New Statesman (1996)

Articles from Vol. 131, No. 4614, November 18

A Celebration of Tea, the Perfect Excuse to Fall upon the Sweetmeats. (Drink)
The ritual of the tea ceremony was borrowed from the Dutch in the late 17th century by a pair of lords whose entourage of ladies were said to have become "passionately enamoured with it as a new thing". But it wasn't until the 1840s, by which time...
A Hit by a High School Marksman: Philip Kerr on How the Fat Man of American Satire Blows Apart the Gun Culture. (Film)
To bowdlerise a remark of Kingsley Amis's, I know I like guns, I just don't know why I like them so much. I enjoy handling firearms, shooting them, too, when I'm offered the chance. The gun safe in my house is empty however, since, with the possible...
An Old Labour Triumph, an Aborted Spliff Trip, and the Woman Who Sculpted Lenin. (the Insider)
Tony Blair hates unions. He has never been a member of one (discounting his ersatz membership of the TGWU, solely for the sponsorship money) and is always ready to believe the worst of them. So it was wise of John Reid, the new Labour Party chairman,...
A Republican's Final Act. (Northern Ireland Schools)
While the government fights to keep, and even to extend, selection at the age of 11 in the rest of the UK, the 11-plus examination is being quietly abolished in Northern Ireland, which still has a traditional grammar school system. Martin McGuinness's...
Artists on an Eternal Picnic: Bohemians Such as George Barker (Right) Lived in Creative Chaos on the Margins of Mainstream Society. Are Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst Trying to Imitate Them? (Essay)
There comes a moment in most biographies when, almost unwittingly, some aspect of the subject's life, work or attitudes suddenly assumes a defining symbolic shape. In The Chameleon Poet, Robert Fraser's recent biography of George Barker, who died...
As 250,000 Ground Troops Get Ready to Invade Iraq, the Assumption Is That Saddam Hussein Will Be Toppled Quickly from within, Making Messy Fighting Unnecessary. (America)
So that's that, then. President Bush marches from triumph to triumph: not only does he win a series of resounding victories at the polls, but he then goes on to secure an unprecedented 15-0 UN Security Council vote authorising war against Iraq....
A Tango. (Mr Smith Goes To)
If you go to the London tango festival this weekend, you may just be able to hear, over the swell of squeezeboxes and the tattoo of high heels, the sound of past masters turning in their graves. There are unconfirmed reports that work on Billy Elliot...
Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.Of Gum on the Pavement and Graffiti on the Wall: Medieval Handbooks Laid Down Strict Rules about Spitting; Today, Staring May Be an Aggressive Act. Paul Barker Asks If Blair Can Win His War on Antisocial Behaviour. (Features)
I walk down a local pavement, past a row of shops. Three boys, aged between about 12 and 14, have managed to get on to a single bike and are riding at me full tilt. I shout at them to stop. They get off. The youngest holds up his fists in my face...
Carry on the Windsors: Malcolm Clark Sees No Gay Mafia at the Palace, Only Courtiers Behaving with the Typical Arrogance of Royalty. (Features)
Until recently, most of us assumed that the royal household resembled the one in the old black-and-white movie Kind Hearts and Coroners. Stiff, unintentionally funny and given to bouts of Ruritanian pomposity. That was before the Paul Burrell affair....
Con-Fusion: Sholto Byrnes Says That What Passes for World Music Is Often a Sham. (Jazz)
Programmes for the forthcoming London Jazz Festival have been flopping on to doormats all over the country, and there have already been grumbles about one aspect of the programme -- the presence of many artists who fall under the category of "world...
Double-Take: Ned Denny on the Sacred Magic of an Artist Who Operates in the Shadows of Other People's Films. (Art)
"On the screen, actresses are beautiful when frightened." This unassuming little sentence, plucked from the strange and wonderful autobiography that Douglas Gordon has published to coincide with his one-man show at the Hayward Gallery, gets you...
"Government to Do Deal with Firefighters"
Never in the history of industrial relations has a government so cocked up the handling of a dispute. Many people sympathetic to the firefighters were initially critical of the union's decision not to co-operate with the so-called independent inquiry....
Hard Faces under Ridiculous Bouffants: Leeds United Dominated My Youth. (Northside)
I was born in a street with a name that always fascinated me -- Albermarle Road, York. The house overlooked the Knavesmire, on which my grandfather, a freeman of the city, had the right to graze cattle, though since he was employed as a fitter at...
How Students Will Pay. (University Fees)
The delay is cosmetic. Even though the announcement of the government's plans for higher education funding has been held back until mid-January, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Charles Clarke have settled on a broad compromise formula. And while the...
I Dream of Scoring for Spurs, Which Surely Beats Scoring with the Queen. (the Fan)
One of the good or at least interesting effects of so many league clubs being heavily in debt is that they are being forced to think of new ways of making money. For almost a hundred years, supporters' clubs rallied round, held raffles, ran competitions,...
I'm a Muslim but I Can Still Fly: Arabs and Asians Complain of Racial Profiling. but the Widely Travelled Sarfraz Mansoor Finds US Airline Security Less Onerous Than He Expected after the 11 September Atrocities. (Features)
Some people have a fear of flying; I am afraid of airports. It starts even before landing; 30,000 feet above the ground, as we start the approach to the runway, my stomach will start to tighten and my palms will begin to sweat. It gets worse. At...
It Is Not a Moral Issue. (Leader)
As Robert Taylor recalls on page 15 of this issue, Sir George Bain, when he became principal of the London Business School in 1989, secured for himself one of the most lucrative remuneration packages in the whole of academia. There, and in his subsequent...
I Took My Grandson to St Paul's Cathedral to Show Him Nelson's Tomb, but the Entry Charge Is Now [Pounds Sterling]6. "What If I Just Wanted to Pray?" I Asked, and Got an Icy Response. (Diary)
There is no dumbing down. Official. At least not among television programme-makers. Tuesday night's prestigious Grierson Awards for 2002 celebrated an even broader range of documentaries than on previous occasions. And in each category the standards...
It's Not Gay Sex That Should Worry the Royals, but Bog-Standard Heterosexual Promiscuity. (Columns)
A valet gave Prince Charles a blow job. Or at least something along those lines apparently happened, if we are to believe George Smith, the former royal valet who told Princess Diana every gory detail of the seedy, scandalous excesses of Palace...
I Will Be Burgled and Other Urban Myths. (Features)
It is Halloween, and Mandy Stevens is terrified. She has bolted her door and sworn to ignore anybody who calls by. She has even switched off all the lights so nobody can tell that she is in. She isn't superstitious, and it isn't goblins that she...
Just like His Pal Silvio: Tony Blair, Assisted by a Posse of Unelected Advisers, Propaganda Paid for by Our Taxes, and a Subservient Civil Service, Is Building a One-Party State, a la Berlusconi
Tony Blair's friendship with Silvio Berlusconi is proof, if proof is still needed, that he hasn't a particle of social democratic principle left in his body. He has no qualms about scraping the friendship of an Italian government that includes ...
Letters
Reading Johann Hari from time to time, I am struck by how he unfailingly inserts a personal prejudice early on. His cover piece "on the collapse of anti-globalisation" is a parade of prejudices. There are his "moderates" who "march uneasily" with...
My Channel 4 Adventures, with Ice Picks, Zulu War Cries and Kidnapping Threats. (Columns)
Channel 4, which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary, has been an integral part of my life for nearly all that time. Just before its launch, Jeremy Isaacs, its chief executive, visited a Home Office minister to outline his plans. The minister...
On the Right Track: The Journey to Get to Them May Be Hell, but Britain's Railway Stations Remain Majestic Sites. Matthew Dodd on Network Rail's Unique Architectural Portfolio. (the Back Half)
John Betjeman was unequivocal when it came to trains: "What masterpiece arose On the site of the old station? No masterpiece. Instead there is a place where nobody can sit: an underground taxientrance so full of fumes that drivers, passengers and...
Porridge: You Love It or Hate It (and the Best Way to Eat It Is Standing Up). (Food)
Porridge, more than most foodstuffs, divides people. For those who don't like it, just the sight of a used porridge pan soaking in the sink, just the smell of simmering oatmeal, lust the sound of it spitting and belching as it cooks and just the...
Romeo Reaches Rock Bottom: Sheridan Morley Applauds a Cast for Managing Not to Giggle at Their Lines. (Theatre)
To understand what has gone so horribly wrong over here with a musical that has been running triumphantly in Paris these many months, we need to understand something about the French and musicals, which is basically that they hate them. Only in...
The Bain of Their Lives. (Firefighters)
It wasn't what the unions were expecting. Sir George Bain, head of the government-appointed independent review of the fire service, has many admirers in the trade union movement and -- although the Fire Brigades Union has refused to co-operate with...
The Bank of England Seems Incapable of Understanding the Boom in House Prices. Worse, It Isn't Warning Us That the Ensuing Economic Growth Will Be Perilously Unbalanced. (the Business)
Jonathan Compton is an unlikely City rebel. The former stockbroker has made his pile working for big establishment names such as Barings and Credit Lyonnais. He once confessed to me that he had built up a personal portfolio of 14 properties simply...
The Foreign Secretary Is Ready to Wage War on Tyrants, but Blames Many of the World's Problems on Britain's Imperial Past. (Interview)
Jack Straw has reasons to be cheerful. Dogged diplomacy has paid dividends -- for the moment. The United States has not yet gone it alone. The UN Security Council has shown a united front. All eyes are on Saddam Hussein. Colin Powell, the US secretary...
The Last Puritan: Henry Sheen on Why Glenn Gould Still Haunts Other Pianists 20 Years after His Death. (Classical Music)
In Thomas Bernhard's novel Der Untergeher (The Loser), the virtuoso pianist Wertheimer happens to walk past a room in the Salzburg Conservatorium where the young Canadian Glenn Gould is playing the aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations. The aria...
The Prime Minister Prepares to Retire: Francis Beckett Reports from an Alternative Universe. (Features)
If you had watched closely as MPs processed to the House of Lords for the Queen's Speech on Wednesday, you may have spotted a faint smile playing around the granite features of Gordon Brown. Since almost everybody at Westminster believes that this...
"There Were Three in Our Marriage, Too," Said the Wife of Paul Burrell, Diana's Butler. by the End of a Week of Revelation and Counter-Revelation, There Were 33. (Watching Brief)
I was on the phone to a tabloid editor the day Princess Diana died. "What will we do without her?" he cried. "What will we write about now?" Five years on, that woman is still filling and selling newspapers. By the end of the second week of revelations...
Things Can Only Get Better: Andrew Billen Finds the Project, like New Labour Itself, to Be a Big Let-Down. (Television)
Like the new Labour project itself, BBC1's two-part dramatisation about it, The Project (10-11 November),was a big let-down. Infact, it was a bigger let-down. If Tony Blair in opposition, with his promise to keep within Tory spending budgets, had...
To the Carlton Club, Where Portillo Tells Me to Keep the Silver Clear of the Salt. (Now What?)
The Canton Club in St James's wistfully combines the smells and atmosphere of a Victorian salon. Just hanging my coat up beneath the paintings of lairds and Tory grandees gave me the jitters as I waited to be shown to the private room where I was...