The Spectator

21 July 2018

The rehabilitation of Assad

He’s back – with Russia’s army and America’s blessing



Assad is back for good in Syria - and with Trump’s blessing

A US-Russia peace plan has huge implications for the Middle East


Jean-Claude drunker

What's ailing the President of the European Commission?
Colonel Claus Schenk Count von Stauffenberg


Hitler’s would-be assassins were, themselves, Nazi war criminals. Why celebrate them?

As Germany marks the failed 20 July putsch, it’s time to set the record straight


The EU is sending migrants home – into the hands of people smugglers

A multi-million repatriation programme is turning out to be not such a great idea


Let funerals be sad

There’s nothing funky about turning death into a fashion parade


British men shouldn’t go topless in public. Ever

Vanity used to be something to be ashamed of. These days, self-deprecation is for losers
Breaking the bank: The impregnable BoE

Notes on...

How easy is it to break into the Bank of England?

‘Safe as the Bank of England.’ So goes the old phrase. And yes, with walls 8ft thick, the Old Lady…

The Week

Leading article

May’s Brexit plan has failed. She needs a new one – and fast

Handling Brexit was never going to be easy for Theresa May, given that the Tories have been fighting a civil…

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the Week: Brexit votes and Trump’s double negatives

Home The administration of Theresa May, the Prime Minister, staggered on, as Conservative MPs exchanged angry words in the Commons,…


What Uber rides taught me about immigration

It was blessedly cool inside the Romanesque nave, its massive arches resisting the heat as they had done everything else…


Why is the Trump balloon known as a ‘blimp’?

Blimpish beginnings Protesters flew a ‘blimp’ depicting President Trump as a baby in central London. Why are balloons known as…

Ancient and modern

Strangers and brothers

Everyone talks about the importance of ‘charisma’ in a politician. But while it may take one a long way with…


Are Remainers to blame for this mess – or is Brexit impossible?

Remainers are to blame Sir: I was intrigued by the parallel drawn by an ally of Michael Gove’s in James…


The Spectator's Notes

The sense of betrayal feeds the demand for a no-deal Brexit. Watch this space

The collapse of Mrs May’s Chequers plan, followed by Tuesday’s failure of the Tory Remainers to defeat the government, creates…


May's summer delusion: the recess won't solve anything

The summer holidays couldn’t come soon enough for Theresa May. So desperate was she to get MPs away from Westminster…

Rod Liddle

Real football fans don’t care about race

It’s middle-class commentators – not supporters – who seem obsessed with the number of black players There were altogether too many darkies in England’s World Cup…

Matthew Parris

Brexit is in chaos. It’s time to delay it – then stop it

Omissions can be as instructive as inclusions. I noted a curious example in a column Nick Timothy wrote last month…

Lionel Shriver

In the end, the Remainers will win. The powerful always do

Before the referendum, I predicted behind closed doors that even if Leave improbably prevailed, Britain’s political establishment would ensure that…

Any other business

An amoral money world needs ethical campaigners more than ever

When I first visited Canary Wharf in the early 1990s, I was struck by a set of black-and-white posters in…


Adam Smith circa 1775; medallion by Tassie

Lead book review

Adam Smith analysed human behaviour, not economics, says Simon Heffer

Jesse Norman’s Adam Smith: What He Thought and Why It Matters reviewed

Kyoto’s Yasaka Pagoda and Sannenzaka Street with cherry blossom in the morning


‘T’ is for Trotskyite

Varlam Shalamov’s short stories of life in the Soviet Gulag leave an impression of ice-sharp precision, vividness and lucidity, as…

A man of many handles: Flann O’Brien in Dublin


A melancholy talent with a genius for send-up - Flann O’Brien was his own worst enemy

It is tempting to compare two highly intelligent, learned and gifted young Dublin writers, suffering under the burdensome, Oedipal influence…


Two valuable new books about technology that are a bummer to read

James Bridle's writing is unnecessarily convoluted, while Jaron Lanier's is too simple

‘Old Glory’ flowing through Natchez, Mississippi


Travel literature

Jonathan Raban was largely responsible for changing the nature of travel writing. Back in the 1970s when he began, the…


Life is a cabaret: Barry Humphries and Meow Meow

Arts feature

Barry Humphries on Trump, transgender ‘rat-baggery’ and causing maximum offence

The Australian polymath has a three-week residency at the Barbican delving into the pre-cataclysmic art of Weimar Germany. He talks to Lloyd Evans

Live Music

An embarrassing and misshapen dud: Opera Holland Park’s Isabeau reviewed

Plus: Anna Meredith’s new work for the First Night of the Proms scrolled through all the currently admissible tonal idioms


Channel 4 doesn’t do ‘news’ in any meaningful sense of the word – it’s pure propaganda

The BBC isn’t any better – with one honourable exception: the Daily/Sunday Politics and This Week, which of course the BBC have decided to cancel

Lee Bul’s ‘Monster: Pink’ (foreground) and ‘Crashing’ (background)


If you like monstrosities, head to the Hayward Gallery

But the monsters are the best of Lee Bul’s work, which tend to overcomplication


The marketisation of BBC radio is a recipe for creative disaster

BBC productions will now always be about profit and not how best to inform, educate or entertain

Family fortunes: Ben Miles, Adam Godley and Simon Russell Beale in The Lehman Trilogy


Extraordinary power and simplicity: Lehman Trilogy reviewed

Plus: a new musical at the Arts Theatre that’s only for committed head-bangers

Live Music

Paul Simon says farewell with a daring and inventive show

At times, however, his Hyde Park gig felt like a brilliant show that had been booked in entirely the wrong place


Dreary, familiar, empty watch – until Streep appears: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again reviewed

It was Meryl Streep’s heft and transcendence, I now realise, that made the first film


High life

Watch out, London: I might be moving back

The women are better than those in New York, and most of my friends live there

Low life

Portrait of a seven-year-old state-run child

The waiter and I goggled at Atticus’s dispassionate analysis and the Orwellian language in which it was couched

Real life

It was either new carpets – or happy dogs

I was about to carpet the upstairs of the house but then the dogs went outside into the frazzled undergrowth

The turf

The man who rode 2,300 winners

Why have English trainers been so slow to make use of the great French jockey Gérald Mossé?



Last Friday, merrily on my way to Young Chelsea (still the best IMPs duplicate in town), I couldn’t know that…

Spectator Wine

Wine Club 21 July

My old mate Jason Yapp was chirpier than ever when we met to taste his wines the other day. Never…


Mental sport

Sporting commentators frequently resort to chess metaphors to convey the flavour of a particular contest. In the case of football, chess tends…

Chess puzzle

no. 515

Black to play. This is from Carlsen-Polgar, Mexico 2012. Judit had been struggling in this game but when Carlsen slipped…


Net effect

In Competition No. 3057 you were invited to submit a short story entitled ‘The day the internet died’.   Phyllis…


2368: Cobbled together

The unclued lights (two of two words, and the rest paired) are of a kind.   Across 1    Book with…

Crossword solution

to 2365: Beds

GARDEN (at 46 Across) reveals the theme. Paired solutions are ‘gardens’ in ‘countries’; 8/10, 32/1D, 33/28+29, 12/36, 37/34, 38/2, and…

No sacred cows

Teen Vogue and the rebirth of Radical Chic

Are we witnessing the rebirth of Radical Chic? That was the term coined by Tom Wolfe in his 1970 essay…

The Wiki Man

When it comes to new technology, we’re all Luddites at heart

When I saw my first jogger in Wales in the early 1970s, I assumed he was running away from the…

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: My friend always has food around his mouth. How can I help him?

Q. A dear friend of my husband, a shy bachelor, is an acquired taste. Once you acquire it you are…


Tradition and terroir: the new reign in Spain is producing great results

The Kingdom of Spain always sends outstanding ambassadors to the Court of St James, none more so than the appropriately…

Mind your language

‘Living with’ is now a thing – usually followed by something nasty like Alzheimer’s

I’m not at all sure about the formula a person living with, followed by something unwelcome, such as Alzheimer’s disease,…

The Best of Coffee House

Does Teen Vogue understand what it means to be ‘literally a communist’?

If anyone wanted an encapsulation of the screwiness of our times just consider the following straight question being asked of…

The Best of Coffee House

Michael Gove’s Brexit regret is much too little, much too late

Not the least extraordinary thing about the campaign to leave the European Union is that it turns out no-one was…

The Best of Coffee House

Who governs Britain?

There are moments that cut through the din of braggadocio, vindictive utopianism and arrant stupidity surrounding Brexit. Anna Soubry has…