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The Spectator

9 November 2019

The secret of Trump’s success

His opponents are rubbish

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The mesmerising mediocrity of Trump’s opponents

The Democrats have an embarrassing inability to produce a candidate who can beat him at the ballot


Hero or double agent? An encounter with Lech Walesa

The former president’s reputation is under attack in Poland


Franco’s exhumation could help decide the Spanish election

I was no sooner in Madrid than General Franco was exhumed from his mausoleum not far from El Escorial. An…

Riot police descend on a market during a protest in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong last Saturday


Brave front: The pro-democracy guerrilla fighters taking on Hong Kong’s riot police

The Braves argue that Beijing will only respond to force, but the leaderless nature of the protests also encourages extremism


George Eliot was much more radical than we give her credit for

Her dramatic and shocking life story is oddly absent from the public imagination

Notes on...

The war heroes of Northolt Airport

At 6.50 p.m. on 31 August 1997 a plane touched down at Northolt Airport. It was a lamentable and dismal…

The Week

Leading article

The case for amnesty: why it’s time to offer citizenship to illegal immigrants

There is an unspoken truth about British life: we have two classes of citizen. The first are those born or…

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Bercow steps down, Hoyle steps up and an election begins

Home Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Labour MP for Chorley and deputy Speaker since 2010, was elected Speaker by the Commons.…


If parliament were more modern, might it become less aggressive?

I’m writing this in Crete where a late summer has seen brilliant sunshine and temperatures reaching 25°C — but can…


Do ‘Workington Man’ and ‘Worcester Woman’ decide elections?

National characters How useful is it to characterise an election with a single anthropological specimen such as ‘Workington Man’? ‘Worcester…


Letters: How to squash a Speaker

No special protection Sir: Rod Liddle’s joke that the election might be held on a date when Muslims cannot vote,…


The Spectator's Notes

Labour thinks that its trump card is Trump

On Wednesday morning, I was hoisted into the air of Whitehall on a cherry-picker. A century ago the proto-Cenotaph appeared…


Boris’s fate will be decided by Lib Dem voters

The Tories’ great fear in this campaign is that they can get their vote out, squeeze the Brexit party right…

Rod Liddle

Beware the wokeplace romance

I wonder if we are beginning to see the end of assortative mating. For a long while now we have…

Matthew Parris

I’ll vote Lib Dem – but I can’t join them

I don’t believe that before last week I’ve ever quit any organisation on an issue of principle. I tend to…

Lionel Shriver

Dear Nigel: Don’t become the man who reversed the referendum result

 Dear Nigel Believe it or not, I’ve been your defender. I’ve often told Americans,  ‘Sure, he comes across as a…

Any other business

Drill down and it’s obvious: the fracking debate was lost long ago

Five years ago this week, George Osborne as chancellor announced a scheme to place tax revenues from shale gas fracking…


Lead book review

Books of the year – part one

Our regular reviewers choose the books they have enjoyed reading most — and sometimes least — in 2019


Vladimir Nabokov confesses to butterflies in the stomach

The writer and lepidopterophile admits that he once ate some butterflies in Vermont to find out whether they were poisonous


It’s a dull world in which children don’t challenge their parents

From earliest times, says Umberto Eco, every generation has rejected the ideas of their fathers — until our sharing, digital age’s ‘orgy of tolerance’


Picturing paradise: the healing power of art

In his study of Giovanni di Paolo’s depiction of heavenly reunions, Hisham Matar finally comes to terms with the disappearance of his father in Gaddafi’s Libya


Rescuing the great British Cheddar

It’s hard to believe that the celebrated British staple, which recently triumphed at the World Cheese Awards, actually faced extinction in the 1930s


How to message a Martian

Many methods have been proposed. But Daniel Oberhaus reckons, in all seriousness, that contacting extraterrestrials may prove too expensive


A tribute to the grandes dames of gardening — Beth Chatto and Penelope Hobhouse

Chatto, who died last year, was a truly remarkable plantswoman, while Hobhouse’s knowledge of garden history is second to none


There’s no end to the wonders of the human body, says Bill Bryson

Bryson dazzles and bamboozles us with facts and figures — including that the body’s DNA, laid in one fine strand, would stretch ten billion miles, to beyond Pluto


Dieting to death: a black comedy of boarding school life

Scarlett Thomas’s Oligarchy somehow manages to be a riotously funny novel about a boarding school full of girls with eating disorders


When atheists stole the moral high ground

It looked bad for the Church in the 17th century when unbelievers started behaving in a more ‘Christian’ way than the constantly warring Christians


Liberty depends on a delicate balance between state and society

Repression does not always come from above. In India, it is society that enforces the caste system that confines millions to degrading work


Arts feature

Mick Hucknall on women, rejection and cultural appropriation

Michael Hann talks to Britain's greatest underappreciated pop star


John Flaxman is the missing link between superhero movies and Homer

As this excellent free exhibition at the Royal Academy shows, the artist’s dynamic line drawings of scenes from the Iliad and the Odyssey lead straight to Marvel


How a City lawyer conquered the hardest piano work ever written

Norman Lebrecht is gobsmacked by Paul Wee’s recording of Alkan’s preposterous Symphony for Solo Piano


God awful: BBC1’s His Dark Materials reviewed

The initials BBC no longer serve as a badge of quality but as a warning flag


Why I love a bit of death on a Sunday night

Plus: the joy of watching sport on telly with the sound turned down and the radio turned up


Scorsese at his most leisurely, meandering and engrossing: The Irishman reviewed

At 210 minutes long, the film is not very bladder-friendly but it's worth dehydrating yourself for


The open-hearted loveliness of Hot Chip

Plus: Squeeze were often sublime at the Royal Albert Hall


Why the Royal Court is theatre’s answer to Islamic State

Plus: there’s gold in David Baddiel’s new play at Soho Theatre

The Listener

Woke slogans welded to incompetent grunge: Neil Young’s Colorado reviewed

Young made some of the best albums in the history of rock music – but that was when he had a sense of perspective and humour


High life

My present abode is one of the great deco houses left intact in the Bagel

New York   What follows will bore the pants off you, but at least it beats another piece on Brexit.…

Low life

My image of the young Jeremy Corbyn is not a flattering one

I have just been staying in the very pretty, and very cold cottage where Corbyn’s parents retired to in deepest Wiltshire

Real life

Who will take the threat to horses from fireworks seriously?

We had to move Darcy from her field for fear of potential trauma, both physical and mental

The turf

The best thing about autumn is the return of jumping

My Twelve to Follow among the hotshot hurdlers



Erikas Vainikonis and his father Vytas are terrific bridge players and have supported the game very generously. Their brilliant new…

Spectator Wine

Wine Club 9 November

Those naughty Yapp Brothers (actually, proprietors Jason Yapp and Tom Ashworth are naughty stepbrothers) are well known for preying upon…


Bronze in Batumi

The hammering downpour before the last round in Batumi was, in retrospect, a precious omen. After all, England’s medal drought…

Chess puzzle

no. 579

Black to play. Erwin l’Ami–Luke McShane, Batumi, 2019. The pawn on e6 looks powerful, but White’s king is more vulnerable…


Station to station

In Competition No. 3123 you were invited to submit a poem that begins ‘By Waterloo Station I sat down and…


2433: House and garden

Across unclued lights (one of two words) combine with down ones to suggest the surnames of four famous English painters;…

Crossword solution

to 2430: Petite traveller

On 19 October John le Carré turned eighty-eight (hinted at by TWO FAT LADIES (19/26/20)). His real forenames are DAVID…

No sacred cows

40 years on, Life of Brian has made the world a darker place

I went to the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican last weekend, a free speech festival organised by the Brexit…

The Wiki Man

How veganism became mainstream

I have just returned from Canada, which seems to share Britain’s new-found obsession with veganism. There, chains such as Burger…

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: how can I stop my dad treating my mum like a slave?

Q. Dad takes an old-fashioned approach to marriage: I have never seen him clear his plate and he does not…


The delights of Spanish wine – and art

First, an apology. In my last column, I appeared to be saying that good champagne does not age. This must…

Mind your language

What’s the different between ‘while’ and ‘whilst’?

‘Why is whilst only ever used in letters?’ asked my husband, casting aside an argumentative letter from his sister written…