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. 279, No. 8814, 1997

A Better Class of Villian
THE NAPOLEON OF CRIME: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ADAM WORTH, THE REAL MORIARTY by Ben Macintyre HarperCollins, 18, pp. 320 The life of Adam Worth, a l9th-century gangster, makes one despair of today's criminal classes. Take, for example, Curtis Warren, recently...
Ancient & Modern
ROMANS would have been flabbergasted enough that Mrs Thatcher agreed to cede the British colony of Hong Kong to China in the first place. For Mr Blair to send out a high-powered delegation to celebrate this humiliation would have struck them as demented....
A World Elsewhere
The conclusion of the Ring cycle in Norwich, given by the Norwegian National Opera, completely confounded my expectations. Gotterdammenng was a great occasion, one which will live in the memories of all who saw it. Although the last drama of the cycle...
Boxing Is Vile
I HAVE a bad reputation. Years ago, after I had covered a fight in Atlantic City, the rumour went around the press corps that I had hidden for the duration of the punchup beneath my desk. Subsequently, the Observer ran a piece that fell short of perpetrating...
Broken by a Bentley
This was penned (sic) before the budget on the assumption that motoring correspondents probably won't be banned outright, though we might be encouraged by penal tax rates to squeeze into one of the new compulsory and eponymous Public Voice columns. I...
Cheer Up, Please
Never trust a notoriously gloomy pop star who says he is feeling 'optimistic'. He probably just means that he's relieved to find that he's not quite as gloomy as he thought he was going to be. Not that Thom Yorke of Radiohead has anything much to be...
Clues and Hints
Do you remember the way people used to joke about American tourists? The stories about them standing in the middle of Oxford, wearing apple-green trousers and asking where the University was? You don't hear those stories any more. Possibly because the...
Dear Mary
Q. As the private secretary to a senior international statesman in Brussels, I am invited to a number of cocktail parties at the elegant residences of diplomatic colleagues. At one such occasion, our host had provided plates of excellent but unpitted...
Diary
Not a good day for lachrymals who are British or care about British rule. At Hong Kong's own and last Royal Tournament, in which Britain finally lost, rain poured down onto the tarmac of the naval base, HMS Tamar, at Victoria Harbour. One would have...
Dressed to Kill
Do you remember the way people used to joke about American tourists? The stories about them standing in the middle of Oxford, wearing apple-green trousers and asking where the University was? You don't hear those stories any more. Possibly because the...
Energising Edinburgh
Lfe at the National Galleries of Scotland under the exuberant Timothy Clifford has seldom been dull. His second decade as director, with a new chairman of trustees, the Countess of Airlie, who brings her experience from serving on similar boards at London's...
Genially Scrutable Chan
Not all Her Majesty's subjects in Hong Kong have chosen to embrace their fate as communism's last conscripts. Half the local film industry, for example, has settled in Hollywood, and, in one of those happy coincidences, managed to arrange key releases...
Goodness after God
EXISTENTIALISTS AND MYSTICS by Iris Murdoch Chatto, L20, pp. 546 Dame Iris Murdoch is a lay saint, a gifted novelist who is also an accomplished philosopher. For 15 years she was a philosophy don at Oxford. It is her 26 novels that have made her one...
He Had a Little List
WILDE'S LAST STAND by Philip Hoare Duckworth, 16.95, pp. 250 At the end of May 1918, with the Ludendorff offensive bringing the German army daily closer to Paris, British newspapers were, as ever, agog with sex and politics. Noel Pemberton Billing, an...
Here's How to Budget for a Free Economy on the Last Prom of the Knights
It was a good budget, I thought. I liked the cut of one-third in the duty on wine, and the new tax allowances, designed to help the 'sandwich' class, as it was expressively called. There was still room to spend more on health, education, housing and...
Hot Line to a Goddess
The reason for the gloomy weather and the wettest ever June is Zeus. I know so because, long ago, the full-armoured lady that sprang from his head confided in me that her old man was a tennis fan. Mind you, I do not speak with the goddess Athena every...
Identity Crisis
An image from the Seventies has remained with me. It is Peter O'Toole in a dressing-gown at his home, under siege from the media after an apparently awful production of Macbeth at the Royal Court. The play was rubbished by the critics and O'Toole was...
I Hope She Continues Her Crusade
WHEN I visited Cambodia some months ago I went to Red Cross centres where children were fitted with false legs and taught to walk again. Their legs had been blown off by landmines when they went out to play. They were the lucky ones. Landmines are designed...
In a State of Ill Health
Although the language of dance is universal, dance culture varies considerably from country to country. It is not easy for the dance reviewer to switch from a familiar artistic tradition to a less known one and to assess the latter with the same informed...
It Is a Joke, Isn't It?
What is Rachel Cusk up to? The Country Life - her third novel - is either a disastrous mismarriage of style with content, or a prolonged and elaborate tease. My money's on the latter; but Cusk is so deadpan, so unrelievedly tongue-incheek, that it does...
I Want to Be Alone
I think I owe readers some sort of explanation as to the paragraph last week which attempted to explain the absence of a column. It was a nasty business. The girl who was supposed to come here to take my dictation, like everyone else, was not allowed...
Knowledge of China
If they are anything like us, most newspaper readers and television viewers must by now be tired of people claiming to know whether China will abolish Hong Kong's civil, as opposed to economic, liberties or not, as the case may be. We do not yet know....
Lessons from Beckett
Plays don't change; audiences do. The lesson of Peter Hall's new Old Vic staging of Waiting for Godot, which he introduced to Britain and last directed in 1955, is that, although some of us may still share the doubts of that first cast about the true...
Letters
Aitken on trial Sir: Nicholas Farrell quotes Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian (`Who? Where? When? Above all, why?', 28 June) as indicating that George Carman QC had said that `it would have been very difficult to cross-examine Victoria [Aitken]'. `When...
Looking Good
Sullen skies and a persistent downpour over Epsom made Saturday one of those days you should have spent doing those things you always meant to do, like mastering the video instruction book, filling in the tax return and learning the words of `Land Of...
Losing the Plot
The middle-class, middle-brow drama series used to be one of the great staples of the BBC. They were thrillers which never quite thrilled, but warmed and amused instead; murder mysteries in which nothing so messy as a murder victim appeared. The Americans...
Mind Your Language
A NEW Church of England report has pointed out that some Christians fear that the so-called Toronto Blessing might be the work of the devil. I can't say, for I avoid such occasions like the devil, not out of fear of satanism but out of embarrassment....
Mr Brown Has Damaged the Economy-By Keeping His Election Pledges
By the time Gordon Brown rises to deliver his first budget, The Spectator will have gone to press. This is inconvenient, but not hopelessly so, for the main elements of the Chancellor's budget judgment are now clear. But this does not mean that the budget...
Mr Patten Home and Away
Hong Kong WHAT is it, I wonder, about the mixture of loud wealth, excessive alcohol and the subject of Chris Patten that has made so many conversations out here so disagreeable over the last few months? There was the flushed and lumbering English taipan,...
Nothing Succeeds like It
REFLECTIONS ON SUCCESS by Martyn Lewis Lennard Publishing 20, pp. 960 Martyn Lewis is best known as the newscaster who complained that the news he was being asked to read out was too bad. So it is perhaps to be expected that this hefty volume, a series...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, presented his first Budget, which among other things implemented Labour's scheme of a 'windfall tax' on recently privatised utilities and came up with various wheezes for raising money without breaking...
Restaurant: Taillevent and Alain Ducasse
TWENTY years ago the Guide Michelin awarded its coveted three stars to just six restaurants in Paris. This year's edition has only five so honoured, and from 1977 Taillevent alone remains, four of the others having been demoted to two-star status, and...
Sex 'N' Food: Jaspistos
IN COMPETITION NO. 1989 you were invited to reverse the voguish habit of novelists who describe the activities of characters in bed with each other as if they were eating a meal, and to provide a restaurant critic's account of a meal which is tiresomely...
Some First Novels
THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS by Arundhati Roy Flamingo,L15.99, pp. 340 LOADED by Christos Tsiolkas Vintage, L5.99, pp. 151 SUMMER OF BETRAYAL by Hong Ying Bloomsbury, L14.99, pp. 183 NECESSARY MADNESS by Jenn Crowell Hodder, 10, pp. 212 One book certainly...
The King in Check
KASPAROV'S situation is under increasing threat after his loss to Deep Blue earlier this year. True, he has temporarily stemmed the flood of opposition and criticism with first prize in the powerful tournament at Novgorod, but victory over humans no...
The New Barons Ruling Britain
THE REPELLENT manner in which the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, exulted on television at the 'downfall' of his `disgraced' court-room opponent, Jonathan Aitken, was strongly reminiscent of the triumphalism of Arthur Scargill and his fellow union...
Two Lives, but Private Still
TURNER: A LIFE by James Hamilton Hodder, 25, pp. 363 STANDING IN THE SUN: A LIFE OF J.M.W. TURNER by Anthony Bailey Sinclair-Stevenson, 25, pp. 478 The main obstacle that confronts biographers of Turner is Turner himself. As his friend the artist George...
What to Do about China Now
`EARLY in the next century the United States will cease to be the world's largest economy, and for the first time in more than 100 years will be overtaken by China as the world's most powerful nation.' Thus I predicted in a speech to a group of 60 American...
When Friendship Can Also Be Deception
Acording to my friend Paul Johnson, with whom I've been thick for 40 years having first crossed pens about Suez - I was wrong, even unforgivably wrong, in not following his urging and example by writing in defence of our mutual friend, Jonathan Aitken....
Whose Service Is Perfect Freedom
Whose service is perfect freedom William Scammell MY ACES, MY FAULTS by Nick Bolletieri Robson, 17.95, pp. 346 Ghostwriters and sportspersons have a weakness for excruciating puns. Virginia Wade's autobiography was called Courting Triumph, Anne Jones's...
Why Aitken Was Bound to Be Caught
I AM puzzled by the surprise over Jonathan Aitken's dishonesty. When under pressure the privileged classes are just as capable of chicanery as the most streetwise lads from the poorest council estates. The privileged classes - of which Aitken is a member...
Why Digital Television Will Be a Bit like W.H. Smith
A revolution is on our doorstep. Digital television is coming. By this time next year you will, with the help of a black box costing about L200, be able to receive many more channels on your existing television set. Alternatively, from next spring you...
Why the Tories Must Mind Their Language
HAVE YOU found the ideas put about in the recent contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party exciting? You will have noticed that each candidate was offering policies better to meet the challenge. There could also have been instances when you...
Women at Work
After her experience with Sir John Vanbrugh, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough wrote that she would always `build without the help of an architect, for I know none that are not mad and ridiculous'. Today, women constitute only 9 per cent of architects in...
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