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 September 2006

Allgravity, No Levity
A VERY BRITISH FAMILY : THE TREVELYANS IN THEIR WORLD by Laura Trevelyan I. B. Tauris, £18.99, pp. 264, ISBN 1860649467 . £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The oddest thing about this book is its title. A Very British Family surely suggests...
Ancient & Modern
Gordon Brown has promised that, when he comes to absolute power, he alone (not parliamentary colleagues, let alone the people) will appoint a Cabinet 'of all talents' to do his bidding. Even the Romans were more democratic than that. Roman toffs naturally...
Appetite for Gloom
Rascals and Ruins: The Romantic Vision of James Pryde The Fleming Collection, until 16 December James Pryde (1866-1941) is one of those artists who enjoyed a considerable vogue in their own lifetime, and resurface now and again but never with anything...
A Remarkably Broad Canvas
THE PAINTINGS OF JOHN WARD introduced by Sir Brinsley Ford David & Charles, £20, pp. 96, ISBN 0715324438 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 First published in 1991, and reissued now in paperback by popular demand, this enchanting book chronicles...
A Tale of Three Cities
Florence was thick with people. There were queues for the Uffizi and the Duomo, and there seemed to be as many street cartoonists sketching flattering portraits of unattractive children as there were unattractive children to sketch. As well as fathering...
A Visit to Sit-Com Country
A SPOT OF BOTHER by Mark Haddon Cape, £17.99, pp. 390, ISBN 0316861200 . £14.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Mark Haddon's previous book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, was a bestseller and that golden egg of publishing, a...
Beauty, Chastity and Unruly Times
LIBERTY : THE LIVES AND TIMES OF SIX WOMEN IN REVOLUTIONARY FRANCE by Lucy Moore HarperPress, £20, pp. 464, ISBN 00072060111 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 It may have taken until the late 1960s for the expression 'the personal is political'...
Blood and Gore
The Black Dahlia 15, nationwide An Inconvenient Truth U, selected cinemas The Black Dahlia may look promising, it might have good pedigree, and the word might be positive, but don't be taken in. Just because it's directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface,...
Brown's Dilemma: How to Be Blairite and Anti-Blairite at the Same Time
At last comes the final settling of accounts between the bosses of The Two Families, Don Antonio and Don Gordono. Don Antonio, the capo di tutti capi, still sits at the head of the table. But not for much longer, as Don Gordono stares him down. In a...
Clinton: Tony and Gordon Just Have to Work This Out
Little Rock, Arkansas What can be done to bring order to a fractious Labour party? Inside Little Rock's Alltel Arena, home of the Arkansas Twisters football team and filled with local Democrats greedily consuming mounds of deep-fried frogs' legs washed...
Defining Democracy
I liked what the late King of Tonga had to say about democracy: 'The solutions provided by majority rule are not acceptable to certain segments of the population.' Smart king, and the first man to pole-vault ten feet as a 14-year-old in 1932, an island...
Diary
I was very naughty when young. I stole from my schoolmates' pockets as they played games. I stole from Woolworth's. And probably more places. As responsibility entered my maturing soul, I tried to make amends. I advertised for those at school who I...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Busy busy. Dave is adamant that foreign policy cannot be reduced to soundbites, so of course, as Jed explained, we need a range of soundbites to convey this. 'We will give solid not slavish support to the US'; 'We will not come up with grand...
Do Dreams Come True? Will Hornby Save Airfix? Will I Be Chairman of Barclays?
Can there be a middle-aged man in Britain whose heart did not beat a little faster last week at the news that Hornby has expressed an interest in acquiring Airfix? This would be a merger that might have been dreamed up in a 1960s toy cupboard. Ailing...
Father Christmas Is Dead
VOICES by Arnaldur Indridason, translated by Bernard Scudder Harvill Secker, £12.99, pp. 314, ISBN 9781843433248 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The Silence of the Grave, Indridason's previous novel, won the three international crime-writing...
Happy Birthday, Index Funds
What has been the single most successful and socially useful investment innovation of the last 30 years? Although paradoxically few investors will know what it is, or why they should be grateful that it exists, my nomination is the index fund. On 31...
Haunted by Hunting
IN THE BLOOD : A MEMOIR OF MY CHILDHOOD by Andrew Motion Faber, £16.99, pp. 326, ISBN 0571228038 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This is an ambitious book. Andrew Motion set out to write a memoir of his childhood but not from the standpoint,...
How Do You Solve a Problem like Gordon? It's All a Question of Character
No, since you ask, he wasn't drunk. I read with some interest that the former Home Secretary had been on the sauce when he told me that the Chancellor's behaviour last week had been 'absolutely stupid' and attacked his suitability for the leadership....
How Leonardo Did It
How did he do it? Among the many great unanswered questions about Leonardo da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa', that has long been one of the most puzzling. Part of the perennial appeal of the 'Mona Lisa', and one reason why, today, there is a perpetual crowd in...
How to Succeed as a Failure
THE SOUND OF NO HANDS CLAPPING by Toby Young Abacus, £11.99, pp. 279, ISBN 0349118515 . £9.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'Why do your tales of degradation and humiliation make you so popular?' a fellow drinker at Moe's Bar asks Homer Simpson....
Importance of Friendship
We've seen those startling pictures from 9/11 so often that I wondered what The Archive Hour: New York Reflections Five Years On (Radio Four, Saturday) could possibly add in memoriam to those who died on that horrific day. But when you're just listening...
It Isn't Easy Being a Full-Time Self-Publicist
'You've turned into Jordan, ' said my wife, hurling last week's Independent on Sunday to the ground. The reason for this outburst was the picture of me on the cover of the Review section. I'd written an article to plug my new book about crashing and...
'I, Tony Blair, Being of Sound Mind . . . ' This Is How His Legacy Will Be Divided
It is constantly written that one of the reasons Mr Blair wants to remain Prime Minister longer than Mr Brown and much of the Labour party want him to is that he is worried about his 'legacy'. He wants more time to bequeath more of value. But whatever...
It's Funny What You Can Pick Up in Iceland
It is no mystery why British Eurosceptics love Iceland. A bracing visit to Reykjavik is all it takes to see what the European Union could have been, if Brussels had stuck to the path of free trade and shunned ever closer union. Like pilgrims to a shrine,...
Just the One
This week they named the men to defend the Ashes. The trumpets of 12 months ago are muted, the martial drumbeats muffled. It has not been a good year. I fear the worst. England's batting now looks fitful, the bowling feckless. Of the three champions,...
Lost at Sea
THE WAR FOR ALL THE OCEANS : FROM NELSON AT THE NILE TO NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO by Roy Adkins and Lesley Adkins Little, Brown, £20, pp. 534, ISBN 0316728373 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Roy Adkins, an archaeologist, wrote a book for the Trafalgar...
Maiden Voyage
The emblazoned ship was just in. Foot passengers had yet to appear in the terminal's arrivals shed, which was silent and deserted except for this wonderfully fat, moon-faced man taking up all the room on the only bench provided for meeters and greeters....
Michael Foot: Gordon Will Do the Job Very Well
Michael Foot and I are sitting in the kitchen of his house in Hampstead, north London. Outside in the garden a red 'Labour' rose blooms in the afternoon sun; inside, the house is crammed with books: they're in piles on the kitchen table, on shelves...
Most of Us - and Doing Quite Well
THE MIDDLE CLASS by Lawrence James Little, Brown, £25, pp. 690, ISBN 0316861200 Class is the bane of English society. 'As long as you maintain that damned class-ridden society of yours, ' declared the former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1978,...
My Daughter Is in a Class of Her Own Now
Unlike most nine-year-olds, my daughter Alex is not back at school. She is not having last-minute morning rushes to find her self-losing shoes. She is not getting used to a new classroom or meeting a new form teacher. For during this term at least,...
Never Mind the Sleaze, Look How Pupils Benefit
It may be hard to believe in these enlightened times, but until recently anybody brave enough to suggest that private companies should involve themselves in funding and even helping to manage state schools would have been seen as either hopelessly naive...
Odeto the A202
COLLECTED POEMS , 1952-2006 by Alan Brownjohn Enitharmon Press, £25, pp. 479, ISBN 1904634218 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Apersonal note, but relevant: I first picked up this large book at about two o'clock in the afternoon, and began to...
One Man and His Boat
There are those who will say that owning any boat, let alone one nearly 100 years old, is a mental illness in its own right -- like wanting to wear rubber underwear. This may well apply to deviants who buy one after long and deep thought, but not to...
Papal Travels
Pius II: City and Arts Palazzo Piccolomini and Baptistery, Pienza, until 8 October In 1435 a young Tuscan poet and diplomat visited the court of James I in Edinburgh. The purpose of his mission remains something of a mystery. But he was impressed by...
Passion Killers
West Africa I need a holiday. I especially need a holiday with my wife Claire. After my last Congo assignment -- where I had to sleep in a nunnery, or hugger-mugger with farting Pakistani peacekeepers on the frontlines -- I passed through London and...
Special Affair
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Usher Hall, Edinburgh Gadaffi English National Opera Brian McMaster's 15-year period directing the Edinburgh International Festival came to an entirely appropriate end with a concert performance in the Usher Hall of Wagner's...
Spectator Mini-Baroffer
Private Cellar is a very classy company. Its four principals all worked for Corney & Barrow, and its buying director is a Master of Wine with the magnificent name of Nicola ArcedeckneButler. I assumed this indicated Eastern European origins; in...
Spies in Oxford
RESTLESS by William Boyd Bloomsbury, £17.99, pp. 325, ISBN 0747585717 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Spy fiction, or 'spy-fi', has its specialist practitioners, but big literary names have also turned to the genre for their own varied purposes....
Stifled by the Suburbs
ARLINGTON PARK by Rachel Cusk Faber, £14.99, pp. 240, ISBN 9780571228478 . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 As a student I remember being directed to chapter 42 of Henry James's Portrait of a Lady, the brilliance of it being that 'nothing happens'....
Supporting the Artisan
The ancient tradition of arts patronage is being revived in Marbella, the Andalusian playground of the rich and famous. Here in the shadow of the Sierra Blanca mountains, next to the luxurious Marbella Club, built by Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe in...
The Boogie and Ginnie Double Act
SHARED HISTORIES : TRANSATLANTIC LETTERS BETWEEN VIRGINIA DICKINSON REYNOLDS AND HER DAUGHTER VIRGINIA POTTER , 1929-1966 edited by Angela Potter University of Georgia Press, £17.50, pp. 406, ISBN 0820328022 Relationships between mothers and daughters...
The Few, Not the Many
'Things need to be different than what they currently are, ' Derek Simpson, the general secretary of the trade union Amicus, said on the Today programme last week. This is a proposition around which the whole country can unite. But there Mr Simpson's...
The Rich West Must Stop Grabbing the Profits but Ducking the Costs
Heroes of anti-capitalist protest don't usually hang out at the Savoy. But Joe Stiglitz is different: the establishment figure who turned on the establishment. He's a former chief economist at the World Bank and a Nobel laureate. He chaired Bill Clinton's...
The Saga of My Aga
I'm told that Agas are making a glorious comeback. It is not surprising. People may sneer and make them figures of fictional fun. The older models, or even the newer ones, may not be designed -- like most of Britain -- to cope with heatwaves, but global...
The Spectator's Notes
Because of what John Prescott calls the 'dustbin of last week', we now know that a new leader of the Labour party will be elected this year or next. This will be only the second time in history that a Labour leader will have been chosen while the party...
Third Degree at Heathrow
From Andrew Hamilton Sir: In my experience the overzealous and politically correct airport security in America (High Life, 2 September) is being replicated in this country. At Heathrow security recently, off to see my son in Shanghai, I couldn't resist...
Who Dares Wins
When we were growing up in the Eighties, my brother, sister and I spent our whole time psychologically torturing one another with vile nicknames and savagely cruel put-downs. One of the nastiest, whenever one of us tried and failed to be amusing, was,...
Wives and Wooings
Henry VIII Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon Love's Labour's Lost Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon Troilus and Cressida Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-uponAvon The programme gets it right in rating Henry VIII 'at the edge of William Shakespeare's...
You Really Shouldn't Arrest Someone for Quoting from the Bible
'If a man has sexual relations with a man, as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.' Leviticus xx 13 Britain's most energetic and entertaining bigot, Stephen...
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