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 December 10

'All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life', by Jon Willis - Review
Why are astronomers so keen to believe in extraterrestrial life? Is it just a story they want to hear, wonders Tom HollandWhen I was a child, the highlight of the summer holidays was when my cousin Simon came to stay. We shared a common obsession: aliens....
Ancient and Modern
What is a 'kudo'? According to the Taxpayers' Alliance, it is a mark of honour, many of which should be given to the Commons' British Infrastructure Group, for demanding the scrapping of Air Passenger Duty.The Alliance clearly thinks that 'kudo' is...
Andrew Marr's Notebook
One remark from the Christmas party season knocks insistently around my head. It came from Nigel Farage on a staircase in the Ritz. For those who didn't enjoy 2016, a year of political revolution, he gleefully promised: '2017 will be a hell of a sight...
A QC's Guide to Christmas Crime
Why Christmas is busy for us criminal barristersMy colleagues at the commercial and chancery bar are all at their chalets in Gstaad, funded by the endless fees from Jarndyce and Jarndyce, and the family bar are out en famille in Mustique, awaiting the...
Barometer
Forgotten anniversaries2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution. Other anniversaries:50 years Radio 1; first North Sea gas pumped ashore in County Durham; first cash dispenser (at Barclays in Enfield)100 years First international airmail...
Ben Schott's Notebook
I was drinking in the bar of Manhattan's Nomad Hotel when in snuck The Most Seen Human Ever To Have Lived. This is an old puzzle: who is the most 'observed in the flesh' individual in history? Since we're discounting depictions (paintings, photographs,...
'Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet from the Rule of the Tsars to Today', by Simon Morrison - Review
In 2013, Pavel Dmitrichenko, disgruntled principal dancer of the Bolshoi, exacted a now infamous revenge on the company's artistic director, Sergey Filin, for overlooking his girlfriend in casting the starring role in that most Russian of ballet classics,...
Booze and the Great Composers
'Brahms and Liszt' is a lovely bit of rhyming slang, but it doesn't have the ring of authenticity. Can you really imagine cockney barrow boys whistling tunes from the Tragic Overture and the Transcendental Études ? Also, the Oxford English Dictionary...
Brexit's Breaking Points
If any of the following had happened, Remain could have wonTrying to write the first draft of history on the EU referendum and the leader-ship mess that followed had both its dramatic and its comic elements. My phone never stopped ringing with Eurosceptics...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
'Are you Charles Moore of The Spectator ?' I answered to that description. 'Well,' said my questioner, 'I am worried that you're becoming very right-wing.' We were sitting by the fire in a charming, smoky hut with no electric light and lots to eat and...
Cinema: Snowden
If you were to see one film about American whistle-blower Edward Snowden -- there is no law saying you have to, but if you were -- then the film you want is probably Laura Poitras's 2014 documentary Citizenfour rather than this biopic from Oliver Stone....
'Cousins', by Salley Vickers - Review
Cousins is a curious novel. If I'd been a publisher's reader, I'd have consigned it to the rejection pile after reading the first quarter. It seems to be a dreary saga about three generations of the Tye family. The background is of an intellectual,...
Crime Fiction for Christmas
Imagine receiving an anonymous suicide note addressed to you by mistake. Would you try to find that person, to help them in some way? This is the opening dilemma in Bernard Minier's Don't Turn Out the Lights (Mulholland Books, £14.99), and Christine...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
From Rt Hon Gisela Stuart MPQ. I keep getting into arguments with people about what being a Labour MP is all about. I used to think that being in government was better than being in opposition. They now tell me I'm wrong and that the years since 2010...
Diary: Lionel Shriver
Novelists can't merely tell cracking tales. We're supposed to save the world. At the University of Kent, a student implored me to inscribe The Mandibles with instructions for 'how to keep this from happening' -- for the feverish young man now vowed...
Donald Trump's Personal Style
Donald Trump's taste is as revealing of the man as any of his outbursts, says Stephen BayleyElsie de Wolfe was the pioneer interior designer whose motto was 'plenty of optimism and white paint'. She banished brown Victoriana from America. And her work...
Drink: Bruce Anderson
The other day, I had lunch with the grandest person I know. Forget 1066: Adrian Ziani de Ferranti can trace his Venetian ancestors to the time when St Theodore was the city's patron saint and St Mark's corpse still reposed in Alexandria. Ziani Doges...
'England's Cathedrals', by Simon Jenkins - Review
Here are two approachable and distinctive books on our churches, great and small. Simon Jenkins's cathedrals survey follows his earlier volumes on England's best churches and houses, and like them includes fine photography by the late Paul Barker of...
Food: Tanya Gold
I have agonised over this Christmas review. I ate the Christmas lunch at Harveys Nichols 5th Floor Restaurant, Knightsbridge, next to a roof garden sponsored by Nutella chocolate spread. (The review of that restaurant is 17 words long: don't go there,...
From the Archives
From a letter published under the heading 'The religion of the ordinary soldier', The Spectator, 23 December 1916: During a discharge of gas at the beginning of July along our front, one of the cylinders was displaced by the near bursting of an enemy...
George Osborne's Notebook
One thing I won't miss about No. 11 Downing Street are the Christmas cards: 2,056 Christmas cards to be exact. That was the number I had to sign every year. The recipients included 87 FTSE chief executives, 209 foreign dignitaries, six EU commissioners...
Germaine Greer's Notebook
The morning is cold and dark but the orchard is thronged with birds. Moorhens dash from one side to the other; woodpeckers drill the damp ground for worms; fieldfares bounce from hawthorn hedge to apple tree and back again; magpies terrorise all of them....
High Life: Taki
Here we go again, my 40th Christmas column in a row, and it seems only two weeks ago that I filed the last one. This is a very happy time of year -- parties galore, lots of love for our fellow man and happiness all around. Mind you, there is an old calypso...
Hugo Rifkind: How to Put a Positive Spin on the Bizarre Events of This Year
This is going to be a positive, optimistic column. I promise. Because, look, let's be honest, I've been a bit moany this year, haven't I? Which may, I suspect, have been a bit misleading. Read me here, or indeed anywhere, and I suspect you could come...
James Delingpole: Don't Try to Be Liked, and Buy Your Steak at Aldi - the Lessons I've Learned in 2016
Merry Christmas everyone. Here are some things I learned -- or relearned -- in 2016.1. That which does not kill you makes you still alive. It's weird to think that less than 12 months ago I was in hospital, dosed up with morphine, battered and bruised...
James Forsyth: A Year of Revolution
Few years will live as long in the memory as 2016. Historians will ponder the meaning and consequences of the past 12 months for decades to come. In the future, 180-odd years from now, some Zhou Enlai will remark that 'it is too soon to say' when asked...
Julia's Baby - a Short Story
Illustrated by Morten MorlandJulia should not have come to the wedding. That much was clear as soon as she arrived. Late, she was, and massive in belly. Her hat festooned with tropical fruit; her dress -- hideously colourful. She made the hinges shriek...
'Land Rover: The Story of the Car That Conquered the World', by Ben Fogle - Review
In these books, two handsome and popular telly adventurers consider, from viewpoints that are sometimes overly autobiographical, the culture of internal combustion in two of its most distinctive forms. Ben Fogle is obsessed by Land Rovers while Richard...
'Last Look', by Charles Burns - Review
A woman birthing bloated speckled eggs from her supernaturally swollen womb. Sushi screaming and squirming. A skull-shaped sweet, bearing the message, 'I was you.' Doubting yourself. Knowing you don't love your girlfriend. Waking beside someone beautiful...
Leading Article: Power and the People
When The Spectator was founded 188 years ago, it became part of what would now be described as a populist insurgency. An out-of-touch Westminster elite, we said, was speaking a different language to the rest of London, let alone the rest of the country....
Letters
Taking precedentSir: In his excellent piece on the Supreme Court Article 50 ruling ('Brexit in the balance', 3 December), Joshua Rozenberg says that the 2015 European Referendum Act was not drafted with sufficient precision. But surely the whole basis...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
While American conservatives, including Donald Trump and the Cuban exiles in Florida, whooped with joy at the news of the death of Fidel Castro, and while millions of America-haters throughout the world extravagantly mourned his passing, Barack Obama...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
We're driving east, destination Grasse. Hairpin bends circling oak-clad hills. Autumn gold and scarlet. Exciting cambers. Blinding winter sunshine. The radio tuned to France Musique. A virtuoso Latin jazz trumpet. A bit poncy but it's better than nothing....
Martin Vander Weyer: Whatever Happened to Sir George? A Festive Finale for an Eventful Year
Many (well, several) of you asked me what happened to George, the supermarket chairman who was the anti-hero of my Christmas fable last year. So I tracked him down, somewhere in the provinces, to bring you another episode...'Five minutes, Sir George,'...
Mary Wakefield: Why I'm Telling My Son about the Sky Fairy
After we were married, my husband and I went on honeymoon to Mexico. We drove across country east to west, then north to Mexico City, to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe where I prayed for a baby. My husband, the least judgmental of atheists, sat...
Matthew Parris: The One Thing That Really Gets Better with Age
On the London Underground last week the carriage was crowded. No seat. No problem. I'm only 67 and content to stand. But a younger man offered his seat, and, having some way to travel and a book to read, I accepted with the appropriate grunt and nod...
Matthew Parris vs Matt Ridley on Brexit Bitterness
A conversation about Brexit and bitternessNow that almost six months have passed since the EU referendum, might it be time for old enemies to find common ground? Matthew Parris and Matt Ridley, two of the most eloquent voices on either side of the campaign,...
Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth
My husband has an irritating habit of holding his hymn book open at the right page but obviously not referring to the text as he belts out carols.He is perfectly happy growling, in what he thinks a light baritone, the Latin version of 'O Come, All Ye...
My Father, Johnny Cash
John Carter Cash reflects on the many faces of Johnny Cash: scholar, entertainer, poet, hoarderMy father had many faces. There was much that made up the man. If you think you 'know' John R. Cash, think again. There are many layers, so much beneath the...
'My Son the Fanatic' Revisited
Fanatics, fundamentalists and fascistsIn the early 1990s, after the shock of the 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie, I began to do some research among those who condemned him, and learned that a strange thing was happening among young British Muslim men...
Notes On. Hangovers
Although drinking excessive levels of alcohol is up there with Olympic cycling and democracy as things the British excel at, the same cannot be said for dealing with the aftermath. Over the festive season we splash more than £2 billion on trips to the...
'Of Fortunes and War: Clare Hollingworth, First of the Female War Correspondents', by Patrick Garrett - Review
In August 1939, Clare Hollingworth, a 28-year-old aid-worker, had been employed as a reporter for less than a week by the Daily Telegraph when she landed her first serious journalistic coup. Using feminine wiles and diplomatic skills extraordinaire...
Opera: La Finta Giardiniera
For the past few weeks I have been working my way through Decca's gigantic set of every note Mozart wrote and quite a few that he probably didn't -- 220 CDs in a monumental hernia-inducing box. Chronological listening is not recommended. Mozart was technically...
'Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter', by Matthew Dennison - Review
The story of the extraordinary boom in children's literature over the last 100 years could be bookended with a 'Tale of Two Potters' -- Beatrix and Harry. The adventures of the latter have sold millions, but the foundations of his success were laid by...
Philip Hammond: From Goth to Chancellor
The young Philip Hammond was a right-leaning, Telegraph-reading, teacher-challenging dance entrepreneurIf only I'd known. If only I'd foreseen that the teenage classmate who strode through our school gates every morning, rolled-up Daily Telegrap h tucked...
Piers Morgan's Notebook
It's weird being friends with someone who suddenly becomes President of the United States, not least for the reflected glory that suddenly rains down on one's own far less powerful cranium. I was roundly ridiculed by numerous high-profile...
Portrait of the Week: Portrait of the Year
JanuaryThe cost of an annual season ticket from Cheltenham to London rose to £9,800. Oil fell below $30 a barrel, compared with more than $100 in January 2014. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that once his negotiations with the EU were done,...
Radio: Burn Slush!; the Shepherd
In this season of watching and waiting as we approach Christmas and year's end, radio has a precious role. At the switch of a button you can be taken straightaway into another kind of life, a different world, where present realities are not relevant...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
'Right, this is it,' I said to the builder boyfriend. 'I am going to knock on the door of next door.''I don't know why you are bothering,' he said. 'Does it really matter who lives next door? You're going to be so happy here. This move makes absolute...
Rise of the Robots
Will our love affair with robots send us the way of the dinosaurs? Bryan Appleyard thinks it mightWhy do humans want to build robots? It seems, on the face of it, to be a suicidal endeavour, destroying jobs and, ultimately, rendering our species redundant...
Rod Liddle: Rock's Quiet Right-Wingers
They will be sitting there right now, listening tearfully to the song for one last time on their dinky little iPods, before deleting it for ever. '-Heathcliff -- it's me, Cathy, I've come home, so co-wo-wo-wold, let me into your window.' No, Kate. You...
'Snow', by Marcus Sedgwick - Review
Here is William Diaper in 1722, translating Oppian's Halieuticks (a Greek epic poem on the loves of the fishes):As when soft Snows, brought down byWestern Gales,Silent descend and spread on all the Vales . . .Nature bears all one Face, looks coldly...
'Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula', by David J. Skal - Review
Legends cling to Bram Stoker's life. One interesting cluster centres on his wife, Florence. She was judged, in her high years, a supreme London beauty. She preserved her Dresden perfection by denying her husband conjugal access.Bram consoled himself...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
1. Can anyone explain why England wore dark blue, not white, for the autumn international against Argentina, just as they did against Fiji? Is there anybody in the whole country, other than the marketing department at the Rugby Football Union, who thinks...
Spectator Survey: Have You Ever Had a Prayer Answered?
A Spectator surveyJustin WelbyArchbishop of CanterburyThere have been lots of wonderful answers to prayer over many years, including recently. One I remember was as a 15-year-old sitting in chapel with the prospect of three frightening tests that day,...
Spectator Wine: Wine Club 10 December
Tricky time of year this, with the festivities hoving into view. Never easy for anyone, least of all those of us who suffer from Christmas Affected Doom, Depression and Despondency (CADDAD), a ghastly affliction about which I've written at length elsewhere...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
I'm keeping my eyes peeled for one of those billboards saying 'A dog is for life, not just for Christmas' so I can gleefully point it out to Caroline. Regular readers of this column will know that my wife brought home a Vizsla puppy last December, her...
Television: The Walking Dead
When I was a child in the 1970s, the two big excitements of the run-up to Christmas were first the chocolate Advent calendar which, somehow, I managed to smuggle past the prison-guard inspection at my Colditz-like prep school; and second, browsing the...
Theatre: The Children; Aladdin
What if? is the engine of every great story. What if the toys came to life when their owner left the room? What if the prince's uncle killed the king, seduced the queen, and stole the crown? Lucy Kirkwood asks: what if an elderly atomic physicist volunteered...
The Consolations of Sports Geekery
Sports geekery is a comfort in dark times - like, say, nowWhen I come home from work and stick my key in the door, there is a pitter-patter of tiny feet as my eight-year-old twin boys run up to me and shout: 'Paris St-Germain won 3-1! First he scored,...
The Dwelling - a Short Story
Charlie Zailer wasn't sure if she'd won or lost. On the victory side of the equation, she'd managed to avoid spending Christmas Day with her sister, and she'd successfully blamed it on work. Her 'Sorry, but I have to go in for at least a few hours',...
'The Family', by Chris Johnston and Rosie Jones - Review
When I was 22 I met a man called Yisrayl Hawkins who said his coming had been prophesied in the Book of Isaiah. Yisrayl (born Bill) lived with his many disciples and several wives in a compound carved out of the red dirt scrub near Abilene, Texas. His...
The Great Adorations of Juan Bautisa Maíno
Martin Gayford is dazzled by two Adorations by a little-known Spanish painterOn 27 July 1613 a man prostrated himself in the church of San Pedro Mártir in Toledo, having first made a solemn declaration: 'I, Juan Bautista Maíno, make profession and promised...
The Invention of Santa
Presents, stockings, the flying sleigh? It all began as a New York practical jokeSanta Claus ate Father Christmas. It happened quite suddenly. Well, it took about a decade, but that's suddenly in cultural terms. Over the course of the 1870s the venerable...
'The Man Who Ate the Zoo: Frank Buckland, Forgotten Hero of Natural History', by Richard Girling - Review
Forgotten? Though I can rarely attend their dinners (in Birmingham), I am a proud member of the Buckland Club (motto: Semper in ventrem aliquid novi ). Dedicated to the memory and gastronomic exploits of Francis Trevelyan (Frank) Buckland (1826-1880),...
The Most Irritating People in Britain
Irritations of the yearIn the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge, here, in no particular order, are my current irritants:* Paddy Ashdown* Lady (Shami) Chakrabarti of Kennington* First Minister Nicola Sturrrgeon* Brussels grands fromages Michel Barnier, Guy Verhofstadt...
The Netflix Revolution
How the Americans reinvented British television dramaThere have been two revolutions in television during my lifetime. The first happened in 1975 when Sony launched its Betamax video system -- which allowed viewers to record shows and see them when they...
'The New Book of Snobs: A Definitive Guide to Modern Snobbery', by by D.J. Taylor - Review
D.J. Taylor's clever dissection of snobs is really two books in one. Scattered throughout are entertaining, delicious (initially), solemnly related nuggets of hardcore snobbery. He writes brilliantly, for example, about the diarist and National Trust...
Theresa May: 'I Get So Frustrated with Whitehall'
Theresa May on everything from Brexit to ChristmasThe Prime Minister's office is a small, unimpressive room in 10 Downing Street with miserable views and unexceptional furniture. Since moving in, Theresa May has spruced it up -- but only a little. There...
The Russian Revolution, 100 Years On
As its centenary looms, never forget the brutal oppression ushered in by the Russian RevolutionFew 20th-century historians doubted that the 1917 Russian revolution was one of the most influential events of their time, indeed of all time. As the centenary...
'The Shogun's Queen', by Leslie Downer - Review
All readers know that good novels draw us into other worlds. I cannot think of another, however, which so alarmed me as this one, just as events alarmed and frightened its central character.She is Okatsu, a young woman from the samurai Satsuma Clan in...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
It is a long time since I spent a morning on the gallops with the footballer-turned-racehorse trainer Mick Channon (he was in Lambourn at the time), but it proved an education for me and for two inappropriately dressed young owner's daughters who also...
The Warlike Origins of Carols from King's
Alexandra Coghlan reveals the muddy, bloody origins of a treasured Christmas Eve ritualChristmas, for many people, begins at exactly 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve. It's the moment when everything stops, frantic present-wrapping, mince-pie making and tree-decorating...
The Wiki Man: Rory Sutherland
The traditional orange at the bottom of a Christmas stocking dates to a time when this was the only orange a child might receive all year. Earlier, in the 17th century, a single pineapple might cost the equivalent of £5,000 today; like pepper in the...
'The Zoo: The Wild and Wonderful Tale of the Founding of London Zoo', by Isobel Charman - Review
If you've ever read a history of the early days of the Foundling Hospital, you'll remember the shock: expecting to enjoy a heartwarming tale of 18th-century babies being rescued from destitution and brought to live in a lovely safe place, you will have...
'Through a Glass Darkly: Confessions of a Reluctant Water Drinker', by Thomas Tylston Greg - Review
Cometh the hour, cometh the book, and so Christmas brings us once again a tidal wave of titles relating to food and drink: cookbooks of seasonal dishes from around the world, never once to be consulted, and endless tomes of wine connoisseurship for all...
When the Donald Met the Vlad
That first encounter between the two great leaders...SpeccieLeaks presents: Transcript of private meeting between President Trump and President Putin, 14 February 2017, Andreyevsky Hall, Grand Kremlin PalacePUTIN : So how are you liking Russia?TRUMP...
Wild Life: Aidan Hartley
KenyaI realised I had fallen from grace when we were dropped from the Queen's birthday party guest list at the British High Commission in Nairobi. I wondered what offence I had caused to the recently arrived plenipotentiary. I worried that it was because...
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.