The Spectator

15 February 2014

‘Instant wildlife – just add water’

The ideology that created an unnatural disaster



Revealed: how green ideology turned a deluge into a flood

Somerset saw the floods coming. The Environment Agency should have, too.


Why I've started my own Mail Online

Media moguls aren’t philosophers. So it’s time for philosophers to become media moguls


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

It has less prejudice than the countries where I’ve lived before – and more people taking offence


Warning: upspeak can wreck your career

A caution to my daughter that’s worth passing on

Notes on...

The Marche

It's always meant to be the next Tuscany. It's still blessedly quiet

The Week

Leading article

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

The need for cuts shouldn't let those in power wriggle out of their unglamorous responsibilities

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: as the waters continue to rise

Home Floods grew worse in the West Country. The village of Moorland, Somerset, was abandoned. Then the Thames flooded, from…


White Dee's diary: From Benefits Street to Downing Street?

Plus: On being Channel 4's biggest hit, and on James Turner Street as a tourist attraction


Barometer: The kamikaze pilot who retired after three missions

Plus: poaching by numbers, homes on flood plains, and the best-paid university bosses

Ancient and modern

Ancient Rome’s fraudulent foreign students

Modern lessons from a fourth-century tax dodge


Spectator letters: Fears for Scotland, and John Cornwell answers Melanie McDonagh

Save our Scotland Sir: Matthew Parris is quite right to praise Lord Lang’s speech in the Lords on Scottish independence…



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

He's right to be on alert. Governments that don't look competent get no credit when things go well

Rod Liddle

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

My dog, by contrast, is intelligent, vigorous and middle class

Mary Wakefield

Why did Theresa May deport my homeless friend?

The officials who flew Marc to France reassured him that he could, perhaps should, come straight back

James Delingpole

The martyrdom of Mark Steyn

I envied him for getting sued by Michael Mann. But now he needs all the support we can give

Any other business

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

Plus: George Soros’s secrets, and what changed at Sainsbury’s


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

Lead book review

The enlightened king of Iraq

Faisal I was humane, far-sighted, distinguished — and rather dishy, shows Ali A. Allawi in his hefty if loosely-written biography 

The Seagram Building, Park Avenue, New York


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

Detlef Mertins's book on the architect Mies, who designed New York's Seagram Building, is suitably monumental


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

Did Dr Anna Pou euthanise victims trapped in the Memorial Medical Centre? Sheri Fink's Five Days at Memorial takes a close look at this — and much else

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


Where did the Right and the Left come from? 

The pamphlet war between the 'conservative' Edmund Burke and the 'radical' Thomas Paine remains with us in unexpected ways, shows Yuval Levin in The Great Debate


How to get around South Africa's many boundaries

In Dispatcher: Lost and Found in Johannesburg, Mark Gevisser remembers the secret roads and escape routes a young gay like him — and other dispossessed people — took in the land of apartheid


The Scot who became more Canadian than the Canadians

By focusing on one man in John Buchan: Model Governor General, J. William Galbraith casts a clear sidelight on a dying British empire


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

The schizophrenic hero of Nathan Filer's novel, Matt Homes, gives us a true, clear view of the world through his distorted vision


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

Interweaving a thriller with the backstories of a large cast of characters, the Chilean author give us two underwhelming novels in one


Marble portrait of Augustus, c.40 BC

Arts feature

What Emperor Augustus left us

The Roman ruler abolished the Republic – but he also created a new system of imperial government and oversaw a flourishing of the arts


Are hymns dying? 

As church attendance falls off a cliff, so is our beautiful heritage of sacred singing


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

Plus: The actor in Stroke of Luck who's ripe to play Brian Sewell

Vanitas’, mid-1650, by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione


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

Plus: A sneak preview of the drawings of Gainsborough, one of the greatest European draughtsmen of the 18th century

Gwyn Hughes Jones as des Grieux with Chiara Taigi as Manon


Manon Lescaut is twerking — should we applaud or shudder? 

How the Welsh National Opera's MTV version of Manon the minx made me wish for comfortable cotton underwear


Bach is made for dancing

Plus: Directors of Swan Lake could learn something from Channel 4's reality TV show Big Ballet

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

Clooney has cast himself, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett in a patchy show that tells, not shows


So long, Scandinavia. Bonjour, Benelux! 

Comparing the cops of Salamander, Midsomer Murders, Brooklyn Nine-Nine — and Danny Boyle's frustrating Babylon


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

Plus: The show that makes you want to visit Calcutta (but not Kolkata)

Culture notes

Take a look at John Maynard Keynes's armchair

Discoveries: Art, Science and Exploration marks the first time Cambridge university's eight museums are collaborating


High life

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

The Sochi Games are being held on the edge of a war zone with Muslim extremists, yet the media concentrate only on gay rights

Low life

My night in Zambia with Ian Dury 

'You’ve got to get a hat, my son. Walk into a room with a hat on and every bird in the room will turn around and clock you.'

Real life

Let's make Andre Rieu the leader of the world 

The Dutch conductor of feet-stamping classics is a weapon of mass happiness, and could sort out the Syrian mess in a couple of hours

Long life

In praise of Milton Keynes

'Concrete bungle'? The town is cultured, contemporary — and wonderfully content

Wild life

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

The man who held the fort for me many a time, and who once saved me from bandits, is leaving Laikipia for his own home



A couple of Sundays ago, in London, Zia Mahmood and Demetri Marchessini held the first ever ‘Goulash Individual’ tournament. ‘Goulash’…



George Osborne is a supporter of chess. During the award ceremony at 11 Downing St for last year’s London Candidates’…

Chess puzzle

no. 301

White to play. This position is from Carlsen-Caruana, Zurich 2014. White’s pin against the black rook and the passed pawn…


Hard-boiled Blyton

In Competition 2834 you were invited to submit an extract from a classic of children’s literature rewritten in the style…


2149: Super!

Each of the unclued lights (one of two words and one of three) can be preceded by the same word…

Crossword solution

Solution to 2146: 4 ÷ 4 = 8

One 4-letter word is to be placed in the middle of another to yield an 8-letter solution: 6 ÷ 19…

Status anxiety

Oh no. Have I let my children have too much self-esteem?

According to two new books, I should be hothousing them. I'm not

The Wiki Man

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

The trick is that there's no one rule. Try doing that with an algorithm

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: What do I do now I haven’t sent a thank-you letter?

Plus: The elegant way to deal with a dodgy restaurant bill

Mind your language

A learned poet's mystifying mistakes

I expected better of Bernard O’Donoghue