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 February 3

Ancient and Modern
The outsourcing business Carillion has gone bust because its bids for government work have been far too low. The problems raised by such contracts are not new.The Romans outsourced a great deal of state business. The Bible's 'publicans' were wealthy...
'A Peculiarly English Genius, or a Wiltshire Taoist: A Biography of Richard Jefferies, the Early Years,1848-1867', by Andrew Rossabi - Review
Alan Bennett once defined a classic as 'a book everyone is assumed to have read and forgets if they have or not'. The Victorian nature writer Richard Jefferies 1848-1887 is in the peculiarly unfortunate position of having produced a whole library that...
A Robot to Love
What will it mean for mankind when machines start caring for us?'I gotta be me,' Sammy Davis Jr. croons as the android Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) steadies her horse, stands up on her stirrups, takes aim with her Winchester, and picks off her...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
A hundred years ago on Tuesday, King George V assented to the Representation of the People Act. Women got the vote for the first time. In all the commentary on this centenary, little has been said about who gave it to them, presumably because the answer...
Cinema: Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread is a lush psychosexual drama starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a pampered, tyrannical, pernickety 1950s couturier whose life is disrupted when he falls for a waitress who, in the most unexpected way, proves his match....
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. My wife and I have been invited to a small but formal dinner in the presence of some impressive fellow guests. I don't want to disappoint her but I have developed a neurosis in situations where, if it would be a breach of etiquette to leave the table...
Diary: Christina Lamb
It never occurred to me, when I was interviewed for Desert Island Discs back in November, that I'd actually be on one when it aired last week. The plan had been to laze in a hammock under a palm tree in Ko Yao Noi in the Andaman Sea, with waves lapping...
'Directorate S: The CIA and America's Secret War in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016', by Steve Coll - Review
For the past 16 years, America's war in Afghanistan has been a dismal tale of ignorance, atrocity and error, says Jason BurkeEarly every morning through the spring of 2002, US troops at Bagram airfield on the Shomali plains north of Kabul assembled on...
'Don't Skip out on Me', by Willy Vlautin - Review
For Horace Hopper, the half-breed protagonist of Willy Vlautin's bleak new novel, essential truths come slowly, and usually too late to do him any good. Abandoned by his Native American mother and Irish American father, he has exiled himself from the...
Drink: Bruce Anderson
Arran, in the Firth of Clyde, is an island whose charms vary with the seasons. In summer, the hills are verdant. By midwinter, there is a grandeur of rock and snow. These days, the attractions are enhanced by a better class of visitor. Time was, when...
'Enemies Within: Communists, Cambridge Spies and the Making of Modern Britain', by Richard Davenport-Hines - Review
It has become fashionable since the fall of the Soviet Union to diagnose communist fellow travelling as a form of Freudian neurosis. Where class resentment exists it is said to emanate less from angry young proletarians than from well-spoken youths intent...
Exhibitions: Andreas Gursky
Walking around the Andreas Gursky exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, I struggled to recall what these huge photographs reminded me of. Gursky has built a career on colossal, panoramic pictures of subjects that are extremely ordinary -- the view from...
Geoff Norcott, Britain's First 'Openly Conservative' Comedian
Lloyd Evans meets Geoff Norcott, Britain's first 'openly Conservative' comedianGeoff Norcott is lean, talkative, lightly bearded and intense. Britain's first 'openly Conservative' comedian has benefited enormously from the Brexit vote and he's popular...
High Life: Taki
GstaadI caught a whiff of it as it rolled in from the east, the smell of hypocrisy being different from others that penetrate our olfactory nerves in everyday life. It was coming from Davos and it had a Graeco-Roman flavour to it. The prime ministers...
Letters
Sir: John O'Sullivan is correct to argue that Europe's centrist establishment often 'does not really accept the right of its challengers to come to power. And when they do, it casts them as being illegitimate as extremists' ('A new Europe', 27 January)....
Lionel Shriver: Ikea's Real Genius: Making Furniture Disposable
By all accounts, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad was my kind of guy: may he rest in peace (on an Askvoll standard double). Like me, he was a skinflint. For a multibillionaire to buy his clothes at flea markets and select his groceries from supermarket quick-sale...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
At three o'clock I took half a bottle of Glenmorangie with me to Jimmy's. That it was Burns Night, and Jimmy happens to be a proud Scot, was mere coincidence. When I walked in, Jimmy was putting finishing surgical touches to the back of a bullet-head....
Martin Vander Weyer: The Real Reason Hospitals Threw Back That Presidents Club Cash
I visited St Thomas' Hospital on Monday, to discuss fundraising for a cardiology research project. On the way in, I spotted an acquaintance taking her little boy for tests; she was busy explaining why the doctors needed to do what they were about to...
Men Can't Be Feminists
My futile attempt to become a feminist allyThese are tough times for what I call the #MeToo Men -- those white, liberal, high-minded men who pride themselves on being good feminists. Disgusted with Trump and horrified by Harvey, they want to show solidarity...
Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth
Grooming is a horrible phenomenon of modern life when it happens to abused children. Yet a magazine such as GQ can announce the 'Eight best grooming products in the world this week'. The GQgrooming is not of children, nor yet of horses, but of men at...
Music: Das Rheingold/ Elliott Carter
Das Rheingold at the Royal Festival Hall was, all told, a disappointment, but it might not have been had there been one or two more rehearsals, and a replacement of one of the singers. Vladimir Jurowski plans to perform the whole Ring cycle in due course...
No Sacred Cows: Toby Young
When I tell my children about my own childhood, they often express disbelief about how wretched it was. No Xbox? No YouTube? No Snapchat? What on earth did I do with myself? But the thing they cannot get their heads around is that I had only three television...
Notes On. Beagles
Harvey's finest moment, he would tell you, was the chicken kiev. I'd just made the garlic butter and inserted it into the chicken breast when the phone rang. The call went on for a while, after which I returned. No chicken breast. 'Must have put it in...
Portrait of the Week
HomeThe EU published its negotiating position on Britain's period of transition, from 30 March 2019 until 31 December 2020. Britain would have to abide by the rules of the single market, customs union, free movement and decisions of the European Court...
Radio: Buse/ Vietnam/ Julian of Norwich
It's a pity Will Self didn't embark on his bus tour round Britain before the Brexit vote. If he had, we might have all had a better understanding of what's going on in the shires. In his series of ten short programmes on Radio 4, Great British Bus Journey...
'Rave On: Global Adventures in Electronic Dance Music', by Matthew Collin - Review
It was approximately 4.50 a.m. in Ibiza: peak time on the dance floor. I was on the decks in one of the many sumptuous rooms of the superclub Pacha, spinning breakbeat on vinyl (early Noughties) and warming up for a live broadcast back to the UK.Without...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
'Please, could you just clean my teeth?' I want to say, only I don't. I go along with it, praying it will be over quicker if I cooperate.'And how are you today?' she says in a frighteningly polite voice, a flash of steel glinting in her eyes as she looks...
Rod Liddle: Stop Trying to Make Football Perfect
They've got this new thing in football. It's called the Video Assistant Referee and it is designed to make the game, at the highest level, pristine and free from human error.This is, to my mind, a mistaken aspiration in a game that relies on human error...
Roger Kimball: Trump Is Working
In London last week I had the opportunity to talk about President Donald Trump with several politically mature friends. Most were sceptical, even slightly appalled, by him. It was my task to help them overcome this prejudice. I am delighted, dear reader,...
Short and Bitter-Sweet
The death of Denis Johnson last May marked the loss of a great original who catalogued the lives of junkies, social misfits and minor criminals from an insider's perspective -- which is not surprising, considering his own history of drug and alcohol...
Television: Morgan/Trump
Perhaps you missed the fuss because there has been so little publicity about it. But last week, at Davos, the President of the United States was granted the extraordinary privilege of an audience with Britain's leading interviewer, media communicator...
Theatre: John/ the Believers Are but Brothers
The NT's new production, John, is by a youngish American playwright, Annie Baker. We Brits tend to assume that 'john' is American for 'toilet' so perhaps lavatorial treats are in store. The setting is a provincial hotel run by a blithering old dear whose...
The Conservative Crisis of Conscience
In the face of strongmen, conservatives are letting their principles vanishIn 1989, the year Soviet communism collapsed, John O'Sullivan, Margaret Thatcher's former speechwriter, gave the world O'Sullivan's First Law of Politics. 'All organisations that...
'The Fountain in the Forest', by Tony White - Review
Tony White's latest novel begins for all the world like a police procedural, following the delightfully named sleuth Rex King as he investigates the grisly murder of man in a Covent Garden theatre. Rex, who has a penchant for fish and chips, laments...
The Man Who Wouldn't Be President
Boris Titov is running against Vladimir Putin - but isn't interested in politicsBoris Titov is running to be president of Russia, but he's eager to talk himself out of the job. 'I am not a good politician,' he says, over breakfast at the Lanesborough...
'The Monk of Mokha', by Dave Eggers - Review
'This guy's crazy,' says a taxi driver, listening to a BBC interview with a man who has decided to become the first exporter of coffee from Mokha, Yemen, in 80 years. The man being interviewed, we have learned, has risked his life quite a few times over,...
'The Orange Balloon Dog: Bubbles, Turmoil and Avarice in the Contemporary Art Market', by Don Thompson - Review
I always suspected I disliked Jeff Koons, until I saw one of his monumental pieces at Frieze London a few years ago. Then it was confirmed. Cynicism seemed to ooze out of every millimetre of his vast, shiny sculpture. It was vividly apparent that this...
Theresa May Must Lead or Go
Time is running out for the Prime Minister. She must act like a leader or resignThe Brexit 'inner cabinet' met on Monday. It was meant to be an important meeting, one which made some real progress on deciding what kind of economic relationship with the...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
If there hasn't yet been a hurricane called Bryony there should be. The impact of Bryony Frost, just 22, this jumping season has been quite extraordinary. Since turning professional last summer, the 5lb claiming conditional has won six races on Black...
The Wiki Man: Rory Sutherland
There exist in the annals of salesmanship certain ideas that are both highly immoral and wickedly clever.Before P. T. Barnum attached his name to circuses, he ran Barnum's American Museum in Manhattan. From 1841 until its destruction by fire in 1865,...
Venezuela's Chaotic Prisons
Why prisoners in Venezuela are happy to be locked up'I murder people!' says Elanger matter-of-factly in response to my question about what he does for a living. From the comfort of my home in the UK, I have managed to get in touch, through contacts of...
'Voices: How a Great Singer Can Change Your Life', by Nick Coleman - Review
If you've ever had a text or email thread spiral wildly and unexpectedly out of control or clocked a couple having a blank-faced argument in Tesco or a mother remonstrating with her toddler even though you couldn't hear the words exchanged, then you...
'With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial', by Kathryn Mannix - Review
In the words of Dad's Army's Private Frazer: 'We're all doomed.' Life remains a dangerous business whose outcome is always fatal. Despite all kinds of medical progress, the death rate is stubbornly fixed at 100 per cent, while the ways in which we die...
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