, the least deserving of our sympathy are (as the BBC might call them) Britain's community of rapists. Most decent people and probably even a majority...
It Was a Great Week for Judas:which Shows That Spin Works
For a week now the newspapers have been full of how Judas's newly published gospel proves that he did not betray Jesus after all. Or rather, the latter put Judas up to it. Jesus told Judas to sacrifice him so that he could fulfil his destiny. The revelation...
I've Seen the Future and It's Grey
When Benjamin Franklin remarked that all would live long, but none would be old, he could hardly have known how apt a description of today's pensioners this would turn out to be. Fitter, healthier and more in tune with the times than any previous generation,...
Lend Me Your Ear
This year's Reith Lectures on Radio Four (Fridays), by the musical genius Daniel Barenboim, are the most stimulating and entertaining that I can remember. Unusually, they're also very funny as Barenboim has a great sense of the ridiculous. His theme...
Milburn Is Mad to Think of Challenging Brown: But There Is Method in His Madness
When Alan Milburn returned to the Cabinet in September 2004, explicitly tasked to run Labour's general election campaign, Gordon Brown's advisers were amazed by the Chancellor's composed response to such a bloody-minded act of provocation by the Prime...
Mission Impossible
Paradise Now 15, general release The leading characters in Paradise Now are two young Palestinian men, Saïd and Khaled, who work dead-end jobs in a car-repair shop in Nablus. Their free time is spent lounging on a couple of old car seats which rest...
Nature Ramble
The fracture in my pelvis is almost knitted and last week I started going for walks to rebuild my strength. On Wednesday, walking along the top of a cliff in a gale, a speck of grit blew into my eye and lodged itself under the contact lens, scratching...
One of Vichy's Vilest
BAD FAITH : A FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF FAMILY AND FATHERLAND by Carmen Callil Cape, £20, pp. 614, ISBN 0224078100 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This is a ghastly story, powerfully well told. Lives of criminals form an accepted part of biography;...
Our Own Cuban Missile Crisis
Iran's leaders may be crazed and dangerous fanatics, but they are not stupid. That is why President Bush is right to show the Iranian regime that he is serious about containing its undisputed ambition to go nuclear in flagrant defiance of the international...
Paralysis Is Now Europe's Default Setting
Luxembourg A sleeping sickness is sweeping the chancelleries of Europe. This Monday, in the space of a single day, Italy and France became the latest nations to succumb to the symptoms of this nasty disease -- headaches, confusion, and finally a descent...
Pastel-Shaded Surprise
Eugene Onegin Royal Opera House Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin is an argument in favour of ordinary life, as opposed to a life ruled by passion and intensity. It's a kind of anti-Tristan, in which Isolde decides, in the terminology of Act II of Wagner's...
Quality Control
Really, it isn't me who decides what TV programmes to review. It's my wife. Like, the other night I'd started watching Ricky J. Dyer's fascinating documentary I Love Being. . .HIV+ (BBC3, Monday) about pozzing up, the disgusting gay underworld perversion...
Rescued by Reindeer
ONTRYING TO KEEP STILL by Jenny Diski Little, Brown, £15.99, pp. 307, ISBN 0316725250 . £12.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'Something about the idea of being a travel writer distresses me, ' laments Jenny Diski in the introduction of her book....
Seeds of Joy
The perfect pop song is a rare and beautiful thing. It's probably the reason I wanted to call this column 'pop music' rather than 'rock music', for although 'rock' describes the mainstream more accurately, and that's where we are usually swimming, 'pop'...
Surprised and Doomed by Joy
ONE SUMMER by Rachel Billington Orion, £17.99, pp. 311, ISBN 9780571230830 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 At the centre of Rachel Billington's new novel is love, but this is not in any conventional sense a romantic novel. Claudia, a schoolgirl,...
Tales and Truths of the Troubles
THE GPO AND THE EASTER RISING by Keith Jeffery Irish Academic Press, £50, £19.95, pp. 227, ISBN X0716528282 MYTHS AND MEMORIES OF THE EASTER RISING by Jonathan Githens-Mazer Irish Academic Press, £50, pp. 238, ISBN 071652824X THE ANGLO -IRISH WAR :...
Talking about the Birds and the Bees
Parrot by Paul Carter, pp. 224, ISBN 1861892373 Bee by Claire Preston, pp. 224, ISBN 186189256X Falcon by Helen Macdonald, pp. 208 186189238 Rat by Jonathan Burt, pp. 189, ISBN 186189224 Were I swimming for my life with these four books between my teeth...
The Facts Down Under
From Richard Alston Sir: It is unfortunate that in his desperation to denigrate Tony Blair, Matthew Norman regurgitated oft-repeated mythology about the Australian 2001 election ('Blair thinks he is the Wizard of Oz', 1 April). His central proposition...
The Heart and Stomach of a King
CATHERINE THE GREAT : LOVE , SEX AND POWER by Virginia Rounding Hutchinson, £20, pp.592, ISBN 0091799929 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 When Princess Sophie of AnhaltZerbst arrived at the Russian court in 1744, one of the many daughters of...
The Man Who Would Be Gordon's Guru
On Gordon Brown's bookshelf stands a new title likely to stand out from the others: In Our Hands: a Plan to Replace the Welfare State. It is a detailed proposal to abolish all benefit payments, from pensions to child support, and instead make a cash...
The March of Folly
THE SECRET HISTORY OF AL-Q AIDA by Abdel Bari Atwan Saqi, £16.99, pp. 256, ISBN 0863567606 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This wonderful small book brings to an end much journalistic nonsense that followed 11 September 2001 in its definitive...
The Murky Side of Murano
THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY by Donna Leon Heinemann, £15.99, pp. 256, ISBN 0434014524 . £12.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This is Donna Leon's 15th Commissario Guido Brunetti novel set in Venice and once again the author succeeds in capturing the...
The Spectator's Notes
On Good Friday 1613, John Donne found the direction of his journey on horseback in conflict with the duty of his soul. In his poem 'Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward', Donne writes that 'I am carried towards the West/ This day, when my soul's form...
Time out in Cuba
ENEMY COMBATANT : A BRITISH MUSLIM'S JOURNEY TO GUANTANAMO AND BACK by Moazzam Begg Free Press, £18.99, pp. 395, ISBN 0743285670 . £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 For three years Moazzam Begg, former DHSS officer, one-time Birmingham estate...
Utter Madness or Good Fortune
I work at the V&A and walk every day through galleries packed with marvellous things, but the other day I was stopped in my tracks by something unique: eight contemporary illuminated manuscript pages, flecked with gold and shimmering with light...
Weep Not for Britain's Stake in Airbus, but Watch What Happens to BAE
Let's not come over all emotional about the sale of BAE Systems's one fifth stake in Airbus to EADS, the Franco-German group that already owns the rest of it. For a start, the sale does not portend the death of a once-great industry, because Britain...
Why I Am Becoming an American
Lost Pines, Texas This year in the US they're holding an election and I'm planning to become an American citizen. Happily, as a dual national, I can now also remain a loyal subject of the Queen. It's as if, after the Declaration of Independence, the...
Wit and Wisden
Two white-coated codgers bent over some sticks in north London yesterday morning. One cleared his throat and, in ritual tone of relief and contentment refound, undramatically announced, 'Play!' Considering everything, all was well with the world, and...
Zero Tolerance in Florence
SCOURGE AND FIRE by Lauro Martines Cape, £20, pp. 336, ISBN 0224072528 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 THE BURNING OF THE VANITIES by Desmond Seward Sutton Publishing, £20, pp. 309, ISBN 0750929812 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 It...
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