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 February 25

Ancient and Modern
Donald Trump takes it as read that any criticism of his words or actions is an assault on the truth. The historian Tacitus, who had served Roman emperors in high office (including as consul), recognised the frame of mind and reflected on how one could...
Architecture: London's Lost Mies Van der Rohe
What a strange affair it now seems, the Mansion House Square brouhaha. How very revealing of the battle for the soul of architecture that reached maximum ferocity in the late 1980s and which still echoes today. Where developers now jostle to build ever...
Are You Ready for Queen Camilla?
The Prince of Wales is campaigning, with skill and discretion, to crown his consort one day. It's still wrongHow would you feel about a Queen Camilla, as in the wife of King Charles? Personally I'd be dead against, for reasons I'll bore you with later,...
'A Woman's Work', by Harriet Harman - Review
We're told not to judge books by their covers, but faced with these two it's hard not to. Harman's is one of those thick, expensive tomes which, understandably, politicians write when they've had enough earache and, unbelievably, publishers keep buying...
'Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe', by Kapka Kassabova - Review
The border between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey has long been a flashpoint. Now, more than ever, says Simon Kuper, it's a hazardous transit realm for the homelessIn Ali's Café, just inside Turkey on the Bulgarian border, Iraqi and Syrian refugees spend...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
Last month, at Policy Exchange, I met a charming, quiet American general called H.R. McMaster. In conversation, I was struck by his zeal for Nato and his concern wherever the alliance is now weakest, as in Turkey. In his speech to the thinktank, he said...
Cinema: It's Only the End of the World
Xavier Dolan's It's Only the Endof the World is one of those angst-ridden dramas focusing on what is commonly referred to as a 'dysfunctional family' as if there might be any other kind and it isn't just a question of degree. This family certainly doesn't...
'Claretta: Mussolini's Last Lover', by R.J.B. Bosworth - Review
As a child in fascist Italy, Clara Petacci (known as Claretta) was dutifully adoring of Benito Mussolini and the cult of ducismo. She gave the stiff-armed Roman salute while at school (the Duce had declared handshaking fey and unhygienic) and sang the...
Competition: You're Toast
In Competition No. 2986 you were invited to submit a poem about a deadly foodstuff.My inspiration for this assignment was the appalling news that toast can kill you, which is yet another depressing indication that everything good is bad for you. Or perhaps,...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. I've listened to the radio to deal with insomnia for years (Dear Mary, 18 February) and your suggestion of single earphones does not work well. They hurt your ear -- when they haven't fallen out of it. The answer is either a Roberts Radio Pillow Talk...
Diary: Julie Burchill
More than 20 years ago, I left my fast life in London for a rather more relaxed one in Brighton and Hove. I never dreamt I could enjoy it more till all the business with the trains started up a few years back. The chaos at Southern Railway -- which has...
Drink: Bruce Anderson
Call me a sentimental old whatever, but watching a four-year old hearing The Tale of Samuel Whiskers for the first time, read by someone who could do the police in different voices, took one as far from the Waste Land as is possible. It also made me...
Emmanuel Macron: L'anti-Trump
Can the whizz-kid of French politics win?If you believe the hype, Emmanuel Macron is l'anti-Trump. He is what the inter-national centre-left, reeling from the shocks of Brexit and the US election and fearful of a victory for Marine Le Pen in France,...
Exhibition: America after the Fall
The latest exhibition at the Royal Academy is entitled America after the Fall. It deals with painting in the United States during the 1930s: that is, the decade before the tidal surge of abstract expressionism. So this show is a sort of prequel to the...
Exhibition: Eduardo Paolozzi
Rudolfo Paolozzi was a great maker. In the summer, he worked almost without stopping in the family's ice-cream shop, making gallon after gallon of vanilla custard. In the slack winter months, when the shop made its money on cigarettes and sweets, he...
Exhibition: Electricity at the Wellcome Collection
Poetry, animals, perms and Bovril are all part of the sparky history of electricity, writes Richard HolmesAs you go into the new Wellcome Collection exhibition, Electricity: The Spark of Life, you might have in mind a sentence from Mary Shelley's original...
From Booksellers to Censors
Why I've cancelled my signing at an anti-Trump bookshopTo my mind, a bookshop is like a library -- the only difference is that you buy the books, you don't borrow them. But both have a duty to provide books (space and budgets allowing) reflecting a wide...
Graphic Art: Future Shock - 40 Years of 2000AD
Borag Thungg, Earthlets! If those words mean something to you, then congratulations -- you are leading a good life. If not, then you owe it to yourself to pay attention. They are the words of greeting that Tharg the Mighty, the extraterrestrial editor...
Halting Britain's Moral Slide
Why it's time to establish a Social Highway CodeLife in Britain has become much cruder, meaner and more spiteful practically everywhere. It can be seen in people's behaviour on the street; in those abominable neighbours from hell; in companies piling...
'Hame', by Annalena McAfee - Review
Alex Salmond, former first minister of Scotland, once claimed that he could always tell Scottish fiction from English. Novels, he said, reveal fundamental differences in the values of the Scots and the English.I wonder then what he would make of Annalena...
High Life: Taki
From my chalet high up above the village, I look up at the immense, glistening mountain range of the Alps, and my spirit soars. Even youthful memories receding into sepia cannot bring me down from the high. Mountains, more than seas, can be exhilarating...
Islam's Lost Enlightenment
The Muslim world had an age of modernisation. It died in the first world warI am quite used to people smirking into their sleeves when they hear that I've just written a book called The Islamic Enlightenment. The really helpful wags say they expect something...
James Delingpole: Killing Spree of the Fluffy Green Idiots
Who do you think was responsible for Europe's biggest environmental disaster of the past three decades; one that caused more widespread damage and killed more people than even the nuclear accident at Chernobyl?Was it a) greedy and selfish capitalists,...
Leading Article: Lost Boys
For a body supposedly committed to eliminating inequality between the sexes, the Women and Equalities Select Committee don't exactly lead from the front. Only three of the 11 members are men. To some, this will be a welcome corrective to the still male-dominated...
Letters
Seeing off the SpeakerSir: If senior Tories in Buckingham had had their way, John Bercow's career as Speaker could have been over long before he had a chance to make any 'spectacularly ill-judged' remarks (Politics, 18 February). At the 2010 election,...
'Lines in the Sand: Collected Journalism', by A.A. Gill - Review
When A.A. Gill died last December, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth across the nation. I must admit this came as a surprise to me, but then I hadn't read him for many years, having developed a ferocious dislike for the Sunday Times too long ago...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
I stepped off the train in Barcelona at 7.30 in the evening and followed directions to the hostel. The February night air felt almost balmy. I found the street easily enough -- a busy thoroughfare of bars and independent shops. The hostel entrance was...
Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth
The number of things I don't know is infinite -- or infinite minus one, if such as number exists, since I discovered something the other day: the most unlikely origin for a common phrase. I could hardly believe it at first.A perfectly current idiom in...
'Night Trains: The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper', by Andrew Martin - Review
As a child, I used to travel with my mother from London to Cannes, a journey that took slightly under 24 hours. The strangest part of the trip was the three or four hours in Paris, where the train trundled between the Gare du Nord and the Gare de Lyon...
Opera: Le Vin Herbé; Madam Butterfly
Frank Martin is one of those composers whose work seems to survive only by virtue of constantly renewed neglect. His quite large body of work is well represented in the CD catalogues, but rarely performed in the UK. One of his most powerful works is...
Portrait of the Week
HomeTheresa May, the Prime Minister, sat on the steps of the throne, as a privy counsellor, watching the Lords debate the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The Supreme Court upheld the rule that Britons must earn more than £18,600 before...
Radio: Sounds of the 60s; Jo Whiley; Black like Me
This weekend Brian Matthew will present his last-ever Sounds of the 60s show on Radio 2. Now 88, he's been in charge at breakfast time on Saturdays since 1990, his gravelly voice deepening and getting hoarser with the years. You could tell he was well...
'Reading Allowed: True Stories and Curious Incidents from a Provincial Library', by Chris Paling - Review
This book kept reminding me of Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. Just as his character spied on customers' private lives while developing their pictures, so Chris Paling gets to know the readers at the library where he works. Unlike Williams he doesn't...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
Unexpectedly re-available is a very good phrase. I have often seen it applied to house advertisements and thought how fabulously impertinent it sounds, so I am asking the agents to attach it to the description of my flat now that it is back on the market...
Rod Liddle: Are Satanic Abuse Cops 120 per Cent Gullible?
I got lost in the forest near my house while walking the dog the other week. The path I was on, and which I thought I knew, narrowed until it was scarcely a path at all. The trees closed in and brambles tore at my legs. Somewhere, high above, I could...
'Rogues' Gallery: A History of Art and Its Dealers', by Philip Hook - Review
Rogues' Gallery describes itself as a history of art and its dealers, and Philip Hook, who has worked at the top of Sotheby's for decades, is well versed in his subject. Sadly for the prurient, this is not an exposé of the excesses of the market from...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
According to a front-page story in the Times earlier this week, your personality does change over the course of your lifetime. A study carried out by Edinburgh University found that the personalities of a group of people in their seventies had changed...
Television: SS-GB; Tom Waits: Tales from a Cracked Jukebox
Rival law-enforcement agencies arguing about which of them should investigate a murder has, of course, been a staple of crime dramas for decades. Rather less common, though, is for the agencies in question to be the Metropolitan Police, the Gestapo and...
'The Fatal Tree', by Jake Arnott - Review
'To get a confession from a proud male factor, it is always better to call for a poet than a priest.' These are the wise words of William Archer, the narrator of part of The Fatal Tree and the notional editor of the rest. Mind you, he's biased: he aspires...
'The Last Days of New Paris', by China Miéville - Review
At the start of this novella the protagonist, Thibaut, is ambushed by Wehrmacht soldiers between the ninth and tenth arrondissements. That the year in 1950 is not the strangest aspect, as he is rescued by the appearance of the Vélo, a bicycle-like contraption...
The McMaster Plan
Is Trump's new security chief still the thinking man's general?When Lt Gen H.R. McMaster was appointed by Donald Trump to the post of national security adviser, newspaper reports hailed him as a military strategist. It's not fully clear what the phrase...
Theresa May's Third Way
Theresa May's path between globalism and nationalismForget left and right -- the new divide in politics is between nationalists and globalists. Donald Trump's team believe that he won because he was the America First candidate, defying the old rules...
Why We Need Ubercare
Could an app help me look after my husband?There is much to be faulted in Uber, which has branched out from delivering people into delivering meals, under the unappetising name UberEats. But even I, someone who can rarely bring herself to write the word...
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