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 November 2005

A Dying Breed
If demography is destiny, then, on the face of it, Britain should be feeling pretty smug. In late May the number of people in the UK finally passed the 60 million mark. By 2031, according to official projections released last month, there will be 67...
A Gangster Comes to Town
When China's President Hu Jintao sits next to the Queen at her state banquet for him on 8 November he will be a contented man. In the words of the Royal Academy of Arts, 'China Turns London Red'. Somerset House, the London Eye and other buildings will...
Antipodean Wit and Wisdom
THE MEANING OF RECOGNITION : NEW ESSAYS , 2001-2005 by Clive James Picador, £14.99, pp. 367, ISBN 033044025X . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Shocking, I know, but I hadn't paid much attention to Clive James since my dim distant undergraduate...
Baking Hot
A couple of years ago I was in New York with my arm candy, plus friends and offspring, checking out the Chelsea area and SoHo with its hip residents, rats and meat-packing outlets now converted into eating establishments for people who live in converted...
Beyond the Baton
When I am asked what I do, I say I am a musician. The response is invariably, 'Which instrument do you play?' When I say I conduct, I am aware that I have passed beyond the easy into the more difficult, but I know at the same moment that I have not...
Brace of Johnsons
Two of the journalistic Johnsons graced the airwaves last month -- Frank, the former editor of this magazine, and Boris, the present incumbent: Frank on Radio Three's Private Passions three weeks ago (Sunday), followed this week by Boris on Desert Island...
Christmas Podding
The spirit of Christmas this year belongs to Apple. The new iPod has just hit UK shops and every teenager in the country who doesn't find one under the tree on 25 December is going to be inconsolable; understandably so, because the new iPod looks and...
Colossally Bad Taste
DICTATORS 'HOMES by Peter York Atlantic Books, £14.99, pp. 119, ISBN 184354430X . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Everyone loves a good dictator, at least at a distance. Dictators exert the same horror and fascination that snakes have for...
Dalai Alan and Helicopter Ben May Propose, but the Markets Dispose
I have long thought that Alan Greenspan would have made a passable Dalai Lama. Those gnomic utterances, that air of inner calm, that instant access to a deep well of understanding. . . . The faithful have come to accept that the chairman of the United...
Dance Macabre
Having cruelly blackwashed the combined British Isles Lions tourists just four months ago, New Zealand's athletic young rugby sadists are back in the old country intent on inflicting further pain with a Grand Slam against the four 'home' nations on...
Diary
Baghdad Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you, and someone's definitely out to get us. Last week the Palestine hotel, home to many journalists here, was almost demolished by a particularly telegenic truck bomb. The...
Do It Yourself
A mature friend claims that the greatest favour anyone can do for his or her friends and family is to die without publishing a single book -- no novel, no memoirs, nada. There's no legacy like it. I know what she means. There has been an explosion in...
Don't Do It, Hewitt
If this increasingly intolerant government resembles anything from history, it is the American administration of 1920 which ushered in Prohibition at the behest and the pounding of the teetotal zealots. How else could such a ludicrous proposal as a...
Down Memory Lane
Birmingham Royal Ballet Sadler's Wells Theatre The preservation of national choreographic heritages has long been a concern of those who fear globalisation in the performing arts. Dance practitioners, dance administrators and dance academics thus resort...
Earning Brownie Points
THINKING ALOUD : THE BEST PROSPECT , 1995-2005 edited by David Goodhart Atlantic, £19.99, pp. 320, ISBN 1843544814 . £15.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Prospect is a monthly magazine with high aims, and it is therefore welcome. To borrow from...
Ego Trip with Excess Baggage
STRANGELAND by Tracey Emin Sceptre, £14.99, pp. 288, ISBN 0340769440 . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Readers may sympathise with Tracey Emin. Her big mouth and huge appetite for selfadvertisement make her a ready target; she's so shameless...
Fairtrade Fat Cats
Fairtrade is the new cricket. It's official. Fairtrade has been declared a 'Superbrand' with sales growth up a whopping 51 per cent to £140 million. The funky little green and blue Fairtrade logo is the latest must-have retail status symbol. Once a...
Flushed with Success
'During 30 years as a practising herbalist I've cured myself of three terminal illnesses and I've done more colon cleanses than I can count, ' writes Martha Volchok, Master Herbalist, on her website 'Colon Cleanse for Radiant Health'. This seductive...
Foil in the Bag
As someone who hates sport, even I have to admit that not all sports are the same. There are some which are elegant, like cricket, and some which are highly ritualised and stylised, like sumo wrestling. In some cases, such as the Palio horse race in...
Full-Blooded Drama
Rubens: A Master in the Making National Gallery, until 15 January 2006 Sponsored by Shell The National Gallery really is a remarkable place. In addition to displaying its diverse and beautiful permanent collection in increasingly sympathetic and attractive...
Full Marx for George Bush
Ever since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there has been a seemingly endless flow of selfcongratulatory comment in the West about how former communist countries -- and even some which have remained communist -- are gradually westernising and learning...
Global Village
Almost without anybody noticing, the London Jazz Festival, which opens on 11 November and continues full pelt until 20 November, has grown in stature and significance. It's now over a decade since the first festival, and it's a fair bet that during...
Hot Property
These days the most conspicuous presence on the gritty streets of King's Cross is not call girls and crack dealers but buttercupyellow huddles of hard hats. Through the clouds of cement dust you can just about make out signs explaining that the hatwearers...
How Greed and Hubris Led to Blunkett's Downfall
At least this time we were spared the self-pitying squealing about only doing what he had for the 'little lad'. But even though David Blunkett walked the plank he still refuses to accept that he's done anything wrong. Maybe the Viagra has gone to his...
How the French Riot
Les Vans, Ardèche For a patriot like me, it is a great consolation to know that other societies are undergoing precisely the kind of decomposition, if a little more slowly and with slightly more resistance to it, in which we so clearly lead the world....
Instant Post-Mortem Verdicts
GREAT LIVES : A CENTURY OF OBITUARIES edited by Ian Brunskill HarperCollins, £20, pp. 465, ISBN 0007201680 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. In every life there is the subject for a...
Labour Sleaze
Edward Gibbon would recognise it: the air of decadence, the smell of death which hangs over the New Labour empire this week. The impotence of Emperor Blair is a pitiful sight. His protestations of the innocence of Senator Blunkett -- which once would...
Leather Fetish
Everyone should have a talisman -- personal, meaningful or useful, a symbol by which we measure our worth to ourselves. In Graham Greene's The Comedians the ultimately courageous 'Major' Brown carried around Haiti a leather-bound silver cocktail-shaker...
Leave Us Alone
'Placemaking' is the big new idea that will transform communities. Architects, quangos and the government are all interested in this method of improving public space. Town and city planners are embracing it enthusiastically. But, despite all the energy...
Let Them Have Nukes
It is the habit of the Iranians to use hyperbole in everyday speech, a courtly exaggeration that they call ta'aruf. For instance, the wellbrought-up Iranian does not welcome a guest into his house with anything as mundane as 'Do come in.' He or she...
Looking for Trouble and Finding It
CATCH MEWHEN I FALL by Nicci French Penguin/Michael Joseph, £12.99, pp. 304, ISBN 0718145216 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Thrillers now come heavily disguised, and but for the bloodstained head-lamp on the jacket of this one and the warning...
Lost Innocence
It comes as something of a shock to realise that I have known Liz Anderson, this magazine's admirable arts editor, for almost 20 years. We first met in 1987, as junior sub-editors on the Telegraph's arts pages, and sat trembling in shock and awe together...
Muslims Are an Ethnic Group
The Lords did their best to amend the Religious Hatred Bill last week. Their best, however, is unlikely to make much difference. The government is determined to press ahead with the new legislation despite its defeat by 149 votes in the Lords. Lord...
Mussolini and the Jews
From Nicholas Farrell Sir: Ian Thomson states (Books, 22 October) that 'these days' it is 'fashionable' to portray Benito Mussolini as a 'decent fellow', and cites my biography of Mussolini as his evidence. I am not aware that I am fashionable, but...
Nobody Has Been Left Out
CITY OF CITIES by Stephen Inwood Macmillan, £25, pp. 537, ISBN 0333782879 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Histories of Victorian London now come two a penny. They are the left-wing historian's answer to biographies of Good Queen Bess. What...
Not Bloody Likely
CHARLES & C AMILLA by Gyles Brandreth Century, £20, pp. 368, ISBN 1844138453 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Delicate confections, these biographies of contemporary English royalty. You have to take so much on trust, the confidences of...
Nuclear Hedge Fund
From Dr Jeremy Stocker Sir: Andrew Gilligan ('A terrifying plan for nuclear strikes', 29 October) is being unduly alarmist about the future of Britain's small nuclear deterrent. The development of socalled 'usable' nukes does not imply a wish or intention...
Offnight
The active volcano Stromboli, one of the Aeolian islands, rises out of the sea off the north-east coast of Sicily. It is forbidden to make the three-hour trek to the top without a guide, so I signed on with a chaperoned party of 30 tourists for a night...
On the Defensive
From Nick Prest Sir: Writing as someone who has been in a senior position in the UK defence industry, I do not recognise the picture painted by Richard North ('Europe is costing us a bomb', 15 October) of a UK government policy of 'Europe first' in...
Perfect Teamwork
Osud; Le Villi Vienna State Opera Don Carlos Welsh National Opera, Oxford I don't usually associate the Vienna State Opera with adventurous programming, but staying in the city for a few days last week I was able, by chance, to catch the première of...
Portrait of the Week
Mr David Blunkett resigned as the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after it was revealed that he had taken a directorship in a DNA-testing company called DNA Bioscience, after resigning from his previous Cabinet post, without consulting the...
Pursuit in the Desert
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy Picador, £16.99, pp. 309, ISBN 0330440101 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Seven years after the groundbreaking Border trilogy, Cormac McCarthy has returned to that literary landscape he has made...
Raking through the Embers
It is difficult to put a finger on the reason, but there has always seemed something particularly dismal about the Gunpowder Plot. There is obviously a lot to be said for any conspiracy that can erase the Stuart line from English history at a blow,...
Rome, Sweet Rome
For some time now I have been aware that there was something badly wrong with my life without ever being quite able to put my finger on exactly what. Now, having watched Rome (BBC2, Wednesday), I know: I was born in the wrong place, 1,953 years too...
Soul Providers
The Benedictines are named after St Benedict, the Bridgettines are named after St Bridget, and the Chocolatines are named -- by me, anyway -- after an exquisite confection shaped like a champagne cork. The French use the word to describe a pain au chocolat,...
Sweet Smell of Excess
The nose apologises: he has a cold. 'And for me, losing my smell is like . . .' -- his arms hover in front of him -- '. . . being blind. Blind!' We are gathered in the first-floor salon of the Lalique shop on Sloane Street in London, 20 'spray and pray'...
Ten Men Went to Mow
THE VIRTUOSO CONDUCTORS : THE CENTRAL EUROPEAN TRADITION FROM WAGNER TO KARAJAN by Raymond Holden Yale, £22.50, pp. 370, ISBN 0300093268 . £18 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Sitting at Stamford Bridge at the weekend, Chelsea trailing Bolton 0-1,...
The Case of the Curious Christian
C. S. LEWIS by Michael White Abacus, £10.99, pp. 268, ISBN 0349116253 . £8.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 THE NARNIAN by Alan Jacobs SPCK, £12.99, pp. 332, ISBN 0281057842 Alan Jacobs quotes Philip Hensher on C. S. Lewis: 'Let us drop C. S.Lewis...
The Holy Terror Himself
OSAMA : THE MAKING OF A TERRORIST by Jonathan Randal I. B. Tauris, £15, pp. 346, ISBN 0375708235 . £12 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Osama: The Making of a Terrorist is not so much another biography of old beardie as a worldly and suave example...
The Man in the Iron Mask
MICHAEL CAINE : A CLASS ACT by Christopher Bray Faber, £20, pp. 358, ISBN 057121682X . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Isn't it peculiar when people change their name? John Wilson becoming Anthony Burgess, Peggy Hookham being borne aloft as Margot...
Theperils of Peace
POSTWAR by Tony Judt Heinemann, £25, pp. 878, ISBN 0434007498 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In 1945, Europe lay prostrate after the greatest and most terrible war in history. More than 35 million people had been killed, Tony Judt says (other...
The Rich Harvest of the Random
THE BROOKLYN FOLLIES by Paul Auster Faber, £16.99, pp. 304, ISBN 0571224970 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 There is a delightful moment in this novel when Nathan, the narrator, is standing on one side of the street with his nephew, Tom,...
The Right Woman
Unlike Peregrine Worsthorne, I thought the Duff Cooper diaries were interesting and terrific, and also made me envious as hell. Oh, to have lived back then. People sure had fun. I particularly liked the part where Duff puts down a certain party as boring...
The Spectator's Notes
After a week in Florence, astonished all over again by the unsurpassed beauty of its painting and architecture from 1350-1550, I wonder about the odd mixture of features which characterises a high civilisation. This includes: 1. A respect for what appears...
The Wonderful Edge of the Sea
THE HIGHEST TIDE by Jim Lynch Bloomsbury, £10.99, pp. 256, ISBN 0747578443 . £8.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 There are some classic novels about a boy growing up -- Great Expectations and Kes spring to mind. Well, here is another. The Highest...
Too French by Half
ANTHOLOGY OF APPARITIONS by Simon Liberati Pushkin Press, £12, pp. 139, ISBN 1901285588 . £9.60 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Take Harold Pinter: dismissed at the outset for having written an impenetrable play, but who nearly 50 years on ends up...
Too Nice to Like
From Sir Peregrine Worsthorne Sir: In my memoir, Tricks of Memory, published as far back as 1992, after expressing regrets for that unfortunate Sunday Telegraph profile on John Julius Norwich, I tried to explain my reasons for having commissioned it....
Will Compassionate Tax Cuts Win Tory Hearts and Minds?
I reported here in the summer on the bid by the upmarket retailer Cameron and Osborne to take over the ailing Conservative party in competition with Davis's, which prides itself on being the People's Tory Store, especially in the North. Davis's was...
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