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 28

A Nazi's Souvenirs
Hitler's adoring notes to Unity Mitford - and her family's campaign to stop my book The English aristocracy has had its fair share of misfits, and one of the most far-fetched was Unity Mitford. No novelist would dare invent the story of a young woman...
Ancient and Modern: Rome's 99 per Cent
In the UK the richest 1 per cent -- 300,000 -- of the working population control 23 per cent of the nation's total wealth. Austerity and cuts loom. Oxfam says there are 13 million 'relatively' poor in the country. But the poor seem rather relaxed...
Cameron's Secret Coalition Strategy
The Prime Minister could never admit it, but he's dreaming of - and scheming for - another coalition David Cameron is honest to a fault -- or so he told us this week. While cooking lunch in the kitchen of his Oxfordshire home, he was asked, in terms,...
Cinema: Cinderella
CinderellaU, Nationwide Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella is a Disney film based on a Disney film, so is double Disney, if you like. It is a live-action adaptation of the 1950 animated version, and an entirely faithful retelling. As such, it comes with...
Classical Sculpture's Great Survivors
For centuries there has been a note of yearning in our feelings about ancient Greek and Roman art. We can't help mourning for what has irretrievably vanished. In 1764 Johann Joachim Winckelmann wrote that we have 'nothing but a shadowy outline left...
Cold Heart of the Home
Against sterile modern kitchens 'I love my new kitchen heart of the home let's fill it with friends happy.' So says the thought bubble in the current ad for the estate agents Rightmove, part of their 'Find your happy' campaign. Don't even get me started...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. When sending wedding invitations, does one put the full titles on the card, or can one just put, for example, Jane and John having addressed the envelope to Mr and Mrs John Smith? Isn't it strange that all one's old wedding invitations are nowhere...
Diary
I never knew classicists could be so scary! Last week I wrote a Telegraph article saying classics exams had been dumbed down. It followed the news that Camden School for Girls -- the last comprehensive in the country to teach Greek A-level -- is...
'Double Cross in Cairo: The True Story of the Spy Who Turned the Tide of War in the Middle East', by Nigel West - Review
Double Cross in Cairo: The True Story of the Spy Who Turned the Tide of War in the Middle East Nigel WestBiteback, pp.321, £20, ISBN: 9781849547963 Second world war deception operations are now widely known, particularly those which misled the Germans...
Drink: Bruce Anderson
Towards the chimes at midnight, a few of us left a -- respectable -- establishment near Leicester Square. Eight or nine youngsters were brawling vigorously, boots and fists. 999 was dialled, and the response was admirably fast. The cops would no...
Exhibitions: Wellington: Triumphs, Politics & Passions
Wellington: Triumphs, Politics & PassionsNational Portrait Gallery, until 7 June The history of portraiture is festooned with images of sitters overwhelmed by dress, setting and the accoutrements of worldly success. Vanity, complacency and, frequently,...
High Life: Taki
It's a famous quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one that Elton John should ponder (when he's not out shopping, that is): 'The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the...
'How to Run a Government', by Michael Barber - Review
How to Run a Government Michael BarberAllen Lane, pp.316, £16.99, ISBN: 9780241004975 In 2001, Tony Blair took Sir Michael Barber from his perch as special adviser in the Department for Education and brought him into Downing Street. Once there Barber...
In Praise of Fountain Pens
A real writer sticks to his nibs Every working day before I start pounding the keyboard of my ridiculously flashy 27-inch iMac, I perform a little ritual. I straighten the fountain pens I keep on my desk, and make sure they are fully inked.Though...
James Delingpole: If You're My Age, the Present Is a Foreign Country
There was a letter to the Daily Telegraph last weekend which depressed me more than anything I've read in ages. It reported the visit by a social worker to an elderly woman who made her a cup of tea. The young social worker was shocked by what she...
Leading Article: How to Fix Our Defence Mess
With the exception of 1983, when Michael Foot promised unilateral nuclear disarmament, defence has played little role in modern election campaigns. This is not least because the two main parties appear to have developed a non-aggression pact. They...
'Leonora: A Novel', by Elena Poniatowska - Review
Leonora: A Novel Elena PoniatowskaSerpent's Tail, pp.455, £12.99, ISBN: 9781846688553 Leonora Carrington is one of those jack-in-the-boxes who languish forgotten in the cultural toy cupboard and then pop up every few years to a small flurry of excitement....
'Lesley Blanch: On the Wilder Shores of Love', by Edited by Georgia De Chamberet - Review
Lesley Blanch: On the Wilder Shores of Love edited by Georgia de ChamberetVirago, pp.464, £20, ISBN: 9780349005447 Lesley Blanch (1904-2007) will be remembered chiefly for her gloriously extravagant The Wilder Shores of Love , the story of four upper-class...
Letters
The referendum partiesSir: Zac Goldsmith and Sir John Major are each of them both right and wrong on the EU referendum ('My dad saved Britain', 28 February; Letters, 21 March). I was an MP interested in Europe, and then a PPS and minister on EU issues...
'Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia', by Janice Ross - Review
Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia Janice RossYale, pp.522, £30, ISBN: 9780300207637 On YouTube there's a brief dance video of a Viennese waltz so enchanting that not even Fred and Ginger in 'Cheek to...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
I sometimes try to imagine what it would be like being a political leader. I find this difficult because I would be so utterly ill suited to the role. I'm too lazy, too disorganised and too undisciplined to be remotely credible at it. But the area...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
I'm watching Manchester City being taken to the cleaners by Barcelona on the telly, while at the table behind me my Parisian feminist intellectual hostess Natalie is discussing female genital mutilation with her Malian girlfriend Fatou. Football...
Martin Vander Weyer: Why This Long-Awaited FTSE100 Peak Deserves Only a Small Cheer
The FTSE100 index has at last breached 7,000, surpassing its peak of 30 December 1999 and provoking moderate celebration among investors who have enjoyed such poor returns all these years. A thousand pounds invested in FTSE100 stocks on Millennium...
Mind Your Language: Poop
Danny Alexander recounted in the Diary last week his daughter's efforts in making unicorn poop . This is something of a historic marker. Most members of the cabinet in previous generations have been unforthcoming on faecal matters, particularly...
'Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet', by Jonathan Schneer - Review
Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet Jonathan SchneerOneworld, pp.352, £20, ISBN: 9781780746135 Coalitions, as David Cameron has discovered, are tricky things to manage. How much more difficult, then, was it for Winston Churchill...
Notes On. the Vatican
The sun has only just risen in Rome and we are standing bleary-eyed in a short queue outside the Vatican. Our guide, Tonia, takes us through security, and within minutes we are in a nearly empty Sistine Chapel. In an hour it will be crammed with...
Opera: Giove in Argo; Catone in Utica
Giove in Argo; Catone in UticaLondon Handel Festival Before the jukebox musical, back when Mamma Mia! , Jersey Boys and Viva Forever! were still dollar-shaped glints in an as-yet-unborn producer's eye, there was the pasticcio opera. Literally a...
Portrait of the Week
HomeDavid Cameron, who was cutting up lettuce in his kitchen, told James Landale of the BBC that he would not seek a third term as Prime Minister, even if he secured a second. Mr Cameron was heckled the next day by pensioners at an Age UK conference....
Radio: The Podcast Boom
To a debate on the future of radio at the BBC where it turns out not to be a discussion on who's listening now but how they're listening. The Reithian ambition to inform, educate and entertain needs to change, says Mary Hockaday, controller of BBC...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
The builder boyfriend has a new girlfriend. I suppose he was bound to move on eventually. I just never thought he would move on this quickly. From the day I told him, in the traditional female way, that it really wasn't working and never would work...
Rod Liddle: How to Make a Political Party Vanish
The establishment drive to marginalise Ukip has been under way for three months now, and it has having its effect. You will not read anything about Ukip in your newspapers unless it is a negative story -- some half-witted candidate's office fraudulently...
Salmond's Plan for Miliband
'Would you like a glass of pink champagne?' asks Alex Salmond at 3.30 p.m., sounding very much like a man settling down for the afternoon. It's Monday and Scotland's former first minister has cause to celebrate. He spent the previous day musing on...
Saudi Arabia's New Enemy
Sweden's feminist foreign minister has dared to tell the truth about Saudi Arabia. What happens now concerns us all If the cries of 'Je suis Charlie ' were sincere, the western world would be convulsed with worry and anger about the Wallström affair....
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
A strange ritual takes place on Twitter most evenings at around 10.30 p.m. Hundreds of political anoraks start tweeting the results of the YouGov daily tracker poll due to be published in the following day's Sun . Some of them are neutrals, but the...
Television: Coalition
In a late schedule change, Channel 4's Coalition was shifted from Thursday to Saturday to make room for Jeremy Paxman interviewing the party leaders. With most dramas, that would mean I'd have to issue the sternest of spoiler alerts for anybody...
Theatre: Stevie; Shrapnel
StevieHampstead Theatre, until 18 AprilShrapnel: 34 Fragments of a MassacreArcola, until 2 April Quite a hit factory these days, the Hampstead Theatre. The latest candidate for West End glory is Hugh Whitemore's bio-drama about Stevie Smith. Not an...
The Cult of 'Wellness'
Our desperation to believe in power of lifestyle change makes us vulnerable to charlatans Belle Gibson was a publicist's dream: a 'wellness guru' and young mother with a wholesome blonde beauty, a wide white smile, and just enough tattoos to look...
'The First Bad Man', by Miranda July - Review
The First Bad Man Miranda JulyCanongate, pp.288, £14.99, ISBN: 9781782116721 Miranda July is a funny and brilliant film director, performance artist, sculptor and smartphone app designer. In 2005, she won the Best First Feature award at Cannes for...
'The Land Breakers', by John Ehle - Review
The Land Breakers John EhleNYRB Classics, pp.368, £11.99, ISBN: 9781590177631 It's rare that granitic and iron-jawed prose is also enveloping and warm, but that's just one of the many enticing literary paradoxes in the American writer John Ehle's...
'The Laughing Monsters', by Denis Johnson - Review
The Laughing Monsters Denis JohnsonHarvill Secker, pp.240, £12.99, ISBN: 9781846559341 'I've come back because I love the mess. Anarchy. Madness. Things falling apart.' The lines belong to Roland Nair, one of the morally bankrupt spies who careers...
The Man Who Saved Welfare
Cameron was right about one thing: not sacking Lord Freud It was mid-October and Downing Street was in a panic. Lord Freud, the welfare minister, had been secretly recorded suggesting that disabled people could be paid less than the minimum wage.Labour...
'The Old Boys: The Decline and Rise of the Public Schools', by David Turner - Review
The Old Boys: The Decline and Rise of the Public Schools David TurnerYale, pp.326, £25, ISBN: 9780300189926 The public schools ought to have gone out of business long ago. The Education Act of 1944, which promised 'state-aided education of a rapidly...
'The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland', by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst - Review
The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland Robert Douglas-FairhurstHarvill Secker, pp.488, £25, ISBN: 9781846558610 'A vision of innocence was not always the same as an innocent vision,' remarks Robert Douglas-Fairhurst....
The Wiki Man: Rory Sutherland
Driving from Dover on the M20 a year ago I missed the turning for the M25. A month later I did it again. Then again. 'You bloody idiot -- you missed the turning,' I said to myself each time. Eventually, after I had missed the turning five times in...
'The Wolf Border', by Sarah Hall - Review
The Wolf Border Sarah HallFaber, pp.448, £17.99, ISBN: 9780571258123 Locate. Stalk. Encounter. Rush. Chase. The pace of Sarah Hall's fifth novel follows the five stages of a wolf hunt as she imagines a pack of apex predators restored to the British...
'Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes', by Richard Davenport-Hines - Review
Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes Richard Davenport-HinesCollins, pp.432, £18.99, ISBN: 9780007519804 To the 21st-century right, especially in the United States, John Maynard Keynes has become a much-hated figure whose name is...
Video Games: Rise of the Independents
Sometimes a guy feels abstracted from the world. He visits Europe's finest galleries, but the paintings seem to hang like corpses from the walls. The great symphonies fail to stir his interest, let alone his soul. So he goes home, pours a large whisky...
What's Wrong with the 'Sharing Economy'
The sinister, manipulative side of Uber and Airbnb Technology businesses have a genius for inflicting indignities on us and spinning them as virtues. When they don't want to respect copyright, they talk about the 'democratisation of content'. When...
Wild Life: Aidan Hartley
LaikipiaWith a shriek, the warrior arched his body, readying to sling his spear at my chest. The tear-dropped javelin point flashed in the sun. In the heat, dust swirled up from the hooves of the young blood's cattle invading my farm. In his hand, the...
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