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. 291, No. 9101, 2003

Ancient & Modern
MRS Samira Ahmed, an ex-university professor in Sudan, has launched a sexstrike in an attempt to end the 19 years of (un)civil war that have torn the country apart. The newspapers went into their usual routines about Aristophanes' Lysistrata (411 BC)...
An Early Lead Lost
HOSIERY AND KNITWEAR: FOUR CENTURIES OF SMALLSCALE INDUSTRY IN BRITAIN, 1589-2000 by Stanley Chapman OUP, L55, pp. 328, ISBN 0199255679 In 1926 Simon Marks, head of a littleknown chain of penny bazaars called Marks & Spencer, placed an order for...
As Good as It Gets
In her autobiographical Confessions and Impressions, the novelist and travel writer Ethel Mannin, writing about the Saturday evening market in Lavender Hill between the wars, recalled `the white nakedness of scrubbed celery heads gleaming wantonly in...
A Silver Lining
Low life In this column a few weeks ago I described going to a reunion of my old primary school class, held in a country pub. On Boxing Day, I get a call on my mobile from the reunion organiser. One of the blokes there that night, Ash, had gone to see...
Banned Wagon: Global
TO partake in a consumer boycott has become so de rigueur that it is time Banned Wagon had its own campaign. There were several candidates for a boycott: any metal object made in America (in protest at President Bush's tariffs on foreign steel imports),...
Bravely Blooming
Gardens Oh, no. It's the hellebore season again, and I am not quite up to it. Studying and cultivating these plants undermines my confidence. It's not that I don't love them. I do. Especially the `Lenten rose', forms of what we used to call Helleborus...
Civilised Debate
One reason why I like The Westminster Hour on Radio Four on Sunday evenings is that the political interviews by Andrew Rawnsley are usually less febrile than those conducted elsewhere. One can actually follow an argument without interruptions, as happened...
Congratulations, Sir Peters, but Is It Wise for Journalists to Accept Baubles?
MEDIA STUDIES Should journalists accept honours? The question is prompted by last week's news that my old friend Peter Stothard has been made a knight, and my old colleague Andreas Whittam Smith given the CBE. This follows hard upon the recent elevation...
Diary
Sydney When I first came to Australia in the 1980s the national sense of humour was less developed than now. Scarcely had I settled in my taxi at Perth airport than my driver offered, unsolicited, the following joke: `Mate, what's the difference between...
Dominion over Palm and Pine
Jonathan Sumption EMPIRE by Niall Ferguson Penguin/Allen Lane, L25, pp. 392, ISBN 0713996153 'Now a major Channel Four series,' warns the dust jacket of Niall Ferguson's latest attempt to tread on our intellectual corns. Not much of an advertisement,...
Fight or Flight? I Have the Business Solution - Book Yourself into Dundictation Park
CITY AND SUBURBAN We need to get the year off on the right foot with a suitable business idea, and I have come up with a corker. I shall open a retirement home for dictators. This will resolve their most intractable problem, and their enemies' and subjects'...
Jail Is Not the Answer
David Blunkett has once again shown his unfailing instinct for making a bad situation worse. His declaration, after the shooting dead of two young women in Birmingham, that the courts will be told to sentence anyone caught with an illegal firearm to...
Just Who Are They, and What Are They Up To?
They asked me how I knew/My true love was true. n... Or so the song goes. But who were they, and why did they ask anyway? They don't appear very sympathetic - they with their sneering inquiries about how I knew my love was true. Are they the same They...
Letters
Milking the Africans From Mr Mike Brady Sir: Contrary to your suggestion in your leading article `Milk and sympathy' (28 December 2002), Baby Milk Action is not ignoring orphans and the infants of mothers with HIV and attempting to ban the sale of breastmilk...
Living in a State of Terror
THERE has been a row during the last fortnight about whether the government should ban the English cricket team from travelling to Zimbabwe for next month's World Cup. But the cricket has obscured the real issue. And that is whether Britain and the world...
Lucky Lambourn
The turf My New Year resolution - to back faster horses - proved a little wobbly at the start. I am no great student of form on the all-weather tracks, but with the weather scrubbing Sandown and Haydock, there was nothing for it but to head to Lingfield...
Nothing in Common but Banditry
TALK OF THE DEVIL: ENCOUNTERS WITH SEVEN DICTATORS by Riccardo Orizio Secker, L15.99, pp. 200, ISBN 0436209993 Researching a book on Guatemala, I looked up a few ex-dictators and former generals in the Guatemalan telephone directory and was surprised...
Not Waving but Dumbing Downing
Virginia Woolf was unsparing in her derogatory remarks about Americans. Even her friend T.S. Eliot was by no means exempt, coming under fire for his understandable reluctance to swap a well-paid job at the bank for the uncertain life of a poet reliant...
Please Don't Blame Roy
Singular life Roy Jenkins was my father's oldest friend. They first met when they were both at Oxford. When, afterwards, they both decided to go into politics, my father pipped him to the post. Much later, when I was growing up in Wiltshire, where we...
Quality Counts
Music There have been a number of evenings recently which have tapered slowly and pleasantly towards an armchair, a liqueur, gentle conversation with stragglers, and music on the turntable (it still turns). It has been interesting to hear what sounds...
Roy Jenkins Made Me
MANY of us cannot get enough of these reminiscences from the lunchers of Roy Jenkins. You know the sort of thing. 'I suppose I must have had lunch with Roy at least twice a decade. The last time was immediately after Labour lost the 1955 general election,...
Sex and the Sandinistas
THE COUNTRY UNDER MY SKIN by Gioconda Belli Bloomsbury, 18.99, pp. 380, ISBN 07475 54722 Anyone who's learned how to juggle motherhood and a career might consider adding another ball to spice up the act that of guerrilla, perhaps? For 20 years Gioconda...
Something Unique
This is the story of teo visionaries. Billy Butlin needs no introduction but John Hinde is more obscure. Camera buffs will know him as one of the pioneers of colour photography in the late 1930s. Colour, however, was simply not part of the high culture...
Sorting out the Under-Forties
The nervousness among the groovy juveniles of literary London was palpable even two years ago. It must have been about then that a New Puritan accosted me and asked, with an air of perfect seriousness, what I thought his chances were of making the Granta...
The Bishop and the Princess
THE Bishop of London, The Rt Revd Richard Chartres, does not much care for journalists, who complain about his majestic manner and general unapproachability. They might be surprised to learn that, as a young priest, he was briefly religious affairs correspondent...
The Extreme Centre
ANGUS ROXBURGH, Europe correspondent of the BBC, has published a book called Preachers of Hate. It analyses the resurgence of populist politics in Continental Europe through interviews with leaders and supporters of parties including France's National...
The Third Man
DOUGLAS JERROLD, 1803-1857 by Michael Slater Duckworth, L25, pp. 340, ISBN 0715628240 In the 1840s and 50s, Douglas Jerrold, Dickens and Thackeray were the three best known literary men in England, and it was said at the time that it was `hardly possible...
The Turn of the Shrews
`THE romance of the FA Cup'. How often have we heard that old chestnut? Alternatively, people talk of the competition's 'magic' or 'glory', as though it were some transforming potion. Occasionally it is. Despite the best attempts of a handful of Premiership...
Thoughts on Thuggery
Gstaad It seems almost obscene to be sitting in bucolic Gstaad rubbing it in, but boy, oh boy, was Enoch - God rest his soul ever right! Now there's a man who was tough on the causes of crime long before crime had been Blaired. Or Strawed. Or Blunketted....
To Fame by Leaps and Bounds
DANCER by Colum McCann Weidenfeld, L12.99, pp. 291, ISBN 1897580290 Here is an astonishing book. It is a biography of Rudolph Nureyev written as a piece of fiction, but it is not a roman a clef; real characters are given their true identities as they...
Topping the Pops
It was interesting to hear ways in which wearing a baseball cap could be interpreted as discourteous debated on BBC Radio Four's Today programme recently. Naturally, an issue of such moment - 'I can see we'll get emails about this' - demanded the issue...
Traditional but Far from Square
THE EASTER PARADE by Richard Yates Methuen, L10, pp. 226, ISBN 0413772020 After Houellebecq, after Franzen few novels measure up, and while waiting for the new Updike (Seek My Face: marvellows) to be published here it is probably wise to turn to something...
Trunk and Disorderly
THE morning before she sustained her injuries I was on the beach having lunch with Ingrid, and she told me she was worried about the crows. `Is it not dangerous?' she asked, as they hopped around us with their black, dagger-like bills, waiting to seize...
Verve and Vitality
Odd that La Traviata should have become a Christmas opera, the operatic equivalent, in fact, of The Nutcracker, to run in tandem with it until people feel it's time to get back to performing their cultural duties. Or perhaps it's not odd. If you are...
Welcome Back
Television Two old reliables have returned. Frasier (Channel 4) is supposed to get less funny with each series, then it turns out it's actually better. As it happens, the first of the opening double bill was so-so, but the second, in which Frasier refuses...
Why Conservationists Should Thank God for the Motor Car
It is the almost unchallenged assumption of our time that we are destroying the environment and, as a result, every day rendering extinct thousand upon thousand of species of blameless crawling, hopping, flying or swimming things. Conservationists have...
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