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. 9156, 2004

A Disaster for British Public Life
It could not have been more perfect, in its ghastly way. For six months Lord Hutton conducted his inquiry with complete rectitude. There had been no embarrassments. No public document in modern times had been as leak-free as this one - a tribute to the...
A Model Politician
Exhibitions 3A model politicianThe Bodleian Library has mounted an exhibition to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, in December 2004. The exhibition is displayed in a single room off the main entrance of...
Ancient & Modern
Iain Duncan Smith, ex-leader of the Tory party, is evidently in a state of some depression at his humiliating rejection. Ancient philosophy must spring to his aid.Greek and Roman philosophers were primarily concerned with ethics: that is, they wanted...
An Innocent at Large in Dystopia
An innocent at large in dystopia TRAIN by Pete Dexter Heinemann, £15.99, pp. 258, ISBN 0434012378Turgenev wrote, 'Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: "Great God, grant that twice two be not four." '...
A Smile, a Figure, a Flair
A smile, a figure, a flair THE BUGATTI QUEEN: IN SEARCH OF A MOTOR-RACING LEGEND by Miranda Seymour Simon & Schuster, £15.99, pp. 301, ISBN 0743231465It's hard to find an exciting biographical subject who has not been done and on whom sufficient...
A Very Errant Knight
A very errant knight SNOWLEG by Nicholas Shakespeare Harvill, £16.99, pp. 386, ISBN 1843431580Nicholas Shakespeare is one of the few contemporary British novelists who successfully integrate the political with the personal in the lives of his characters....
Bring Back Gilligan
On Tuesday, 24 September 2002 Tony Blair stood up in the House of Commons and waved a dossier. The threat of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction is not American or British propaganda,' he said. 'The history and present threat are real.' These words...
Campbell's War
Who is Alastair Campbell, the real Alastair Campbell that is? A rather nasty piece of work judging by a programme about him produced for Radio Five Live by Unique, an independent production company. The Real Alastair Campbell, presented by Clive Anderson,...
Cheer Up: Things Can Only Get Worse
Not knowing the Second Law of Thermodynamics is like never having read a work of Shakespeare,' wrote C.P. Snow in his The Two Cultures. I suspect that in the light of modern education the remark is now completely meaningless, but I can presume that most...
Crime Thought
Luc Ferry, no relation to Lucy or Bryan, insists I cannot wear my Christian cross and go near a French school. Luc Ferry says many silly things, including that Jewish yarmulkas and Muslim head scarves are also prohibited in places of learning, and he's...
Designs for Living
As I open the October 2003 'Cladding' supplement of the weekly magazine Building Design, my eye is caught by a full-page advertisement for Hardiplank siding. This cement-based imitation weatherboarding is available in colours including Rustic, Linen...
Diary
I feel a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Having been sucked into a tornado and deposited for almost ten years in a technicolour world of high political and personal drama in the wake of my other half, Alastair Campbell, I am back, not in Kansas...
Don't Bet on the Grand Projet - Europe Would Be Better off without It
That rumbling noise comes from the tomb of Jean Monnet. His project is cracking up. European union, half a century in the making, will remain a pipe dream. Wise investors will find new opportunities in a Dis-United Europe. Who says so? Well, Joachim...
Fee Choice
I think I once knew how Tony Blair felt on Tuesday night. It was Matriculation Day for the Fresher class of 2000 at New College, Oxford. With the obligatory white tie and gown as scruffy as I could make it, I strolled over to join the expanding group...
Forward to the Past
Forward to the past THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger Cape, £12.99, pp. 519, ISBN 0224071912If time travel were possible, surely there'd be people from the future causing mischief in the present? Well, not necessarily: perhaps when you travel...
Hide and Seek
Hide and seek STEVENSON UNDER THE PALM TREES by Alberto Manguel Canongate, £7.99, pp. 105, ISBN 1841954497The constant command in the works of Alberto Manguel is 'look closer'. From his terrifying novel, News from a Foreign Country Came to his A History...
Holocaust of Vercors
It is just before eight in the morning and puffs of fine mountain drizzle float on the breeze in and around Vassieux. Two dozen brown-and-white cows and a bearded, slack-bellied goat are being ushered down the rue de la Résistance by a man in a brimless...
If Only
I CAN play rubber bridge for hours on end without feeling tired, but playing in tournaments leaves me completely wiped out. I suppose it's because I concentrate more: the hands are discussed afterwards in detail, so your play is subjected to far greater...
Letters
Poles apartFrom Andrzej WilskiSir: It is heartwarming to read the magnificent Taki's praises of my countrymen's historical struggles and my beloved Zakopane (High life, 24 January) but his article contains an error. It is not true that 'the Poles have...
Moving Swiftly on . .
Moving swiftly on . . . A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE by Michael Cook Granta, £20, pp. 385, ISBN 1862076861Titles that begin with the phrase A Brief History of ... are no doubt written that way to connote a certain sense of humility, as if the author...
Mystery Ingredient
There was a time in the late 1980s and 1990s when highly touted young jazz musicians were appearing like mayflies in permanent hatch. The big recording companies, in competition with each other to sign 'the youngest', 'the fastest' and 'the most dynamic'...
Pioneer in a Peculiar Science
Pioneer in a peculiar science DEATH'S ACRE: INSIDE THE LEGENDARY 'BODY FARM' by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson Time Warner, £16.99, pp. 299, ISBN 0316725277The first distinguished person I ever met told me that he preferred funerals to weddings. 'Weddings,'...
Plumbing the Depths
Plumbing the depths A CLEAR CALLING by David Austin Cape, £14.99, pp. 141, ISBN 022406441XThe sea frightens me. It seems so cold and cruel, even when it looks warm and inviting. It was with some wariness, therefore, that I approached David Austin's first...
Questing Love
In Competition No. 2325 you were invited to supply a Personal Column advertisement seeking a partner, with the sort of self-description and requirements of the partner unlikely to elicit replies.Here are two extracts from the columns of the New York...
Quite the Most Delightful Clergyman
Quite the most delightful clergyman SIMON PHIPPS: A PORTRAIT collected by Caroline Gilmour and Patricia Wyndham Continuum, £14.99, pp. 150, ISBN 0826471382Simon Phipps, says the cover of this slim but engaging volume, was 'the last of his breed of Bishop'....
Rare Purity of Spirit
Exhibitions 1Rare purity of spiritConstantin Brancusi: The Essence of ThingsTate Modern, until 23 MayConstantin Brancusi (1876-1957) is a founding father of Modernism who somehow gets slightly forgotten. There has never been a major exhibition of his...
Restaurants
RESTAURANTSMy brother has been nagging me for ages to try a restaurant near his office in town. In the end, I caved in, largely because I know from my childhood that when thwarted he will either wee on you while you are in the bath or write 'Arsenal'...
Retired Hurt
I am kneeling as I write, not in prayer, but because it is the least painful way of working the computer. A few days ago, I woke up and found that it hurt to move. When I did get up, my shoulder was so stiff that I aged instantly, shuffling along the...
Second Opinion
I like to have a little nap in the afternoon, though I rarely have the opportunity to do so. I have reached the stage in life, though, when I rather regret waking up; I don't remember my dreams, exactly, but I know that they are better and more entertaining...
Shiny, Happy People
Skiing in France can be a grim business. The French are horrible to you because there are too many English, and then there are all the bloody English talking English and complaining about the French. Things came to a head last year in a ski shop in La...
Slim Tale
Slim taleLes Arts Florissants; La Descente d'Orphée aux EnfersBarbicanLes Contes d'HoffmannRoyal Opera HouseThe Bartered BrideOpera North, LeedsOperaIt's 300 years since Marc-Antoine Charpentier died, and the first event to commemorate that in London...
Spectator Wine Club
It is a mystery to me why some people stop drinking wine after New Year, sometimes for a few days, occasionally for a whole month. Most don't even feel better. They report headaches and sore throats. Others find their sleep disturbed, or become tetchy....
Straight and Narrow
As I waded through page after page of interminable dogma and municipal jargon, one statement suddenly leapt out at me: 'Some 50 per cent of people being approved of as adoptive parents in Brighton and Hove are from the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.'...
Sunday Punch
Johnson's Standard Swahili-English Dictionary lists a tree called the Gaagaa Paka tree. 'Gaagaa' is a verb, meaning 'to roll from side to side, turn restlessly as a man in pain, or in delirium, or as an animal wallowing on the ground'. 'Paka' is Swahili...
The Americans Just Don't Get It
Who will be found to explain to the Americans the ever more likely political destruction of Tony Blair? The British Prime Minister is, it seems, everyone's special friend, not just the American President's. There has been no such adulation of a foreign...
The Full Treatment
The full treatment BERLIOZ, LA VOIX DU ROMANTISME edited by Catherine Massip and Cécile Reynaud Bibliothèque Nationale de France/ Fayard, 45 Euros, pp. 264, ISBN 2213616973THE PORTRAITS OF HECTOR BERLIOZ by Günther Braam, translated by John Warrack Bärenreiter,...
The Great Whitewash
So what were you all waiting for? You surely could not have been expecting an inquiry, headed by an eminent law lord, to deliver an indictment of the government? They don't do that, law lords. Certainly they haven't in my lifetime. And it hasn't happened...
The Heat of the Day
The heat of the day THE GO-BETWEEN by L. P. Hartley, read by Edward Petherbridge Cover to Cover, £26.99, 9 hours 39 minutesFew novels can stimulate memories of sweltering summers more evocatively than L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between. The grilling summer...
The House That Jack Built
Shortly after the war, my Uncle Jack set up a conservation project at a time when the word ecology would have got you nothing more than a blank stare.Jack's chief claim to military fame was that he had got an entire armoured column off the road in North...
The Place to Be
Bamiyan HotelThis is the most beautiful valley in the world. The mountains on the horizon have just turned white. When I was last here, in the spring, the characteristic sensuous central Asian hills, formed like sand dunes from the fertile alluvial dust...
The Question That Just Won't Go Away: Is Sunday This Week or Next Week?
Very occasionally in the life of a nation comes the need for a short period of dictatorship. Not for major reform: democracy can easily manage historic change. No, it's the little things which dictators do so well. General Franco, for example, rationalised...
There's No Place like Rome
Nothing is more important to a journalist than his integrity. The founders of the Independent were men of such unyielding principle that they would not allow their journalists to go on freebies. On other papers most journalists handled the integrity/freebie...
The Sleep of Reason
The sleep of reason HOW MUMBO-JUMBO CONQUERED THE WORLD: A SHORT HISTORY OF MODERN DELUSIONS by Francis Wheen 4th Estate, £16.99, pp. 338, ISBN 0007140967Like Francis Wheen's other books, this one ends in a deliriously funny index, which is worth the...
Time for Action
Garry Kasparov was world champion, Vladimir Kramnik is world champion but Viswanathan Anand plays like a world champion. The time has come, after a hiatus of over three years, for the World Championship to be solved. There are numerous competing claims...
Tim's Missing Gene
What on earth can be done about Tim Henman? How can this gifted tennis player, the most gifted this country has produced for at least three decades, banish the self-doubt that cripples him whenever his greatest need is to assert himself? Will he ever...
To All in Tents
But I don't want to go camping, you cry. The cold, the discomfort, the lack of luxury. Why camp when you can afford a decent hotel or one of those wonderful houses advertised every week at the back of this magazine?And yet camping, as long as you go...
Tough Work
TelevisionTough workI raced home on Monday to catch the first part of I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here (ITV) just in time to see Jordan, a 'model' with silicone-stuffed FF-cup breasts (am I alone in finding these roughly as erotic as a similar...
Trivia Is All Well and Good, but a Few Facts Wouldn't Harm the Broadsheets
As I write, I have in front of me page three of last Monday's Daily Telegraph. The headline is Outlook steamy as celebrities land in the jungle'. One large photograph shows the 'model Jordan' (a woman with freakishly enlarged breasts) standing with the...
Two to Watch
Peering into the glass tank in an Athens restaurant the other night I had to look twice before confirming that the parrotfish propelling himself lugubriously round the enclosure had only one eye, having feared at first that the ouzo was getting to me....
Unheroic Australian
Exhibitions 2Unheroic AustralianFred Williams - An Australian Vision: Etchings, Drawings and GouachesBritish Museum, until 25 April'One way of disliking Australian art,' wrote the young Robert Hughes in his introduction to the 1961 Whitechapel exhibition...
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