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. 8831, 1997

Advertising the End of Britain
WHAT a pity that they lowered the lights. The Queen and Commonwealth leaders clustered round a giant, circular television screen in Edinburgh to watch a video depicting Tony Blair's New Britain. But the monarch's reaction to New Labour's Playschool,...
After the Lights Go Down
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH THIRD BOOK OF OBITUARIES: ENTERTAINERS edited by Hugh Massingberd Macmillan, 15.99, pp. 340 In 1921 a comedian called Alfred Lester - `Always Merry and Bright' - famous for gloom on- and off-stage, though only briefly mentioned in...
A Half-Hero of Our Time
WHERE LIGHT AND SHADOW MEET by Emilie Schindler, with Erika Rosenberg W. W. Norton, L16.95, pp. 162 Poor old Mrs Schindler is 90. In the small town of San Vicente, close to Buenos Aires, she lives alone with no fewer than 20 cats. She has long had ulcers...
Ancient & Modern
A NEW portrait of the Queen will appear on coinage minted from 1 January. But is this good enough in Mr Blair's thrillingly New Britain? Greek coinage from the beginning (c. 7th century BC) sported both the place of a coin's origin and associated figures...
Battle of the Brats
Have you heard Brat Radio UK recently? It's devoted to the gormless young and they to it. Interestingly, the notso-gormless young listen to it; they think it's clever. Some intelligent middle-aged men rave about it, too, one in particular. He's called...
Bring Back Ideas and Argument
Something deep down inside me revolted when I first heard employees of British Rail referring to passengers as 'customers'. It wasn't just conservatism about language. I felt, without knowing quite why, very suspicious of the implicit change in relationship....
Burrows of Deceit
LA Confidential (18, selected cinemas) You expect movies to have problems with Jane Austen or Henry James, but what's depressing is the way they seem to have difficulty even managing their own relatively simple genres: every week it seems brings a thriller...
Catwalk Culprits
THE CATWALK is now a familiar feature of the fashion trade, but it is a comparatively new development. You will probably not find it in your dictionary unless it is a very recent one. Even then its use may be limited to 'a narrow pathway over the stage...
Christian Thoughts
New York Oh, dear! For one brief shining moment I thought that God and Christianity were making a comeback. (Not to be confused with the Second Coming.) Paul Johnson started it with his personal pilgrimage, A Quest for God. (Incidentally, Paul also predicted...
Close to Home
Theatre A Delicate Balance (Haymarket) A Letter of Resignation (Comedy) When Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance first opened here, in a somewhat austere staging with Peggy Ashcroft at the Aldwych all of 30 years ago, I took its cross-references to be...
Dangerous Stuff
Glass, Space and Light (Crafts Council, 44A Pentonville Road, N1, till 30 November, then touring) Glass is a material which creates a particular kind of excitement, whether it is held in the hand or raised into a building. This excitement has been felt...
Dear Mary
Q. A friend has returned from America with a maddening new vocal tic. He ends every sentence with an upward inflexion as though it were a question. What can I do to stop him, and worse, myself, as I find the habit so infectious that I begin almost thinking...
Diary
There's no avoiding it any longer. I don't like any of my friends. I've just flicked through my address book, a thin volume, and was filled with irritation, distaste and an overwhelming sense of boredom. One of the great boons of living in a city is...
Distinctive Power
Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (Grand Palais, Paris, till 12 January 1998, then Metropolitan Museum, New York) 'But what will we think of it in 50 years time?'-so a friend of mine likes to conclude discussions on contemporary art. He's quite right, of course,...
Does Your End Justify Your Genes?
LIFELINES by Steven Rose Allen Lane, 20, pp. 335 Where once people believed in Destiny or a God that shaped their ends, they now believe in genes. In Penelope Lively's recent novel City of the Mind, the hero reflects: There was the genetic drive, boiling...
Feeling Cursed
There were those who thought that the momentary grimace which passed across the Queen's face during the opening ceremonies of this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh might have had something to do with the curious synthesised...
Homage to Naomi
THE NINE LIVES OF NAOMI MITCHISON by Jenni Calder Virago, f20, pp. 340 It was on the train between Livingstone and Lusaka, in far away Zambia, that I first met Naomi Mitchison, probably in 1965. Most recently, but as long ago as 1987, I was delighted...
How Real Leadership Means Never Having to Say Never
The past as it fades leaves for our inspection only the least useful of markers. We are left with recordable facts, but for anyone who would reconstruct another time - who would savour it for himself recordable facts are of so little value. The archivist...
Hypnotic Change
Dance Umbrella (Queen Elizabeth Hall) For many, Stephen Petronio is the American contemporary choreographer known for having created a dance genre in which a powerful choreographic content is complemented by equally powerful and controversial visual...
Imperative Cooking: Gourmet Nutters
WILL the new Food Standards Agency be hijacked by nutters? Can the ministers involved, Messrs Dobson, Rooker and Jowell and the academic whose report helped form the idea of the agency, Professor Philip James, maintain a firm line between serious concerns...
Inspired Coupling
Twice Through the Heart; From the House of the Dead (English National Opera) Cosi fan tutte (Opera North) Mark-Anthony Turnage's Twice Through the Heart is a matter for relieved gratitude: a contemporary opera lasting just over half an hour, in an idiom...
Laudator Temporis Acti
COMING HOME by John Betjeman, edited by Candida Lycett-Green Methuen, L20, pp.537 Betjeman's letters, which have been issued in a two-volume selected edition, also edited by his daughter, Candida Lycett Green, reveal a personality perfectly attuned to...
Letters
Only joking Sir: As regards The City of Light by `Jacob of Ancona' (`Chinese fake away?', 25 October), surely the first question to put to David Selbourne should have been what language the purported manuscript was written in. Mediaeval Latin? Mediaeval...
Mind Your Language
Mind your Language We HAVE all noticed how newspapers often leave untold the end of a story; they report a cliffhanger or constitutional crisis, but leave the fate of Pauline on the cliff or the government of Sierra Leone unrecorded. found by let me...
New Labour, Old Grudges
THE LAST Labour landslide, over 50 years ago, swept a generation of big politicians into Parliament. Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan-an unbroken line of Labour leaders for a quarter of a century from 1955 - as well as such figures as...
Nobody's Perfect
I only believe in God every other day and my holy days don't always fall on a Sunday. If I go to Mass it's with the same kind of `I'm-making-a-real-effort-today' feeling that I have when I'm preparing a Yorkshire pudding for lunch. However, the strangest...
On the Side of Beauty
One of the more useless jobs I've ever done was as arts correspondent on the Daily Telegraph. On a bad day, I'd have to do something Daily Mail-ish and femalefriendly, like `Patricia Hodge has a baby!' And on an even worse day, I'd have to attend a stupendously...
Padlocks and Plum Cake
THE HISTORY OF BETHLEM by Jonathan Andrews, Asa Briggs, Roy Porter, Penny Tucker, and Keir Waddington Routledge, f150, pp. 768 Let those who mourn the passing of venerable British institutions - hunting, the House of Lords, the royal yacht draw some...
Performing at Drury Lane and around the Prince of Wales
A TRAITOR'S KISS: THE LIFE OF RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN by Fintan O'Toole Granta, L20, pp.516 He is a classic playwright, regularly revived, who wrote only two full-length plays, The Rivals and The School for Scandal, a comic opera, The Duenna, two shorter...
Plodding through China
THE CITY OF LIGHT by Jacob d'Ancona, translated and edited by David Selbourne Little, Brown and Co., 22.50, pp. 231 The desire for gain conquers the greatest fear.' So writes the author of this book, a Jewish merchant of Ancona who led a trading argosy...
Portrait of a Novelist
THE NYMPHOMATION by Jeff Noon Doubleday, 15.99, pp. 362 Strictly speaking, Jeff Noon doesn't write novels, he paints them. Sampling and blending ideas from the ever-widening spectrum of popular culture, he daubs them onto the canvas of an otherwise perfunctory...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, explained to the Commons the government's policy on joining European Monetary Union. `Barring some fundamental and unforeseen change in economic circumstances, making a decision during this Parliament...
Second Opinion
`WHAT is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer' - which is just as well, because no one would have given it him anyway. Man loves truth as worms love garden spades. These days even (or especially) the truth is libellous, for example...
Should I Take Up Golf?
Now that there is no genuine pop radio any more - or, at least, none that adults can listen to without wanting to hit someone - there are fewer and fewer ways of discovering the wonderful new records that presumably exist out there but never quite complete...
Silly Games
COLERIDGE talked about `that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith'. The army officer in Monty Python talked about `getting silly'. Together, these make a suitable epitaph for the just concluded season of Formula...
The ABA Champion
THE BATTLE to become London's mayor is an opportunity for both main parties to project an attractive face on the run-up to the next general election, but already there is evidence that the mayoral race could have party leaderships cursing the democracy...
The Abuse of Child Abuse
HAVE paedophiles in present-day demonology come to occupy the same role as witches did in that of the 16th and 17th centuries? So far this year there has been disorder in Aberdeen, Stirling and Swindon as a result of mobs gathering outside the homes...
The Decline and Fall of Anti-Americanism in Britain
Is anti-Americanism in Britain dead? Not quite, but it is dying. In recent days I have been charging up and down Britain launching my new book A History of the American People, giving lectures in public places about writing it, signing copies in bookshops...
The Frightening Game Now Played by Serious Newspapers and the BBC
There are people who maintain the indefensible about crime. Ignoring the evidence of their own eyes, they say it has not really risen. What looks like an increase is really a statistical quirk, the result of much more widespread reporting of crimes....
The Great Collector
Exhibitions 1 The Private Collection of Edgar Degas (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, till 11 January 1998) Degas keeps it up,' a friend of the painter wrote in 1896, `buying, buying. In the evening he asks himself how he will pay for what he bought...
The Vice-President Turns to Lesbianism
New Hampshire WHAT is it with vice-presidents and situation comedy characters? In 1992, Dan Quayle attacked Murphy Brown, eponymous heroine of the sitcom Murphy Brown, for having a baby out of wedlock. Five years on, Quayle's successor has just saluted...
The Voices of the Victims
AN EMBARRASSMENT OF TYRANNIES edited by W.L Webb and Rose Bell Gollancz, L20, pp. 347 One of the many distinguished contributors, John Mortimer, to this anthology in celebration of 25 years of Index on Censorship, once remarked, `The price of freedom...
Troublesome Tories
Once again, a brown hush puppy has been firmly lodged in the Tory party's collective mouth. Only days ago, the shadow Cabinet set out its line on the single currency. It is its intention to fight the next election on a platform of opposition to EMU....
What Mr Hague's Team Intend to Do about Mr Clarke-And to Him
Last week, William Hague secured a victory in his shadow Cabinet which had eluded both Margaret Thatcher and John Major in their Cabinets. He persuaded his senior colleagues to agree to a sceptical line on the European single currency. Mr Hague had already...
What's Wrong with MPs
A STEADY rumour spreading through the months has been that MPs who opposed the-government line on devolution in Scotland and Wales were in danger of being knocked on the head - deselected locally after a nod from the top. Llew Smith and Tam Dalyell had...
Who Does He Think He Is?
AS A GENERAL rule Nicholas Soames is a popular sort of chap. He is in demand at country-house weekends. His appearance on the scene, in the Commons tea-room or the Turf Club bar or wherever, never fails to raise the spirits. He is universally acknowledged...
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.