Michael Simmons

Quentin Letts, Owen Matthews, Michael Hann, Laura Gascoigne, and Michael Simmons

31 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: Quentin Letts takes us through his diary for the week (1:12); Owen Matthews details the shadow fleet helping Russia to evade sanctions (7:15); Michael Hann reports on the country music revival (15:05); Laura Gascoigne reviews exhibitions at the Tate Britain and at Studio Voltaire (21:20); and, Michael Simmons provides his notes on the post-pub stable, the doner kebab (26:20). Produced by Patrick Gibbons and Oscar Edmondson.  

Katja Hoyer

Germany was right to take the Reichsbürger threat seriously

Germany is in the grip of one of the most extensively covered courtroom dramas in recent memory. On trial is an alleged terrorist group of nine men and women centred around the 72-year-old aristocrat Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss. They stand accused of having plotted to violently overthrow the state before they were arrested in December 2022. The groups’ network is said to reach far into Germany’s armed forces, police and politics, making the case one of the most bizarre and troubling in modern German history. The case is so large that it had to be split into three parts. The first one began in Stuttgart in April. Another one is

Georgia’s ‘foreign agent’ law protestors won’t go down quietly

Following the introduction this Tuesday of Georgia’s notorious ‘foreign agent’ law by the ruling party Georgian Dream, there has been widespread popular protest in the capital Tbilisi. The law, proposed last year but postponed in the face of public resistance, demands that any non-governmental organisation receiving more than 20 per cent of its funding from abroad must label itself an ‘agent of foreign influence’ or face fines and even imprisonment. While the government claims it’s simply a practical bid to create transparency in Georgian politics, critics, who call it the ‘Russian Law’, feel it’s a leap towards greater union with the Kremlin. They fear the legislation will simply be abused,

Brendan O’Neill

The troubling reaction to the shooting of Robert Fico

Just imagine if, following the killing of Jo Cox, some right-wing media outlet had said: ‘Well, she was a divisive figure, and very pro-Remain, so it’s not surprising something like this happened.’ We’d be horrified, right? We would have looked upon such low commentary as excuse-making for murder, as a borderline justification for an utterly unjust act of violence against an MP, a mother and democracy itself. It is hands down the most disturbing thing I’ve heard on a news channel Well, something not dissimilar to this imagined scenario happened for real yesterday – and we need to talk about it. It was on Sky News. They were discussing the

The assassination attempt on Robert Fico will change Slovakia for ever

Slovakia’s prime minister Robert Fico is fighting for his life in hospital after being shot several times. While it is impossible to fully flesh out the consequences of today’s assassination attempt, it is safe to say that the event is a dramatic game changer for Slovak, and potentially for Central European, politics. During a meet and greet with the public following a cabinet meeting in the small mining town of Handlová, a man reportedly shouted at Fico, ‘Rob, come here,’ before shooting at him three or four times aiming at his chest and abdomen. The prime minister fell on the ground before being taken by his protection officers to the car and

Gavin Mortimer

The Normandy prisoner escape shines a light on France’s criminal underworld

‘Sometimes when we turn on the television we get the impression that nothing’s going well in France,’ Emmanuel Macron said on Monday. ‘I don’t think it’s true.’ France’s president has developed a knack of being overtaken by events – and so it has proved once again. A huge manhunt is underway after two prison guards were shot dead near Rouen in Normandy. The security officers were gunned down as they transferred a prisoner, described by police sources as a notorious drugs smuggler nicknamed ‘The Fly’, whose real name is Mohamed A. Two vehicles blocked the prison van on the A154 motorway and, as the prisoner was sprung, two of the guards

Catalonia has gone cold on independence

Is Catalonia’s independence movement dead in the water? Elections held in the region on Sunday reveal that support for separatist parties dropped significantly. Between them, the hard-line Junts per Catalunya, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and two small separatist parties only managed 61 seats – of which 35 went to Junts. In the regional parliament, 68 seats are required for a majority. This is an anticlimatic end to an impassioned, and at times dramatic, saga for the region. On 27 October 2017, confident that the European Union would welcome a new, freedom-loving net-contributor to its budget, Catalonia boldly declared itself ‘an independent and sovereign state’. But rather than a warm welcome,

Cindy Yu

Slavoj Zizek, Angus Colwell, Svitlana Morenets, Cindy Yu, and Philip Hensher

32 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: Philosopher Slavoj Zizek takes us through his diary including his Britney Spears Theory of Action (1:08); Angus Colwell reports from the front line of the pro-Palestinian student protests (8:09); Svitlana Morenets provides an update on what’s going on in Georgia, where tensions between pro-EU and pro-Russian factions are heading to a crunch point (13:51); Cindy Yu analyses President Xi’s visit to Europe and asks whether the Chinese leader can keep his few European allies on side (20:52); and, Philip Hensher proposes banning fun runs as a potential vote winner (26:01).  Produced by Patrick Gibbons and Oscar Edmondson.

Qanta Ahmed

Why is Colombia turning its back on Israel in its hour of need?

Colombia’s president Gustavo Petro has terminated diplomatic relations with Israel and described the country’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as ‘genocidal’. Thankfully, not all Colombians share Petro’s view of the Jewish State. Many of the ten million or so evangelical Christians in Colombia are outraged at the message Petro’s outburst sends to the 4,000-strong Jewish Colombian community. Prominent Colombians have also expressed dismay at Petro’s self indulgent proclamation. When I visited Colombia for ten days as a guest of the Israeli ambassador Gali Dagan last month, I met many Colombians who apologised for Petro’s comments. ‘He doesn’t represent us,’ they said. Colombia is turning its back on Israel in its hour

Brendan O’Neill

What is the anti-Israel Eurovision protest really about?

A young Israeli woman warned to stay in her hotel room. A baying mob on the streets outside hollering slogans and abuse. Death threats piling up. Bodyguards working round the clock to make sure no protester gets inside to where the woman has taken refuge from their fury. I’m sorry, is this a political protest or a Jew-hunt? The most galling thing about the Malmo protests is the sight of Greta Thunberg I am referring, of course, to the despicable scenes in Malmo in Sweden where the final of the Eurovision Song Contest takes place tomorrow. The woman is Eden Golan, a 20-year-old Israeli-Russian who is singing for Israel. The

Gavin Mortimer

France is waking up to the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood. Is Britain?

Donald Trump made headlines this month when he claimed that London and Paris are no longer recognisable because ‘they have opened their doors to jihad’. It was a characteristically provocative statement from the former US president, and one that had his many enemies huffing and puffing with indignation. Trump was wrong to describe the two cities as ‘unrecognisable’ but he was right in saying that a ‘jihad’ is being waged. The Brotherhood’s most successful achievement has been the introduction of a new word: Islamophobia ‘Jihad’, at least to non-Muslims, has violent connotations but the word means ‘struggle’ or ‘utmost effort’, and so there are also ideological jihads. This is the

Cindy Yu

What Xi wants in Europe

On a quiet street in Belgrade, a bronze statue of Confucius stands in front of a perforated white block, the new Chinese Cultural Centre. This is on the former site of the Chinese embassy which in 1999 was bombed by US-led Nato forces during the Kosovo war. Three Chinese nationals were killed. The Americans said the bombing was an accident, but the deaths allowed China and Serbia to share a common anti-Nato grievance. This week, timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the bombing, Xi Jinping visited Belgrade and talked about the Sino-Serbian ‘bond forged with the blood of our compatriots’. He had been expected to visit the embassy

Gavin Mortimer

Macron is deluded if he thinks he can persuade Xi to change

Try as he might Emmanuel Macron and his party are unable to arrest the popularity of the National Rally. A month out from the European elections, the latest poll has their principal candidate, Jordan Bardella, on 32 points, double the score of Macron’s representative, Valerie Hayer. The latest head of state with dubious ethics to be courted by Macron is Xi Jinping Hayer and Bardella have clashed twice in recent days in live television debates, and on both occasions Hayer has condemned as ‘shameful’ the National Rally’s benevolence towards Vladimir Putin in the years leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That this strategy doesn’t appear to be working for

Nicholas Farrell

What’s behind Giorgia Meloni’s abortion position?

Like drowning men clutching at straws, Giorgia Meloni’s opponents are trying ever more hopelessly to justify their claim that she is a far-right threat to democracy. It’s not that Meloni has stopped being far right since she became Italy’s first female prime minister 18 months ago. It is just that – despite all the apocalyptic warnings about her – she wasn’t far right to begin with. The new law is not an assault on the 1978 law that made abortion legal in Italy. Meloni as a premier has proved to be much more like a Mediterranean version of Margaret Thatcher than the heir to Benito Mussolini – which many of her opponents still call her. As a result,

Gavin Mortimer

Von der Leyen can’t buy her way out of the migrant crisis

Elections have a wonderful way of focusing a politician’s mind. So it is with Rishi Sunak and the Tories, who are hoping their Rwanda Bill will be their salvation come the general election. In Brussels, the EU also knows that the migrant crisis will be a significant factor in deciding the outcome of Europe’s elections next month. The omens, or rather, the polls aren’t good. The EU is bracing itself for what it describes as a ‘sharp right turn’ next month The EU is bracing itself for what it describes as a ‘sharp right turn’ next month. Certainly, the polls in France and Holland, to name but two of the

Paris, city of blight

You know that feeling when you haven’t seen someone for several years and when you do, you really notice the changes? Generally it is a melancholy moment: you spot the extra wrinkles, the added pounds. Occasionally it can be positive: gym-toned physique, amusing new green-and-orange hair. Lots of us had these moments as we emerged, blinking and bewildered, from the bunker of Covid. I’ve just had this same experience, but with a city. Paris. The French capital is a place that I know well. I must have visited a dozen times over the decades. I’ve seen the Louvre Pyramid go up, I’ve seen Notre-Dame go down in flames (on TV,

John Keiger

Why Emmanuel Macron wants to give nukes to the EU

Emmanuel Macron is thinking and saying the unthinkable for a French President of the Republic. This weekend he suggested that French nuclear weapons – the holy grail of French security, intended to ensure that France never relives 1940 – could be put at the disposal of the European Union’s defence. For Macron this is a make or break moment for the EU to remain a world power or face oblivion His comments drew strident criticism from across the political spectrum. ‘Macron is becoming a national danger’, claimed the Rassemblement National’s Thierry Mariani. ‘And after France’s nuclear weapon’, he added, ‘it will be France’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council

Gavin Mortimer

Why Britain’s Rwanda Bill has rattled Emmanuel Macron

Britain’s Rwanda Bill has exposed the deep divisions in France between how the people and the political elite regard mass immigration. Asked if they would like France to adopt a Rwanda-style bill, 67 per cent of the French canvassed replied favourably to the idea. This figure is no surprise: for years, polls on the subject of border control have returned results that show two thirds to three-quarters of the French are worried by mass immigration and its consequences. Emmanuel Macron had a different take on the Rwanda Bill. In a speech at the Sorbonne on Thursday, the president declared that he was opposed to ‘this model that some people want

Matthew Lynn

The truth about Ireland’s £600 million Brexit ‘bonanza’

Ireland is reaping the benefits of a Brexit bonus to the tune of €700 million (£600 million). It is not hard to understand why hardcore Remainers are gleefully reporting the news that the government in Dublin is collecting huge extra revenues, much of which comes from imposing tariffs on British goods. What is being reported as a ‘Brexit bonanza’ for the Irish isn’t quite what it seems ‘The level of customs duties has effectively doubled in recent years compared to the previous decade, reflecting the transformation of Great Britain into a third country in 2021,’ says the Irish Revenue Commissioners. British companies suffer, and a foreign government makes lots of

Why hasn’t Pedro Sanchez resigned as Spain’s prime minister?

Pedro Sanchez has decided to stay on as Spain’s Socialist prime minister, despite announcing last week that he was considering resigning. Sanchez suspended his official duties for a few days to make the decision, following the launch of a judicial investigation into his wife, Begoña Gomez, for corruption and influence-peddling. (Sanchez has said the allegations are ‘as scandalous in appearance as they are non-existent.’) Accusations of corruption against political opponents and their relatives (the more, the better) has become a standard method of warfare in the Spanish political arena The case against Gomez was brought to a judge by an anti-corruption organisation called Manos Limpias (‘Clean Hands’), which Sanchez has accused of leading

Gavin Mortimer

What France’s celebrities don’t understand about Le Pen voters

Since 2012, the French actor Omar Sy has lived in Los Angeles. One of his houses has included a sprawling villa with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, an outdoor pool and a jacuzzi. With luxury like that perhaps it’s not surprising that Sy – known to British audiences for his role in X-Men, Jurassic World and Lupin – rarely returns to the Republic. But he’s in town this week to promote a book, and has been using his time in television studios to warn the good folk of France about the danger of voting for the ‘extreme right’. First, however, as befits a millionaire actor who lives in a very big

Lisa Haseldine

Germany’s AfD has become its own worst enemy

As the German AfD’s European election campaign kicks off tomorrow, the far-right party’s leadership could be forgiven for counting down to polling day in June with dread. This campaign launch marks the end of a torrid fortnight for the party that is threatening to jeopardise the AfD’s future in Brussels. Two of the party’s top politicians have been embroiled in foreign influence scandals that have plunged the party into crisis. On 19 April, Der Spiegel reported that Petr Bystron, the AfD’s second-choice party list candidate at the European elections, was caught in a sting operation receiving ‘small packages’ of money from a Russian businessman who managed a now-sanctioned Kremlin-backed propaganda

Gavin Mortimer

A tide of Euroscepticism is sweeping France

Britons should be fearful of Tony Blair’s call to the Labour party to ‘reset’ relations with the EU. The former prime minister has advised Keir Starmer that if he wins the general election he must build a closer political partnership with Brussels. Blair told the Sunday Times this was vital in order for the UK to once more be part of ‘the big political union on our own continent’. In France, there is a growing suspicion that the EU is on the brink of what Blair, and his Gallic protegee, Emmanuel Macron, have long dreamed of: a United States of Europe. This is a significant volte-face by the centre-right Le Figaro