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. 8802, 1997

A Coach with a Cargo of Sex
EUROPA by Tim Parks Secker, L9.99, pp. 261 The format of Europa is an exotic gloss on the country-house detective novel a finite group of characters cloistered together over a prescribed period. Six foreign lectors from Milan University, with an accompanying...
A Fiver Well Spent
A whole week's theatre-going in Bucharest costs you about a fiver, for excellent seats and the price of all the programmes. That doesn't include alcohol in the interval because none is available. Romanian audiences seem to go theatres for no purpose...
All about Oscar
Lady Windermere's Fan (Haymarket) Popcorn (Apollo) 'I congratulate you on your performance, which suggests you still think more highly of my play than I do'; Oscar Wilde, of course, acknowledging the cheers of his first-night audience when Lady Windermere's...
Ancient & Modern
AS ELECTION tedium sweeps the country, and newspapers and organisations like Charter 88 start sounding off even more pompously about Democracy and Reform and The People's Chance To Make Their Voices Heard, it is as well to remind ourselves that all talk...
A Statesman Neither Then nor Now
STARTING this week, and continuing every morning until the election, Roy Hattersley joins Lords Tebbit and Jenkins of Hillhead in a BBC 1 discussion about the campaign, entitled The Elder Statesmen. At only 64 - an age when Gladstone still had more than...
A Very Late Victorian
HORACE: A LIFE by Peter Levi Duckworth, 25, pp. 270 The British have always felt that they had a special affinity with the great lyric and conversational poet of Augustan Rome. He has been given an anglicised name: not Quintus Horatius Flaccus but Horace....
Babes and Sucklings
His belief is that they are booked-up automatons whom he will naturally defeat in unknown terrain, where they must rely on their own intellectual resources rather than memorised established theory. Viktor is not always correct in this assumption. 7 ......
Betraying Berlioz
Of the great myths which have obsessed modern Western man, and especially artists - Don Juan, Don Quixote, Faust - it is the last of these that seems deepest; perhaps because it is so unclear what Faust's problem is that a wide variety of anxious preoccupations...
Boo to the Octopus
As the early blossom blows and the leaves unfurl, it is good to think of rural England, but the relation of the dream to the reality is a complicated one. For town dwellers, the existence of unspoilt country is psychologically as important as it is for...
Breeding Counts
My wife has an image problem. She wants a car that is reliable, safe, capacious, nippy . . . and glamorous. It must cope with the shopping, with the weekend away and with a two-year-old. It must also be easy to manoeuvre and, most importantly, it must...
Cold, Grey Dawn of the Morning After
THE STATE TO COME by Will Hutton Vintage, L4.99, pp. 125.Poor Will Hutton is going to be very disappointed with New Labour after 1 May if he really believes that the party intends to carry out the Keynesian programme in government that he calls for in...
Dear Mary
Q. I do not like the mocking manner of a girl at least ten years younger than me who works in my office and who tries to insult me every time I pass her desk. I am told by another colleague that her attacks mask an unconscious physical attraction towards...
Diary
Let me ask you all something round this table: what are you personally doing to help win this election for the Conservatives?" This rather emotive question was put to a group of us at lunch. The fact was, nobody was doing anything much. My canvassing...
Grave Old Gaffers
Mary McGrory, my favourite political columnist on the Washington Post, liked to be physically present at important events. Even when she was in her seventies you could see her up to her ankles in snow during the Iowa caucuses. The only time I felt that...
Gross Grosz
The Berlin of George Grosz (Royal Academy, till 8 June) Who was George Grosz? Frank Whitford asks the question in the catalogue of the current exhibition of Grosz's drawings, watercolours and prints from 1912 to 1930 at the Royal Academy. And Grosz himself...
I Hope the Worst Thing to Say about Martin Bell Is That He's a Holy Fool, but Perhaps There's Worse
As between Martin Bell and Neil Hamilton there can be no doubt who is the more attractive man. The one is a brave war correspondent who has covered 11 wars for the BBC and was quite badly wounded in Bosnia. He seems honest and almost embarrassingly self-deprecating....
'I Know All about You.'
WHEN I first met Peter Mandelson I was still a student. I was on a trip to the House of Commons and Mr Mandelson, my local MP, had arranged tickets for Prime Minister's Question Time. As I waited in Central Lobby I wondered if the member for Hartlepool...
Lady with a Parrot
ENCHANTRESS: MARTHE BIBESCO AND HER WORLD by Christine Sutherland Murray, 20, pp. 318 One afternoon in February 1934, I was summoned by a leading London hostess, the crimson-haired Catherine, Baroness d'Erlanger, to her house in Piccadilly, to meet someone...
Letters
Community charge Sir: Not surprisingly, knowing how unerringly the media so often strives to misinform, Nicholas Farrell (`Thou shalt steal', 29 March) manages to miss completely, as does Lord Soper, my real case against supermarkets. It is certainly...
Lords of the Night
New York The Last Party is a history of Studio 54, the disco decade and the culture of the night. The author is none other than Anthony Haden-Guest, England's bestknown export to the Big Bagel, and a man who has spent more time on his back (passed out)...
Mind Your Language
I WAS going to vacuum the drawingroom floor, but was prevented by an enquiry from Mr Colin MacIvor, who wrote to ask what spoonerisms were called before Dr Spooner (1844-1940) came up with them. Or did he? The Reverend James Adderley, the younger son...
National Pain
I TOLD you sport mattered. I told you it was important not because, as Sherlock Holmes rightly sneered, it is so very remarkable that one horse can run faster than another, but because people care about it, and because people really like it. People don't,...
No Hiding Place
To musicians of every persuasion these days, the principles of authentic performance are familiar. Whether we are indeed trying to recreate exactly the sounds the composers of the past would have heard, and the circumstances of those original performances,...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Tony Blair, the leader of the Labour party, said in a pre-publicised speech: 'I certainly believe that where there is no overriding reason for preferring the public provision of goods and services, particularly where those services operate in a competitive...
Restaurant: Tate Gallery, National Gallery and V&A
THE ART gallery restaurant is a pleasing idea. To eat and drink in an agreeably decorated room while visiting an exhibition or popping in to meet a friend for lunch, then looking at a painting or two, is an attractive idea. Both the Tate, with its restaurant...
Saint Becomes a Beast
Fat, effete and 50, I left it rather late in life to become a football fan. If that means I am playing a part in the much-decried embourgeoisement of football, so be it. I can't get over my luck, even at the risk of being tackily fashionable a la Fever...
Sick of Losing
By the time the Grand National finally did get under way, I had come to the conclusion that no bet was the best bet. Nothing stood out to me like Rough Quest did last year or like Merryman II in his day or Red Rum on any day. I ended up by having my...
Sounding the Wrong Bell
DOES Martin Bell know that being shot down in Bosnia is as nothing compared to being hunted down by the British press? There is nothing the media hates more than hypocrisy - in others. They will seek to find it in him. I hope he is as squeakyclean as...
Talking Ghosts
THE OATMEAL ARK by Rory Maclean HarperCollins, L16.99, pp. 337 When I first began teaching in Ham stead I was under a Canadian, of whom I was very fond. Red-haired Lorraine was racially a Scot and had a horror story I have never forgotten. It was of...
Tax Now and Let the Losers Find out Later-Here's How to Get in on the ACT
There is no such thing as a painless tax, but next to it is a tax that only experts understand. The victims may never know what hurt them. Or by the time they find out it will be too late. Hence the growing suspicion that a Labour Chancellor, hungry...
Ten to Watch
Come an election, wrote H.L. Mencken, the major parties rush around the country, each protesting that the others are unfit to govern. By the end of the process, all of them are proved right. With such a process in full swing, I am likely to spend more...
That Is the Question: Jaspistos
Will I dare to eat pancakes and honey, Or must it be oatmeal and bran? And is there some hope that I might smell of soap, Instead of this Paco Rabane? Will my clothing still boast its designers? Will I still feel obliged to compete? Will I have to wear...
The Age of Uncertainty
IT IS a grateful thought that in three weeks the election will at last be over. Hardly ever has a British election cast such a long shadow before it, so subordinated the process of government to party pointscoring, and so strained the nerves and tempers...
The Era of the Doctators
IF THE Albanian President survives to write his memoirs, they will probably be entitled Dr Bedsha's Casebook. The incompetent would-be dictator of Albania, who is still just surviving at the time of writing, is also a doctor - a heart surgeon, to be...
The Golden Age of the Bishops
GOODBYE TO CATHOLIC IRELAND by Mary Kenny Sinclair-Stevenson, L11.99, pp. 320 When the last British soldiers retreated in the early 1920s from what was to become the new Irish state, a way of life a whole imperial hierarchy - went with them, and a vacuum...
The Judge Who Retired Unhurt
TAKEN AT THE FLOOD by Patrick Devlin Taverner Publications, fll, pp. 173 Patrick Devlin was one of the outstanding lawyers of the second half of the century. He was also what lawyers, outstanding or otherwise, rarely are: an excellent writer of English....
The Reason We Are Not Looking to the National Election Is That We No Longer Look to the Nation State
Nation state elections are not as important as they were in the old days because, with one exception, nation states are not as important. Naturally nation state politicians don't see it this way because, from their personal point of view, nation states,...
There May Be Trouble Ahead
THE CLASH OF CIVILISATIONS AND THE REMAKING OF WORLD ORDER by Samuel P. Huntington Simon & Schuster, 16.99, pp. 370 We live in interesting times. In fact, never in history has such a volatile cocktail of antagonistic cultures and warring religions...
The Road beyond Damascus
PAUL: THE MIND OF THE APOSTLE by A. N. Wilson Sinclair-Stevenson, L17.99, pp. 273 Even a non-believer must accept that Jesus Christ existed and was crucified by a particularly nasty Roman governor of Palestine. A rustic exorcist, whose local fame as...
The Science of God
Most sane people cannot think only about the election for these whole, interminable six weeks. It was with relief that we noticed the other day something worthy of comment which had nothing to do with the election. A survey in the scientific journal...
The Tories Are Fighting a Good Compaign, but Does It Matter?
It is open to doubt whether election campaigns really matter. Back in 1979, the Tories were in a high state of readiness. Everything had been prepared for the autumn 1978 election which Jim Callaghan decided not to call; the intervening six months gave...
Where Mr Major Is Well Ahead
THE AINTREE bomb scare shamed Ireland. It also enraged everyone. But it did that and more to the Labour party, which found itself out in the open, faced with real events rather than manifesto arguments. Its leadership momentarily faltered. Jack Straw...
Whitney's Art-Free Zone
Some exhibitions are born bad, some achieve badness, and some have badness thrust upon them. For as long as anyone can remember, the biennial exhibitions of recent American art at the Whitney Museum in New York have somehow managed to be bad in every...
Who's Fooling Whom?
'Whatever you do, don't write about that,' my husband told me, tapping my copy of Anthony O'Hear's booklet, Nonsense About Nature, `it's obviously an April Fool.' This was a little disturbing. I could see it had `Publication date, April lst' stamped...
Why Hunting, Tolerance and Democracy Go Together
On Saturday morning the local foxhunt gathered for the last meet of the season in a field near our house in Somerset. All the neighbours were there from the nearby farms and hamlets. This is a truly rural parish: there are only eight houses, including...
Why Otto John Defected Thrice
TO CROSS the lines once in a time of ideological war is common enough, indeed part of the necessary lubrication of the secret service industry. To cross them twice looks like carelessness. To do so three times suggests a serious problem. In the 11 years...
Women at War
It must be hard trying to juggle being a mother and a terrorist at the same time, raising children while blowing people up. This variation of the working mother crisis hadn't occurred to me until I listened to Sisters In Arms on Radio Five, a two-part...
Women: The Tories' Last Hope
A 'MINORITY' electoral group has secured victory for every single Conservative government since the war. Analysts believe that if this group had not voted, Churchill, Macmillan, Douglas-Home, Heath, Thatcher and Major would never have resided at No....
Woody's Weedy Wobbly Warblers
He blew it. Woody Allen's first musical sings only of new inadequacies: not only is he no Ingmar Bergman, it turns out he's no Vincente Minnelli either. If his Bergmanesque outings are death by reverence, his attempt at musical comedy is a weird blend...
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