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. 278, No. 8804, 1997

All Children but His Own
SIGNALLING FROM MARS: THE LETTERS OF ARTHUR RANSOME edited by Hugh Brogan Cape, L11.99, pp. 377 They are part of childhood for so many of us. Captain John, Mate Susan, and the rest, capably setting up camp, building igloos, sailing the lake without the...
Ancient & Modern
THE British Medical Association is abandoning the famous oath of the great ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates, sworn in the name of Asclepius, in favour of a modern, up-to-date version. This is probably wise. Few doctors today believe in Asclepius. But...
Attlee and Driberg, the Good and Bad Sides of the Old Labour Coin
Perhaps unwittingly, Tom and Clem, the fashionable play about Attlee and Driberg is an elegy for Old Labour. Neither, for different reasons, would have been at home in Tony Blair's party. Each in his own way epitomised why Old Labour failed. The notion...
Blast from the Past
The headmasters of prep schools ignore the transient fashions of the outside world. Dead languages are taught in preference to the living and my elder son's uniform list reads like an archaeologist's notebook. Two pairs of garters, 18 cotton handkerchiefs,...
Dear Mary
Q. Recently at a party I was asked to dance by a very unattractive MP. I did not enjoy the physical intimacy of the experience nor being the cynosure of all eyes but how could I have refused his invitation? Had I claimed to have injured my feet, as I...
Deception Has Some Redeeming Qualities
KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS by Piers Paul Read Weidenfeld, 16.99, pp. 311 Mr Read has set himself a difficult task in this novel. His protagonist-narrator, Michael Latham, is not only possessed by a sense of failure in his career, not only recently and woundingly...
Diary
My wife's brother cut the advertisement out and sent it through the post: `If Jeremy is serious, he could try this.' And there it was, the answer to my problem: Had I had an unfortunate experience when young? Was I inhibited, had that held me back? Was...
Dispelling a Myth
Racehorses, sadly, cannot talk to us and tell us whether they feel like running out of their skins or whether it is truly a bad coat day. Those of us who only watch them and do not have the responsibility of producing them fit and ready to win their...
Do Your Bit!
Coming back to good old London always makes me feel good, and I'm looking forward -- despite the foregone conclusion - to the election night party at Christopher's. Mind you, after 28 years of contributing to the dear old Speccie, I never thought I'd...
Et in Orcadia Ego
FOR THE ISLANDS I SING by George Mackay Brown John Murray, 16, ep.192 When he died last year at the age of 74, the Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown left behind a remarkably homogeneous body of work -over 50 books, including plays, poetry, novels and...
First in, First Out
Most of us know the old joke where the regiment finds new, more sensitive ways of breaking the news of a parent's death to the ranks. Lining up the men, the sergeant-major bawls, `All those with mothers, dismiss. Private Jones, where are you going?'...
Gift from the Greeks
The average price on the sample case of 5.51 the bottle shows a slight increase on Smedley's offer of last June, but this is almost entirely explained by the wondrous dry Madeira at 7.98(6), which came as a revelation to me and may change the lives of...
Hitchcock Possessed
Cinema vertigo (PG, selected cinemas) The return of Hitchcock is always welcome, but the return of Vertigo (1958) is especially so. Gorgeously restored and digitally remastered, it's never looked better, especially all those wacky signature effects:...
How Did It Happen?
As anyone who works for the BBC will tell you, the Corporation is now overrun with accountants, consultants, project directors, resource managers and systems controllers who know little about broadcasting and who would be almost as much at home in a...
Hunters, Don't Listen to the Peeress!
THERE have been `defining moments' of this general election campaign which have not involved taking heroin on the Prime Minister's aeroplane or John Prescott blurting out (what everybody knows) that the social chapter will create severe unemployment....
If We're Going to Have Constant Referenda, It's Best If They're Run by the Government, Not the Media
When general elections were the only occasions for ordinary people to have a say - apart, that is, from riots and revolutions - it would have been surprising if they did not make the most of that rare opportunity which might not come again for another...
I Rather Think Mr Will Hutton, the Editor, Is to Blame for This Self-Inflicted Wound on the Observer
Any rising young novelist with children and an ex-wife plus new girlfriend is almost bound to seek extra income from elsewhere. Journalism is the natural port of call. Will Self, the self-anointed enfant terrible of the modern novel, has followed the...
Keepers Weepers
JAMES the Worst; Calamity James; Cowboy Keeper; Look Back in Clanger. Who'd be a goalkeeper? David James, goalie for Liverpool, had a poor match on Saturday; many footballers have poor matches and escape such headlines, but for a goalkeeper there is...
Keeping Faith with Conservatism
WHEN I decided last year to move from the crossbenches in the Lords to take the Conservative whip, it caused some surprise, although I can't think why. It certainly wasn't because I was unhappy on the crossbenches; the opposite was true, although my...
Lesson from Peru
When the remnants of the defeated communist terror group the Tupac Amaru seized the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, they had minuscule support inside Peru. But they could count on substantial verbal support from Appeasers International, the...
Letters
Intellectual disgrace Sir: I congratulate Robert Taylor on revealing the intellectual bankruptcy of the socalled intellectuals of the Left (`Chattering against Mr Blair', 19 April). No wonder New Labour no longer finds it useful to tap into their musings....
Life at the Blunt End
THE UNTOUCHABLE by John Banvil le Picador, 15.99, pp. 405 The first thing to be noticed about this enthralling novel is that it is properly written: John Banville's prose is clear, fluent, and possessed of authentic energy - the real thing, in fact....
Love Abideth Foremost
Brahms's reputation is so secure as not to need the factitious advantage of an anniversary. Moreover, unlike Schubert, Bach, Mozart, his oeuvre on the whole lacks nooks and crannies of fascinating unfamiliarity: only a handful of choral works and a majority...
Making (If Necessary Faking) a Prime Minister
YOUNG campaign workers in Labour's election headquarters in Millbank by the Thames - and young is what nearly all of them are - had been instructed in the art of not panicking when bad news hit. `Panicking makes us seem like losers,' Peter Mandelson...
Meanwhile, Back in Whitehall
YOU WERE an insider, at the centre of events. People of international stature were eager to know your opinion. You travelled the world attending glamorous meetings, and half the fun of it was always knowing far more than you told. There was barely a...
Mind Your Language
Thanks to you, we are getting somewhere. The question was: what was the spoonerism called before Warden Spooner (18441930)? One answer, sent by Mr Wilfrid Miron, is marrowskying, which takes its name from the (probably fictional) Count Marrowsky. It...
Monteverdi Marvel
The Return of Ulysses (Opera North Otello (Covent Garden) Opera North has scored a triumph of almost unimaginable proportions with their production of Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland. The disparity between means and end is even greater...
Not Knowing When to Stop
THE DISCOVERY OF HEAVEN by Harry Mulisch, translated by Paul Vincent Viking 17, pp. 728 Among the many branches of fantastic literature, theology is surely one of the most successful. To imagine a fabulous Creator and then to explore the rules of His...
Poise 'N' Pen
ONE MAN'S WORD by Ian Greer Deutsch, 15.99, pp. 239 Politicians like me open contemporary political biographies as though they were written in Arabic. We start at the back of the book - to check if we appear in the index. This is a handy way of telling...
Poppet Green Is Alive and Well
Exhibitions Material Culture (Hayward Gallery, till 1 May) At the start of Evelyn Waugh's Put Out More Flags, Basil Seal awakens in the studio of an artist named Poppet Green. She was a girl whose outstanding silliness had immediately commanded Seals...
Portrait of the Week
Mr John Major, the Prime Minister, made a last pre-election throw of the dice on Europe. He cancelled a planned television broadcast and instead made a personal plea to be allowed to negotiate with the rest of the European Union on the question of economic...
Ramble Round Shakespeare
Theatre The Herbal Bed (Duchess) The Goodbye Girl (Albery) Cracked (Hampstead) At the Duchess, Peter Whelan's The Herbal Bed is a gripping Shakespearean thriller of about two hours trying to escape from a considerably more dozy three-hour ramble around...
Restaurant: Warsaw and Krakow
WHEN I visited Warsaw for an opera festival ten years ago there was plenty of opera, but precious little of anything else. The streets were empty, almost bereft of private cars, food shop windows were devoid of anything beyond the barest essentials,...
Ruthless Rhymes: Jaspistos
IN COMPETITION NO. 1979 you were invited to write verses in the style of Harry Graham of `Ruthless Rhymes' fame. Here's my favourite Graham: `There's been an accident,' they said, `Your servants cut in half - he's dead!' `Indeed!' said Mr Jones, `and...
Some Revised Versions
VIRTUAL HISTORY: ALTERNATIVES AND COUNTERFACTUALS edited by Niall Ferguson Picador, 20, pp. 548 This is another novelty item in the postmodernist pavilion of `what if?' history. Virtual History begins with Niall Ferguson's long, heavyweight and impressively...
The Election Will Be Decided by the Undecided
One poll shows a 5 per cent Labour lead; another one, a 21 per cent lead. This might seem to confirm the suspicion that opinion polls are about as reliable as the gipsy tipsters on Epsom Heath for Derby day, but that might be unfair. It may be that neither...
The Green Shadow over Labour
THE MOST important moment of Tony Blair's visit to the United States last year was not even recorded by the British media, which concentrated on a series of sycophantic parties held for him in New York and Washington. Only Mary McGrory, a shrewd and...
The Romance of the Place
THE LOST GARDENS OF HELIGAN by Tim Smit Channel Four/Gollancz ,L 20, pp. 269 English gardens', wrote Goethe, `are not made to a plan, but to a feeling in the head'. Until we all discovered horticulture, the point of gardens was that they touched your...
The Search for Sir James
IT was bitterly cold in Putney. The wind shook the mist-veiled spring flowers. On the Crestway council estate a woman with egg-like eyes rushed up and grasped my hand. `It's good to have you here,' she gushed. `Why?' I asked. `It's good to see you doing...
Through a Nightmare to Lilliput
A WAVERING GRACE: A VIETNAMESE FAMILY IN WAR AND PEACE by Gavin Young Viking 17.99, pp. 238 The horrors of Vietnam dominated the media during my formative years but I'm afraid I steered clear of it all. News of napalm attacks, massacres, mass graves,...
To Join or Not to Join?
Half way along the south side of Pall Mall is a great palace of Portland stone which, more than any other building, epitomises the vices and virtues of Edwardian England. Modelled in its details on Gabriel's buildings in the Place de la Concorde and...
Under Stress
Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, I took a small overdose of sleeping pills and painkillers last weekend in the hope of rediscovering some of that wonderful oblivion that I used to buy in bottles. It was a minuscule overdose - I took six of each...
War's a Chancy Business, So the Tories Leave Their Winning General out of Battle
Kenneth Clarke has been left out of battle. He has had his own skirmishes, some of them with the enemy, but at general headquarters his face does not fit. Only the odd poster, crudely contrasting Tory boom with Labour gloom, suggests that his party might...
Your Young Men Shall See Visions
LIVING HISTORY by Chaim Herzog Weidenfeld, f20, pp. 448 Chaim Herzog has seen the Zionist dreams of his youth fulfilled: the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. His book is a modest account of his contribution to that end as a soldier, diplomat...
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.