The Spectator


15 February 2014

‘Instant wildlife – just add water’

The ideology that created an unnatural disaster

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Previous Issues

The Week

Sun Rises As Somerset Levels Recovers From Recent Flooding

Leading article

Britain needs small government, not weak government. That means strong flood defences

15 February 2014

There is nothing inevitable about the by now familiar sight of residents being towed away from flooded homes, of shops and businesses submerged, and all the misery and economic turmoil… Read more


Portrait of the week

15 February 2014

Home Floods grew worse in the West Country. The village of Moorland, Somerset, was abandoned. Then the Thames flooded, from above Oxford to Teddington. Eventually, David Cameron, the Prime Minister,… Read more

White Dee with her daughter Caitlin


White Dee

15 February 2014

There’s no reason why you should have heard of me. No reason why you would have watched a Channel 4 television series called Benefits Street — with a title like… Read more



15 February 2014

A kamikaze pilot at 80 The Japanese city of Minami-Kyushu was attacked for wanting to add the letters of 1,036 kamikaze pilots who died on suicide missions in the second… Read more


Ancient and modern

Ancient Rome’s fraudulent foreign students

15 February 2014

Foreign students getting on to courses under false pretences, overstaying their welcome and so on are nothing new. Ask the Romans. In the 4th century AD, the Roman empire was tottering,… Read more



15 February 2014

Save our Scotland Sir: Matthew Parris is quite right to praise Lord Lang’s speech in the Lords on Scottish independence 9 (‘The End of Britain’, 8 February) and there were other… Read more



Revealed: how green ideology turned a deluge into a flood

15 February 2014

It has taken six long weeks to uncover the real hidden reasons why, from the West Country to the Thames Valley, the flooding caused by the wettest January on record… Read more

The British Academy Film Awards - Heads On Sticks

And the prize for most fatuous awards ceremony goes to...

15 February 2014

‘Prizes are for boys,’ said Charles Ives, the American composer, upon receiving the Pulitzer in 1947, ‘and I’ve grown up now.’ He was using humour to make a serious point,… Read more

Taylor Swift's RED Tour - London, England - 2/10/2014

Why I've started my own Mail Online

15 February 2014

There are good reasons for serious people to despair of the news. A minor country singer dies, and the BBC gives him the front page. An actor dies and every… Read more

Race Demo

Britain has many major problems - racism isn't one of them

15 February 2014

I am a banana. In Singapore, where I used to live, this needs no explanation — it means I’m yellow on the outside but white on the inside, someone who… Read more

60 Playmate Bunnies Celebrate Playboy's 60th Anniversary

I’m nearly 60. I’m still interested in sex. Is that a problem?

15 February 2014

The other day I casually remarked to my ex-wife that our son’s new teacher is ‘really hot’. She gave me a look of disgust, shook her head and said, ‘You… Read more


Warning: upspeak can wreck your career

15 February 2014

A few weeks ago, I accompanied my daughter to an Open Day at Roehampton College, where she is hoping to start a teacher training course in September. I enjoyed it… Read more

Here are little towns as pretty as any in Tuscany

The Marche

15 February 2014

When I first visited the Marche a dozen years ago, folk who knew about such things tapped their noses and confidently predicted that it was to be Italy’s ‘next big… Read more



If David Cameron can't get the floods right, all his hopes will wash away

15 February 2014

It is all hands to the pump in Downing Street. The entire No. 10 operation from the Prime Minister down to the Policy Unit is focused on the floods. ‘We… Read more

Spectators notes

The Spectator's notes: What shall we call the Country Formerly Known as Britain?

15 February 2014

Last week, David Cameron said that we have ‘seven months to save the most extraordinary country in history’. He meant the United Kingdom. It was a powerful speech, part of… Read more

Rod Liddle

We buy dogs to reflect ourselves. So who’s buying all these killer pitbulls?

15 February 2014

I’ve called the doggie hospital three times now to find out how Jessie’s getting on. She’s just come round, at the time of writing. I think it’s partly guilt which… Read more


Why did Theresa May deport my homeless friend?

15 February 2014

I’ve heard some excellent things about our Home Secretary, Theresa May. People who work in her department say she’s bright and hard-working, and that she runs around on her hamster… Read more

James Delingpole

The martyrdom of Mark Steyn

15 February 2014

When I first read, many months ago, that the notorious US climate scientist Michael Mann was suing the notorious right-wing bastard Mark Steyn for defamation, I admit that I felt… Read more


Where I’m looking for the next great banking blow-up

15 February 2014

A reader likens me to Dr Pangloss, the quack philosopher in Voltaire’s Candide who insisted that ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’ even after… Read more


Faisal’s dark, liquid eyes and distinguished bearing caused a sensation at the Paris Peace Conference

The enlightened king of Iraq

15 February 2014

‘King of Iraq’ has an odd ring even to those who know that Iraq was called Mesopotamia and was part of the Ottoman empire before falling into and out of… Read more

The Seagram Building, Park Avenue, New York

The man who gave the world (but not London) the glass skyscraper

15 February 2014

Modern Architecture, capitalised thus, is now securely and uncontroversially compartmentalised into art history, its bombast muted, its hard-edge revolutions blurred by debased familiarity. You have been to Catford? You have… Read more

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Photo: Getty

Did Hurricane Katrina have an angel of mercy — or an angel of death? 

15 February 2014

On 28 August 2005 — Sheri Fink’s Day One — Hurricane Katrina reached New Orleans. The National Weather Service warned that ‘human suffering will be incrdible by modern standards’. Fink’s… Read more

Edmund Burke (left) and Thomas Paine, caricatured by Gillray and Cruickshank respectively

Where did the Right and the Left come from? 

15 February 2014

What is the origin of left and right in politics? The traditional answer is that these ideas derive from the French National Assembly after 1789, in which supporters of the… Read more

A sign common in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1956 Photo: Getty

How to get around South Africa's many boundaries

15 February 2014

There are writers whose prose style is so fluid, so easy, the reader feels as though he has been taken by the hand and is being gently led down a… Read more

Lord Tweedsmuir and President Franklin D. Roosevelt Photo: Time & Life/Getty

The Scot who became more Canadian than the Canadians

15 February 2014

When John Buchan was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1935, the country was deep in depression, the western provinces a dustbowl and a quarter of a million people on… Read more


The Shock of the Fall is a worthy Costa Book of the Year

15 February 2014

About 30 pages in and unable to find my bearings, I flipped to the end of this novel — well, not the actual end, to the acknowledgements (always fascinating) and… Read more


Isabel Allende's Ripper doesn't grab you by the throat

15 February 2014

Isabel Allende is not an author one usually associates with the thrillers about serial killers. Ripper, however, lives up to its title. It’s the name of an online game, set… Read more


Marble portrait of Augustus, c.40 BC

What Emperor Augustus left us

15 February 2014

The symbol engraved on Augustus’ signet ring was a sphinx. Julian the Apostate described him as ‘a chameleon’. He seized power declaring himself the saviour of the Roman Republic, but… Read more

Choristers at Westminster Abbey, 1962 Photo: Getty

Are hymns dying? 

15 February 2014

I love a good hymn, so long as I’m not expected to sing it. Lusty declarations of faith sound ridiculous coming out of my mouth and embarrass the hell out… Read more

Stroke of Luck, Park Theatre Photo: Simon Kane

Putin: ‘Oi, Europe, you’re a bunch of poofs’

15 February 2014

Sochi 2014 is the least wintry Winter Olympics ever. Yes, there’s a bit of downhill shimmying going on in the slalom. And a few figure skaters are pirouetting around the… Read more

Vanitas’, mid-1650, by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione

'Castiglione: Lost Genius' loses his genius in a sea of brown

15 February 2014

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609–64) was, I must admit, unknown to me until I visited this show, the only Castiglione I was properly aware of being the one who wrote The… Read more

Gwyn Hughes Jones as des Grieux with Chiara Taigi as Manon

Manon Lescaut is twerking — should we applaud or shudder? 

15 February 2014

Last seen clambering over the MDF wheelchair ramps of Laurent Pelly’s Royal Opera House production of Jules Massenet’s opéra comique, Manon the minx, the ‘sphinx étonnant’ of Abbé Prévost’s 1731… Read more

Steven McRae in Frederick Ashton’s ‘Rhapsody’

Bach is made for dancing

15 February 2014

It appears that J.S. Bach’s music is to theatre-dance what whipped cream is to chocolate. Masterworks such as Trisha Brown’s MO, George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco and a plethora of less-known,… Read more

Crack team: Matt Damon and George Clooney in ‘The Monuments Men’

Bury every copy of Monuments Men in mines across Europe, so George Clooney can try again

15 February 2014

You know that old quip ‘I’m not just a pretty face’? I always thought it was meant to be said tongue-in-cheek, with an undertone of self-deprecation. Surely it’s not for… Read more

Joachim Klaus leads the raid on the Jonkhere bank in Salamander

So long, Scandinavia. Bonjour, Benelux! 

15 February 2014

So long, Scandinavia. Bonjour, Benelux! BBC4, your subtitle-friendly channel, has filled the hole left by Nordic-noir The Bridge with Belgian crime drama Salamander (Saturday). At first, I thought this might… Read more

A stowaway jumps from a ferry to avoid police checks Photo: Getty

Ali risked his life to escape Afghanistan — and now teaches Britons how to survive there

15 February 2014

‘Brown is very good — no Cameron. David Cameron no good,’ he said. Just in case we weren’t sure what he meant, he repeated, ‘Brown I like. Labour government I… Read more


Take a look at John Maynard Keynes's armchair

15 February 2014

Discoveries: Art, Science and Exploration at Two Temple Place (until 27 April) is like a giant cabinet of curiosities. Maps, gizmos and memorabilia are spread across two floors of this… Read more


Around the Games: Day 5 - 2014 Winter Olympic Games

High life

Why doesn't Stephen Fry boycott the Saudis as well as the Russians? 

15 February 2014

Call me sentimental, but I’ve never seen a better opening ceremony than the Sochi one, evoking Russia’s great past in literature and in many other things. The ballet sequence was… Read more

Ian Drury Photo: Redferns

Low life

My night in Zambia with Ian Dury 

15 February 2014

Every time I hear that song ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’ played on the radio, I think, Lord, how I miss Ian Dury. Then I wish they’d play… Read more

Andre Rieu makes people happy Photo: Bongarts/Getty

Real life

Let's make Andre Rieu the leader of the world 

15 February 2014

‘Please, I beg of you, take me to see André,’ was my mother’s heartfelt plea. And so it was that we turned up at Wembley Arena — she, my father… Read more

Milton Keynes, a nice place to live

Long life

In praise of Milton Keynes

15 February 2014

Who would ever have thought it, but I have become quite fond of Milton Keynes. Although I live slightly closer to the ancient city of Northampton than to this widely… Read more


Wild life

Jubilant greetings to you, Celestino! How is the atmospheric pressure in your corner? 

15 February 2014

 Laikipia ‘I am old and cannot work again,’ said Celestino. ‘But you are 46 and we have many years to go.’ ‘No. Working for you has made me blind.’ ‘We… Read more



15 February 2014

A couple of Sundays ago, in London, Zia Mahmood and Demetri Marchessini held the first ever ‘Goulash Individual’ tournament. ‘Goulash’ deals involve wild distributions of suits — and the day… Read more




15 February 2014

George Osborne is a supporter of chess. During the award ceremony at 11 Downing St for last year’s London Candidates’ tournament, he told me that as a teenager he attended… Read more


Chess puzzle

no. 301

15 February 2014

White to play. This position is from Carlsen-Caruana, Zurich 2014. White’s pin against the black rook and the passed pawn on d7 are the key components of his winning combination.… Read more



Hard-boiled Blyton

15 February 2014

In Competition 2834 you were invited to submit an extract from a classic of children’s literature rewritten in the style of hard-boiled crime fiction. My word, you were good this… Read more



2149: Super!

15 February 2014

Each of the unclued lights (one of two words and one of three) can be preceded by the same word which solvers must state when submitting their entry. All resulting… Read more


Crossword solution

Solution to 2146: 4 ÷ 4 = 8

15 February 2014

One 4-letter word is to be placed in the middle of another to yield an 8-letter solution: 6 ÷ 19 = 44: 14 ÷ 8 = 1A; 31D ÷ 37… Read more


Battle for Britain

Battle for Britain

15 February 2014

The Wiki Man

Will self-driving cars know what to do in the middle lane?

15 February 2014

I am convinced that when I took my driving test in 1983 I was asked by the examiner, ‘What lane of a three-lane motorway should you use when driving at… Read more

Dear Mary

Dear Mary

15 February 2014

Q. Over New Year I stayed with a man who combines being a generous and exciting host with a punctilious need for swift, hand-written appreciation. I had every intention of… Read more

The Hunters in the Snow, 1565, by Pieter Brueghel Photo: De Agostini/Getty


A spirit to warm Bruegel’s ‘Hunters in the Snow’

15 February 2014

The ostensible subject matter is misleading, as is any conflation with his lesser relatives’ wassailing peasants and roistering village squares. But Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s work is profoundly serious. It… Read more

Mind Your Language

Mind your language

A learned poet's mystifying mistakes

15 February 2014

I enjoy Poetry Please, but was shouting mildly at the wireless the other day when a northern woman poet was using the whining intonation that some seem to think the… Read more