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 7

Ancient and Modern: Long before the Magna Carta
Important as the Magna Carta (ad 1215) has been as a founding myth for everything we hold dear about law and liberty, it was already hopelessly behind the times. Greeks and Romans had got there long before.Our political system derives from monarchs...
'Art in History: 600 BC to 2000 AD', by Martin Kemp - Review
Art in History: 600 BC to 2000 AD Martin KempProfile Books, pp.232, £8.99, ISBN: 9781781253366 My career at school and after was greatly enhanced by a series of books called The Bluffer's Guide to ....These gave mischievous advice, often on the reliable...
Arts Feature: Happy 100th Birthday to a Pop Icon: The Coca-Cola Bottle
The Coca-Cola 'contour' bottle is 100 years old. Stephen Bayley salutes a design classic In 1915 D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation was premièred, Henry Ford manufactured his millionth Model-T ('a million of anything is a lot', he said), Kafka's...
Barometer
Right Boot, left BootWhat would Jesse Boot, who built Britain's largest chemist chain from his father's herbal shops, made of the spat between Labour and Stefano Pessina, chief executive of the firm? -- Boot was a lifelong Liberal, but then he was already...
Cinema: Selma
Selma12A, NationwideSelma , the civil rights film that stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, undoubtedly contains the best and most powerful performance of the year as not nominated for an Oscar. Oyelowo has said this is because Hollywood prefers...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. The woman who lives above me has insomnia and walks around all night. I'm also disturbed by her rather noisy cat, which seems to be constantly jumping around. Together they are keeping me awake and my work is suffering. But we are in a small house...
Diary: Alexander Chancellor
An excellent test of character is a person's response to being offered an Oldie of the Year Award. There have always been those to whom the word 'oldie' is in itself an embarrassment. When Richard Ingrams founded the Oldie magazine in 1992, he was...
Don't Pray for an Islamic Luther
What's wrong with calls for an 'Islamic Reformation' It's been said for years now: Islam needs its reformation. Some centuries ago, Christianity ditched its theocratic impulse and affirmed modern political values -- let Islam do likewise! Let its...
Exhibitions: Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden
Marlene Dumas: The Image as BurdenTate Modern, until 10 May 'Whoever wishes to devote himself to painting,' Henri Matisse once advised, 'should begin by cutting out his own tongue.' Marlene Dumas -- whose work is the subject of a big new retrospective...
Food: Tanya Gold
Rivea (stupid name) is in the bowels of Bulgari in Knightsbridge, a hotel which looks like a vast Virgin Upper Class lounge. It sits opposite One Hyde Park (stupid name), an apartment block which looks like a vast Virgin Upper Class lounge and which...
'Forging Capitalism', by Ian Klaus - Review
Forging Capitalism Ian KlausYale, pp.287, £18.99, ISBN: 9780300181944 The whole idea of capitalism, according to Enlightenment philosophers, was that it created a positive spiral of moral behaviour. 'Concern for our own happiness recommends us to...
'Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano', by Dana Thomas - Review
Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano Dana ThomasAllen Lane, pp.432, £25, ISBN: 9781846146138 It's a curious subject, fashion, and those who write about it rarely want to jeopardise future access to it on the altar...
High Life: Taki
The good news is that a Greek suppository is about to relieve the EU's economic constipation. The bad is that there's a Castro in our midst posing -- just as Fidel did 56 years ago -- as a democratically elected populist. Back then it was Uncle Sam...
Hugo Rifkind: With One Push of a Button, Political Interviews Have Become Interesting Again
The other night on Channel 4, I watched the best political interview I've seen all year. It was with Nick Clegg, and conducted by a guy called Alex Brooker. And it gave me, if only for a few moments, a glimpse of a better world.You'll know who Nick...
'In the Kingdom of Ice', by Hampton Sides - Review
In the Kingdom of Ice Hampton SidesOneworld, pp.454, £20, ISBN: 9781780745213 In the course of the 19th century, various flotillas of expeditions hastened to the polar regions in little wooden ships which sooner or later expired in the pincers of...
James Forsyth: How Labour Lost Scotland (and Could Lose the Union)
ListenJust four months ago Scotland was the scene of great cross-party co-operation -- unprecedented in peace-time politics. Gordon Brown was offering advice on David Cameron's speeches, Douglas Alexander and the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson turned...
Leading Article: The Schools Revolution Goes On
ListenFor those who assumed that the removal of Michael Gove as Education Secretary marked the end of the Conservatives' scholastic reforms, this month may hold a surprise. More free schools are coming, The Spectator understands: at least 50 of them....
Letters
In defence of OxfamSir: Mary Wakefield rightly praises Médecins sans Frontières but makes many misinformed claims about Oxfam and aid in general (31 January). Contrary to her suggestion, money donated to Oxfam and other charities' emergency appeals must...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
This month's wine club lecture was on red burgundy. The members were settling themselves at two large tables when I arrived, about ten to each one. I took an empty seat at the table farthest from the door and looked diffidently around, hoping to...
Martin Vander Weyer: Unwanted Consequences: Will Cheap Oil Lead to a Labour Election Victory?
BP's profits are down, and the oil giant is slashing up to $6 billion out of its investment plan for the year. At Shell, the cut could amount to $15 billion over the next three years. At troubled BG, still waiting for new chief executive Helge Lund...
Matthew Parris: The NHS Needs the Politics of Envy
'Let's make the rich pay more.' Does that sound so right-wing? To me it has a positively socialist ring. It should appeal to egalitarians: to those who call themselves socially concerned and seek new ways to redistribute wealth.So why not apply it...
Mind Your Language: Twitter Style
I don't know if you tweet -- No! Don't turn over, I'm not going to get all techie. I do not tweet, but my husband does, voluminously. I won't betray his rather strange handle and avatar. Those are technical terms, but they are not the main point...
Music: Marcus Berkmann
Only a fool would mess with James Blunt. As his Twitter followers know, he has a sharp wit, and, as befits a former officer in the Life Guards, he is always ready for a fight. Indeed, the grievous suffering around the world caused by his greatest...
Notes On. Venice
I arrived in Venice believing it would reek of sewage. It didn't. The walk into the centre went through cobbled alleys packed with loud Americans in sandals and Italian ladies tottering in kitten heels. But it was when crossing the Rialto bridge...
Opera: Igor Toronyi-Lalic
It's easy to forget what a mess of an art form opera once was. For its first 100 years it had no name, it had no fixed address, it didn't really know who it was or what it was doing. You'd find it at schools, at weddings, at political functions....
PC from A to Z
ListenAnyone who thought political correctness had croaked, joining neon leg warmers, mullets and MC Hammer in the graveyard of bad ideas from the late 1980s and 1990s, should think again. When even someone as gay-friendly and Guardian -hued as Benedict...
Portrait of the Week
HomeMPs voted by 382 to 128 to make Britain the only country to allow genetic modification of embryos to prevent mitochondrial flaws: this could be done by the removal of the nucleus of a donor's fertilised ovum and its replacement by the nucleus of...
Radio: Kate Chisholm
Last weekend BBC Arabic celebrated 77 years since John Reith (as he then was) launched the first foreign-language service of the fledgling BBC Empire Service with an announcement (in English) in which he declared that the programmes would always...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
'Orange 1-1-8 thousand how may I help you?' said the cheerful voice. Carefree as you like, I asked for the number for Sky customer services to report my parents' broken digibox.This was back on Christmas eve morning. I had been walking the dog around...
'Red Notice: How I Became Putin's No 1 Enemy', by Bill Browder - Review
Red Notice: How I Became Putin's No 1 Enemy Bill BrowderBantam, pp.360, £18.99, ISBN: 9780593072950 The way to think about Russia, Bill Browder told me in Moscow in 2004, using a comparison he recycles in Red Notice , is as a giant prison yard. Vladimir...
Rod Liddle: They Want a Gender-Neutral Pronoun? What's Wrong with Them?
Isn't it about time the English language got itself a gender-neutral pronoun? This was the clarion call from the Guardian last week -- and when that particular clarion sounds, we must all stand to attention and cut out the sniggering. I assume the...
'Roman Splendour, English Arcadia: The English Taste for Pietre Dure and the Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead', by Simon Swynfen Jervis and Dudley Dodd - Review
Roman Splendour, English Arcadia: The English Taste for Pietre Dure and the Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead Simon Swynfen Jervis and Dudley DoddPhilip Wilson Publishers, pp.241, £45, ISBN: 9781781300244 Italian cabinets and tables decorated with inlaid...
'Sleep in Peace Tonight', by James MacManus - Review
Sleep in Peace Tonight James MacManusDuckworth, pp.368, £16.99, ISBN: 9780715649350 In time for the 50th anniversary of Churchill's death comes this pacy novel about his attempts to persuade the Americans to join the war. It is January 1941; President...
Spectator Wine: Jonathan Ray
We're heading south for the winter this week, specifically to South Africa and New Zealand, courtesy of Tanners of Shrewsbury.First to New Zealand, a country whose wines I adore. I'm not alone: we in the UK are New Zealand's biggest market and happily...
Sport: Roger Alton
It wasn't that long ago when the most exciting event in any British tennis fan's life was whether Jeremy Bates would make the second week of Wimbledon. If he did, cue weekend raptures and much use of a British bulldog holding a Maxply and encased...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
I can't say I'm surprised by the departure of Harry Redknapp. Since I started supporting Queens Park Rangers in 2008 we've gone through seven managers -- 13 if you count the caretakers. Indeed, it's a miracle he's lasted this long. The club was relegated...
Television: James Delingpole
There were great numbers of young men who had never been in a war and were consequently far from unwilling to join in this one.(Thucydides, 5th century BC)I love that quote, inscribed on the walls of the Imperial War Museum, because it tells you so much...
Theatre: The Hard Problem; Taken at Midnight
The Hard ProblemDorfman, in rep until 27 MayTaken at MidnightHaymarket, until 14 March Big event. A new play from Sir Tom. And he tackles one of philosophy's oldest and crunchiest issues, which varsity thinkers call 'the hard problem'. How is it that...
'The Italians', by John Hooper - Review
The Italians John HooperAllen Lane, pp.316, £20, ISBN: 9781846145445 Like so many Britons who chased the dream and woke up in Italy I have contemplated writing a book about the Italians. I even thought of what to call it: Those Italians .The title...
The Rise of the New Political Correctness
Twenty-first century political correctness isn't benign: it's creepy and all too keen on witch-huntsListenI wonder how many of you know that you're cis. Not very many, I'm guessing. So let me break this gently. You are almost certainly cis. It is short...
The Tooting Poisoner
In my London neighbourhood, an argument about urban foxes is turning very nasty indeed Cowering in the corner of a pet shop, I edged towards the door to try to escape as a stranger yelled at me. The man's face was so puckered up and puce with anger...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
Banks only lend money to those who can prove they don't need it and it has not been a happy few months for racing with one trainer after another giving up the unequal struggle and shutting the stable doors. The only thing that could make it worse...
Types of Typo
The world's most expensive typing errors, and how they were made In Paul Gallico's 1939 novel The Adventures of Hiram Holliday , the hero's journey is set in motion by a comma. Hiram is a copy-reader on a New York morning paper, and the comma -- 'eventually...
'Went the Day Well? Witnessing Waterloo', by David Crane - Review
Went the Day Well? Witnessing Waterloo David CraneBantam Press, pp.366, £20, ISBN: 9780007358366 Of all the big battalions of books marking the bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo that have come my way, this has to be the best. David Crane has...
'When the Facts Change: Essays, 1995-2010', by Tony Judt - Review
When the Facts Change: Essays, 1995-2010 Tony JudtHeinemann, pp.386, £25, ISBN: 9780434023080 Tony Judt was not only a great historian, he was also a great essayist and commentator on international politics. Few in this country will be familiar with...
Witnessing a Prison Crisis
In the past two years, our prisons have gone from places of rehabilitation to pits of despair It used to be sewing mail bags, picking oakum and working the treadmill, now the government has come up with a wheeze to get convicts busy with sandbags,...
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