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. 9112, 2003

A Breathtaking Achievement
Over the first week of the war in Iraq there has been a quite extraordinary mismatch between the perceptions of the coalition commanders on the ground and the expectations of the media. The fact that a very small number of British and American soldiers...
An Ideal Wartime Coalition Government Would Not Be Led by Tony Blair
Traditionally, Britain's big wars do not end with the same prime minister, war Cabinet and Cabinet that started them. What if this present war were a bigger, different one? To whom would we turn for prime minister and war Cabinet? Attempting to answer...
Anti-War Journalists Hope for the Worst - Because the Worst Will Prove Them Right
We journalists think pretty highly of ourselves. I don't mean the chap who touches up photographs of Page Three girls; he may have a proper sense of his place in the universe. I mean columnists, leader writers and foreign correspondents. I mean the undoubtedly...
A Parable of a Lost Talent
Andrew Gimson CRABWALK by Gunter Grass, translated by Krishna Winston Faber, L16.99, pp. 234, ISBN 0571216501 The advantage of Crabwalk is that it is only a third as long as Gunter Grass's previous novel. In every other respect it is a disappointment....
Banned Wagon: Global
Although much overshadowed by the war in Iraq, environmentalists, businessmen and charity workers met at the World Water Forum in Kyoto last week to discuss why 1.2 billion people still have no access to clean water. The United Nations has set a target...
Blarney Market
A recent news story in the Irish Times bean: 'A court has been asked to settle a dispute between a Dublin lesbian couple over the proceeds from their EUR470,000 [L320,000] former home.' Those not familiar with the changes that have swept through the...
Blood, Oil, Tears and Sweat
A question for you. How much money do you think has been secured in contracts by British oil firms to rebuild and develop the Iraqi oil industry after the war is over? Here's a clue. It's a round number. A smallish round number. Yes, I know, that's giving...
Chance Encounters
Laikipia There I was, striding down the red-dirt road of Rumuruti under the jacaranda trees in my flip-flops on market day this week, when a Samburu fellow hailed me by name and said he had met me in Serb Krajina during the Balkans war in 1993. Now this...
Cobra's Heroic Self-Belief
Unlike the old Co-Op building on the Newcastle bank of the Tyne, which has rebranded itself the Hotel Malmaison, Gateshead's new Centre for Contemporary Art has kept the name of Baltic Flour Mills. The original 1950s tiles forming the giant black letters...
Constellation of Leo
The world has been going to the dogs for as long as anybody can remember, but it seems there is a particular urgency about our current rush towards the maison des chiens. The slightest thing can trigger off a lament for old ways. Alan Keith died last...
Cool Customers
As You Like It Swan Theatre, Stratford Stratford emerges from winter hibernation with an As You Like It that. not inappropriately, takes a chill view of this uneasy comedy. And this is certainly a welcome corrective to the RSC's previous effort, a mere...
Correction
FROM THE EDGE OF THE COUCH by Raj Persaud Transworld, 12.99, pp. 492 ISBN 059304696X How's this for a good opening? 'I took out a gun and painted the bullets gold.' If that were a novel the author would win prizes; but he isn't a novelist, he's a nutcase....
Diary
Breakfast with Frost (the actual breakfast, not the programme which precedes it) is usually a rather jolly affair. Uniquely in today's cost-conscious BBC -- where, if you're lucky, you'll get a plastic cup of some thin brown liquid called 'coffee' and...
Enduring Legacies
Music We have in recent weeks lost two memorably larer-than-life characters whose contribution to the richness of our musical culture was quite outstanding. One - Ted Perry, founder and presiding inspiration of Hyperion Records -- elicits a tale of early...
Good Night to the Season
Although it is only mid-March, I am writing this column outdoors. In these last two days the tide has turned in the annual war between cold and warmth. No doubt there will be reverses - a late snowstorm, frost-pockets of resistance - but the issue is...
Hey, Teacher, Leave Them Kids Alone
The sight of London teeming with pacifist children last week sent right-wing parents into a spin. The school-run phone-lines hissed with rumours of nice, young, public-school teenagers being brainwashed by embittered, left-wing teachers. `The headmistress...
I Don't Believe It
The problem with Walking With Dinosaurs and Walking With Beasts was that anyone with even a fraction of a brain knew that they were a load of madeup rubbish designed mainly for people who believed Jurassic Park was a plausible scenario. So this time,...
Killing Fields
So just what was that Matt Crawford up to in Midsummer Meadow? For the benefit of the one or two of you who are not Archers fans, a villain of a property developer straight out of central casting (sleazy accent, lap-dancing clubber) was about to buy...
Letters
Israel and Palestine From Rabbi Dr David J. Goldberg Sir: It really is time to take issue with Melanie Phillips and her talk of 'a terrifying firestorm of hatred' being directed at the state of Israel and Jews worldwide (`The new antiSemitism', 22 March)....
Losing at Home
One of the enduring images of the second Gulf war will be the sight of Hollywood's finest blubbing their way through their acceptance speeches at the Oscars. `My hormones are way too out of control to even be dealing with this,' sobbed Catherine Zeta-Jones....
No Mod Cons
Anybody with that ineffable longing to up sticks and go and live in the past might consider Lake Farm, Poundsgate, on Dartmoor, a 14th-century granite and thatch long-house with outbuildings and 21 acres of pasture, meadow, wood and rough grazing. A...
Normal Hostilities to Be Resumed Shortly
All the political parties - the Tories convincingly, Labour sullenly and the LibDems absurdly - have made the expected noises about being united behind Our Boys in battle, whatever their views on the war. For the duration of the fighting the House of...
Not in Our Name
There is nothing conservative about war. For at least the last century war has been the herald and handmaid of socialism and state control. It is the excuse for censorship, organised lying, regulation and taxation. It is paradise for the busybody and...
Old Wasp with a Weak Sting
DREAMING WAR by Gore Vidal Clairview, L9.95, pp. 197, ISBN 1902636414 The pleasure boat captains who ply the coast of the Gulf of Salerno beneath Gore Vidal's Ravello flat are inconsolable at the thoueht that the grand old man of American letters is...
Playing with Scale
Ron Mueck: Making Sculpture at the National Gallery National Gallery until 22 June In 1990, the National Gallery appointed Paula Rego as its first Associate Artist. The idea was to invite an established artist to come and work for a year or two in a...
Political Fantasy
couldn't sleep. I turned over again and opened my eyes. Her Majesty the Queen was there, as usual, between me and the 105-year-old lady I'm sleeping with at the moment. Her Majesty is sitting in a highbacked chair with floral brocade pattern. In the...
Quick Thinking
During the second world war my mother and my aunt were young girls living in Budapest. The city came under heavy allied bombardment and a once great and lovely capital was levelled, with no respect for its architectural jewels, as was the case with German...
Reluctant Warrior
Radio has covered the war with Iraq with some distinction in its extended news and current affairs programmes. Radio Five Lives more flexible format enabled it to report some of the more fast-moving developments and stay with them on air. As I write,...
Serving Christ and Colonialism
Fergus Fleming is the author of three volumes of narrative history, the best of which, Barrow's Boys, gives a rollicking account of 19th-century Arctic exploration. Now he has lighted on the 'conquest' of the Sahara, and it is a gripping saga, little...
Sofa Samurais
Gstaad It seems obscene to be sunning oneself in the Alps while brave men on both sides are dying in Iraq, so I will dispense with the High life. My friend Charlie Glass rang me from Suleimanyia, in northern Iraq, where the bombing has just started....
Still on His Feet in the Twelfth Round
THE SPOOKY ART: SOME THOUGHTS ON WRITING by Norman Mailer Little Brown, 20, pp. 330, ISBN 0316725757 Norman Mailer was 80 years old on 31 January 2003, so let us salute the last of all the knights. He was very famous very quickly, with The Naked and...
Study in Contrasts
As promised, I went back. And I am glad I did. My second visit to the Royal Ballet's new production of the 1890 classic The Sleeping Beauty dispelled many of the doubts raised by a problem-ridden first night. The faulty curtains are gone for good, the...
Tales of the Unexpected
FROM THE EDGE OF THE COUCH by Raj Persaud Transworld, L12.99, pp. 492 ISBN 059304696X How's this for a good opening? 'I took out a gun and painted the bullets gold.' If that were a novel the author would win prizes; but he isn't a novelist, he's a nutcase....
The Battle for Notting Hill
John Prescott's plans to erect hundreds of thousands of new homes on - I'm going to use that disgusting word - 'brownfield' sites has not, so far as I know, caused a further outbreak of nimbyism in my neighbourhood. In Notting Hill, there is an embarras...
The Fatal Dogberry Tendency
THE DIARIES OF A. L. ROWSE edited by Richard Ollard Allen Lane, 25, pp. 462 ISBN 0713995726 Every Easter is rendered vexatious by people who will get over the hedge or unbar the gate and make a deadset at the primroses. It is always the bitches who do...
The Gulf of Incomprehension
US Central Command, Doha, Qatar The first clue that this would be a media war unlike any other came when dramatic pictures of fighting around Umm Qasr were beamed live from the battlefield into millions of homes last Sunday. Sky's Mark Bowden provided...
'The Ides of March Are Come.' 'Aye, Caesar, but Not Gone' - It's the Sooth
CITY AND SUBURBAN On the Ides of March I went into the soothsaying business. Shares would bounce with relief, I said, if a war in the Gulf turned out to be swift and successful. As Booths go, this one was easy to say - except that shares jumped the guns....
The Spectator's Notes
St Stephen's Club, the venerable sluicing hole in Queen Anne's Gate, lately auctioned off a number of its art works to its members. Among the lots on offer were photographs of recent Tory leaders, which allowed, as it were, a freemarket valuation of...
The US Faces a Terrible Choice - Start Killing Civilians or Hand the Initiative to Saddam
Lenin remarked that there were decades in which history would stand still, and weeks when it would move forward by a decade. This is one of those terrible weeks when history is on the march. At this stage it is impossible to discern with any assurance...
The Young, Red-Haired Man in the Cupboard
SHAKESPEARE'S FACE by Stephanie Nolen Piatkus, L18.99, pp. 365 ISBN 0749923911 If this had a third act it would make a superb film, for the cast list is virtually a re-run of Front Page, with Richard Addis, formerly of the Daily Express, now, magically,...
This Is No Cakewalk; This Is War
Umm Qasr The shriek of artillery shells has died away from Umm Qasr, the first city in Iraq to be taken by allied troops, but another whining sound can already be heard here. It is the sound of the doubters and sceptics at home, wringing their hands...
Tormented Prince Charming
PRINCE OF EUROPE: THE LIFE OF CHARLES JOSEPH DE LIGNE, 1735-1814 by Philip Mansel Weidenfeld, 25, pp. 338 ISBN 1842127314 The story begins at the chateau of Beloeil, the seat of the Ligne family since the 11 th century. Now in Belgium, it stands at the...
Understated Affair
Madama Butterfly Royal Opera House Ariadne on Naxos; Die Fledermaus English Touring Opera, Cambridge Madama Butterfly is a great opera, by far Puccini's finest, but one should see it only rarely. It is both simple and shocking, and seeing or listening...
What Voice Can Do
PERSONALITY by Andrew O'Hagan Faber, L16.99, Pp. 325, ISBN 0576195016 There was recently, in the serious and excellent Saturday Guardian review, a short piece on Oor Wullie, a small boy whose cartoon adventures divert the readers of the Sunday Post in...
When Boys Were Boys
Many people are suffering a surfeit of reality this week. They turn away in disgust from the television after hours of bombardment from frowning presenters of both sexes, keeping score of the Iraq war with the breathless solemnity normally reserved for...
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