The Spectator

6 December 2014 Aus

Moscow calling

Russia Today’s mission to subvert the West from your living room



Russia Today is Putin's weapon of mass deception. Will it work in Britain?

It looks like a news channel. It talks like a news channel. It says whatever Putin wants


The crash of the ruble — and what's next for Russia

Since the invasion of Crimea, Russia's President has been conducting an experiment in anti-western rebellion


How HS2 has blighted my parents’ lives

My dad’s back working in a car factory at 77, a lifetime’s work wrecked by a blighted house


The grim state of South Africa one year after Nelson Mandela

It's not that he presided over a golden age; it's that the problems have become clearer since


Uncovering the hidden key to Pope Francis’s politics

It’s in his leadership of Argentina’s Jesuits, when he laid emphasis on the perspective of the ordinary faithful poor, that the truth is to be found


The perils of being a posh boy on the telly

The Tatler documentary brought me instant fame – and mockery


A beautiful speaking voice is a window to the soul

The best voices draw attention to the words spoken, not the speaker

‘The plan was to pour the apple juice into an oak hogshead, freshly emptied of its whisky’

Notes on...

The birth of a barrel of cider

The plan was to pour the apple juice into an oak hogshead, freshly emptied of its whisky...

The Week

Leading article

George Osborne's ambition deficit

He achieves great things when he goes for it. On the debt, he's not going for it

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week

Home The government spent days announcing how the Autumn Statement would allocate funds. ‘Frontline’ parts of the National Health Service…


Stig Abell’s diary: My days in court with the Sun

There are more than 20 Sun journalists still on trial or facing prosecution — some of whom have been on bail for three years


When a cricket ball cost Britain an heir to the throne

Plus: Other ways to spend the £3 million cost of ‘plebgate’, and will Bicester really be a garden city?

Ancient and modern

Aristotle had David Mellor’s number (Andrew Mitchell’s, too)

An ancient analysis of rage still fits today’s headlines

From The Archives

From the archives

From ‘The Honourable Spy’, The Spectator, 5 December 1914: Decency is violated by the military spy when he becomes, for…


Australian Letters

Friend or foe? Sir: The editorial piece ( Spectator Australia, 29 Nov.) and following article by James Allan deal broadly…



The very model of a political Chancellor

Osborne has achieved one of the most difficult things in his profession: renewing himself in office

Rod Liddle

Left-handed people are stupid (and everyone who worries about immigration is a bigot)

The truth about all those utterly bogus statistics you see in the newspapers

James Delingpole

Why tackle someone's argument when you can just pick a word and take offence at it?

It happened to Michael Gove. It's happened to me. I'm starting to wonder if it's the death of debate


An unholy cross between Big Ben and Las Vegas, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower stands on an estimated 400 sites of cultural and historical importance

Lead book review

Mecca: from shrine to shopping mall

A review of Ziauddin Sardar’s Mecca argues that Islam’s most sacred city has been desecrated irrevocably by the Saudis

Wine tasting in 19th-century Austria


Not a barrel of laughs: a history of hogsheads, kegs and puncheons

A review of Wood, Whiskey and Wine by Henry H. Work, shows how the humble barrel has transformed our lives


Your immune system’s war isn’t Saving Private Ryan — it’s Homeland

A review of Why Aren’t We Dead Yet? by Idan Ben-Barak describes the complicated germ warfare being conducted daily within us


What Hanif Kureishi learned from being robbed by his accountant

In A Theft: My Con Man, the author Hanif Kureishi describes how his trusted friend and accountant swindled him out of a fortune


Haunted by the Holocaust: Three novellas by Patrick Modiano

In a review of Suspended Sentences by this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Paris and the Occupation of France take centre-stage


An alternative map of Britain: caves, canals, megaliths and ley lines

A review of Britannia Obscura by Joanna Parker reveals a Britain — mostly subterranean — we scarcely knew existed


What makes mankind behave so atrociously? Ian Buruma and Joanna Bourke investigate

Two books tackle the subject of violence in strikingly different ways


Deng Xiaoping: following in Mao’s footsteps

A review of Michael Dillon’s biography of Deng Xiaoping reveals the Chinese leader’s ruthlessness in the great famine and the Tiananmen Square massacre

Even Cilla’s biographer admits that critics were justified in knocking the ‘prurience ‘of Blind Date


Five of the best celebrity biographies of 2014

Cilla Black, Joey Essex, Roger Moore, Dermot O’Leary and Luis Suárez come under Christopher Howse’s scrutiny


The serried ranks of an El Sistema youth orchestra in Caracas, 2012 — a ‘miracle’ that’s turned very sour

Arts feature

Sex, lies and El Sistema

An explosive new book uncovers abuse at the heart of one of classical music’s most revered institutions. Damian Thompson finds it’s the tip of an iceberg

‘The Life Room’, 1977–80, by John Wonnacott


The death of the life class

Two exhibitions in Norwich celebrate the Life Room of John Wonnacott and John Lessore that marked a high point for this time-honoured practice

‘North Cape’, probably 1840s, by Peder Balke


We must never again let this 19th century Norwegian master slip into oblivion

The National Gallery’s Peder Balke show, full of epic sea storms and frozen desolation, is a revelation


Why Church music is back in vogue - and squeaky-gate music has had its day

Peter Phillips is interested to see even arch-modernist Harrison Birtwistle turning to tonality in his latest work for the Merton Choirbook


Sacred Monsters, Sadler’s Wells: Sylvie Guillem and Akram Kham’s captivating final boogie

Ismene Brown is intrigued by an 18th century baby shower, spooked by a worldweary Dracula, bored by an overlong Rambert triple and disappointed by Len Goodman and Lucy Worsley


Forget the Germans. It’s the French who made classical music what it is

2014 was the 250th anniversary of one of great French musical adventurers, Jean-Philippe Rameau. Were the celebrations generous enough?


The recruitment company to go to if you've got no arms or legs

Plus: a gripping analysis of the addict’s psyche as it yo-yos between despair, euphoria and another crack pipe at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Too lovable: Bill Murray and Jaeden Lieberher in ‘St. Vincent’


St. Vincent: too much lovability and not enough roguishness from Bill Murray

But you can imagine Murray’s eyes lighting up when he first saw the script - drinking! Smoking! Whoring! Betting!


BBC1’s Remember Me: the curious case of the killer Yorkshire taps

Remember Me would be BBC1’s best current drama - if it wasn’t for The Missing


Why you have to listen to this year's Reith Lectures

Two programmes on Radio 4 this week explore how it is not cash that our health systems lack but a way of processing all our knowledge


High life

Another New York institution bites the dust

One by one the taverns that made the city hum with Runyonesque characters are being replaced by the sleek and the glitzy

Low life

The best thing about travel-writing gigs is meeting other hacks

The man from the Daily Mail was as great a traveller as that Satanic-faced Victorian Sir Richard Burton

Real life

How I lost my hat (and my dignity) in a field of maize

The atmosphere was a cross between All Quiet on the Western Front and Children of the Corn

Long life

Will anyone admit to being in the establishment? (No, not you, David Mellor)

The problem is our big beasts' inability to realise that their pre-eminence is partly down to luck



I witnessed utter carnage at the bridge table the other week. I was watching the European Champions Cup online when…



London chess fans are about to enjoy a great treat. The London Chess Classic will run from the 10-14 December…

Chess puzzle

Chess puzzle

White to play. This position is a variation from Larsen-Portisch, London 1986. How can White exploit a fatal weakness in…


It’s a rap

In Competition No. 2876 you were invited to submit an example of an ill-advised foray by a poet laureate, past…


2191: Bunk

The other unclued entries, in pairs around 3D, provide the key words in a definition of 11D.   Across  …

Crossword solution

To 2188: Pieces of eight

The eight unclued lights are anagrams of eight clued solutions: 2/12, 3/13, 8/35, 16/40, 18/28, 19/30, 24/27 and 26/38. First…

Status anxiety

Don't want paternity leave? Soon, you may not have a choice

The campaign to force fathers to take equal time off is under way in Sweden. Expect it here next

The Wiki Man

Have the people who design trains and airports noticed that laptops exist?

The public provision of tables is so bad that Starbucks now earns $15 ­billion a year renting out horizontal surfaces

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do you stop someone wearing leather trousers to work?

Plus: Dealing with Uber driver flattery, and a cure for Christmas alone


The great lunchtime wine showdown

At 4 p.m., there was still a glass left for me

Mind your language


In his speech on immigration last week, David Cameron said a couple of funny things. I’m not talking about the…