Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Muslims respect Jesus as a prophet and endorse various aspects of his story.

The Annunciation appears in the Koran, and so, in consequence, does the Virgin Birth. In the pains of childbirth, it says, Mary was sustained in the desert by God providing a brook at her feet and a palm-tree which she could shake to get dates. But Muslims deny Jesus s crucifixion. The Jews said that they killed him but, the Koran declares, they did not:

They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did. Perhaps this denial is not surprising, since it is from Jesus s death and resurrection that the claims for his divinity - which Muslims reject - arise, but it is strange nonetheless. The Crucifixion is the best-attested event in the Gospels, a moment of history. The encounter with Pilate reads like a version of a real political event, not a legend. It is another denial, though, which always makes the scene real to me. In all four Gospels, Peter tells Jesus that he will never desert him. Then he follows Jesus when he is arrested and taken to the house of a high priest. He does not enter, but stays outside: And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself (John 18:18).

Then a damsel comes out and accuses Peter of being a friend of Jesus. In Mark's version, a servant repeats the accusation, because he has noticed Peter s Galilean accent. After Peter denies his master three times, the cock, as Jesus had foretold, crows. Possibly these details are stylised, typological, but they read like reportage. You can see Peter weeping in the cold dawn.

It is pleasing that Ofcom has fined the BBC £150,000 for the Jonathan Ross/ Russell Brand performance when, for the benefit of the show, the two men rang up the elderly actor Andrew Sachs and boasted into his answering machine about Brand s sexual exploits with his granddaughter. The Ofcom report emphasises the BBC s failures of compliance . Despite its promise, in response to earlier complaints about rigged competitions, that compliance procedures would be scrupulously followed, Radio 2 did not fill in the forms properly in the Ross case, or get them signed off. But is compliance really the problem? What about conscience?

Surely the lesson from the affair is that no one in any position of authority thought that what the stars had done was revolting.

There is no procedure that can guard against moral imbecility.

If conversation is anything to go by, then the effect of the revelations about MPs second-home expenses is even worse than cash for questions in lowering the reputation of the House of Commons. When caught claiming for patio tiles and DVD players, or switching around about which is the first and which the second (or third) home, MPs retort that what they are doing is perfectly legitimately allowed (Jacqui Smith), and this appears to be true. So instead of disliking individual MPs who have been dishonest, we are coming to dislike all of them. I do not think MPs themselves realise just how bad their standing is. They say that they cannot do their jobs without second homes. It is true that constituency associations often demand that they live in the constituency, but there is no need for this to happen. The idea of the MP as the local nanny has gone much too far. …

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