The Spectator

15 December 2012




For obvious reasons, people are always looking for a nicer word for right-wing. For a while, they tried ‘free-market’ —…


The unlikely revolutionary

Michael Gove has done more than any other minister to advance the Conservatives’ radical agenda


‘We rot. Don’t we?’

A metaphysical conversation with Joanna Lumley


The greats we hate

Spectator writers and others on the classic books they most dislike


Thank men for women’s lib

The male side of the feminist struggle has been airbrushed from history


Fifty shades of Santa

If bondage-themed presents are all right for newborns, then I have some suggestions for the rest of us


Christmas Notebook

I used to spend a small part of every Christmas season worrying that perhaps that year, the particular year in…


The age of turboparalysis

Why we haven’t had a revolution


Screen burn

The sane man dreads Christmas television


American Notebook

I bumped into Steve Martin dining with Eric Idle at a Beverly Hills boîte, as one does. ‘I really enjoy…


Assault on the ivory tower

Plum positions once reserved for academics are now being shared out among the liberal elite


Alpha male

Can Nicky Gumbel and Holy Trinity Brompton save the Church of England?


Egypt on the brink

We must do all we can to promote democracy in Egypt – the future of the region depends on it


A letter from Turkey

My Turkish never having got beyond intermediate, I always have the same conversation with taxi drivers. ‘Where are you from?’…


Reason to believe

In a world beset by evil, we are universally compelled towards good – surely proof of the existence of God


The tao of washing up

There’s nothing like the joy of immersing your hands in hot soapy water


Christmas Quiz

It’s time for the immemorial Christmas custom in which the family gathers round the iPad, cracks another walnut, and sharpens…

The Week

Leading article

Glad tidings

Never in the history of the world has there been less hunger, less disease and more prosperity



I have been much teased for my book, Celebrate: A Year Of British Festivities For Families And Friends. Lots of…

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the year

January Britain’s public debt rose above £1,000 billion for the first time. Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the…



Double trouble The Duchess of Cambridge’s acute morning sickness was said to be associated with twins, raising the prospect of…

Ancient and modern

A woman’s place in Homer

Christmas is the time in the church calendar when Woman-as-Mother comes into supreme prominence. But in classical literature, Women-as-Anything never…



Courts to be proud of Sir: Nick Cohen’s article (‘Export-only justice’, 8 December) might leave the reader with the impression…


Rod Liddle

The net is closing in on Father Christmas, the old perv

Does Santa Claus really exist? I have to say I have become very sceptical in recent years. There is something…

The Spectator's Notes

The Spectator’s Notes

Here is a point about the coalition which is so obvious that I have not seen it expressed. When a…


Our person in Brussels

One of David Cameron’s great skills is his ability to separate the cares of office from the rest of his…

Matthew Parris

A Christmas Carol for the Chancellor

‘“You will be haunted,” resumed the Ghost, “by Three Spirits, without their visits you cannot hope to shun the path…

James Delingpole

We must act now to save our country from the scourge of wind turbines

The place I love more than anywhere on earth is the Edw Valley in mid-Wales. We’ve been going there every…

Hugo Rifkind

A chance to look backwards, and forwards, and see where you are

To Edinburgh for Christmas this year, and I can’t wait. We’ll be leaving any day now, in our pathetic London…

Any other business

There may be troubles ahead, but here’s my Christmas recipe for keeping the pecker up

I tried, I really did, right to the bitter end. No column has made more effort than Any Other Business…


Lead book review

Doctor in distress

Sam Leith wonders why such a gifted man as Jonathan Miller should be so unhappy in his skin


A bloody waste

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an act of frivolity without parallel in United States history. The destruction…


Of knowledge, life, good and evil

The British Museum contains more about trees than one might expect: trees in paintings, drawings, sculpture, and all kinds of…


Old King Noël

What is this I hold in my hands? Is it just a book? It’s quite heavy, but somehow, instinctively, one…


Return of the living dead

What is it with dead American writers? Years after they’ve popped their clogs, some of the biggest names in crime…


As dark and heavy as plum pudding

Dressed up as a child-friendly, pocket-sized hardback, just the right size for a Christmas stocking and with a pretty front-cover…


Bleak beauty

Adam Gopnik’s dazzlingly knowledgeable and beautifully told essays on winter began life as the Massey Lecture Series on Canadian National…


Into the limelight

The online accessibility of British population censuses has resulted in an outpouring  of ‘who and how we were’, keeping amateur…


Spot the book title

Test your lateral thinking with our book titles picture puzzle. Answers at the end of ‘Those who can, teach’.


The most decorative honey pot in Ireland

Luggala Lodge was built in Ireland’s Wicklow mountains near the end of the 18th century by Peter La Touche, the…


Not just for Christmas

New York is a strange place for dogs. As I walked back from an early morning art-world breakfast — black…


In the cold light of dawn

In The English Cathedral Peter Marlow of Royal Mail fame (his photographs of eight world heritage sites were used on…


First pluck your crow

As fewer people write by hand, some of us who do venture to squeak a thin call of alarm, like…


Family commitments

Twice in my career, in very remote places, I encountered lunatics who had been chained for many years to the…


The Making of Snow White

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (or ‘Seven Little Men’, as Walt Disney called them — he didn’t want to…


Those who can, teach

This book shouldn’t work. A memoir written by a 40-year-old, who has never written a book before, hardly sounds promising.…


Rock solid

Rod Stewart once tried to convince his mother that he had made a lot of money, and wanted to buy…


Arts feature

The art of Christmas

Andrew Lambirth celebrates the cards he has received over the years from his artist friend


Going for a song

Robert Gore-Langton talks to Eddie Redmayne about awkward sex scenes and his forthcoming role in Les Misérables


Tiger feat

Wow! Just: wow! Life of Pi may be the most ravishingly beautiful film I have ever seen. It’s stunning. It’s…


In the worst possible taste

What are the rules of taste at Christmas? How might the fastidious chart a neat path through this garish and…


Chorus of approval

Is there anything more essential to one’s well-being than the sound of an English choir at evensong? Is there, for…


Jumping the gun

2012 has been an undistinguished year in opera, at any rate in the UK. A combination of cutbacks and the…


Male bonding

Both these plays are about concealed sexuality. Straight, by D.C. Moore, is based on an American indie flick named Humpday.…


Food, glorious food

Despite a wet summer, the recent crop of food programmes has been prodigious: six episodes of Nigellissima, eight of Nigel…


Dream team

It’s like being a fly on the wall (or maybe an earwig) at one of those fantasy dinner parties where…

Culture notes

London’s high life

You can take a five-minute flight across the Thames on something called the Emirates Air Line. It’s a cable-car ride…


High life

High life

Religion is in decline, tradition takes a back seat to fashion, and same-sex marriage is now looked upon as normal.…

Low life

Low life

At the end of the carol service, the vicar invited us to stay for a cup of tea and a…

Real life

Real life

Shortly after rekindling my relationship with the builder boyfriend, I had another hair-brained scheme. I brought the mad chestnut mare…

Long life

Long life

I have a daughter called Freya, aged seven, who sometimes makes suggestions for this column but complains that I never…

Wild life

Wild life

Gilgil, Kenya Pembroke House, our children’s school, is a little slice of England set in Kenya’s Rift Valley. In the…

The turf

National loyalty

‘The Grand National is a great race,’ one of Britain’s most respected racecourse chiefs told me over lunch the other…

Christmas Quiz

The answers

Weird world1 Mark Rothko’s2 George Washington3 Nadine Dorries4 The Duchess of Cornwall5 Sakhalin6 The 158th Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race7…



At a dinner party recently, I was asked whether men and women are equally good at bridge. Not at the…


London greats

This Christmas and New Year I am publishing a series of tributes to players in great London games. This week,…

Chess puzzle


Black to play. This position is a variation from Lee-Lasker, London 1899. The white king has been driven into a…


What the donkey saw

In Competition No. 2776 you were invited to supply a poem reflecting on the Nativity written from the point of…


Xmas Spectator

2A, 118, 1 and 19 (three of five words and one of three, ignore two apostrophes) are of a kind.…

Solution to 2090 - Precipitate

Crossword solution

2090: Precipitate

HAL DAVID (15) and ANDY WILLIAMS (12/19) died on the 1st and 25th September 2012. The former produced the LYRICS…

The Wiki Man

In praise of inventors – and visionaries too

The award for the most hideous TV moment of 2012 goes to NBC — and their coverage of the opening…

Status anxiety

Dickens and the profit motive

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Stockholm where I’ve been stranded for the last 24 hours thanks to…

Spectator sport

A glorious embarrassment of riches

So those really were the days of miracle and wonder, the time of times, or any other lyric you might…


Tanya Gold reviews the Orient-Express

The British Pullman on platform 1 at Victoria station looks mad, because it is 9 a.m. and ugly British commuters are running…

Mind your language

‘Everything goes dead mad’: the strange world of sportspeak

What tense shall we use? That’s the first question autobiographers must settle. The historic present might convey a sense of…


A cellar in Mayfair

There is mixed news. It must be a long time since the nightingales sang in Berkeley Square. The traffic drowned…

Dear Mary

Dear Mary

Once again Mary has invited some of her favourite figures in the public eye to submit personal queries for her…