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 January 7

Ancient and Modern
Ex-chancellor George Osborne is planning a book to be titled The Age of Unreason . He says that 'it will be my attempt to understand why populist nationalism is on the rise in our western democracies'. An Athenian would have been most surprised by that...
Bridge: Janet De Botton
Simon Gillis's team has had a very successful year. They won the Gold Cup (for the second time), they joined the Premier League in the second division and got promoted, and they won the team's event in the 2015 London Year End congress. This year the...
'Brutus and Other Heroines: Playing Shakespeare's Roles for Women', by Harriet Walter - Review
A few years ago, I fell hopelessly in love with Harriet Walter. It only lasted an hour or two: she was playing Brutus in Phyllida Lloyd's all-female production of Julius Caesar , and there she was, aloof, damaged, burning with pride and suppressed sorrow.The...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
'My deep concern is that because of changed ways that news is now gathered, collated, packaged, delivered and displayed, the country can often find itself in... the tyrannical grip of the massed media... which could seriously threaten the political health...
Cinema: Silence
Silence is Martin Scorsese's film about Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan whose faith is sorely tested, just as your patience will be sorely tested too. There are moments of grandeur. The landscape is lush, and often mistily beautiful. The torture...
Competition: Take Five
In Competition No. 2979 you were invited to supply your contribution to a series of parodies of Enid Blyton's Famous Five stories that have just been published which re-imagine the five as adults -- or to give another children's classic the same treatment.Everyone...
Cricket's Quota Quandary
South Africa's sporting quotas have a laudable aim. Is that enough?Sport is a serious matter. If you have any doubts on that score, shed them now, because this is to be a South African year. The South African cricket team comes to England in the summer...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. I have bought a second-floor flat which comes with a bow-shaped balcony which overlooks a communal garden. My problem is that I will want to go on to the balcony to smoke but I won't want my neighbours to see me doing this. Nor will I want them to...
Diary: Harry Mount
On New Year's Day I went for a swim off Broad Haven beach in Pembrokeshire. The water was 10.3ºC: pretty good agony, but not as bad as the cold on the soles of my feet as I changed on the icy sand. Cold-water swimming is on the up -- 700 people took...
Exhibitions: The Radical Eye - Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection
'Radical' is like 'creative', a word that has been enfeebled to the point of meaninglessness. Everybody seems to want to be both, but nobody has any clear idea of what might be involved. In the case of this exhibition, radical could refer either to aesthetic...
Food: Tanya Gold
Margot is an Italian restaurant on Great Queen Street in the still interesting part of Covent Garden. The uninteresting part is the piazza, once the first classical square in London but now a shopping district so devoted to famous brands that it is essentially...
High Life: Taki
Gstaad New Year's Eve was a Rhapsody in Blue , with a clarinet glissando that promised joys to come, and the Gershwin downbeat not registering until 6 a.m. The hangover was, of course, Karamazovian, but who the hell cares. I am finally solid again, and...
How the Liberal Elite Learn to Be Foolish
What explains the silliness of the liberal elite? Their educationEnough! Enough! For months, the so-called liberal elite has been writing articles, having radio and TV discussions, giving sermons (literally) and making speeches in which it has struggled...
Hugo Rifkind: In Our Virtual Future, Why Would Anyone Work?
A flash of the future, over the holidays, that felt like a flash of the past. It happened on Christmas Day, just after lunch, when my father-in-law gave me a virtual reality headset. It looks like a pair of ski goggles. They used to be fearsomely...
Isabel Hardman: May's Big Chance
It is the fate of all new prime ministers to be compared with their recent predecessors. Theresa May has already been accused of being the heir to the micro-managing Gordon Brown. Her allies, meanwhile, see a new Margaret Thatcher, an uncompromising...
'Jean Cocteau: A Life', by Claude Arnaud - Review
All biography is both an act of homage and a labour of dissection, and all biographers are jealous of their subjects. Most keep it cool, but some like it hot and have created a distinct category in which jealousy becomes murder followed by necromancy:...
Leading Article: Sir Ivan's Exit
The wonder about Sir Ivan Rogers's resignation as Britain's ambassador to the EU is that he was still in the job. He may have possessed useful knowledge about the workings of the EU, but he was also heavily associated with a failed way of conducting...
Letters
Yet another kind of snobSir: May I offer another definition of a 'snob' to the one described by Bryan Appleyard ('A different class of snob', 31 December)? I have always believed that a snob is someone who has risen in the world and now looks down with...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
The past year has been tumultuous, full of upheaval and tragedy, but my chickens have been spared it all. Indeed, their year has been unusually pleasant and peaceful. After years in which they have been regularly subjected to murderous assaults by foxes...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
On the Monday before Christmas, the black dog came around again and I couldn't get out of bed. I lay all day staring at the wall. Depression has little to do with sadness, I think. It's blankness. The same thing happened to me about 15 years ago. I was...
Martin Vander Weyer: Markets Start the Year Strong While Italy Totters towards the Next Crisis
The headline business story of the holiday season was the latest bailout of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena. This is Italy's third largest bank and, according to recent ECB 'stress tests', Europe's weakest -- regarded by pessimists both as a potential...
Matthew Parris: An Age of Bright New Lights on Ugly New Estates
'Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers,' remarked the journalist and screenwriter Ben Hecht, 'is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.' He was right, but the fault lies not with the newspapers....
Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth
Here are eight invasive Americanisms to continue annoying us in 2017.Running for office . Liz Kendall was 'running for the party leadership last year', the Times said. In Britain she should have been standing .Standing in line . A mother was 'standing...
Notes On. Pub Quizzes
For more than 20 years now, I have been trudging up the hill to the Prince of Wales in Highgate on Tuesday evenings to take part in that tiny pub's venerable weekly quiz. Each evening promises something different and yet somehow the same: ferocious competition,...
'Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature', by Shelley DeWees - Review
When resurrecting forgotten writers of the past, make sure they're not neglected for good reason, says Philip HensherOne of the most interesting developments in modern publishing has surely been the revival of interest in women writers of the past. Beginning...
Opera: Die Rosenkavalier; la Vie Parisienne
In Joseph Roth's The Radetzky March , the ageing Emperor Franz Joseph regrets the drab field-grey that has replaced his army's once-colourful uniforms, seeing in it a premonition of an empire -- a world -- soon to be defeated and broken up. Franz Joseph...
Portrait of the Week
HomeSir Ivan Rogers, Britain's ambassador to the EU, resigned; he had been expected to play an important part in talks on Brexit. In a lengthy email to staff he said: 'Free trade does not just happen when it is not thwarted by authorities.' He referred...
Putin's Revolutionary Dilemma
The 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution presents today's Russian autocrats with an embarrassing dilemmaHow to celebrate the centenary of the Russian revolutions of 1917? Modern Russians are deeply divided over the legacy of that tumultuous year....
Radio: Radio.garden; Reading Europe
A new website, radio.garden, lets us browse radio stations across the globe. Nothing new about that. That's been a key feature of wireless since the days of valves and crystals. Turning a knob and stopping off at Hilversum, Motala, Ankara or Reykjavik,...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
The most annoying thing about starting a new year is how long it takes for everyone to crank themselves back into action.I knew I wasn't getting the real picture when I rang the taxman to say I would like to pay in instalments, and the chap on the other...
Rod Liddle: My Poster Girl for Free Speech
Now is the time of year to take down the Christmas decorations from your front window and put up, in their place, the anti-immigration posters. Please display them prominently and make sure the message on each is suitably strident. It behoves all of...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
Those who occupy them sometimes say that the only two jobs that matter in England are Chief of the Defence Staff and editor of the Times . Others argue for Prime Minister or England's cricket captain. Either way, a shoo-in is not the way to get the right...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
After Sir Stafford Northcote and Sir Charles Trevelyan completed their report on civil service reform in 1854, in which they made the controversial recommendation that recruitment should be based on a competitive exam, the government carried out what...
Television: Sherlock
One of the few intelligent responses from the liberal-left to our radically altered political landscape was an essay published last year in the impeccably right-on Vox . It began: 'There is a smug style in American liberalism ...It is a way of conducting...
The Age of Katie Hopkins
More press regulation will give us more idiotic anti-journalists of the Katie Hopkins varietyKatie Hopkins did something dreadful this week, which is not unusual, because she craves such things. She retweeted praise -- also not unusual, for she is narcissistic...
The Atomoxetine Year
My son loved his new treatment - but it changed his life for the worse Driving my son's snake, Todd, a 3ft python wrapped in a pillowcase, to a Brighton vet in August was child's play compared to the rest of what had gone on that summer. My...
Theatre: Hedda Gabler; Love
Hedda Gabler is one of the most influential plays ever written. It not merely illuminated an injustice, the enslavement of women within marriage, it fomented the revolutionary achievements of feminism. It deserves to be done as Ibsen intended. This...
'The Disappearance of Emile Zola: Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Affair', by Michael Rosen - Review
Michael Rosen, a poet, journalist and prolific author of novels for children, has written an account of Emile Zola's year's exile in England between July 1898 and June 1899, as a result of his involvement in the Dreyfus Affair in France. It is not a...
'The Leveller Revolution', by John Rees - Review
Jeremy Corbyn will probably enjoy this book -- which doesn't mean you won't. Asked to name the historical figure he most admired when first standing for the Labour leadership, Corbyn answered thatin English history a very interesting character is John...
The Magic of Arthur Rackham
Laura Freeman celebrates the riotous imagination of tidy, thrifty, cautious Arthur RackhamArthur Rackham shouldn't have lived in anything as conventional as a house. It should have been a gingerbread cottage, like the one he drew for Grimms' Fairy Tales...
The Trump Doctrine
On foreign policy, Donald Trump will either win big or destroy decades of American doctrine Every American president since Harry Truman has arrived in the White House committed to globalism -- a belief that America must lead always and everywhere...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
The biggest oohs and aahs on the entertainment scene this winter were nothing to do with the 'He's behind you ...oh no he isn't' of pantomime. They were the collective gasps of astonishment from 21,000 spectators at Kempton Park on Boxing Day as Thistlecrack,...
'Unguarded: My Autobiography', by Jonathan Trott - Review
Frankie Howerd, the great, if troubled, comedian, was once asked whether he enjoyed performing. 'I enjoy having performed,' he replied. Many top-level sportsmen would say something similar. The satisfaction often comes from having done, not always from...
'What a Fish Knows', by Jonathan Balcombe - Review
The recent furore over a freakshow ice rink in Japan, with hapless fishes embedded beneath the skaters' feet, was inexplicable to some. The fish were dead already, weren't they, bought from the market? What's the difference between eating them and gliding...
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