New Statesman (1996)

Articles from Vol. 132, No. 4668, December 15

A Brave Knight Seeks ... a Big Tent: Why Does Michael Howard like Tender Is the Night and Charles Kennedy the Day of the Jackal? and Does Ivanhoe's Appeal to Blair Lie in Its Story of the Crusades-Or in Something More Banal?
A wise person once told me that, if ever I wanted to figure out whether or not it was worth chatting somebody up, I should ask him what his favourite book was. This, I was advised, "gives you a glimpse into a man's soul". So what does it tell us about...
African Patience Helps Mugabe
The political reasons for the near-fatal split in the Commonwealth over Zimbabwe have been widely reported: African countries still deeply resent being lectured by the "old white" Commonwealth, particularly Britain, and Tony Blair won few friends over...
Another Inquiry into Blakelock's Murder? Let's Also Have One into Who Framed Silcott
The Metropolitan Police are about to stir up another hornet s nest. It seems that their current problems, which centre around the dissatisfaction of black police officers with the force, are not enough. They wish to add to these. PC Keith Blakelock...
Apocalypse Brussels: European Integration, Some Evangelists Say, Is Another Popish Plot or Worse. Janet Bush Reads the Signs
One of the rows that has been raging in the negotiations on a new European constitution is whether the text should refer to Europe's Christian tradition. Poland, devoutly Catholic, wants it in; France, another mainly Catholic country but mindful of...
Blessed Are the Peacemakers (and Probably Norwegian): As Blood Continues to Be Spilt in the Middle East, Peace on Earth Has Never Seemed So Unachievable. Yet the Number of Violent Trouble Spots around the World Is Actually Declining. Anton la Guardia on the Men and Women Who Try to Resolve Conflicts
The other day, I came across an old white baseball cap at the bottom of a drawer. Emblazoned on the front, in Hebrew, Arabic and English letters--were the words: Blessed are the peacemakers". It had been given to me as a freebie, to ward off the desert...
Boobs of the Year: Clangers, Blunders and Embarrassments of 2003
"He is an extremely disturbed individual." Margaret Hodge, the children's minister, in a letter to the BBC chairman Gavyn Davies on Demetrious Panton, abused as a child in care in Islington. Hodge, who was trying to stop the Today programme running...
Born to Shop: John Kampfner, Our Political Editor, Swaps Downing Street for High-Street Pleasures
I remember returning from Moscow and East Berlin, from the fall of the Wall and the collapse of communism, to the London of the self-indulgent mid-1990s and being overtaken by fury. What on earth drives these people to write mindless articles about...
Can You Help This Woman?
Many of us have long I suspected that the Queen's Christmas broadcast is compiled like Lego bricks, with the same phrases combined into a new order each year, along with a few important events from the preceding 12 months. Here is the proof. A late...
CDs of the Year
Classical Peter Conrad Schubert: Lieder with Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon) is a revelation. Familiar songs are made new in orchestrations by composers from Liszt to Britten; Claudio Abbado conducts, and Anne Sofie von Otter and Thomas Quasthoff...
Competition
Win voucher to spend at any TESCO store Competition No 3809 Set by Brendan O'Byrne, 24 November You were asked for a "scam letter" ghostwritten by a famous author of your choice. Report by Ms de Meaner Well done, and a Happy Christmas...
Competition: Xmas Salamanca Special
"A Christmas Cart": One letter only is omitted from ten answers. These letters make up the two words to be entered clockwise in one of the wheels. One letter is misprinted in ten other entries, never unchecked, and the true letters make up the two...
Elections Rein in Hindu Extremism
India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has just won elections in three important states and it has done so without playing its usual Hindu nationalist, or Hindutva, card. Instead of relying on anti-Muslim sentiments, it defeated Congress, India's main...
Gastronomic Miscellany: Having Had His Fill of Celebrity Chefs, William Skidelsky Samples a More Varied Menu of Books for Foodies
The past year has not been a vintage one for cookery books. Unlike 2002, in which new works from Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith were published, there have been relatively few stellar offerings. In the absence of big hitters, other books...
GMTV Wins the Sofa of the Year Award. All Politicians Want to Be on That Sofa, and You Can't Get Gordon Brown off It These Days. What Could That Possibly Mean?
Without a doubt, and whatever the Hutton inquiry finds, this has been the year of the BBC. Despite the threats, veiled and otherwise, from the government that the corporation would pay a heavy price for its impudence in calling into question Tony Blair's...
God and Mammon Mingle in the Mall: The Beginning of the Religious Festival of Advent in America Coincides with the Biggest and Most Frenzied Spending Day of the Year
Patricia Van Lester, a 41-year-old woman from Orange City, Florida, is certain to remember her Black Friday this year. With her eye on a DVD player for $29, she rushed into her local Wal-Mart when it opened before dawn--only to be trampled to the ground...
Graphic Reality: David Thompson on Why Comics Are Finally Shrugging off Their Disreputable Image
Something strange is happening in the twilight world of the comic book. Not the usual mad scientists, superheroes and talking dogs, but something far more incredible. The comic form is gaining grudging acceptance among booksellers and even a creeping...
Hush Money on the Licence Fee
Andrew Gilligan's dodgy expose of the government's dodgy dossier might have passed unnoticed if it weren't for his subsequent Mail on Sunday article, which, according to Tony Blair, put "rocket boosters" on the story. So it's perhaps understandable...
In London, My Ego Is Bruised, and So I Look Forward to Yorkshire and Scotland
Early Advent, and I'm rattling about London's West End with an hour to It's 8pm, freezing cold, and the pubs are bursting with hearty Cockneys. One of my favourites, the Lamb & Flag in Rose Street, carries a notice reading: "A pub is for life,...
Killer on a Christmas Card: The Robin May Be a Festive Symbol, but Don't Be Fooled by His Chirpy Ways
There he is again, jauntily clasping a snow bedecked holly sprig, beady eyes peering down from your mantelpiece on card after card. Why? Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and goodwill. Yet among God's creatures, few can match the robin's...
Luvvies, Actually: Maureen Lipman on How Her Majesty Got Taken to the Cleaners and Other Matters
Given that it's always a good year for men in theatre, 2003 has been a good year for women--in fringe theatre and cabaret. The best actors I have seen this year might be called rather veteran: Warren Mitchell, Tom Courtenay and Kenneth Branagh--if...
Midnight? Let's Throw Something: The English Barely Throw Parties, Let Alone Pots and Pans. Sara Ferro Ribeiro on How to Liven Up New Year
On New Year's Eve in Spain, much as in Portugal, every family member must have with them 12 grapes just before the clock strikes, in order to eat one for each toll of midnight. Peruvians do the same, but swallow their grapes whole while sitting under...
My Big Conversation with the PM: Helen McCarthy Suggests Citizens May Use Mobile Technology to Create Their Own Forms of Democracy
The other day, Tony Blair asked me for my top priority for Britain. So I texted him, thumbing in "better childcare", and pressed "send". Within seconds the handset buzzed with a response: "Thanks for your participation." I suppose this must mean I...
New Science, Old Myth: From the Middle Ages through Marx to the Free Market, Humankind Has Clung Desperately to the Idea of Progress. and Still We Delude Ourselves
Recalling a congress of communist writers that he attended in the 1930s, Arthur Koestler described a simple question reduced the meeting to silence. Bored beyond endurance by the eulogies to the new world that would come into being once scientific...
"Nick Brown to Support Blair on Top-Up Fees"
News that Nick Brown pulled out of a TV interview on top-up fees was enough for some hacks to claim that he had been persuaded by Gordon Brown to back Tony Blair. Nick Brown is as likely to support the Prime Minister on this issue as Charles Clarke...
Notebook: If the Bible Hadn't Mentioned Angels, Artists Would Have Had to Invent Them. They Are So Handy
My son is angel. Not literally, but four years ago when I named him Gabriel, I must have hoped some essence of angelic spirit might spring from his unfeathered shoulders. We'll see. Parents of similarly named offspring-the Raphaels, Michaels Angelas...
Old Romantics: William Cook Recalls the Era of Miners' Strikes, Hair Mousse and Great Pop Music
Gatecrash any office party this Christmas and the chances are that much of the music will be at least a generation out of date. Nothing evokes lost youth so vividly as the music of our teenage years, and as the proportion of teenagers buying records...
On a (Leftish) Wing and a Prayer? Religion Is a Dirty Word in British Politics. but a Faith System That Emphasised Social Good Might Be Better Than Today's Uncritical Worship of the Market
The Prime Minister is not short of things to pray for Christmas. The continuing morass of Iraq, rebellion over top-up fees and the looming publication of the Hutton report--not to mention his health--all add up to a strong case for divine assistance....
Once a Model Progressive, He Is Now the Royal Choice to Write the Queen Mother's Life and an Apologist for War in Iraq
In the late summer of 1968, a tall, self-assured young man recently down from Oxford turned up at the offices of the Sunday Times on Gray's Inn Road in London. He was William Shawcross, the son of Hartley Shawcross, the former Labour minister and chief...
One Year We Sent No Cards and Put Up No Decorations. When We Saw People We Knew Approaching, He Adjusted His False Beard and Moustache and I Hid Down Alleys
So. Heavier by the minute, this fat, demanding toad has been squatting on us ever since the Hallowe'en masks were swept away. I hate it. I hate everything about it. It combines everything in the world I most loathe: shopping, tinny music, drunks and...
Out of This World: Alex James Reports Back from His Mission to Discover Life on Mars
I don't know if he recognised me--maybe he did--but I knew who Colin Pillinger was the moment I saw him. I'd seen him talking about meteorites on an Open University programme in the middle of the night. The first thing he said was: "Here's a piece...
'People No Longer Have the Confidence to Follow Their Own Consciences': Our Big Problem Is Not Crime but Yobbery and the Loss of Common Decency. Police, Schools and the Welfare System Can Make the British Respectable Again
The moment realised politics had changed for the worse is indelibly etched on my memory. I hold my surgeries at Birkenhead Town Hall and, nine years ago, into the small office I occupy came a group of constituents well into their seventies. Nothing...
Promethean Flames: Richard Cork Finds Hope and Despair in a Year When It Wasn't Only Artists Setting the World Ablaze
This turbulent year is ending, as it began, with images of flame. Back in January, on the eve of Chinese New Year, I joined an immense crowd on the Thames embankment at night to watch Cai Guo-Qiang unleash a dragon of fire. After a dramatic countdown,...
Santa Is Green, Really: Buried Deep beneath the Schmaltz and Tinsel of This Season of Excess Is a Message for Us about Our Past and Our Dependence on the Land
When was the last time you heard an environmentalist say something nice about Christmas? For those of us trying to live greenish lifestyles, this time of year, with its commercialism, its excess of consumption and its religious mumbo-jumbo, has always...
Some Smells Are Heaven Scent: Modern, Branded Perfumes Are as Ubiquitous as Junk Food-And Just as Bad for You. Ziauddin Sardar Recommends More Wholesome Alternatives
No bright ideas for Christmas gifts? Give them perfume. Everyone loves it, everyone uses it. You can hardly go wrong. Perfumes save us from the ultimate faux pas of offensive body odour. And they promise to overlay our aroma with lashings of purity,...
So, What Would You Loot? the Lights Go out, the Government Has Fled to Its Bunker, Everything Is Abandoned, and the Palaces of Culture and Pleasure Are Left Unguarded. You Have a Torch and a Burning Desire to "Save" Something for the Nation (or, Perhaps, Just for Yourself)
Bryan Appleyard I would break into the British Library and loot the Lindisfarne Gospels. Created by our greatest unsung genius, Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne between 698 and 721, it was a road map out of the Dark Ages that followed the departure...
Sugar and Spice: Bee Wilson on a Childhood Favourite That Exposes the Childishness in Aristocratic Life
"When the great morning came Mr Salteena did not have an egg for his breakfast in case he should be sick on the jorney." This has some claim to being the best line ever written on the excitement and biliousness of travel. That it was written by a nine-year-old...
The Aristocracy Need Only Worry about Gout, Syphilis and Falling off Polo Ponies-Industrial Accidents Are What Happen to the Servants, and the Crown Is Immune from Prosecution
Knee problems aside, Elizabeth Windsor doesn't have to worry much about industrial accidents in her job. OK, there is the possibility of repetitive strain injury, what with the constant waving; and it certainly looks as if protective goggles would...
The Bloggers of Westminster: Gavin Sheridan and Tom Wilson Have a Cautionary Tale for MPs Who Don't Keep Up with Technology
MPs sometimes rank alongside high court judges when it comes to awareness of the world of yoof culture and tech-speak. One judge was renowned for asking "Who is Gazza?", and it is easy to imagine many MPs asking: "What is blogging?" So what is it?...
The High Cost of Being European
During the build up to next year's enlargement of the European Union, Brussels officials have been keen to argue that the accession of ten new members, eight of them ex-communist countries in central and eastern Europe, will not weaken the EU. What...
The Judicious Use of Force: Zimbabwe Faces a New Threat of Violence, and This Time It Is Not Coming from Mugabe
The struggle to unseat President Robert Mugabe may be entering a new phase this month, following the emergence inside Zimbabwe of a clandestine group which says that it intends to change the government by force of arms. In what it described as "communique...
The Message on Drugs Is Getting through. but Is It the Right One? Ministers Are "Encouraged" by a Drop in Ecstasy Use, but Ignore the Wider Picture. Alice O'Keeffe Finds That the Substances People Take and How They Affect Their Lives Are, like So Much Else in Britain, a Class Issue
New Year's Eve is fast approaching and those of a party going persuasion are already applying themselves to that most taxing of seasonal dilemmas--what to take, how much and where to get it. A weekend in the countryside with some home-grown mushrooms?...
The Mystery of the Grey Rose, an Outbreak of Nerves at Wapping, and My Christmas Quiz
Is new Labour dead and buried? Party membership cards for 2004 do not have the "new Labour, new Britain" logo on the front. In its place is a huge grey rose, about the pallor of the Prime Minister. Cards will no longer be issued annually, but will...
The New Statesman Sexed-Up Quiz
It's been a year of unprecedented spin, unscrupulous exaggeration and hidden agendas. Can you spot the difference between fact and fiction? Politics Questions set by JOHN KAMPFNER, political editor of the NS 1 How many standing ovations did...
The Power of Three: Mark Kermode Looks Back on a Year in Which There Were Reasons to Be Both Proud and Ashamed of Being British
For many multiplex punters, 2003 was the year when good things came in threes, with Peter Jackson s The Return of the King providing an Oscar-contending conclusion to his mighty Lord of the Rings trilogy; the third instalment of The Matrix scoring...
The Ratings War: Andrew Billen Reports on the Conquests and Casualties Behind the Scenes and on Our Screens
The best, most ambitious drama of the year was The Second Coming on ITV1, in which Russell T Davies resurrected Christ. JC was returned to modern-day Manchester as a video shop assistant. There were all sorts of signs and portents in it for the future...
The Rise of the British Ghost Town: Butchers, Bakers, Post Offices and Newsagents Are Closing in Their Dozens, Leaving Dead Communities and, in Effect, a Commercial One-Party State
A Part from the basics--bread, milk, sweets and newspapers--the shop run by Josephine in the middle of a south London council estate sold a mystery ingredient. Whatever time of day you turned up at her tiny premises, all sorts of people--retired, out...
The Story of Anna and Rashid
When she met Rashid, Anna was already using a shopping trolley to help her to walk straight and to get on and off buses without falling. For several years, her illness had gone undiagnosed. She lived with fear, unable to name what was wrong with her,...
'The US Has Rogue Leaders, but That Does Not Make It a Rogue State': America Has Plenty to Answer for, but the Country Itself Set the Standards by Which We Habitually Judge It
In a little-noticed announcement in September, President Bush's government named Syria and Libya as "rogue states" whose weapons of mass destruction must be controlled at all costs. Although Republicans quickly dubbed them "the axis of evil plus",...
The Way to Heal the Wounds of Christmas Is with a Glass of Irish Whiskey
How do you achieve stupefaction heavy enough to obliterate the Christmas ordeal, and yet light enough to leave no headache afterwards? Corney & Barrow has provided an answer. Each of its potions is hugely intoxicating and impeccably clean. Start...
The Year That Brought Blair to Book: The Prime Minister Once Appeared to Have the World at His Feet. Now, All Cabinet Ministers Are Positioning Themselves for the Era after His Departure
Back in July, just before the body of Dr David Kelly was found in an Oxfordshire ditch, I suggested that the Westminster village was focusing on the wrong issue. It is not: At what point will he stand down?" I wrote. "It is: What is the point of Tony...
They Put Their Tongues Back in Their Own Mouths Long Enough to Go to the Bar
I try to get Karla, who's a teacher, to come for a drink at a private club. "But I like pubs," she says. "How do you know pubs are better than bars if you've never been?" I ask. "I remember Dallas. JR used to go to swanky bars. Is it like that?"...
Though I Yearned to Be a Saint, I Could Never Deny My Appetite for Presents
Our Christmas stockings were ordinary knee-length socks hung at the ends of our beds. In France, children put out their shoes in early December for St Nicolas to fill with fruit and nuts and small presents. He was a generous saint who once rescued...
Vote, Vote, Vote for Harry Potter
If you react with horror to the idea of lowering the voting age to 16, you are certainly not alone. The last reputable survey on the subject found that almost 80 per cent of the electorate was opposed. The supposed reason for lowering the voting...
We'd Rather Be with Friends: Fewer and Fewer of Us Celebrate with Family as Dickens's Cratchits Did, and the Evidence Suggests That It May Often Be a Matter of Choice
Just as global warming is making white Christmases less and less likely, so the traditional family celebration idealised by Charles Dickens is retreating from us at ever-increasing speed. The data about UK households tells the story: fewer than one...
We Speak, Therefore We Are: Is Txtng the Way 4ward 4 the Queen's English? Not at All. A Surprise Christmas Hit about Punctuation Shows That We Are Still Sticklers about Our Language
It might not be a coincidence that a small torrent of books on the English language should come along all at once. Nor that one of them, Lynne Truss's trim essay on punctuation, Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Profile, 9.99 [pounds sterling]), should turn...
We've Seen Full-Frontal Nudity in Scotland, but Wilfred Has Disappeared
What do you think of it so far, this half-season we have seen? Time for the midterm reports. Team of the season. Obviously Chelsea. There has never been, in the history of our football, an injection of new money on such a scale. It's worked, so...
When It's Right to Be Fearful
At some point in 2004, a major British target--parliament, perhaps, or the London Tube, or a big shopping centre, or a sports stadium--will suffer a terrorist outrage. It is not a question of if, but when. So we are told. We were told the same at the...
Why Does Bush Fear Venezuela? It Has a Democratic President, a Moderate Social Reform Programme ... and Rather a Lot of Oil
Venezuela has become a haven for Islamic terrorist groups, if you believe General James Hill, head of US Southern Command--the US military's command centre responsible for keeping Latin America in line. His claim that Margarita Island, off the Venezuelan...
Will a Better Road Map Get Us There? A Palestinian Academic and a Former Head of the Israeli Secret Police Are Bringing Hope to the Stalled Middle East Peace Process
It is hard to believe that just six months ago in Jordan, Ariel Sharon was warmly shaking the hand of Mahmoud Abbas, then the Palestinian prime minister, in what was hailed as the first step towards the creation of a Palestinian state. The optimism...