The Spectator


11 January 2014

The fantasy Francis

Trendy commentators have fallen in love with a pope of their own invention

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Previous Issues

The Week


Leading article

Welfare wars

11 January 2014

George Osborne is refreshingly uninterested in his public image, believing that he will be judged by the success (or otherwise) of his economic policies. So when the Chancellor pops up… Read more


Portrait of the week

11 January 2014

Home George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made it clear in a speech that he intended to cut £25 billion after the next election, with about half of the savings… Read more

Rory Stewart: a fine example of an Old Etonian (Photo: David Levenson/Getty)


Peter McKay

11 January 2014

David Cameron gives Old Etonians a bad name. Critics deplore his Old Etonian-ness,  his Lord Snooty Factor.  Childish, but it’s an uncomplicated prejudice which can be freely expressed in our… Read more



11 January 2014

The test of a wave Waves measuring 27ft from peak to trough were seen off Land’s End as the stormy weather continued. How do these compare with the highest waves… Read more


Ancient and modern

Ancient and modern: Ovid on selfies

11 January 2014

A ‘meme’ is ‘an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture, often by mimicry’. If selfies, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, tweets and all the other… Read more



11 January 2014

Pirates and Tories Sir: Daniel Hannan is himself a pirate, masquerading as a Conservative MEP (‘Here come the pirates!’, 4 January). Oddly, since he’s fighting an election against it in… Read more



Sorry — but Pope Francis is no liberal

11 January 2014

On the last day of 2013, one of the weirdest religious stories for ages appeared on the news wires. The Vatican had officially denied that Pope Francis intended to abolish… Read more

Stephen Ward and friends, 1963. Christine Keeler is on the right

William Astor: My father, his swimming pool and the Profumo scandal

11 January 2014

Christine Keeler and Jack Profumo might never have met in the swimming pool at Cliveden if it had not been for a filly called Ambiguity. As children, growing up at… Read more

The view from the trapped ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy

Global warming's glorious ship of fools

11 January 2014

Yes, yes, just to get the obligatory ‘of courses’ out of the way up front: of course ‘weather’ is not the same as ‘climate’; and of course the thickest iciest… Read more


Don't tax sugar - it doesn't make you fat. Gluttony does

11 January 2014

If there is one characteristic that accounts for the deep unattractiveness of the modern British, it is their lack of self-control. It is not merely that they lack such self-control… Read more


'I laughed until I cried, then retched': Boris Johnson on the wit of Simon Hoggart

11 January 2014

I really can’t remember exactly how I came to appoint Simon Hoggart the wine correspondent of this magazine, but I have a feeling that it must have been in the… Read more

The Everly Brothers (Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty)

A girl, a train and a miniature pistol: how I met the Everly Brothers

11 January 2014

I was drifting in and out of sleep last week, listening to the news, when suddenly eight words — at first sounding no different from the general run — slammed… Read more


The Navigators

11 January 2014

Tehran does not welcome pedestrians. It is eight o’clock on a July evening and the sun has plunged out of the air with alarming speed; the sky is the colour… Read more

A visit to Orlando: Hatfield House

Gardens for all seasons

11 January 2014

Winter garden visiting is a solitary pastime, lending itself to the misanthrope, and is highly recommended. When it’s so cold not even your dog wants to come with you, seize… Read more



Ed Miliband's immigration nightmare

11 January 2014

Victor Spirescu came to Britain last week looking for work washing cars, but seems to have landed himself with a career in broadcasting. The Romanian, who arrived on the first… Read more

Spectators notes

Mugabe envy in Scotland

11 January 2014

Who owns Scotland? The people who most commonly ask this question believe that the land has been wrested from ordinary Scots by evil lairds and rich foreigners (by which they… Read more

Rod Liddle

Why should Nigel Farage have to fight the ghost of Enoch Powell?

11 January 2014

One of the genuine seasonal pleasures to be enjoyed as 2013 slipped around the U-bend was Enoch Powell making his familiar comeback as the Evil Ghost of Christmases Past. Enoch… Read more

Matthew Parris

Hedonistic? No, today's gay men are civic-minded - and conservative

11 January 2014

A gay friend phones over the New Year break. A lovely chap (let us call him Richard) and long retired, he has done well and made money over the years.… Read more

Hugo Rifkind

The only way to end the war on drugs is to stop fighting it

11 January 2014

It’s surprisingly boring, legalising weed. In Colorado, where recreational doobie has been utterly without censure for, ooh, about a week and a half now, the Department of Revenue (Marijuana Enforcement… Read more


Martin Vander Weyer: Why I’d rather run M&S than Tesco

11 January 2014

This first working week of January is apparently the time when we’re most likely to think about a change of career; and last Friday was the 30th anniversary of the… Read more


The young Clarice Lispector was strikingly beautiful, with catlike green eyes and ‘very, very sexy’, remembered a friend

'She's the most important Jewish writer since Kafka!'

11 January 2014

The Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector was a riddlesome and strange personality. Strikingly beautiful, with catlike green eyes, she died in Rio de Janeiro in 1977 at the age of only… Read more


This year, discover Michel Déon

11 January 2014

In Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666, the efforts of an academic claque propel the mysterious German author Benno von Archimboldi onto bestseller lists across the Continent. But ‘in the British Isles,… Read more

Coloured photograph of Princess Louise dating from the early 1880s by the society photographer Alexander Bassano

What was the secret of Queen Victoria's rebel daughter?

11 January 2014

Princess Louise (1848–1939), Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, was the prettiest and liveliest of the five princesses, and the only one who broke out of the royal bubble. Artistically talented, she… Read more

The National Theatre

The National Theatre Story by Daniel Rosenthal - review

11 January 2014

In 1976, as the National Theatre moved into its new home on London’s South Bank, its literary manager Kenneth Tynan observed: ‘It’s taken 123 years to get here: 60 of… Read more

A Soviet soldier buys a ticket for the  performance of the Seventh Symphony in Leningrad in August 1942

Shostakovich, Leningrad, and the greatest story ever played

11 January 2014

The horrors of the Leningrad siege — the 900 Days of Harrison Salisbury’s classic — have been pretty well picked over by historians; and meanwhile the story of Shostakovich’s Seventh… Read more

Arshile Gorky (Photo: Gjon Mili//Time Life/Getty)

Critics can be creative - look at Malcolm Cowley

11 January 2014

Even Spectator book reviewers have to concede that their craft is inferior to the creative travail of authors. Henry James railed against the practitioners of literary criticism long ago: So… Read more

Portrait of John McEwen by John Bellany

John Bellany: potent, prolific, patchy

11 January 2014

When John Bellany died in August last year, an odyssey that had alternately beguiled and infuriated the art world came to an end. Famously, Bellany had nearly died from liver… Read more


Unmissable: ‘The Horse, the Rider and the Clown’, 1943–4, by Matisse will go on show at Tate Modern in April

Art shows you simply mustn't miss in 2014

11 January 2014

One of the great treats of the exhibiting year will undoubtedly be Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (17 April to 7 September) at Tate Modern. The last phase of Matisse’s productive… Read more

Elektra at the Royal Opera House (Photo: Clive Barda/Arena Pal

Overrated Strauss vs underrated Gluck

11 January 2014

This is the first of my more-or-less monthly columns, the idea of which is to report on operatic events other than those that take place at the two major London… Read more

This charming man: Lang Lang rehearsing with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic

Lang Lang: You can't compare Bach and Schoenberg, or Justin Timberlake and The Beatles

11 January 2014

As Lang Lang walked from the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in November, a little girl emerged from the audience to embrace him. It was a disarming moment that… Read more

Mariah Carey (Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty)

All I want next Christmas is new Christmas songs 

11 January 2014

Three months until spring. Four months until the start of the cricket season. And only nine months until the radio starts playing ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ again. Or have you heard… Read more

Ben Miller as Robert Houston MP in ‘The Duck House’

The Duck House is the best show in the West End

11 January 2014

It’s taken me a few months to catch up with the political farce The Duck House. Then again, it’s taken The Duck House a few years to catch up with… Read more

Great performance: Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup

Deborah Ross: 12 Years a Slave harrowed me to within an inch of my life

11 January 2014

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave goes directly to the heart of American slavery without any shilly-shallying — unlike The Butler, say, or even Django Unchained — and is what… Read more

Nick Robinson: fronting a critique of — or apologia for — immigration policy?

James Delingpole: 'The Truth About Immigration' is anything but

11 January 2014

Immigration. Were you aware that this has become a bit of a problem these past ten years? I wasn’t, obviously, because like all credulous idiots I get my news from… Read more


Bye-bye Bric, hello Mint — are Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey really the new boom economies?  

11 January 2014

New year new ideas as we woke up on Monday morning to find ourselves in Lagos with Evan Davies trying to convince us that Nigeria really is undergoing an economic… Read more


Why is there no God in the British Library's latest exhibition?   

11 January 2014

Georgians Revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain at the British Library (until 11 March) would have you believe that the religious life was not a feature of… Read more


Jodie Foster in 1977 (Photo: Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty)

High life

Taki: How the King of Greece taught me the origins of the F word... 

11 January 2014

Gstaad Although no longer a regular habit, extended benders now turn me into a sort of magnetic field that picks up pearls as though they were iron filings. They are… Read more


Low life

Jeremy Clarke: When public vice improves private virtue

11 January 2014

So I go to the all-night house party with my rolled-up yoga mat under my arm. Nice house, middle-class crowd, everybody drunk. Women’s screams coming from upstairs. Looking for the… Read more


Real life

Melissa Kite: Why is it easier to go mad than get a refund from a utility company? 

11 January 2014

‘Hello, I’d like my money back, please,’ I said to the nice lady on the other end of the line. And if the nice lady on the other end of… Read more


Long life

Alexander Chancellor: The Chinese must save the cigar from extinction

11 January 2014

In Dorchester during the Christmas holiday I bought a two-slice electric toaster at Currys. It was a nice little toaster that worked very well when I got it home. And… Read more


The turf

How jockeys play dirty

11 January 2014

At Christmas a friend from CNN sent me the story of a US officer on a European train. Searching for a seat, he found one occupied by a miniature poodle… Read more



11 January 2014

First up, HNY to one and all and especially my regular reader (no, not you mummy) John Hinde, who wrote me a charming email very politely pointing out the absurdity… Read more



Different paths

11 January 2014

Daniel Johnson, Dominic Lawson and Tim Congdon all had the potential to become chess masters. However, all three chose alternative routes, establishing their reputations in the fields of journalism, politics and… Read more


Chess puzzle

No. 296

11 January 2014

White to play. This position is a variation from Congdon–‘Heinsius’, online game 2014. White has a ferocious attack and now needs to land the killer blow. How can he achieve… Read more



Culture shock?

11 January 2014

In Competition 2829 you were invited to imagine what Philip Larkin might have made of the news that Hull has been anointed 2017’s City of Culture. Despite its unpromising image,… Read more



2144: Leonids

11 January 2014

1D is the title of a work minus a word that is suggested by three further unclued lights. Other unclued lights include the person to whom the word refers, who… Read more


Crossword solution

to 2142: Wintry

11 January 2014

Extra letters in clues give ‘wrapped in wild snow’, a quotation from a poem by ALEXANDER BLOK (10). Partially indicated answers are treated accordingly, the resulting entries at 1D, 14,… Read more


Status anxiety

Toby Young: Why I'm giving up drinking. And chocolate. And ice cream...

11 January 2014

I’ve gone completely overboard with New Year’s Resolutions this year. I’ve sworn off three illicit substances — alcohol, chocolate and ice cream — and vowed to eat an apple every… Read more

Viv Richards in Antigua, 1986 (Photo: Adrian Murrell/Getty)

Spectator sport

Roger Alton: The day Viv Richards came to watch me play cricket

11 January 2014

Sir Vivian Richards came to watch me play cricket the other day. That’s the sort of sentence you wait a lifetime to write. What’s more it’s true. Sort of. I… Read more

Dear Mary

Dear Mary

11 January 2014

Q. We had our son’s fiancée and her family to stay recently. After dinner, expecting conversation, we were shocked to see them all slumped in our drawing room staring at… Read more

Woolley Grange


Tanya Gold: Child-friendly, sex-free, nut-heavy – just the hotel for my 40th birthday

11 January 2014

Woolley Grange is a child-friendly country house hotel that seems, at first, entirely monstrous — a grey Tudor house in Wiltshire, with gables like teeth and a pond outside, possibly… Read more


Mind your language

Dot Wordsworth: How online shopping is changing English

11 January 2014

How do you play the lottery? The National Lottery website has a handy guide. Step No. 1 is: ‘Go into a store.’ But in my experience, lottery tickets are sold… Read more