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 9

A Choice of Crime Novels
It's often the case that present-day crimes have their roots in the past. Ian Rankin's Even Dogs in the Wild (Orion, £19.99, Spectator Bookshop, £16.99) uncovers abuse and ill-treatment in a care home in the 1980s, and the murder of a teenage boy. That...
Ancient and Modern: Drinking at School with Plato
Rugby and Ampleforth schools have decided to give their charges experience of sensible drinking by introducing a little alcohol, under close staff supervision, at dinner. But, as Plato realised, what they actually need is experience of senseless drinking.Plato's...
Arts Feature: When Statues Come Down
Sculptural topplings provide an index of changing times, says Martin GayfordOne of the stranger disputes of the past few weeks has concerned a Victorian figure that has occupied a niche in the centre of Oxford for more than a century without, for the...
'A Simple Story: Dancing for His Life', by Leila Guerriero, Translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead - Review
'Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough,' said Gustave Flaubert. He might have been talking about this slim volume, which takes a slimmer subject and inflates it to an epic of noble proportions.The subject is unpromising. 'This is...
'Beyond the Fell Wall', by Richard Skelton, Illustrated by Michael Kirkman - Review
At some point during your reading of this book the realisation might dawn, if you didn't already know about his creative double life, that Richard Skelton demonstrates an unusual sensitivity to sound. Barbed wire unfolds over a dry-stone wall, an image...
'Black Dragon River: A Journey Down the Amur River at the Borderlines of Empire', by Dominic Ziegler - Review
In 2014, Beijing and Moscow signed a US$400 billion deal to deliver Russian gas to Chinese consumers. Construction of the Power of Siberia pipeline began last summer on the banks of the Amur river, known in Chinese as the Black Dragon river. It marks...
'Captivity', by György Spiró - Review
It's been a long time coming for György Spiró. However much Hungarian writers complain about the isolation forced upon them by their non-Indo-European agglutinative language, the big names have always got through, maybe to a global shrug from the reading...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
At the end of next week, a judge will decide whether the 'trial of the facts' can proceed now that its subject, Lord Janner, is dead. Janner was accused, on various occasions, of child abuse, though the Crown Prosecution Service, on three occasions,...
Cinema: Room
This is the week of The Hateful Eight , the latest Quentin Tarantino film, but Tarantino being Tarantino, there were no screenings for reviewers, so I've yet to see it. There also seems to have been some falling out with the Cineworld, Picturehouse and...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. Although I have met most of the fellow occupants of my building at residents' meetings, we don't socialise. However our newest neighbour, a Canadian, has now emailed all the other women in the building offering to open up her own flat for a bonding...
Diary: Amanda Foreman
So far my responsibilities as the 2016 chair of the Man Booker prize have been rather light. We've had our first meeting, received our first batch of books, and I've bought a smart notebook for record-keeping. I shall take a step back from journalism...
Food: Tanya Gold
The Feng Shang Princess is a floating Chinese restaurant on the Regent's Canal in north London, which flows from Little Venice to the Guardian to Limehouse, and in which they quite often find corpses in shopping trolleys and vice versa. I do not know...
High Life: Taki
OK sports fans, what do Dame Vivien Duffield and Evelyn Waugh have in common? The answer is absolutely nothing, so why start 2016 with such a dumb question? Waugh was short and round and so is Vivien, but apart from weight and height there are no similarities....
Hugo Rifkind: What a Spankingly Splendid Scandal
Apparently, according to a variety of relatively reliable sources that include the man himself, the Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, is in the habit of accepting money from a paparazzi agency in exchange for advising them how they might best snap...
James Forsyth: Corbyn Is Untouchable Now
There have been few more pathetic displays of political impotence than the tweets sent by shadow cabinet members paying tribute to Michael Dugher after his sacking by Jeremy Corbyn. Dugher, a classic northern Labour fixer, had taken on the role of shadow...
Leading Article: Through the Roof
When David Cameron said this week that he is worried his children would not be able to afford to buy their own homes, he struck on one of the greatest economic problems of his premiership. The old British promise is that if you work hard and make the...
Letters
A tax on empty dwellingsSir: Both the Conservative and Labour candidates ('Battle for London', 2 January) rightly see housing as the big issue in London's mayoral election this year: Ukip and the Greens would probably say the same. But if one travels...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
This is an uplifting story of survival with which to usher in the New Year. At Stoke Park, my home in Northamptonshire, I went the other day into the West Pavilion, one of two 17th-century buildings that were once connected by colonnades to a country...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
The new year was two hours young. My boy and I were side by side on a row of three fixed plastic seats in the corridor of the accident and emergency ward. The both of us had come directly from our respective New Year's Eve festivities, as had most, if...
Martin Vander Weyer: Another Banking Review Is Pointless: Just Carry on Naming, Shaming and Jailing
Was the Financial Conduct Authority leaned on by the Chancellor to scrap its 'review of banking culture'? Or did it decide pragmatically that its resources would be better devoted to pursuing individual cases of cheating and criminality? I suspect the...
Matthew Parris: Our Leaders' Suicidal Urge to Sex It Up
It has been over a month since Parliament voted to bomb Isis in Syria, yet in that time there have been fewer raids than there are Lib Dem MPs. A flurry of three attacks took place immediately following the vote on 1 December, but since then there has...
Mind Your Language: Chattering Classes
When the much missed Frank Johnson (1943-2006), once editor of The Spectator , wrote in 1980 that 'the peculiar need for something to be frightened about only seems to affect those of us who are part of the chattering classes', I think that 'those of...
Museums: The V&A's New Europe Galleries
Before cheap flights, trains were the economical way to discover Europe and its foibles. Personally, I enjoyed the old fuss at border crossings. By the time I was 18, I had memorised those warning notices in the carriages: Nicht hinauslehnen ; Defense...
My Transsexual Flirtation
My top-deck encounter with a flamboyant strangerI had just sat down on the top deck of a number 38 London bus when I saw him looking at me. He was black and wore a fake-fur coat and orange leggings. There were glittering rings on his fingers, fake diamonds...
Notes On. Cirencester
Everywhere you look in Cirencester there's another animal: a cockerel, a hare, a sheep or a skulking lioness. I rather fancied the big beasts that chase each other lustily around the Roman mosaics in the Corinium Museum, home to one of the liveliest...
Opera: Eugene Onegin
It's scene five of Kasper Holten's production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and Michael Fabiano's Lensky is alone with a snow-covered branch and his thoughts. Well, not quite alone. At the other side of the stage stands the man he is about to face...
Portrait of the Week
HomeDavid Cameron, the Prime Minister, decided to allow ministers to campaign for either side in the referendum on membership of the European Union, once his negotiations had been concluded on Britain's relationship with the EU. The government said it...
Radio: America in Black and White; the Boat Children; Record Review
One of the most shocking items of recent news has been the bald statistic that the number of people shot by law enforcement officers in the United States last year was 1,136. Not died by gangland shooting, domestic violence or terrorist attack. But killed...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
'Start at the back and try to pass as many horses as you can,' said the trainer, as we stepped on to the all-weather track at Lingfield.It was only a practice gallop but I couldn't have been more excited if I'd been lining up for the Gold Cup.Darcy had...
Rod Liddle: Why We Have to Stand by the Foul, Brutal Saudis
The Saudis have got the new year off to a busy start, haven't they? The authorities executed 47 people, including a rather grim-looking Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr -- leading Shia cleric and children's party balloon sculptor (giraffes a speciality). OK, I made...
Rwanda's New Tragedy
The ultimate 'donor darling' is becoming a dictatorship whose critics live in fearNever lighthearted, my African political exile friend sounded particularly lugubrious on the line from Washington. His voice was low and pensive. For the past few months,...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
On Sunday morning a friend texted: 'You watching the big bash, or the domestic stuff down in Australia?' On one channel, you could be in Cape Town as Ben Stokes slaughtered the bowling attack of the world's No. 1 side; one click and you were in Brisbane...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
How much longer can the liberal left survive in the face of growing scientific evidence that many of its core beliefs are false? I'm thinking in particular of the conviction that all human beings are born with the same capacities, particularly the capacity...
Television: War and Peace
Gosh what a breath of fresh air was Andrew Davies's War & Peace adaptation (BBC1, Sundays) after all the stale rubbish that was on over Christmas. There were times when the yuletide TV tedium got so bad that I considered preparing us all a Jonestown-style...
'The Art of Smuggling: The Gentleman Drug Trafficker Who Turned Britain on', by Francis Morland, with Jo Boothby - Review
The Art of Smuggling comes garlanded with fraternal encomia from Howard 'Mr Nice' Marks, Phil Sparrowhawk (author of Grass) and Maurice O'Connor (author of The Dealer ), but it seems the author was hardly a master of his chosen art. As Eddie the Eagle...
Theatre: Wonder.land; Hapgood; the Lorax
Damon Albarn and Rufus Norris present a musical version of Alice in Wonderland . A challenging enterprise even if they'd stuck to the original but they've fast-forwarded everything to the present day. The titular heroine, a trusting and solemn Victorian...
'The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins: Volume VIII: Diaries, Journals and Notebooks', by Lesley Higgins - Review
'I am 12 miles from a lemon,' lamented that bon vivant clergyman Sydney Smith on reaching one country posting. He was related to Gerard Manley Hopkins, a priest who, in the popular imagination, would quite possibly balk at the offer of a lemon. After...
'The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine', by Serhii Plokhy - Review
Timothy Snyder traces Ukraine's complex history from its classical heritage to the present dayAt the beginning of the historical record, the lands that we now call Ukraine were a reservoir of fantasy. Achilles probably did not sail from a Greek port...
The Great Gun Argument
Whenever there's another mass shooting in America, like the massacre in San Bernardino last month, I think immediately of my Uncle Bill in Texas, a retired military man, practising Catholic, Republican, NRA member, community volunteer and civil libertarian...
The Isis Executioner and Me
Did my taunt drive Abu Rumaysah to become the new 'Jihadi John'?Even if Abu Rumaysah does turn out to be the new 'Jihadi John', shown on video this week presiding over the murder of five innocent men, I'm not sorry I encouraged him to go to Syria and...
The Painful Truth about Ruth Davidson
Scots love their Tory leader. But they won't vote for herMinority sects are often more interesting, and more colourful, than their more popular rivals. That must explain why the Scottish Tories continue to be the subject of so much fascination. Barely...
The Truth about Islamic State: They're in Trouble
Disillusioned Islamic State recruits are deserting the bloodthirsty terror group as it loses territoryThe latest video from Isis introduces a new British executioner, a successor to 'Jihadi John', and it is a classic of the genre: bombastic, pompous,...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
The well-bred Sea Pigeon, who had finished seventh in the Derby when trained at Beckhampton by Jeremy Tree, was later bought by the wine and spirits importer Pat Muldoon to go into training over hurdles with Gordon W. Richards in Penrith. The story goes...
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