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 May 13

Ancient and Modern
Jeremy Corbyn said: 'It is the job of leadership to hold open the space for dissent, new thinking and fit-for-purpose policy... I have always believed in standing firm and in empowering others to make up their minds and come on board when they are ready.'...
'A Portable Cosmos: Revealing the Antikythera Mechanism, Scientific Wonder of the Ancient World', by Alexander Jones - Review
The human urge for personal hygiene has had many improbable side-effects, and I can confidently assert that through the ages, sponge-divers have punched consistently above their weight. Bronze-age tools, 10th-century Islamic glassware, a Byzantine ship...
Arsenal Fans Need to Put Up or Shut Up about Arsène Wenger
Angry Arsenal fans want their manager out. Why don't they leave instead?I had 20 good years supporting Manchester United but now I follow Arsenal, and I find the treatment of the magnificent Arsène Wenger by large sections of my fellow fans mystifying...
Boris Johnson: This Is a Moment of Hope for Libya
This devastated country can have a great future - but it must compromiseWe were in a detention centre for migrants in Tripoli and we came to a big locked door. It was impressively bolted and padlocked. Someone murmured that we didn't have time to look...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
Jeremy Corbyn wants to put up income tax only for people who earn more than £80,000 a year, he says. Anyone below that figure is safe. This reminds me of John Smith's 'shadow Budget' in the 1992 general election. Smith said that the top rate of income...
Cinema: The Levelling
There are bigger entities landing at your local multiplex this week. An ancient indestructible franchise is re-re-(re-)booted in Alien: Covenant. In Jawbone, it's seconds out for yet another boxing movie. Miss Sloane is that non-staple of the repertoire,...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. My 23-year-old son has taught himself to play the piano, learning the theme tune to The Truman Show without lessons. But it is the only thing that he has learned, and now he plays it every time he walks through our hall, driving the whole family mad....
Diary: George Osborne
Watching the general election from my newsroom is an out-of-body experience. I've been involved in the last five general elections variously as photocopy boy, parliamentary candidate, shadow minister, campaign manager and chancellor. This time I'm reporting...
'Exit West', by Mohsin Hamid - Review
Every nation has the right to control its borders, but we in the West are getting a bit too comfortable dehumanising other humans for failing to fill out forms in triplicate before fleeing the carpet-bombing of their cities. In recent months, Theresa...
Food: Tanya Gold
Six Storeys on Soho is in a slender grey townhouse on Soho Square: a bar, restaurant and club. It is technically art deco, but it feels much older; it grasps back for 18th-century Soho without the typhoid epidemic and the corpses. It used to be a gay...
High Life: Taki
Much like the poor, the charity ball has always been with us, but lately it's turned into a freak. Something is rotten in the state of New York, and the name of it is the Met Gala. Once upon a time, the Metropolitan Museum's gala ball was fun. Serious...
James Forsyth: Twelve Months of May
Normally, the first anniversary of a prime minister taking office is the occasion for a lot of opinion polls and assessments. But by going to the country early, Theresa May has pre-empted that. By the time she has been in No. 10 a year, the voters will...
Japan Thinks English Is the Future - Whatever Jean-Claude Juncker Says
Whatever Mr Juncker says, Japan thinks English is the futureBuririggu deshita. Suraibi tobuWebu de gairu to gimburu shite,Nante mimuji na borogobu,Momu rassu autoguraibimashita ne.If this looks familiar, it's not surprising. This is the first verse of...
John Richardson: My Time Bullfighting with Picasso
Picasso had a thing for bulls. Martin Gayford talks to the artist's friend and biographer. Sir John Richardson about a lifelong obsession'I frequently went to bullfights with Picasso,' Sir John Richardson remarked, quite casually, as he showed me around...
Leading Article: No Left Turn
It would be easy to dismiss Jeremy Corbyn's launch of the Labour party's election campaign this week on the grounds that hardly anyone believes he has the slightest chance of becoming prime minister. But given that David Cameron was given a 0.5 per cent...
Letters
It's a Unionist revivalSir: Contrary to Alex Massie's claims, there is no rebirth of Scottish Conservatism in Scotland ('Queen of Scots', 6 May). Rather, there is a strident Unionist vote from 2014 that has found its home in the Scottish Conservative...
Live Music: Kyung Wha Chung; the Brandenburgs
Coined in 1944, 'completism' is a modern term for a modern-day obsession. What began as a phenomenon of possession -- whether of comic books, records or stamps -- has evolved in the age of Spotify, Netflix and cloud computing. No activity defines current...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
I was sitting between mother and daughter on the sofa, and we were having a 'wee night' as Glaswegians put it. Having a wee night roughly means 'celebrating'. Yesterday the daughter finished the final exam of her English degree. On the low table in front...
Made in Windsor: How the Royals Became Britain's Biggest Reality TV Show
How the royals became Britain's biggest reality TV showIt's a summer of change for the House of Windsor -- out with the old, in with the young. The Duke of Edinburgh has just announced that he is standing down. The Queen carries on, but she's 91, and...
Matthew Parris: Why It's Obvious That Morality Precedes Religion
At a beautiful church service recently I encountered again a Gospel parable that left me, again, torn between sympathy and doubt. You will recognise Matthew 25: 35-40, for its phrasing has entered the idiom: 'I was hungry and you gave me food ... sick...
Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth
I laughed, in a sympathetic way I hope, when I read a letter in the Daily Telegraph pointing out that Steve Hewlett, the media commentator who died this year, had admitted ruefully that when he had heard that his cancer was progressive he had thought...
Music: Emil Gilels
Spare a thought for Emil Gilels, still revered today by Russians as the foremost pianist of the Soviet era. The first to win a competition abroad (Brussels, 1938), Gilels was also first to be let out after Stalin died to reconnect cultural ties and earn...
Notes On. Kaspar the Savoy Cat
How to solve the problem of an unlucky 13 people at dinner? Developing a rational mind is the obvious answer, but let's pretend to be superstitious for a moment, because there's fun to be had. And indeed money: in 19th-century Paris men known as quatorzièmes...
Portrait of the Week
HomeAfter spectacular local election results, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said: 'I'm taking nothing for granted over the next five weeks. I need support from across the United Kingdom to strengthen my hand, and only a vote for me and my team will...
'Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day', by Peter Ackroyd - Review
It needs guesswork and intuition to write a history of gay London - because for centuries no one was talking, says Philip HensherIt's an important subject: the existence of a permanent and significant minority within London's life. Gay men and lesbians...
Radio: Compass: A Young World; Crossing Continents: Living with the Dead
Imagine living in a country where the average age is under 16 (in the UK it's currently 40 and increasing) so that everywhere you go you're surrounded by teenagers. It sounds exhilarating. Such optimism and energy; the sheer vitality of young blood coursing...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
Well, there were seven of us in this chain, so it was a bit crowded, to paraphrase a princess.We didn't know there were seven. We thought there were five. Imagine my confusion, therefore, when my house sale and purchase didn't go through day after day,...
Rod Liddle: The Cops Should Have Said: It's Just Stephen Fry, What Did You Expect?
Coming to a workplace near you, perhaps -- masturbation breaks. The policy was first recommended by a psychologist at Nottingham Trent 'University' and has now been supported by Dr Cliff Arnall, who is a life coach. These brief moments of respite in...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
Of the great sporting imponderables that have come into clearer view over the past few days -- will The Archers' Lily Pargetter ever score any runs for Ambridge and herald a bold new world for women's cricket? Will we see the first sub-two-hour marathon?...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
I'm due to debate the philosopher A.C. Grayling on Saturday about whether there should be a second EU referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal. It is part of a two-day event being held at Central Hall, Westminster, on 'Brexit and the political crash'....
'Strange Bird: The Albatross Press and the Third Reich', by Michele K. Troy - Review
For one who has, since boyhood, regarded the secondhand bookshop as a paradise of total immersion, it is quite shocking to discover Albatross, an unknown imprint from the English literary past. Before Albatross there was Tauchnitz, the Leipzig firm which...
Theatre: Obsession; the Treatment
Obsession at the Barbican has a complicated provenance. The experimental Belgian director Ivo van Hove adapted the show from a Visconti film based on the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. This version originated in Amsterdam and was rendered into...
'The Great Dog and Cat Massacre: The Real Story of World War Two's Unknown Tragedy', by Hilda Kean - Review
War Horse, by way of book and play and film, has brought the role of horses in war into the public consciousness. Even before it, there was the erection of an Animals in War Memorial on Park Lane, paid for by an impressive list of aristocrats under the...
The Listener: Pollinator by Blondie
Ah, Blondie. Those happy days of glorious power pop, chilly disco and rich, fruity vocals -- Debbie Harry yearning away like a very bad alleycat on heat. 'X Offender', 'In the Flesh', 'Picture This' and that one where she's in the phone booth, apparently...
Theresa May's Secret Weapon? Erotic Appeal
The apolitical British love a warrior queenTory activists last week were heard to refer to Mrs May as 'Mummy'. No Corbynista calls their hero 'Dad'. The human race is guided by myth as much as by logic, and mythology explains people to themselves more...
'The Seventh Function of Language', by Laurent Binet - Review
On 25 February 1980, Roland Barthes, the great French intellectual, was run over by a laundry van in Paris. He died from his injuries a month later. This book -- Laurent Binet's second novel -- proposes that it was not an accident; that Barthes had just...
'The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao', by Ian Johnson - Review
One afternoon in August 1978, Geoffrey Howe and Leon Brittan were flying from Beijing to Shanghai. They were on the last leg of what was for both of them the first of many official visits to China. Soon they would be ministers in Margaret Thatcher's...
'The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner', by John Keay - Review
In the 1860s, when British visitors first began to explore the high altitude pleasures of Kashmir, it was not just the beauties of the valley and the cool, pellucid waters of the Dal Lake which took their breath away. Living there was a legendary relic...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
The longer Donald Trump sits there the better Ronald Reagan looks, not least because he had a sense of humour. The President who told his aides that he should always be woken in an emergency, even if he was in a cabinet meeting at the time, once declared...
TV: American Gods
Since completing season two of the brilliant Narcos, I've been unsuccessfully looking for a replacement serial drama that is more appealing than a bath and early bed. But the problem with TV these days is that series like Breaking Bad have set the bar...
Twin Peaks: The Ultimate Study in Nostalgia
The return of Twin Peaks is part of a wave of Nineties nostalgia, says Peter HoskinIf you want to appreciate why the return of Twin Peaks is so significant, then you need to know something of the background. And, no, not the background of the show itself,...
We Need More Gas, Less Wind
Unreliable renewables are neither green nor cleanThe Global Wind Energy Council recently released its latest report, excitedly boasting that 'the proliferation of wind energy into the global power market continues at a furious pace, after it was revealed...
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