The Spectator

10 December 2016

When the Donald met the Vlad

That first encounter between the two great leaders…



'My son the fanatic' revisited

Can one generation’s mistake be corrected by the next?


What can Nigel Farage be planning to wreck in 2017?

Also in Andrew Marr’s Diary: new hope on my stroke treatment; what the royal family really think about The Crown


Theresa May: ‘I get so frustrated with Whitehall’

Look out civil servants, this Prime Minister has a whole new game plan for governing


Why we screenwriters want to work for Netflix more than the BBC

The acclaimed writer behind Foyle’s War on why we’re in a new age of television – and Britain is struggling to keep up


I'm not Chancellor, so I don't have 2,056 cards to sign. What do I do now?

Also in George Osborne’s Notebook: why I’ve made up with Brexit foes; my bar-room chat with Ivanka Trump


The seven moments that lost the referendum for Remain

The Brexit vote wasn’t fate. Here are the key things that could have gone differently

America’s first great cultural export


How Santa Claus ate Father Christmas

Presents, stockings, the flying sleigh? It all began as a New York practical joke


A QC's guide to Christmas crime

From armed robberies to pub fights, it’s a season of good money for the junior end of the criminal bar


Philip Hammond's school days

The boy who would become Chancellor was a right-leaning, Telegraph-reading, teacher-challenging dance entrepreneur


A quick drink with The Most Seen Human Who Has Ever Lived

Also in Ben Schott’s notebook: 6,000 years of bread, the bakers of Marrakech, and the perils of the hammam


Answered prayers, by Justin Welby, Amber Rudd, James Dyson and 12 others

The Spectator's Christmas survey asked for answered prayers or wishes

Red dawn: Lenin demands revolution, April 1917


The centenary of the Russian revolution should be mourned, not celebrated

As its centenary looms, never forget the brutal oppression ushered in by the Russian Revolution


The 75 most annoying people of 2016

A Christmas list in the spirit of Ebeneezer Scrooge


It’s weird when your friend becomes leader of the free world

Also in Piers Morgan’s Notebook: why Farage should give up beer; what the Donald won’t give up, even for 10 billion dollars


The consolations of sports geekery

It’s precisely because sport doesn’t matter that it can be so valuable in dark times like these

Christmas Short Story

Julia’s Baby

Illustrated by Morten Morland

She should have stuck to the vodka

The Week

Leading article

Lesson of 2016: if you address people's concerns, "populism" goes away

Brexit is not a guarantee of a better future. But it is the removal of a constraint

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the year

January The cost of an annual season ticket from Cheltenham to London rose to £9,800. Oil fell below $30 a…


Oh no! Do I have to save the world as well as writing books?

Also in Lionel Shriver’s diary: I’m maxed-out on Democrat wailing; the people I can’t help enraging; the joy of quietism


Gasworks, druids and one-way streets: weird anniversaries in 2017

Also in our Christmas Barometer: duff predictions, dull celebrations, and early Christmas posting dates

Infantrymen, circa 1915

From The Archives

The first world war’s Christian soldiers

A Christmas reflection from a Spectator reader in 1916

Ancient and modern

What on earth is a 'kudo'?

The mistake made by the Taxpayers Alliance may one day be standard English


The Supreme Court should recognise Britain's unwritten law on Brexit

Also in Spectator letters: Andrew Gilligan defends cyclists, mapping mistakes, teaching, hymns and how to knot a Brigade tie


The Spectator's Notes

I’m a part of the elite. So why am I cheering for the populist right?

If, in a parliamentary democracy, the establishment and the people diverge, one must surely bet that the elites are wrong


Brexit is a revolution – and it’ll be decades before we know it’s worked

We can now decide what kind of nation we want to be. There’s no sign we have done so yet

Rod Liddle

It’s not just Kate Bush. Big parts of rock ’n’ roll are quietly right-wing

The least tolerant people in the universe have turned their howling rage on Kate Bush for saying something vaguely Tory

Mary Wakefield

Why I’m telling my son about the sky fairy

Richard Dawkins says bringing children up Christian is a form of abuse, but I believe they are natural deists

Matthew Parris

One thing that really gets better with age

There is a compensation for getting older: we get to know ourselves better and better

James Delingpole

One thing I learned in 2016 – it’s hateful being right all the time

Other lessons: never try to make people like you, and always buy your steak at Aldi

Hugo Rifkind

How to put a positive spin on this bizarre year

We are witnessing the baby steps of a truly mass political engagement


There is life out there, insists the astrobiologist Jon Willis — though it won’t be turning up in flying saucers. There’ll be a meeting of microbes rather than a meeting of minds

Lead book review

Why are astronomers so desperate to believe in aliens?

Two new books on astrobiology convince Tom Holland that non-specialists are the only sane people on the subject

The children looked like a cross between the Von Trapps and the aliens in The Midwich Cuckoos


How to become a successful cult leader: offer love, and then withdraw it

Kidnapping, starving and drugging defenceless children were central to Anne Hamilton-Byrne’s infamous sect, The Family


Inbreeding and schizophrenia make for double trouble in Salley Vickers’s lastest novel

Cousins begins as a dreary family saga, but turns, surprisingly, into a gripping police procedural. So don’t despair

Charles Burns’s Last Look.


Dark tales, graphically told

Graphic novels are especially bleak this winter. But if you can stomach madness, rape, strychnine, strangulation and a pact with the Devil, you’ll be well-rewarded

‘Snow scene in the Garden of a Daimyo’. Triptych by Hiroshige and Uagawa Kunisada


The terrible beauty of snow

It blurs and defines, exhilarates and exhausts — and each snowflake is self-identical but different to every other. Marcus Sedgwick is fully alive to its chilling paradoxes


How to make it as a female war correspondent

Reading Clare Hollingworth’s biography reminds Janine di Giovanni of Ann Leslie’s tips for frontline reportage: dress well, shake your bangles at the soldiers and pretend to be an airhead

St Mary’s, Mundon, Essex. From Tiny Churches by Dixe Wills


The secret of the Bolshoi style will always be safe

Simon Morrison may think he’s unlocked it. But it’s impossible really to define what makes a Bolshoi dancer, says Deborah Bull

Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in Easy Rider


Freewheeling round the world

Ben Fogle mourns the Land Rover, which ceased production this year, while Richard Hammond has his motorbike at full throttle

Frank Buckland at home with his caged monkeys


Anyone for pickled horse tongue, boiled elephant’s trunk or rhinoceros pie?

They were all on the menu for Frank Buckland — the Victorian naturalist who aimed to eat every creature in the world

Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens in 1835


Depressed monkeys, constipated llamas and suicidal kangaroos: the dark age of London Zoo

Isobel Charman’s haunting history shows the Victorian Zoological Gardens at their worst


Leslie Downer’s romantic novel of 19th-century Japan is a brilliant blend of fact and fiction

The Shogun’s Queen is both gripping and historically accurate, says Jonathan Mirsky. And the sex is good, too

Above and below: Quentin Blake’s illustrations for The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — not the happiest of pairings


The lonely genius of Beatrix Potter

Her solitary childhood at least honed her gifts as an artist and naturalist. But she seems to have lost heart with The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots


A toast to centuries of champagne colonialism

For a taste of the British Empire this Christmas, try Gospel Green Sparkling Cider and Tanqueray Old Tom Gin. Revive yourself on Boxing Day with Porterhouse Brewing Company Celebration Stout


Period crime for Christmas

There’s a poisoner at large in the heart of Victorian London — and an ingenious double mystery captures the 1950s to perfection

Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler in the 1931 film Dracula


The grisly life of Dracula’s creator

Bram Stoker was cruelly spurned by those he loved, and ended his days sick, miserable and destitute. But Dracula and his spawn will generate billions forever


We’re all snobs — however much we deny it

D.J. Taylor’s entertaining study of contemporary snobbery covers books, films, schools, professions, music, food — and reverse snobbery


Answers to ‘Spot the British Author’

1. Kingsley Amis 2. Beatrix Potter 3. Graham Greene 4. Salman Rushdie 5. Nick Hornby 6. Arthur Conan Doyle 7.…


Left: Maíno, 1612–14: ‘The Adoration of the Kings’ Right: ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’

Arts feature

O come, let us adore this little-known Spanish painter

Two dazzling Adorations by Juan Bautista Maíno are currently on show at the National Gallery and demand your attention

Soldiers on the Western Front celebrating Christmas Day in a shell hole partly occupied by the grave of a comrade


The muddy, bloody origins of a treasured Christmas Eve ritual

Far from being an ancient tradition, the service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge, were conceived in the trenches of the first world war

Trump l’oeil: the atrium of Trump Towers


Donald Trump's interiors: make America crass again

The man's taste is as revealing as any of his outbursts


A surprising number of great composers were fond of the bottle – but can you hear it?

The list includes Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Mussorgsky and Sibelius. No reports of Bach getting drunk – but he did once order eight gallons of beer

John Carter Cash and Johnny Cash, 1972


Scholar, entertainer, poet, hoarder: the many faces of my father Johnny Cash

Above all else, Dad was a writer and a voracious reader – his copy of Gibbon's Decline and Fall was annotated, read, reread and worn


What it's like to be a reindeer herder and other tales from the Arctic Circle

Plus: the youngest female to shoot a moose, why we sigh and a seasonal ghost story from Frederick Forsyth

We are the robots: Bipedal Walker, built by David Buckley and the Shadow Robot Project Group, 1987–97


Will our love affair with robots land us in the Natural History Museum?

On the eve of a mammoth new robot exhibition at the Science Museum, Bryan Appleyard wonders why we are so seduced by something that might ultimately obliterate us


Why Christmas TV, all Christmas TV, makes me feel suicidal

Like fellow Christmas sceptic, Revd Richard Coles, I'd much rather watch wall-to-wall death and zombies – it's perfect preparation for 2017


I am pleased to have seen La finta giardiniera, and even happier that I shall never see it again

It is, however, the ideal vehicle for the Royal College of Music – though Figaro would have been even better


A convoluted tale of eco-angst and earth-mother cant: Royal Court's The Children reviewed

Plus: thumbs up from my 10-year-old son for Lyric Hammersmith's Aladdin – and their complimentary mango juice


Oliver Stone is far too certain that Snowden's a hero: Snowden reviewed

The film's being sold as a 'pulse-pounding thriller' but my pulse failed to oblige


High life

Happiness is being a Mormon

Here’s Dr Taki’s prescription for happiness: don’t strive for it non-stop; stay away from social media; head for Salt Lake City

Low life

There’s a bad smell about Grasse

Don’t be fooled by its swanky exterior; the perfume of poverty isn’t so fragrant

Real life

Will I be the only right-winger in the village?

Will my neighbours believe, like the residents of Balham, that Corbyn is a cross between Santa Claus and Jesus?

Long life

Who will save Havana now Castro has gone?

He may have been a brutal dictator but he saved that city from American depredations

Wild life

To our new man in Nairobi: white farmers need you

We are devoted to our country but militant politicians are inciting the invasion of our farms

The turf

My racing books of the year

Horse-racing’s Basil Fawlty; a handsome memorial to Sprinter Sacre; and a gripping thriller by Dick Francis’s son



Simon Cochemé, whose witty column appears monthly in English Bridge magazine, celebrated his 70th birthday with a knees-up and duplicate…

Spectator Wine

Wine Club 10 December

Tricky time of year this, with the festivities hoving into view. Never easy for anyone, least of all those of…


London classic

The annual London Classic is now underway at Olympia. Understandably Magnus Carlsen, after his exertions in New York, is not…

Chess puzzle

Chess puzzle

Black to play. This position is from Topalov-Nakamura, St Louis 2014. Black seems to be in big trouble, but how…


Let’s twist

In Competition No. 2977 you were invited to submit a Christmas carol with a topical twist. ‘In the bleak midwinter’…

Crossword solution

to 2287: Quarry

Unclued lights are types of LIMESTONE. First prize Frances Whitehead, Harrogate, North YorksRunners-up Margaret Almond, Sholing, Hants; P.D.H. Riddell, London…

Christmas Crossword

Festive features

99 (five words) and 20 (four words), whose 37 were 61 (two words) and 35D (two words), are seasonal 53…


Answers to GCHQ puzzles

1. Tea – the initial letters spell MERLOT. 2. 9th – taking the identified letters spells ‘Beethoven’. 3. Northern Ireland.…

Status anxiety

Who will rid me of this turbulent beast?

Status Anxiety: last year’s Christmas puppy has turned into a snarling, slobbering hound who has ruined my life

The Wiki Man

The rich aren’t so different any more

No one invents expensive things these days, so nearly everyone can afford the best

Spectator sport

Ten (rhetorical) questions of sport

No answers on a postcard please, but these are the issues bothering me at the end of 2016

Christmas Quiz Questions

The Spectator's 2016 Christmas quiz

Six rounds with the inimitable Christopher Howse, from the ridiculous to the sublime, illustrated by Castro

Christmas Quiz

The answers

Say so 1. Theresa May 2. David Cameron (overheard on air, speaking to the Queen) 3. Jeremy Corbyn 4. Stephen…


Wiltons, an almost entirely flawless institution

Everything is excellent in this classic Jermyn Street establishment — except the waitresses’ dresses


Want to understand Italy's economy? Look at its wines, not its GDP

They are testimony to strong and discriminating domestic demand

Mind your language

My word of the year is... ‘Yeah’

This yeah comments approvingly on what the speaker himself has just said