The Spectator

May 21, 2011



Never-never land

A city of debt culture


Who speaks for the world?

We are letting Al Jazeera usurp the international role of the BBC


Our friend in the north

The last surviving leader of Norway’s anti-Nazi resistance


A green dark age

The government’s new emissions target will despoil the countryside, rob the poor – and enrich landowners like me


Hell hath no fury like a public-spirited ex-wife

I think we’re all very relieved that Vicky Pryce, the estranged wife of the Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, is not motivated by revenge in writing a book about her ex-husband and dobbing him in to the police.



You could not mistake the atmosphere in Dublin this week: the state visit of the Queen and Prince Philip has had the full panoply of a historic occasion.


Obama’s war

Cameron wants shot of Afghanistan


Welcome to the jungle

It's not just French politicians, Westminster is full of priapic predators too

The Week



Spectator readers respond to recent articles

Ancient and modern

Ancient and modern: Philosophy rules

Most universities have decided to pitch their fees at the maximum allowable of £9,000 a year. One hopes this is one part of a Cunning Plan to ensure that Plato’s vision of a real education is realised.



This week's Barometer

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week

This week's Portrait of the week

Leading article, The Week

Lead article: Charity, not waste

The British are a generous people. We donate more to humanitarian causes than anyone else in Europe, and by some margin. The average Brit gives twice as much as a Norwegian, three times more than a Belgian, six times more than a German and seven times more than a Frenchman. All told, British households send about £4 billion a year to overseas charities — more than any people in the world, in fact, apart from the Americans. So it is by no means clear why David Cameron believes that, in the middle of a fiscal crisis, he should extract a further £4 billion from us through the tax system and give the money to charities of his choice.


Any other business

Any other business

Another tale of the Great Seducer and my tip for the woman to succeed him

Any other business

INVESTMENT SPECIAL: Anything but gilts

In search of the next ‘trade of the decade’

Any other business

INVESTMENT SPECIAL: Nature’s risks and rewards

A beginner’s guide to investing in commodities

Any other business


Pensioners are at last to be treated like adults

Any other business

INVESTMENT SPECIAL: The trend is your friend

The lessons taught by Wall Street genius Jesse Livermore

Hugo Rifkind

Why are men now so despised? I blame Hugh Grant

I’ve always wondered about the strike-rate of men who, in that fine media phrase, ‘aren’t safe in taxis’.

Matthew Parris

The pathology of the politician

Politicians are not normal people. They are weird. It isn’t politics that has made them weird: it’s their weirdness that has impelled them into politics. Whenever another high-profile minister teeters or falls, the mistake everyone makes is to ask what it is about the nature of their job, the environment they work in and the hours they work, that has made them take such stupid risks. This is the wrong question. We should ask a different one: what is it about these men and women that has attracted them to politics?


Politics: Cameron in chains

When Conservative leaders come to address the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, they are required to stand outside Committee Room 14 of the House of Commons until the rest of the agenda is completed.



The nature of evil

Simon Baron-Cohen has spent 30 years researching the way our brains work.


Ransacking the world

Something in the air is arousing an interest in collectors and collections — both private and public — of which the success of The Hare with Amber Eyes and The Children’s Book are perhaps the most visible recent examples.


How do we get to Denmark?

Francis Fukuyama is rare amongst scholars in being unafraid to ask large questions.


Dreaming of cowsheds

In 1999, Adam Nicolson published a very good book called Perch Hill: A New Life, about his escape from London and a break-down, after his divorce and a nasty mugging, to a farm in the Sussex Weald, close to Kipling’s house, Batemans.


A conflict of loyalty

What was life like in Hitler’s Germany? This question has long fascinated authors and readers alike, as books like Alone in Berlin, The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas and The Book Thief bear witness.


The way to dusty death

Beryl Bainbridge’s last novel is a haunting echo of her own final years, according to A. N. Wilson

Bookends, Books

Bookends: The voice of the lobster

In existence for over 250 millions years, lobsters come in two distinct varieties, ‘clawed and clawless’. Human predators tend to the flawed and clueless as they overfish and — since lobsters must be cooked live — kill them heartlessly.



Big Brother Beeb

For the past few weeks, unnoticed by all but the most sharp-eyed critics, BBC1 has been running a Celebrate Communitarianism season.


Object lesson

What are we supposed to make of those odd pictures of Osama bin Laden sitting crouched in a dingy, undecorated concrete room watching something blurred on a small TV screen? Is this really the face of jihadist evil? These were the questions behind this week’s provoking 15-minute drama in the From Fact to Fiction slot on Saturday (Radio 4).


Crowded house

In ‘Poetry of Departures’, in which Philip Larkin imagines escaping his existence as a librarian for a life of wild daring and adventure, he writes:

We all hate home

And having to be there;

I detest my room,

It’s specially-chosen junk,

the good books, the good bed.


Incomparable Verdi

Call me biased, but I believe that my illustrious compatriot Giuseppe Verdi composed ballet music like no one else.


Guilt trip

Win Win is a comedy-drama that is warm-hearted and compassionate and enjoyable without, alas, being especially remarkable or original, which is a bit of a blow but I think you’ll get over it, with bed rest and time.


Spark of the divine

With its new production of Janácek’s last and in some ways most intractable opera, From the House of the Dead, Opera North shows once more that it is the most intelligently adventurous company in the UK, using its money where it is most needed: not on elaborate and perverse staging, but on high-class soloists and a small but excellent chorus, and an orchestra that can rival any in the country.


Wit of a hunter-gatherer

Over the years Chris Beetles must have made the pencil-wielding fingers of Quentin Blake and Ronald Searle itch with a desire to draw him.


Family at war

Edward Albee doesn’t like the word ‘revival’. His plays aren’t dead, he says, just lurking. His 1966 drama A Delicate Balance has been coaxed back into the limelight by James Macdonald in a sumptuous new version starring Penelope Wilton and Imelda Staunton.


All things bright and beautiful

Beauty is generally considered old-fashioned by the young and not-so-young bloods of contemporary culture, so an exhibition appealing unashamedly to the aesthetically refined will not seduce the practitioners of sensationalism, bad taste and ever more self-indulgent and feeble art.

Arts feature

Never say goodbye

Michael Henderson considers the perennial appeal of Bob Dylan


Read all about it

As newspapers are consulted increasingly on screen, and newsprint is all set to become a thing of the past, artists are turning their attention to this endangered medium. The Irish Expressionist painter Michael Kane (born 1935) has produced a provocative series of 100 paintings in ink, acrylic paint and collage, done on newsprint magazine pages taken mostly from the Irish Times (see above).




Lucy Vickery presents this week's Competition

Dear Mary

Dear Mary

Your problems solved

The Wiki Man

The Wiki Man: Shopping for a self-image

Judging by the television channels in international hotels, Europeans must think Anglo-Saxons are the most boring people in the world.


Motoring: Company man

There recently left these shores a benign and fecund angel of the automotive realm, Dr Franz Josef Paefgen, retiring chairman and CEO of Bentley. Benign because he was unfailingly polite and helpful and understood the Bentley tradition and the sort of people who buy into it.

Low life

Low life

Jeremy Clarke reports on his Low life

High life

High life

Taki lives the High life

Mind your language

Mind your language

‘Where seldom is heardsworth a discouraging Wordsworth, / And the skies are not cloudy all day,’ sang my husband in the manner, he thought, of Cary Grant in Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, with variations. His excuse was my mentioning the word home.