The Spectator

11 January 2014

The fantasy Francis

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



Sorry — but Pope Francis is no liberal

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


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

I was a boy of ten when the Profumo affair began at Cliveden, my family’s home. Andrew Lloyd Webber has captured some of the story – but not all


Global warming's glorious ship of fools

Has there ever been a better story? It's like a version of Titanic where first class cheers for the iceberg


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

Obesity is about self-control – and most of us no longer have any


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

The former Spectator editor remembers his brilliant wine correspondent


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

Five decades of delight began at midnight on the platform for the Flying Scotsman


The Navigators

The 2014 winner of The Spectator’s Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for unconventional travel writing, illustrated by Carolyn Gowdy

Notes on...

Gardens for all seasons

Winter garden visiting is a solitary pastime, lending itself to the misanthrope, and is highly recommended. When it’s so cold…

The Week

Leading article

Welfare wars

The Chancellor's fight with Ed Balls over welfare is a great thing for the Tories. His fight with Iain Duncan Smith may not be

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week

Home George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made it clear in a speech that he intended to cut £25 billion…


Barometer: Storm waves? It could be three times worse

Plus: Who goes to A&E, and how much pollution is really stopped by driving at 60mph

Ancient and modern

Ancient and modern: Ovid on selfies

A ‘meme’ is ‘an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture, often by mimicry’.…


Spectator letters: Kensington answers back to Sebastian Faulks 

Plus: Daniel Hannan's own pirate party, and the charm of Peregrine Worsthorne



Ed Miliband's immigration nightmare

The Labour leader has to argue against his own intellectual position – and do it convincingly

The Spectator's Notes

Mugabe envy in Scotland

Plus: A bishop deprived of his palace, and a former Tory MP buried in a Palestinian flag

Rod Liddle

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

The Murnaghan Show's ambush of the Ukip leader continues a dishonourable tradition

Matthew Parris

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

The claim that gays think only of themselves and the present is, in my experience, the opposite of the truth

Hugo Rifkind

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

Legalising cannabis isn’t as exciting as you’d expect. But it may be much more important than you think

Any other business

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

Plus: The boss to watch for 2014, and the acronym that Jim ‘Bric’ O’Neill should have chosen


Lead book review

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

Clarice Lispector is revered in Brazil. Benjamin Moser's fascinating biography deserves to make her much better known here


This year, discover Michel Déon

The Foundling Boy is only the second book by 90-year-old, award-winning Michel Déon to make it into English. It won't be the last...


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

Lucinda Hawskley thinks she knows. But her The Mystery of Princess Louise presents no hard evidence


The National Theatre Story by Daniel Rosenthal - review

In 1976, as the National Theatre moved into its new home on London’s South Bank, its literary manager Kenneth Tynan…


Shostakovich, Leningrad, and the greatest story ever played

Brian Moynahan's Leningrad: Siege and Symphony brings together the story of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony and that of the siege of Leningrad to inspiring, heartbreaking effect


Critics can be creative - look at Malcolm Cowley

The Long Voyage: Selected Letters of Malcolm Cowley reveals a great reviewer who preferred to rehabilitate and encourage, rather than rebuke or revile


John Bellany: potent, prolific, patchy

John McEwen's handsome and substantial biography shows why John Bellany was the most influential Scottish painter of the 20th century - and just how much he overproduced


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

Arts feature

Art shows you simply mustn't miss in 2014

Matisse, Rembrandt, Italians, Germans, Vikings and the court of Ming are all in store at Britain's great museums this year


Overrated Strauss vs underrated Gluck

Why are there so many productions of Richard Strauss's gargantuan operas, and so few of Gluck's works of genius?

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

The pianist tells the Spectator his dazzling career was inspired by the Tom and Jerry Show – and that sometimes he has to fend off bad spirits


All I want next Christmas is new Christmas songs 

The most recent ditty to join the Christmas canon was Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas is You, in 1994. We deserve more joy

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


The Duck House is the best show in the West End

The Duck House, about the MP expenses scandal and politicians' peccadilloes, is the best show now playing in the West End

Great performance: Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup


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

Steve McQueen's third and best film spills with great performances - but it belongs to Chiwetel Ejiofor

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


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

The BBC can never talk honestly about the immigration problem because it's responsible for the cultural mindset that made it possible


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

Plus: Why there's so little space on your local war memorial for the names of World War II heroes

Culture notes

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

All exhibitions commit sins of omission, but the omissions in Georgians Revealed are unforgivable


High life

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

... and how I discovered a young, plump Jodie Foster leaning over a Xerox machine

Low life

Jeremy Clarke: When public vice improves private virtue

I suspect my friend Trev of being a follower of Malamatiyya — a Sufi sect that does good deeds in secret and bad ones in the open

Real life

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

'You can't have your money back because of this, that and the other, and something-or-other about something else...'

Long life

Alexander Chancellor: The Chinese must save the cigar from extinction

Plus: Evelyn Waugh's ear trumpet works better than my state-of-the-art Swiss hearing aid

The turf

How jockeys play dirty

Riders have been known to spit out dentures, bark like dogs and seize a rival's testicles — all to gain a racing edge



First up, HNY to one and all and especially my regular reader (no, not you mummy) John Hinde, who wrote…


Different paths

Daniel Johnson, Dominic Lawson and Tim Congdon all had the potential to become chess masters. However, all three chose alternative routes,…

Chess puzzle

No. 296

White to play. This position is a variation from Congdon–‘Heinsius’, online game 2014. White has a ferocious attack and now…


Culture shock?

In Competition 2829 you were invited to imagine what Philip Larkin might have made of the news that Hull has…


2144: Leonids

1D is the title of a work minus a word that is suggested by three further unclued lights. Other unclued…

Crossword solution

to 2142: Wintry

Extra letters in clues give ‘wrapped in wild snow’, a quotation from a poem by ALEXANDER BLOK (10). Partially indicated…

Status anxiety

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

Without drink, I can work harder, sleep better, and feel more in control. But how will I cope with the boredom?

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: What should I do when my dinner guests dive for their iPads?

Plus: How to snare a widower, and feeding birds without feeding rats


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

Woolley Grange Hotel is full of old toys, dogs practising camouflage near rugs, and bottle warmers

Mind your language

Dot Wordsworth: How online shopping is changing English

The fight to the death between ‘shop’ and ‘store’