Magazine article The Spectator

Double Trouble

Magazine article The Spectator

Double Trouble

Article excerpt

When I told my friend the New York comedian Ophira Eisenberg that my wife was pregnant with twins, she didn't boom 'double trouble', 'twice the fun', or 'two for the price of one'. Instead, she leant over and whispered conspiratorially: 'Twins are taking over the world.' Laugh, I did. But I am not laughing now.

Twins have not only taken over my home, but, following the traditional path to world domination, they are about to take over Poland. After last Sunday's elections, Jaroslaw Kaczynski is in line to become the next prime minister, while his identical twin Lech is the front-runner in next fortnight's presidential polls. The prospect of having genetic clones holding simultaneously the two greatest offices of state has proved too much even for the Kaczynski twins, who shot to fame as child stars in the film The Two That Stole The Moon.

Jaroslaw has promised to stand down as PM if his twin gets the presidency.

Ophira, I realise, is as much a prophet as a comedian. While we fret variously about Islamofascists or Martians, it is twins who are sneaking up on the inside track. Their numbers are growing exponentially. They often speak in a secret language which is impenetrable to outsiders, but blend invisibly into a crowd. They have an allegiance beyond normal social, national and familial bonds.

When they become a majority -- and it may not be that far away -- they will transform society from top to bottom, right down to the front door of every home in the land.

Even before the Polish conquest, they had the run of the White House and control of the heights of the British media.

The truth is these once extraordinary, almost mythical, rarities are becoming common. Multiple births are multiplying out of control.

Once upon a time, it was just Romulus and Remus, Castor and Pollux, Jacob and Esau. Then Reggie and Ronnie Kray scandalised us, and Ross and Norris McWhirter amazed us. More recently, Luke and Matt Goss embarrassed us, the Cheeky Girls tormented us, and the Olsen twins conquered America.

Twins came close to power when Mark and Carol Thatcher found their mother in Downing Street. Now Barbara and Jenna Bush, George's daughters, are the First Twins of America. The Barclay twins now own the Telegraph and The Spectator.

Isabelle and Theodore have taken command of my house. Until recently other twins occupied the homes of the Brussels correspondents of the BBC and the Economist.

In the US, the leader of most trends, twin births have risen by 62 per cent since 1980. There were 118,916 twin babies born in 2000, and there are now 500,000 of them five years old and under. In the UK twins have jumped from one in 98 births in 1983 to one in 68 in 2003 -- that is, one in 34 babies born -- and the pace is accelerating. If this continues, my calculator tells me that twin babies will outnumber mere singletons by the year 2179.

Some of the increase is caused by the new science of reproduction, including fertility drugs and in-vitro fertilisation. IVF -- which accounts for about one in a hundred births in the UK, and the numbers are rising fast -- is also behind the extraordinary growth in triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets, which were almost unheard of until test tubes started begetting babies.

Doctors in Britain are trying to curb the excesses, but twins are popular: in the US, efficiency-conscious IVF mothers are demanding designer twins -- one girl, one boy, thank you -- so they can produce a family in one push, causing less damage to their career and figure. …

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