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. 284, No. 8964, 2000

A City of Spivs and Speculators
MAX BEERBOHM once drew a caricature of George Bernard Shaw standing on his head, with Max himself looking on. The drawing was captioned: `Mild surprise of one who, revisiting England after long absence, finds that the dear fellow has not moved.' My own...
A Class Act
The voice on my telephone about five years ago was unmistakably the voice of Hamlet, and faintly accusatory. `My biographer,' it said, `seems to have died.' I thought perhaps this was in some vaguely unspecified way my fault. For once it wasn't; the...
Ancient & Modern
DEBATE rages over the extent to which science should interfere with nature. Since ancients lacked the science and technology to allow them to interfere with nature, they dealt with it rather differently than we do. Because earth, Gaia, was thought to...
An Officer and Politician
WHEN General Sir Charles Guthrie steps down as Chief of the Defence Staff later this year, he will do so in a haze of goodwill from No. 10. Never have relations between the commander of Britain's armed forces and the prime minister of the day been as...
An Outsider Par Excellence
READING AND WRITING: A PERSONAL ACCOUNT by V. S. Naipaul New York Review of Books, L9.99, pp. 80 VS. Naipaul has been taking a bit of a hammering lately. Or rather Vidia has, the private person behind the imposing and fastidious public monument, hailed...
Artificial Effects
The most amazing fact I learned in Reputations: Liberace (BBC 2) was that the pianist had had his lover's face surgically altered to look more like himself. More like Liberace, that is. I've heard of narcissism and auto-eroticism, but that is something...
A Whiff of Crackling
SOMEONE in the Stock Exchange's slabby tower must remember what happened when the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company bid for Bovis the builders. P & O had run out of steam and was navigating in circles, Bovis's management was much hyped...
Banned Wagon
STAND by for the socio-economic cleansing of the shires. In its submission for the government's forthcoming White Paper on rural affairs, the select committee on environment, transport and regional affairs has come up with the wheeze of banning executive...
Bar Talk
Benalmadena, Costa del Sol molinos is nothin like as horrible as we'd hoped it would be. Twinned with Stockport, Lancashire, and dating back to the 1970s, Torremolinos today has something of a quiet, historic feel to it and is favoured by the elderly....
Common Concerns
My days as a cub reporter on an East End newspaper seem far off. However, I had lunch yesterday with the chap I used to share a desk and a few jokes with. What do we now have in common? Chickens, amongst other things. He keeps them in his garden in Mile...
Credible Because Possible
THE QUEST FOR THE TRUE CROSS by Peter Thiede and Matthew d'Ancona Weidenfeld, L18.99, pp. 320 The publication last month of the great Jewish scholar Vermes' weighty but also rather matey study of Christ in the First Century AD effectively removed some...
Dealers Hold the Right Cards
Any reader of the American press may be forgiven for considering Sotheby's and Christie's a duopoly. Ever since the story broke of the US Justice Department's investigation into the auction houses' alleged price-fixing of buyers' and sellers' commissions,...
Diary
Returning to my hotel with a female friend on Tuesday night, we see a man illuminated in the doorway. He approaches us. He is slim, olive-skinned, in his late twenties and dressed in a black suit. He asks politely whether the hotel is fully booked. It...
Disarmed by Lowry
Lowry's People (The Lowry Centre, Salford, till 4 Sept) Heads by L.S. Lowry (Crane Kalman Gallery, 178 Brompton Road, London SW3, till 3 June) Lowry has been everywhere lately. His pictures have been changing hands for vast sums. One of these, featuring...
Doing All the Voices
TIME AND THE GODS by Lord Dunsany Millennium Orion, L6.99, pp. 544 A young Anglo-Irish peer published in 1905 at his own expense a thin volume called The Gods of Pegana, purportedly the sacred books of some unknown faith. Tales of mad, vicious gods are...
Dot.coms Go Up in Smoke, Cash Is the Best Fire-Break, Keep Close to It Now
We must go on learning in life, and backing dot.com companies has its own lessons. They do not, so we find, have priceearnings ratios (no earnings) or discounted cash flow (it flows out) but they have burn rates. These measure the pace at which they...
Finishing Touches
Unfinished works of music, like unfinfished paintings, sculptures, buildings, nov els, have always exerted potent fascination. The two classics are Mozart's Requiem, left incomplete in poignant circumstances, unsatisfactorily patched up at the time,...
How to Move and Shake the World
THE TIPPING POINT by Malcolm Gladwell Little, Brown, L14.99, pp. 279 This is a small book. The size is important, because the argument here is that small things can make a big difference. The first illustration given of this process concerns those comfy...
It's Got to Be Butt-Boy
IT was supposed to be Godzilla v. King Kong. But then King Kong announced that he was separating from Queen Kong, and Queen Kong revealed that she'd accepted the leading role in a play called The Vagina Monologues. Very little is required of a Republican...
Leave Our Museums Alone
Every cliche eventually meets its nemesis. Sooner or later - in fact quite often more haste actually means more speed. Certain winds really do turn out so ill they blow nobody any good. And, in the last few months, we've seen it happen: someone is slowly...
Letters
Baby blues From Mrs Davina Fernyhough Sir: While I agree with many of Alice Thomson's sentiments in `New Labour's war against the childless' (20 May), I should like to respond to the implied criticism against exclusive supermarket parking for mothers...
Love and Power
Radamisto may well be one of Handel's finest operas. Despite the convoluted absurdity of its plot, in which respect it is admittedly in severe competition with most of the others, there seems to be an intermittent psychological truthfulness about some...
Making a Name for Oneself
It might be fair to say that the foremost practitioners of the English literary novel spent the 1980s denouncing the bitchgoddess Thatcher and all her works superficiality, selfishness, sucking up to America - and the 1990s rather excitably putting them...
Mind Your Language
Mind your language I PROMISE not to mention the Amises after this, but the footnotes to the new volume of letters have become something of a family joke in our household. Even my husband, who likes jazz in a rather smoky way, chuckles at the frantic...
Newbury Tonic
The turf On those days when you are a glass or two short of being in the best of spirits there is no better place to be than the racecourse. Being bundled out ahead of time from the best job in British journalism is not a fun experience. As the BBC's...
One Glorious Voice
I find myself singing a Sammy Cahn parody of `The Most Beautiful Girl In The World' in which `John Gielgud' rhymes with `He's real good'. Stephen Sondheim used the same rhyme in Merrily We Roll Along if memory serves, for Sinatra to sing at some Friars'...
Party Priorities
I was sad to leave the Bagel, in the way one's sad to break up a party late at night while having a grand old time. Nat Rothschild got things going with a party in honour of his father, Lord Rothschild, at Moomba, an in-place somewhere downtown. Arriving...
Pistols on Their Thighs
Belgrade THE hopes of many Serbs now rest on the fragile shoulders of a young man with spiky hair, Hawaiian-style shorts and a T-shirt carrying the exhortation: `Live!'. Twenty-two-year-old Branko Ilic, studying languages at Belgrade University, is the...
Political Leanings
One innocent pastime when I worked for the BBC, striving to live up to its demand for impartiality, was to observe the political bias all around me. It was easier with producers and editors because at every programme meeting many didn't bother to disguise...
Portrait of the Week
Mrs Cherie Blair, the wife of Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, gave birth to her fourth child, a son, Leo, weighing 6lb 12oz. Mr Blair took a fortnight off from Question Time in the Commons and from Cabinet meetings; Mr John Prescott, the Deputy Prime...
Second Opinion
Second opinion WHAT a glorious thing it is to be a British taxpayer! And how reassuring to know that the half of one's life one devotes to earning taxes is used to bring a little succour to those less well-placed than oneself. For example, only last...
Seeing but Not Believing
Low the advance guard becomes accepted and acceptable! With news of fashion-world glossier finally latching onto the glamour potential of young British artists, the Saatchi generation has come of age. Contemporary art is big business, but it's also cool...
Singing in the Rain
I don't know what it was that prompted me to say yes when it was suggested I give a recital at a charity ball in Hungary, my mother country. It was just one of those things that seems like a good idea at the time. So it was only the following morning...
Swiss Elegance
I could not have gone to the now-notorious opening party for the Tate Modem had I been invited (which I wasn't) as I was away that day with the Twentieth Century Society in Basel - as it happens, the home of Herzog & de Meuron, the architects of...
Talking about C. K. Stead
TALKING ABOUT O'DWYER by C. K. Stead Harvill, (14.99, pp. 245 AIl habitual readers know the pleasores of bingeing on an author previously unknown to them. First, the thrill of discovery, then delight as your impressions from one book are confirmed by...
The Blair Witch Project
ONCE it was kings who nominated peers of the realm. Now it is the House of Lords Appointments Commission. Remarkably little is known about this new body. One reason for this is that its composition was announced on the day of the London mayoral and the...
The Good News Is That Mr Leo Blair May Not Be as New Labour as His Father
By the time this article appears, Mr Leo Blair will have been in Downing Street almost a week. It is therefore an opportune moment to take stock of his time there so far. It must be said that there is widespread disillusion, particularly among old Labour...
The Heights and Depths of Maida Vale
GRASSHOPPER by Barbara Vine Viking L16.99, PP. 406 In recent years the novels that Ruth Rendell writes under this pseudonym have far out-stripped her other novels in originality and tension. She seems to have run out of inspiration, or maybe has merely...
They Came, They Saw, They Left
The Victorians welcomed and appr ciated the alien with genuine curiosity and enthusiasm.' Yes, though this scarcely reached that Victorian horror, the intrusive undeserving poor. The book's title, however, needs emphasis: Rupert Christiansen is unconcerned...
Two Nations
It is fashionable to blame the `guilty men' of the Dome, the politicians and fixers who have tip-toed away from disaster and left Bob Ayling and poor M. P-Y Gerbeau to carry the can. The newspapers are currently studded with their pictures, like some...
Unionists Should Vote to Stay out of the Wilderness
As of Wednesday morning, it was impossible to predict the outcome of Saturday's Unionist Council meeting. Many of the delegates were still having a vigorous internal debate, unable to decide whether to vote with their hearts or their heads. But it did...
Vae Victoribus!
THE Zimbabwe cricket team must feel as if they have been torn apart by a ravening, howling, salivating pack of pugs and Pomeranians, toy poodles and Chihuahuas. England, who have only to meet a proper cricket team before they roll over on their backs...
Was That All There Was?
The price of repression is extremely high,' Tony Richardson observed of Lindsay Anderson in 1955 when they launched the Free Cinema movement. Later, when Anderson had become an associate director at the Royal Court Theatre, Tony referred to him as `the...
What Is the Real Great Tradition of the Novel? Snobbery
Ferdinand Mount, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, has published a spirited defence of his uncle, Anthony Powell, against the charge of being a snob. Such loyalty is commendable. But is it necessary? There is no doubt in my mind that Powell was...
Why the Government Is Putting the Frighteners on Servicemen Who Talk to the Press
This government is no great lover of press freedom. I have written before about the infamous case of the journalist Tony Geraghty, against whom the Attorney-General brought, and then dropped, charges under the Official Secrets Act. We should not forget...
Yes, You Can Leave
IT is not easy being the most powerful bureaucrat in the world, and Romano Prodi is having a tough time of it. The French press is speculating avidly about his demise. His juniors, officials in the 13,000-strong EU Commission, are briefing against him....
Your Problems Solved
Q. My son's fourth birthday party looms and I have a problem with party bags. I think that today's children have too many toys and, in any case, I am reluctant to shell out a fiver per party bag full of `goodies' since each `goody' seems to cost at least...
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