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 March 5

A Conservative Case for Voting 'In'
Europe has enjoyed an exceptional three decades of freedom and prosperity. Why risk that?I open a dusty binder and look at my yellowing Spectator articles from Poland, Germany and Russia in the dramatic 1980s. And here's one from Brussels in 1986, suggesting...
'Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria's Great Merchant City', by Philip Mansel - Review
Justin Marozzi on the bitter irony of Aleppo's ancient mottoWhen the German doctor and botanist Leonhard Rauwolff visited the Syrian city of Aleppo during an eccentrically Teutonic herb-hunting mission across the Middle East, he was instantly impressed...
Ancient and Modern: People Power Then and Now
It does seem extraordinary that the increasingly puce-faced Mr Cameron offered us an 'in-out' referendum and is now telling us that 'out' would mean the end of the world as we know it. What on earth did he think he was doing? His reaction is to eviscerate...
'Anti-Education: On the Future of Our Educational Institutions', by Friedrich Nietszche - Review
When Friedrich Nietzsche was offered a professorship in classical philology at the university of Basel in 1869 he was so happy he burst into song. He was only 24 at the time -- a year younger than Enoch Powell, who became a professor of Greek at the...
Arts Essay: Must Theatre Always Sneer at Religion?
Religion remains a surprisingly popular subject for plays. It's partly because there's already a core of theatricality there, in the rituals, the dressing-up and the little shibboleths of piety. In one way or another, religion involves performing. And...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
The government, or at least David Cameron's bit of it, seems to think that trade is something that takes place because of a trade agreement. The order is the other way round. People trade, and have done for several thousand years, because it is to their...
Cinema: Hail, Caesar!
The latest film from the Coen brothers is a comedy set during the 'golden age' of Hollywood and in some respects it is utterly delicious. George Clooney wears what is effectively a leather miniskirt throughout, which may not be 'age-appropriate', as...
Communism Kills
We need a museum to help us remember thatI went to Budapest last year and did the usual touristy things. I climbed up the hill to the fantasy castle walls in Buda. I took a boat ride. I went to the Turkish baths -- edging cautiously into scalding hot...
Dance: The Dream/A Month in the Country; the Odyssey
That joke about the young bull who tells the old bull, 'Hey, Dad, see all those cows -- let's run and get one of them,' and the old one replies, 'Let's walk and we can have the lot,' is of course far too politically incorrect to tell these days. But...
'David Astor', by Jeremy Lewis - Review
Before embarking on this book, Jeremy Lewis was told by his friend Diana Athill that his subject, the newspaper editor and philanthropist David Astor, was too 'saintly' for a lively biography. As a publisher, she had worked on an earlier authorised tome,...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. Re. your letter from F.C. about the boyfriend leaving lids off (20 February), I have a similar problem. My husband has developed the habit of leaving all doors, drawers and cupboards open. I don't want to nag, because he gets ratty when I do. I don't...
Diary: Tucker Carlson
Just as the presidential race in America started to get really crazy, I left for India. On the morning of the South Carolina primary, I interviewed Donald Trump from a restaurant near the state capitol. By the next afternoon I was dodging mopeds in a...
Donald Trump's Angry America
Welcome to Trump's America, where greed is great and viciousness beautifulListenIt was, in the end, the best possible night for Donald Trump. On Super Tuesday, 11 American states voted for Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. Trump won...
Exhibitions: Botticelli Reimagined
When Tom Birkin, hero of J.L. Carr's novel A Month in the Country , wakes from sleeping in the sun, it is to a vision: the vicar's wife Alice Keach in a wide-brimmed straw hat, a rose tucked into the ribbon. 'Her neck was uncovered to the bosom and,...
Food: Tanya Gold
Pharmacy 2 is the reanimated child of Damien Hirst; it lives inside the Newport Street Gallery in a forsaken patch of Lambeth by the railway arches. This makes it look, inevitably, like the set of The Bill , but with a painting of Damien Hirst on a nearby...
'Freya', by Anthony Quinn - Review
The name Freya is derived from the old Norse word for 'spouse', perhaps Odin's. As a goddess she is variously responsible for birth, death, war and beauty, which seems to cover a fairly wide range of human endeavour. It is a name befitting the ardent...
High Life: Taki
The rich are under attack nowadays, never more so than in America, where The Donald continues to trump his critics, amaze and surprise his fans, and drive his haters to paroxysms of sexual fantasy, with Trump as the main actor. National Review , where...
Hugo Rifkind: Of Course the Old Tory Hatreds Are Back. That's Referendums for You
Of course it's vicious. It was always going to be. Sure, they've spent decades living peacefully side by side, but so did the Hutu and Tutsi. So did the Alawites and Sunnis, and so did every manner of former Yugoslavian. In politics, old hatreds do not...
James Forsyth: Will Cameron Pull His Punches to Help the Tories Reunite?
ListenIf Downing Street's calculations are correct, next week will see politics begin to return to normal. We'll all move on from talking about Boris Johnson and Brexit and instead start fretting about the budget and pensions: the first phase of this...
Leading Article: The Prying Game
One of the marks of a good Home Secretary is a healthy wariness of those in authority who come begging for ever-greater powers. The former Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke failed on that score. Just over a decade ago, the police persuaded him that...
Letters
What might have beenSir: Harry Mount points out that Boris Johnson is two years older than David Cameron (Diary, 27 February). Both, however, began their careers in the same year. On 15 June 1988 I interviewed David Cameron for a post in the Conservative...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
On Monday I went to the newsagent to buy the newspapers and picked up the first issue of a new one calling itself the New Day . This is the creation of the company that publishes the Daily Mirror , and it is, the publishers say, intended to appeal to...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
Before we left for Sunday lunch at the Les Deux Garçons restaurant, Aix-en-Provence, I checked the reviews on Tripadvisor. I'm mildly addicted to Tripadvisor restaurant reviews -- I enjoy their Pepys-like unselfconsciousness -- and never before have...
Martin Vander Weyer: Better That the Americans Take over the London Stock Exchange
The London Stock Exchange is no longer the red-hot crucible it once was, given the multifarious ways by which shares, bonds and derivatives now change hands. But the prospect of the LSE passing into the control of Deutsche Börse -- in what was announced...
Matthew Parris: Are We Ready for Virtual-Reality News?
John Humphrys staggering around in a piece of 'virtual reality' headgear that looked like binoculars and made him feel sick was as attention-grabbing as radio can be. So I listened in last week as the intrepid Today presenter tried out infotech's latest...
Mind Your Language: Leap in the Dark
'They all laughed at Christopher Columbus,' sang my husband flatly, 'when he said the world was round.' I wasn't going to tell him yet again that George and Ira Gershwin were wrong and everyone knew the world was round when Columbus set off. But there...
Notes On. Courchevel
The last time I stayed in Courchevel it was in a tatty roadside chalet a long way down the mountain. One detail sticks: pickled cockles piled high on a platter at the closing banquet, à la Fanny Cradock. That was more than a decade ago.This time, we...
Of Geese and Men
They're noisy, filthy, scary - and glorious. No wonder we have such complicated feelings about themGrumpy Gertie was killed in a drive-by shooting. This resident of the village of Sandon, near Letchworth, was shot at close range from a passing 4×4. There...
Opera: Il Trittico
The setting for Il tabarro , the first drama in Puccini's 1918 triptych of one-act operas, is not the Paris of tourists and honeymooners, nor even the Paris of impoverished poets and painters. On a bend in the Seine a Dutch barge is moored at a soot-blackened...
Opera: The Marriage of Figaro; Figaro Gets a Divorce
Near the end of Elena Langer's new opera Figaro Gets a Divorce , as the Almaviva household -- now emigrés in an unnamed 1930s police state -- prepares to flee, the Countess announces that she intends to leave her trunk behind. It's not the subtlest moment...
Portrait of the Week
HomeAn official analysis by the Cabinet Office said that if Britain left the EU it would lead to a 'decade of uncertainty'. Opponents of Britain remaining in the EU called the report a 'dodgy dossier'. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer,...
Radio: What Makes the World Service Special
What makes the World Service so different from the rest of the BBC? I asked Mary Hockaday, the controller of the English-language service. And how does it justify the additional £289 million funding (spread over the next five years) which the Treasury...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
Darcy trod on a screw. Five little words which, if Darcy was anything other than a thoroughbred horse, might signify nothing more dramatic than a rummage through the medicine cabinet and the application of a plaster.But of course Darcy is a thoroughbred...
Rod Liddle: What Do All These Evil Maniacs Have in Common?
More bad publicity for the Islamic State's 'Kafir Tiny Tots and Babycare Service'. A burka-clad madwoman wandering through the streets of Moscow swinging a decapitated toddler's head while shouting 'Allahu akbar' is just the kind of image the company...
'Set Phasers to Stun: 50 Years of Star Trek', by Marcus Berkmann - Review
For a show with a self-proclaimed 'five-year mission', Star Trek hasn't done badly. Gene Roddenberry's 'Wagon train to the stars' is celebrating its 50th anniversary, although, as Marcus Berkmann's entertaining and irreverent history points out, things...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
Two great men have just bowed out from their chosen trades and it is bloody sad. The New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum and the journalist Hugh McIlvanney might not seem to have much in common but they both made the world a better, more joyful...
Spectator Wine: Wine Club 5 March
If the daffs outside my window are anything to go by and the robin busily building its nest in the ivy, spring is almost here. And thanks to Private Cellar, we have the perfect wines with which to greet it. At great prices too, with up to £2 a bottle...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
On Tuesday night I went to a birthday party for my father at the House of Commons. Hosted by the Labour MP Rushanara Ali, it was an enjoyable affair, full of left-wing journalists and maverick social entrepreneurs. I chatted to the Independent 's Andy...
'Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation', by Timothy J. Jorgensen - Review
About a century ago, scientists started meddling with an unfamiliar force of nature and the rest of us were terrified. That force was called electricity and nowadays we're all fine with it. What Timothy Jorgensen wants to know is: why don't we feel equally...
Television: Trapped
Some things I have learned about Iceland after watching six episodes of Trapped (BBC4, Saturdays).1. They seem to feel much the same way towards the Danes as the Irish or the Scots do towards the English.2. Some typical Icelandic first names: Andri,...
Theatre: Cleansed; Firebird
Big fuss about Cleansed at the Dorfman. Talk of nauseous punters rushing for the gangways may have perversely delighted the show's creators but I'm firmly with the exiteers. This is barely a play and more a thin, vicious pantomime with an Isis-video...
'The End of Alchemy', by Mervyn King - Review
I once asked an American friend to come and talk to the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation. He told them that he was against it. That put him ahead of his time, but Mervyn King agrees with him.In his decade as Governor of the Bank of England,...
'Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War', by Ian Buruma - Review
Though it seems to begin as an affectionate memorial to his maternal grandparents, a testimonial to a rare and perfectly happy marriage, Their Promised Land by Ian Buruma has a deeper purpose. The cache of letters to and from Winifred ('Win') and Bernard...
The Most Annoying Word in Advertising
There's a plague of first-person advertisingIt used to be 'Your M&S'. That was presumptuous enough. Now, when you drive past Earls Court exhibition hall, pathetically covered in plastic sheeting while being demolished to make way for a high-quality,...
The Next Recession
All the signs have been pointing to a new recession - and we're much less equipped to weather it than last timeJust after last year's general election, George Osborne delivered a budget that he hailed as proof that his policies were working. 'The British...
'The 'Russian' Civil Wars 1916-1926: Ten Years That Shook the World', by Jonathan D. Smele - Review
On the 24-25 October 1917 (according to the Julian Calendar, or 7-8 November according to the Gregorian) the political disputes which had shaken the Russian empire reached a peak. The provisional government, or All-Russian Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers'...
'The Stopped Heart', by Julie Myerson - Review
As its title suggests, Julie Myerson's tenth novel is about stoppage: the kind that happens when one suffers a loss so absolute and cataclysmic that there seems no possible way forward; when the future seems not merely unthinkably disrupted but also...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
Richard Johnson, possibly the nicest man to occupy a saddle and certainly the most modest, once said of his Irish rival Ruby Walsh, 'Ruby never seems to fight horses. It never looks forced with him, he never throws the kitchen sink. But I do -- metal...
'What's Yours Is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy', by Tom Slee - Review
In Silicon Valley, renting out is the new selling --and renting out stuff that belongs to other people can be far more profitable than renting out your own.Over the past few years, companies like Airbnb and Uber have made a great deal of money by pioneering...
Who Steals Books?
At my shop, it seems to be everyone from students to organised professional gangsListenNotoriously, during the riots in London five years ago, Waterstones was the only high-street shop that wasn't looted. But that depressing lack of book-pinching belied...
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