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. 285, No. 8971, 2000

Abandoning the Pledge to Cut Taxes Will Make a Tax-Cut Policy More Plausible
Though Mr Hague is in favour of hunting with hounds, he is also prepared to shoot the occasional fox. He did so on Tuesday, to the dismay of the Labour party, which had been looking forward to a prolonged pursuit of the tax fox. To understand why the...
A Bitter Pill
Baden-Baden ANDOR Preyer, an aged and infirm Hungarian living in Baden-Baden, got in touch with me when I was working as a journalist in Berlin and asked if I would translate a letter he had written to the Queen Mother. This is how I tried to render...
A Dying Breed
In The Real Queen Mother (Channel 4, Monday), we were told that beneath those distinctive hats and behind that `fairytale' and `beatific' demeanour lurks a steely, ruthless right-wing Machiavel with extreme Victorian values, a staggering overdraft and...
A Sad Fate for the Once Great Express: A Bit-Part Player in the Machinations of TV Moguls
Any day now Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, will deliver a ruling that is likely to transform ITV. Canton Communications and United News & Media want to merge. Granada would like to bid for either one of them. Under the...
Babe Friendly
YOU know that novel you have inside you? Well, if you have even the slightest ambition to see it riding high on the bestseller list, then there is one thing you need to know. You can't do it without the women. In 1999 women accounted for about two thirds...
Battle of the Oldies
Who could have predicted that what is likely to turn out as the best finish of the season would be fought out between two substitute jockeys who are 101 years old between them? The Coral Eclipse Stakes, the first contest of the season between the three-year-old...
Daring and Dying in the Service of the Raj
SOLDIER SAHIBS by Charles Allen John Murray, L22.50, pp. 368 It is curious how the very phrase 'NorthWest Frontier' has retained the power to thrill, even in these post-imperial times. As Charles Allen says, that particular frontier, which ran for 1,000...
Dear Mary
Q. Stresa on Lake Maggiore in early June is truly lovely. English is the second language and The Spectator is on sale by Saturday afternoon, so civilisation seems secure. However, in the hotel dining-room it seemed as though many guests were of the impression...
Diary
In one corner, the leader of the Opposition, proclaiming tougher sentences without once mentioning the prisons which he proposes to overcrowd still further. In the same corner, the Home Secretary boasting in a letter to the Daily Telegraph about the...
Did Balliol Make Bill a President?
SO Balliol College, Oxford managed to turn away both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in the space of a few years. That raises some interesting questions. Why did Balliol feel it could manage without them? What difference would it have made if it had taken...
Doing the Business
BODIES IN MOTION AND AT REST by Thomas Lynch Jonathan Cape, L10, pp. 240 Who wants to be an undertaker? Well, for quite a while in his youth, Thomas Lynch certainly did not. Even as his father tried to coax him into the family business - Lynch &...
Donnez-Moi UN Break
PASCAL Lamy makes a noise; a cross between a gurgle and a bark. It is the sort of noise you might expect to hear from a French paratroop sergeant on seeing a new recruit. It is a deep, dark sound; and for ten years, whenever they heard it in the corridors...
Emotional Reactions
Fighting shy of the perverse political overtones which were subsequently ascribed to much of the art on display, the organisers of this international exhibition, currently in Birmingham, have sought to explore the actual cultural context in which German...
Form versus Function
AUTOMOBILES BY ARCHITECTS by Ivan Margolius Wiley Academy, L27.50, pp. 160 How rare it is to put down a book with the sense of pleasure satisfied, the mind excited by ideas and information, nostalgia stimulated, the eye amused by illustrations - all...
Four Hundred and Counting
LOST YEARS: A MEMOIR, 1945-1951 by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell Chatto, L25, pp 388 Christopher Isherwood was a lucky man. He went to Berlin in 1929 because his friend W. H. Auden said it was the best place in Europe for boys....
In a Hole
Singular life My friends have accused me of hubris. They say last week's column was an exercise in pathetic attention-seeking vainglory. Personally I have always rather liked hubris. Nice chap. Unassuming until he gets you between the eyes. Better name...
Joint Heroes Who Only Met Once
Simon Courtauld VILLA AND ZAPATA by Frank McLynn Cape, L20, pp. 405 The Mexican Revolution (1910-20) was not like others: it did not derive from defeat in war, and it did not result in a great socio-economic upheaval. But, like most prolonged revolutions,...
Leaking and Spinning
Radio I had to laugh last week when I awoke to Today and heard the BBC swallowing the story of the so-called leaks about the disastrous consequences of Britain staying out of the euro: the scaremongering by the government's chief executive of the Invest...
Letters
Not that barmy From Mr Colin Campbell Sir: Charles Wheeler's article (`The barmy army', 8 July) makes a valid point regarding the drawbacks of peacetime National Service in that it tended to tie up a disproportionate number of regular officers and noncommissioned...
Making Mischief
One of the miseries of getting older is that you get told you look like less and less glamourous celebrities. When I was 16 it was Kevin Bacon, the American movie star. Unfortunately he's aged so much better than me that when I tell people I used to...
Max the Mad Manipulator
THE PUPPET SHOW by Patrick Redmond Hodder, 10, pp. 470 Patrick Redmond's first novel, The Wishing Game, was a disturbing thriller about a public school in the 1950s. Its central character was a shy former grammarschool boy, traumatised by the break-up...
Miller's Tale
Attention, as Willy Loman's widow says in Death of a Salesman, must be paid: and if that play is not the greatest of the last half-century then All My Sons is, and both were written within three years of the end of the second world war by Arthur Miller....
Mind Your Language
I DO not want to be unkind to Mr Blair, but when he was being nice and human, post-Euan, on Newsnight, he was reminded of a previous undertaking and said that Labour had better keep to it, bette n't we?' He did not invent this weird construction: I have...
Missing the Mark
Exhibitions 1 The Scottish Colourists 1900-1930 (Royal Academy, till 24 September) The four Scottish Colourists whose work makes up this exhibition are S.J. Peploe, J.D. Fergusson, F.C.B. Cadell and G.L. Hunter. Of these, Hunter is the least known, but...
Mr Blair and the Mysterious Affair of Crime and Crony
Blair has made it known that, in view of our criminals' persistence in committing crimes, he intends to set Lord Birt on them for one day a week. I am sorry it has come to this, but the criminals have been asking for it for some time. Now they will have...
Perfidious Albion
Mel Gibson's back and this time, just to stretch himself, he's playing a plucky, heroic man of the people who finds himself having to stand up to the ruthless, duplicitous, snobbish, effete English. Hang on, I hear you cry. Didn't he already do that...
Pete's Boring, Winning Ways
AND yet there are still people who tell me that Pete Sampras is boring. I find it an astonishing judgment. There are few people I have found more fascinating. 'Boring?' I say, slightly overemphasised incredulity in my voice. 'If you find excellence boring,...
Portrait of the Week
Orangemen blockaded streets after a parade following a church service at Drumcree continued to be denied passage along the route it wanted to follow back to Portadown through a Catholic area. A 250lb car-bomb, presumed to be the work of the Real IRA,...
Power Play
Auden once suggested to Stravinsky a category of anti-opera, of which Pelleas, From the House of the Dead and Boris would be defining members. Surely he would have done still better to choose Khovanshchina, which is defiantly lacking in every traditional...
Rank Ignorance
Sir Vidia Naipaul's passionate denunciation this week of the present government for its cultural vandalism was wholly justified. Indeed, cultural vandalism is likely to prove Mr Blair's most enduring legacy. Philistinism is not a new thing in British...
Requirements for Happiness
High life To Sebastian Taylor's terrific spread in St Tropez for a weekend of sun and games. For the poor little Greek boy, the rays are as important as spin and lying are to New Labour. Sebastian's parents are academics, which means he wasn't exactly...
Restaurants
I AM writing this with the most appalling, head-thumping, dry-mouthed, revolting, serves-me-right hangover. Or `hanging over', as my young son always has it. `No. Sorry. Mummy can't come to the phone. She is in bed with a hanging over.' `Darling, couldn't...
So Much to Fret About
We have the best - if also one of the most politically incorrect - beauty competitions around. The models have beautiful eyes, big chests, long legs and, seemingly, longer tongues. Every year the Atherstone Puppy Show is a huge success. Would this one...
Spectator Wine Club
DEREK Smedley, MW of Hedley Wright Wine Merchants has made an interesting selection, in keeping with the cosmopolitan character of this column. The white and red wines all come from South Africa, Australia and Chile, so readers can exercise their personal...
Still Absolutely Wizard
HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE by J. K. Rowling Bloomsbury, L14.99, pp. 636 We missed the midnight opening, but early on Saturday morning my 11-year-old son and I hotfooted it to our local W. H. Smith's. We were both startled by our first sight...
Successfully Too Clever by Half
A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS by Dave Eggers Picador, L9.99, pp. 375 There's only one possible criticism you could make of Dave Eggers's book which the author hasn't already foreseen and forestalled, and it's not one for which he could fairly...
The American Dream Writ Large
Architecture Buckminster Fuller (Design Museum, till 15 October) If one American characteristic is excess, then Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was a typical case. He gave lectures that lasted for hours. He would not use a simple word if he could...
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
ALAS, POOR DARWIN edited by Hilary Rose and Steven Rose Cape, L17.99, pp. 292 What a splendid subject for a 17thcentury Dutch seascape the `Darwin wars' would have made! The sky dominated by huge, dark, billowing clouds of confusion, perversity and institutional...
The Impossibility of Keeping a Good Man Down
AN UNCERTAIN VOYAGE by Anthony Babington Barry Rose Law Publishers, L21, pp. 509, tel: 01243 783 637 When the author was a 24-year-old soldier towards the end of the war he was torn apart by a shell. While others predicted his death within hours, he...
'The Party's Over' Can Mean a Lot of Different Things
Another London season gone, and people are beginning to slink off to the hills and beaches. It used to be said that the season began with the Royal Academy Dinner and ended with Goodwood, but nowadays I mark its demise with the Spectator party, which...
The Passionate Polymath
As centenary celebration, a recent concert at the Royal College of Music was a comparatively ordinary affair for an absolutely extraordinary figure. In the concert hall, one of London's hidden musical glories, the RCM was hosting the event to mark the...
The Twilight Zone
THE darkling world of Westminster journalism and Downing Street media-planning started playing host to BBC television cameras just a few days after I quit as the Financial Times's political editor in January of this year. I have therefore been intrigued...
Tough Love
Theatre 2 Romeo and Juliet (Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford) Henry IV Part 2 (Swan Theatre) La Lupa (The Other Place) Has Romeo and Juliet ever recovered from the impact of West Side Story? The pressure to give the play a modern, streetwise feel...
Westward Look, the Land Is Bright
THE floundering over Britain's European policy is the most undignified shambles that has been made of a major foreign-policy issue in this country since the appeasement controversies of the late 1930s. Most people in Britain retain their interest in...
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