The Spectator

23 March 2019

Will it never end?

The Tories’ current humiliation could be as cataclysmic as Labour’s in 1976



Theresa May’s Brexit strategy has humiliated Britain

And the Tory Party may never recover from the disaster


Brexiteers and Remainers can’t both be right about Bercow’s ruling

All parliament’s tribes still think they can achieve their ideal Brexit outcome


Speaker-speak: the maddening rhetoric of John Bercow

His linguistic antics must be heard to be believed


‘The Islamic State will never die’: their territory is gone but the jihadis are always with us

Isis is a marriage between western imaginations and a recurring stream in Salafi ideology. It will not be easily obliterated


We thought New Zealand was safe from extremism. We were wrong

In a blink, everything has changed and yet nothing has changed. Life goes on. The long, hot days of a…


Why do we love The Archers, when all the characters are loathsome?

I can’t think of a single character who doesn’t drive me potty


A viral hit: how the Christchurch killer weaponised internet culture

The terrorist’s radicalisation appears to have been entirely digital

Excellent creatures

Notes on...

The triumphant return of the British beaver

There is a particularly magical West Country woodland that I know, through which a sunlit stream meanders, braided by a…

The Week

Leading article

The Conservative Party bears the most blame for the Brexit mess

For many people, next Friday was supposed to be a celebration. Boris Johnson spoke about an ‘independence day’ marking the…

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Brexit delay, terror in NZ, and a very expensive pigeon

Home Theresa May, the Prime Minister, wrote to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, asking for a delay…


Douglas Murray: will we have a country left after Brexit?

It isn’t easy getting around the Gulf these days. The blockade on Qatar means no direct flights from most of…

Ancient and modern

Unlike MPs, Cicero understood the meaning of sovereignty

The problem with Brexit is that parliament is not designed to do what the people have commanded it to. MPs…


The biggest explosions in history

The march of time If we leave the EU on 29 March, with which historic events will that date be…


Letters: why hens are wonderful creatures

What’s the point? Sir: Katy Balls asks ‘Will there be an election?’ (16 March). That prompts the question: ‘To what…


The Spectator's Notes

Britain’s fate now lies in the hands of Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel says disdainfully, ‘I admit I was not on top of the British parliament’s 17th-century procedural rules.’ Her implication…

Rod Liddle

On the subject of John Bercow

You can buy the latest edition of Thomas Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice for just over three hundred quid, but I…

James Delingpole

In defence of snake oil

A few months ago I had possibly the best massage I’ve ever had. My masseuse, Anouschka, had learned her skills…

Mary Wakefield

Which 21st century noise annoys you the most?

I live with a ghost, or rather, I share an address with a man who’s been dead for many years.…

Any other business

Merging two unhappy companies is a recipe for disaster

It never works to take two unhappy companies and blend them into a bigger pile of misery. That’s the way…


The outcome of Diderot’s discussions with Catherine was that she largely ignored his advice. Engraving from François Guizot’s Histoire de la France

Lead book review

How Diderot’s pleas to end despotism fell on deaf ears in Russia

Though fascinated by the Enlightenment, Catherine the Great ignored the philosophe’s ‘grand principles’, preferring to discuss literature instead

A plague of locusts in North Africa. Colin Everard himself describes driving on desert roads in a race against a 35-square-mile swarm


Days of the locust: our continuing battle with an ancient plague

One swarm can number billions of insects, cover an area of 1,000 square miles and consume 40,000 tonnes of food per day


Writing as revenge: Memories of the Future, by Siri Hustvedt, reviewed

It’s not the past that shapes you, but your understanding of it, is the theme of this memoir disguised as a novel

Laila Lalami


A Mojave desert mystery: The Other Americans, by Laila Lalami, reviewed

After an elderly restaurant-owner is struck by a car in remote California, nine narrators take up the story

A fallen woman in a vicious world: Jack the Ripper’s last victim, depicted in Le Petit Parisien


Why are we so obsessed with Jack the Ripper, but care so little for his victims?

Almost a century after the Whitechapel murders, Peter Sutcliffe achieved similar notoriety — and his victims were also dismissed as prostitutes


The short, happy life of the long playing record

From its inception in 1948, the LP played an intrinsic part in the lives of millions, until superseded by compilation tapes


Brexit can be surprisingly thrilling, as Alan Judd’s latest spy novel demonstrates

Whatever happens with Brexit, Accidental Agent will still work and have relevance. Also reviewed: Chris Mullin, Delphine de Vignan and Un-Su Kim


The Englishman who saved Japan’s cherry blossoms

At the time, growing more than one kind of flowering cherry became a treasonable offence in Japan


How Polynesia came to be inhabited is still one of the world’s great mysteries

From Captain Cook onwards, the western world has been puzzled by how the vast Pacific could have been navigated relying only on the stars

Nina Stibbe. Credit: Alecsandra Raluca Dragoi


Further adventures of a dysfunctional family: Reasons to be Cheerful, by Nina Stibbe, reviewed

Now 18, Lizzie Vogel is caught between her racist boss, her shoplifting mother and her boyfriend who’d rather be birdwatching

The empress who was just too imperious: portrait of Matilda from the Golden Book of St Albans, 1380


The queen of England who never was: the life of the Empress Matilda

The daughter of Henry I and mother of the Plantagenet dynasty, Matilda should have been England's first ruling queen

Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Credit: Rex Features


Missive from a living fossil: Little Boy, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, reviewed

Published to coincide with the author’s 100th birthday, the novel is full of excruciating puns, name-dropping and a dated reliance on Freud


In the pavilion of fun: Bowlaway, by Elizabeth McCracken, reviewed

The ebullient Bertha Truitt and her small-town bowling alley are central to McCracken’s rambunctious saga


Life after death: Billie Holliday at the Hologram USA Theater

Arts feature

The rise and rise of the holographic tour

In pop music, it's never been a better – or more profitable – time to be dead


Full of lovely paintings that might lead you astray: The Renaissance Nude reviewed

Even during the heyday of Michelangelo and Raphael depictions of naked human bodies were not necessarily all about art

Tom Hiddleston in Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner


Watch Tom Hiddleston ruin Pinter’s finest play

Plus: Admissions is the smartest, bravest, crunchiest play the West End has seen in ages


How did no one think the premise of Mums Make Porn was questionable?

Plus: Pose is the sort of programme we are now obliged to like almost by law


Is the increasing secularisation of funerals a good thing?

Plus: the realities of life on the English Channel

Fresh and wild: Chrystal E. Williams as Lady Macbeth and Brenden Gunnell as Seryozha in Graham Vick’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk


Raw, frightening, overwhelming: Birmingham Opera’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk reviewed

Plus: a traditional staging of Katya Kabaonva at Scottish Opera that is poetic and thoughtful


The fall of Daniel Barenboim

The shrewdest political conductor we have ever seen is mired in accusations of bullying

Spell-binding: Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide in Us


Nyong’o is spellbinding but the plot is ultimately baffling: Us reviewed

I was grateful it wasn’t that frightening but not so grateful that it was quite so repetitively dull


High life

I’m back in New York: the city that’s perennially offended

New York   Goodbye, snow-capped peaks; hello, swampy brown East River. So long, fresh alpine air; greetings to choking diesel…

Low life

After ten weeks spent caring for my mother, I had to relearn the art of conversation

My taxi-driver got things going again with a barrage of conspiracy theories

Real life

Professional villagers won’t rest until they have eliminated mud from the countryside

The more they whinge about others’ lack of neat and tidiness the more I embrace mess and noise



It’s exceptionally rare to pick up an 11-card suit. You might think it would happen at least once in a…


Family silver

The World Team Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan, finished last week with a victory for Russia but with an outstanding team…

Chess puzzle

no. 546

Black to play. This position is from Sasikiran-McShane, Astana 2019. Black’s queen is attacked, his knight is vulnerable and b7…


The big reveal

In Competition No. 3090 you were invited to submit a recently discovered lost poem by a well-known poet that makes…


2400: Unclued

All unclued entries are, unusually, not all unclued; all are different and there are no proper nouns. A repeated cryptic…

Crossword solution

to 2397: Obit V

Albert Finney, a fine ACTOR (13), died on 7 February 2019. His legacy includes SATURDAY NIGHT (10) and SUNDAY MORNING…


Farringdon’s Quality Chop House is macabre, but at least it has character

I love the drug of television, which is slightly less awful than the drug of social media because the conversation…

Mind your language

Does a dark lantern give out light?

‘Does a dark lantern give out black light?’ asked my husband as if in delirium. He was reading a book…

No sacred cows

Why the LGBT health panel isn’t diverse enough

On Monday, the government announced that Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Women and Equalities as well as the Secretary of…

Spectator sport

How Scotland humiliated England in the Six Nations

Outside the rugby superhighway of the A316, linking Richmond, Rosslyn Park, the Quins and HQ, it’s hard to imagine anyone…

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: how do I stop a man making lewd comments?

Q. My wife’s closest friend and her husband visit us every couple of months or so. Without fail he will…

The Best of Coffee House

Who should we blame for the Christchurch atrocity?

A frequent complaint heard from Muslim communities in recent years has been irritation and anger over any suggestion that Muslims…

The Best of Coffee House

The journalist investigated by police for ‘using the wrong pronouns’

Here we go again. Another woman is facing a police investigation – and potentially, a jail sentence — because she…

The Best of Coffee House

Why the DUP are worried about Tory succession

It is the morning after the Bercow before, and it seems pretty much certain that there won’t be a meaningful…