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. 280, No. 8863, 1998

A Class Performance
There are few sillier notions than that the bourgeoisie is a bastion of philistinism and the supreme obstacle to human progress. Anyone who looks at the evidence can see that the idea is absurd. The word bourgeois is linked, etymologically, with the...
Africa for the Partisans
AFROCENTRISM by Stephen Howe Verso, 20, pp. 337 An entire country in Africa, Zimbabwe, owes its modern name to the once widespread European belief that Africans are by nature incapable of creating anything worthwhile. For many years, the ruins of Great...
Ancient & Modern
MR Blair is searching for a `third way' - not state socialism or rampant capitalism, but a combination of mutual financial interdependence, state protection against the effects of bad luck, and paying the price of one's own actions. Greek and Roman thinkers...
Answering Back
I felt very small when I was told I'd be on a Question Time panel with Medicine sans Frontiers' executive director, Anne Marie Huby. A champion of the starving people in Sudan and me'? I suggested to the producers that they have Himmler's daughter instead....
Ban the Scum
One of the most shameless men I consider myself lucky never to have met is David Mellor, the self-advancement genius. Not that I didn't come close. Having been caught with his pants down - and fired by John Major despite a family photo opportunity -...
Behind Closed Doors
THE JURYMAN'S TALE by Trevor Grove Bloomsbury 11.99, pp. 278 However long the trial, however dramatic the testimony, the crucial moment for a juror comes soon after a black-robed figure clicks the door of the jury room shut, but before anyone has said...
Boys in the Band
Brassed Off (National) Elton John's Glasses (Queen's) A Dangerous Woman (New End, Hampstead) Love You Too (Bush) The cinema routinely plunders so much of what is great about the British theatre that it is good to see something paid back at last; a couple...
Calm Down
One of the things that annoys me most in the world at the moment is that Nike poster. The one that goes `Historians. It's B-E-C-K-H-A-M'. On several occasions now, I have nearly crashed my car as a result of the fit of apoplexy it induces whenever I...
Complete Devotion
The new production of Rodelinda at Glyndebourne is a triumph to be added to the sublime Theodora of two years ago, even if it isn't, as a work, on the sustained level of inspiration of Handel's late oratorio. Rodelinda, with its elaborate plot, though...
Dead Poet's Society
Today in Spain everyone loves Lorca. Politicians, especially, are besotted with Spain's most famous poet of the 20th century, who was born a hundred years ago and died 38 years later, assassinated by order of the insurgent authorities, with thousands...
Dear Mary
Q. I shall be attending a number of drinks parties in the forthcoming weeks and estimate that at over half of these no snacks of any kind will be served. I tend to get appalling hangovers if I do not eat snacks at parties, especially when drinking champagne,...
Diary
My father always used to tell me that you have to have been dropped on your head at birth to become a hotelier. Although I've been in the business all my life, I've never really understood this - till now. I was clearly dropped from a very great height....
Fairytale in Purple Prose
DIANA by Julie Burchill Weidenfeld, 20, pp. 256 Never mind not judging a book by its cover, Julie Burchill's Diana is a warning not to judge a book by the look of its inside pages either. This volume has the appearance of a coffee-table glossy, with...
Having a Good Memory
IT WAS a shock, a few weeks ago, to open my morning post at home and find an invitation to a `memorial celebration' of a friend's life; a shock because the friend in question, whose name was Jay Reddaway, was only 41 years old, and I had not heard, until...
If Sir John Was Covering Up for No. 10, All Is Explained
Every nation which holds the EU presidency feels obliged to hold a summit during its term of office, whether or not there is anything to discuss. So over the years there have been some pretty pointless gatherings. Even by those standards, Cardiff was...
Keeping the Old Flag Flying
OSBERT SITWELL by Philip Ziegler Chatto, 25, pp. 460 A first glance at this volume strikes one or two ominous notes. On both jacket and spine the biographer is the star, his name twice the size of his subject, whom the blurb darkly describes as `never...
Let Me Be Heard
LAST WEEK it was reported that the parliamentary oversight committee, which is responsible for holding the intelligence services to account, had no interest in hearing my evidence. I believe that I should be heard. When I made my disclosures to the Mail...
Letters
Archer support Sir: Of your two articles about Lord Archer last week, the one we should distrust is not Jeffrey Archer's self-defence but Michael Crick's attack (`The whole point of my life' and 'I blame the establishment', 13 June). Mr Crick has used...
Making the Best of It
FALLING SLOWLY by Anita Brookner Viking L15.99, pp. 224 Anita Brookner is not everyone's cup of tea. Lager-lout critics who don't like any kind of tea tend to put their boot in whenever she publishes a new novel. Falling Slowly is her 18th in 17 years....
Marshing against Emu
LAST WEEK the campaign to save the pound belatedly acquired a figurehead in the shape of Lord Marsh, a former Labour minister of transport. It would be wrong to suggest that Lord Marsh was the first choice for the role. He was not. But one thing is clear....
Mellow Yellow
In glamorous spheres of human activity, like fashion or television, trends spread like wildfire, fanned by the hot, dry winds of ambition and money. Gardening is not like that. Because there is comparatively little money or glamour in gardening, even...
Men Seven Feet High
BATTLE FOR EMPIRE: THE VERY FIRST WORLD WAR, 1756-63 by Tom Pocock Michael O'Mara, 20, pp. 271 This book fell open on its last page, and there I read Tom Pocock's final footnote: Churchill's only advice to Rab Butler when he appointed him Minister of...
Mind Your Language
I TURNED on the news on Radio Four and heard, `There are new concerns over ticketing for the England game... ' It almost seems that my writing about annoying usages causes them to breed. I have mentioned concems before and now there seem to be nothing...
Mr Davies's Business
There was a time when a rich man would have found it easier to squeeze through the eye of a needle than into the inner councils of the Labour party. No longer. First Geoffrey Robinson of the offshore trusts was given a job in the Treasury, supervising...
Not My Week
It was one of those weeks. Person or persons unknown having emptied my wallet of francs in Paris on Tuesday night, I got drenched during the enforced walk across the city to my hotel. At Sandown on Saturday I got soaked again and managed to empty most...
Off Limits and on Record
ABUSE OF POWER: THE NEW NIXON TAPES edited by Stanley Kutler The Free Press, 220, pp. 675 It has long seemed to me that the Watergate affair might have been a tragedy but was in fact a farce, so I was not surprised to find myself laughing outright within...
Plain Brilliance Explained
A quarter of a century has passed since earth received this honoured guest, a quarter of a century since the famous funeral, the strains of the Kirchstetten village band succeeding Siegfried's funeral march. Which, as Alan Bennett has commented, just...
Portrait of the Week
In the Queen's birthday honours, knighthoods went to Geoff Hurst, who had scored a hat trick during the 1966 World Cup final, to John Mortimer, David Hare and Ian Holm, from the theatre, but not to Richard Branson, which seemed to surprise Mr William...
Restaurant: Eating out at the Opera
IN THE SMALL, attractive spa town of Baden-Baden the Germans have just built a formidable 2,500-seat new opera house for DM120 million (40(English pound) million). The state paid for the building, and now it is up to the town and private enterprise to...
Second Opinion
AS WE KNOW, human life is sacred. Now, indeed, that God is dead and religion defunct - to put it mildly - there is nothing left in the universe to worship except ourselves. It follows, I think, that he who saves human life is engaged upon the holiest...
Sickeningly Saintly
It's hard to believe Sally Field could seriously throw the Iranians off their game. But the other day Iran's World Cup team got back to their hotel, switched on the box and found French television showing Sally in Not Without My Daughter, the 1991 film...
Somehow I Feel Ashamed to Be Seen Hurt
One's instinct, of course, is to get up at once. One must show it's not serious-just a little fall - ha, ha - silly me! - what a surprise! - no, I'm fine, honestly. And for ten seconds I did seem all right; I was back on my feet too fast for some in...
Stop This Frog-Bashing! They Can Teach Us a Thing or Two
The French are rightly complaining about what France-Soir calls, 'francophobie: une violente charge de la presse anglo-saxonne contre la France'. The occasion of the World Cup, and the strikes which have marked it, have tempted most of our tabloids and...
The Aboriginal Truth
NATIONS hate having to confront their ugly underbelly. So all those Englishmen who shrank from the sight of our football supporters laying waste to Marseilles will sympathise with Australia. The success of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party in the Queensland...
The Battle of Marseilles
LONGTEMPS, je me suis couche de bonne heure. One of my better intros, though not altogether original, or true, alas, since my day-trip to Marseilles - Go and smell the flowers,' the Times sports ed said to me, meaning, presumably, les fleurs du mal to...
The Big If
One of the most thought-provoking and enjoyable series on Radio Four in recent years has been What If? counter-factual history programmes about what might have been. They have a simple format, chairman Professor Christopher Andrew, an excellent broadcaster,...
The Cart Gets in Front of the Horse and the Bulls Are Ahead of Them Both
Hear what they say and then watch what they do. As the partners in Goldman Sachs prepare to sell their birthright for a mess of caviar and yachts, their chief economist, William Dudley, says that the magnitude of wealth creation is without precedent....
The Pomposity of It All
What is it about Grosvenor House? For years, the pre-eminent British fine art and antiques fair has failed to elicit much in the way of expectant anticipation in this particular visitor. If anything, the prospect of preview day has come to fill me with...
The Six-Letter Word
C: BECAUSE COWARDS GET CANCER TOO by John Diamond Vermilion, 9.99, pp. 240 The author of this searing and yet admirably jaunty book has become known chiefly as one of those by now ubiquitous domestic columnists who record all the trivial happenings of...
Traditional Values
Dance critics often refer to specific sections from a ballet as their personal touchstones for assessing artistic standards in a performance. For me, in Swan Lake, one of these sections is at the end of the first lake-side scene, when dawn is breaking...
Treasured Trams
In the tragic history of modern public transport, the names of villains come readily to mind - Mr Beeching and Mrs Thatcher, for instance. There are heroes too, fortunately, and if a patron saint is required perhaps it should be the unlikely figure of...
When I Was Furious with Mr Heseltine
I AM not a supporter of Jeffrey Archer's candidature for mayor of London. Like all sensible Conservatives I support Ken Livingstone. The Tories have no chance of winning this election and Red Ken would be a thorn in more painful parts of Blair's anatomy...
Yearlong Paranoia Binge
The themes of this big novel paranoia, sterility, general loss of national confidence - are clearly ones that are striking at the heart of contemporary Japan. Few developed cultures currently show such a determined lack of interest in procreating. The...
'You Could've Walked Away'
THEY WERE poring over copies of the Sun and Mirror just in from London in a seafront bar on Wednesday morning. Some were proudly trying to spot themselves or friends in the photographs. Others shook their heads and confessed to shame at what had taken...
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