The Spectator

19 January 2019

The rebel alliance

Backbench MPs want to take back control of Brexit. Will they succeed?



The brutal truth is that May is heading towards a softer Brexit

Rebel MPs now want to dictate the terms of Brexit. Will they succeed?


Nick Boles’s plan is certainly crazy. But it just might work

The MP is proposing to take power away from the government and place it in an alternative opposition


The truth about Trump’s shutdown? It’s not as bad as people make out

The taps still run, the bins are still collected – for now at least. But no one knows how this ends


The dangers of ‘neurodiversity’: why do people want to stop a cure for autism being found?

The neurodiversity movement claims that autism is not a problem. This is nonsense


If you’ve got taste, you don’t look at Instagram to decorate your home

Houses should be characterful, not copies of other people’s


Pirates of the Caribbean: How Venezuela’s near collapse is causing a crisis on the seas

Families are scavenging to survive. It’s not quite Somalia – but it isn’t far off


People who don’t live in council houses can’t see the appeal. Let me explain

Getting on the social housing list is the best thing that ever happened to me

The first Booths — the north’s answer to Waitrose

Notes on...

In praise of Booths, the north’s answer to Waitrose

If you mention the word ‘Booths’ anywhere south of Knutsford, you will usually be met with a blank expression, followed…

The Week

Leading article

Brexiteers' faith in parliament is now being put to the test

An unexpected outcome of the tortuous process of Brexit negotiations has been the enhancement of Britain’s reputation as a parliamentary…

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: May’s historic loss, Brexit chaos and the US shutdown

Home Brexit threw politics into unpredictable chaos. The government was defeated by an unparalleled majority of 230 — 432 to…


It’s not communist buildings that are bleak – it’s capitalist budget hotel chains

A few of us on the Labour left decide to see if it is possible to conjure, from nowhere, a…

Ancient and modern

The rejection of the people’s mandate – then and now

The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling may be quite right (not words one often reads) to warn that failure to deliver…


Where does the expression 'deep state' come from?

Turkey and the deep state Boris Johnson said that if Brexit was blocked, the public would blame it on the…


Letters: Cannabis harms people – why can’t we acknowledge that?

The straight dope Sir: Much of the media and a large part of the political class in Britain seem to…


The Spectator's Notes

In defence of unicorns

The scale of the government’s defeat on Mrs May’s deal is, as everyone keeps saying, amazing — yet also not.…


It’s Salmond vs Sturgeon – and whoever wins, the SNP loses

Amid the wreckage of a Brexit process that has disrupted every aspect of British political life, it is easy to…

Rod Liddle

On Nobel Prize winners and Mastermind losers

I once worked my way through two whole books of IQ tests devised by Hans Eysenck and by the time…

Matthew Parris

Leavers have just killed the best chance of Brexit ever happening

When intelligent, informed and rational people make a choice that onlookers can see confounds their own declared interests, we are…

Lionel Shriver

Publishers must push back against the baying Twitter mob

Suppose you’re a writer with a self-destructive proclivity for sticking your neck out. Would you sign a book contract that…

Any other business

An energy crisis is looming – but ministers are distracted by Brexit

Transfixed as you were by Westminster chaos, did you also spot the news that Hitachi is about to cancel or…


Ernst Jünger in Paris in 1941

Lead book review

Ernst Jünger — reluctant captain of the Wehrmacht

He was an influential figure, who despised Hitler and might have joined the Stauffenberg plot; but he preferred to let the Third Reich destroy itself


How Enoch Powell fancied himself Viceroy of India — and other startling revelations

Naim Attallah’s illustrious interviewees also include John Updike, Diana Mosley, John Mortimer, J.K. Galbraith and Harold Macmillan

Rorke’s Drift: a desperate brawl at a mission station up there with the great battle honours of the British army


Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat: the story of Rorke’s Drift

After the disaster of Isandlwana, British honour was saved on 22 January 1879 when a tiny garrison famously saw off over 3,000 Zulu warriors

Steel Pulse perform at a concert organised by Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League at Victoria Park, Hackney in 1978.


How Eric Clapton’s racism sparked a musical revolution

An enraged fan, on hearing Clapton’s xenophobic rant in 1976, announced the formation of Rock Against Racism, whose concerts helped destroy the National Front

Teffi’s satire was always on target, but she balanced it with compassion


The best way to defeat totalitarianism? Treat it as a joke

It was how Teffi, the beautiful, talented Russian emigrée, saw things, dazzling Paris for decades with her anti-Stalinist squibs


Is the threat of capital punishment really the foundation of good behaviour?

Richard Wrangham argues persuasively that fear of the ultimate punishment has always been the source of law and order, however much we may wish it otherwise


Lost in allegory: The Wall, by John Lanchester, reviewed

Is this dystopian novel a Brexit isolationist parable? Trump-era migration satire? Dire climate change pronouncement? Discuss


Death of a rock star: Slow Motion Ghosts, by Jeff Noon, reviewed

Noon’s constantly surprising novel takes the form of a police procedural, but pushes it in many unexpected directions

It’s all about the owners. The unwavering belief in Leicester City of the late, much loved Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha contributed hugely to its Premier League triumph in the 2015–2016 season


Pitches in the boardroom: football’s future assured

The Club tells the story of the owners and managers who helped fashion the multi-million-pound Premier League in just a few decades


Investigative journalists: new crime fiction reviewed

Thrillers from John Simpson and David Mamet feature newspapermen as sleuths. Also reviewed are Ian Rankin and Keigo Higashino

Life at the Globe

Life at the Globe



Gary Raymond and Richard Burton in Tony Richardson’s 1959 film version of Look Back in Anger

Arts feature

What a relief we can finally admit Jimmy Porter was a pain in the neck

Gary Raymond, one of the last surviving members of the Look Back in Anger cast, talks to Steve Morris about what he really thought of John Osborne’s angry young man

It will take a few weeks, if not months, to know whether Zoë Ball will become as much of a favourite as Terry Wogan. Photo: BBC / Sarah Jeynes


Zoë Ball has the voice and warmth but not so much the chat

Plus: the most sophisticated contribution to the Riot Girls season on Radio 4 was Into the Maze by Ayeesha Menon

Better than the film deserves: Saoirse Ronan as Mary Queen of Scots


A slog – and why does Elizabeth look like Ronald McDonald? Mary Queen of Scots reviewed

The scenery is ravishing and the two leads, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, are better than the film deserves but they can’t rescue the script

David Oyelowo as Javert in Andrew Davies's Les Misérables. Photo: BBC / Lookout Point / Laurence Cendrowicz


Les Misérables is another depressing example of the BBC’s woke quota targets

Plus: Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins shows you what equality between the sexes really looks like

Rupert Graves and Colin Mcfarlane in Pinter's 'hilarious sketch' Victoria Station. Photo: Marc Brenner


One masterpiece, one dud and one interesting rediscovery: Pinter Five reviewed

Plus: a musical that is more religious experience than drama at the Playhouse Theatre

‘March’, 1939, by Grant Wood


The joy of prints

Gauguin, Goya, Dürer and Caulfield were all better printmakers than painters

Philipp Fürhofer's handsome and often ingenious designs for the Royal Opera's overcomplicated new production of The Queen of Spades. Photo: ROH 2018 / Catherine Ashmore


Never quite pivots from thesis to drama: Royal Opera’s Queen of Spades reviewed

Plus: the raging, passionate talent of Barbara Strozzi at Kings Place


High life

Taki: Should I just move to a cave in France?

Gstaad   Do any of you know what cisgender is? I just found out. Cisgender is a term that describes…

Low life

Hell — and heaven – on the French Riviera

The restaurant was packed with vulgar rich people. It was fabulous

Real life

Despite me virtually sexting him, my blacksmith is ignoring me — just like all the others before him

Splitting the atom is nothing compared to figuring out how to get hold of your farrier. Why is the farrier…

The turf

In defence of the Cheltenham Festival

As the writer of a history of the festival, I have no doubt it is one of the best managed course in Britain



2018 ended on a very sweet note for my team. We played the London Year End one-day teams tournament —…

Spectator Wine

Wine Club 19 January

Well, I’m glad that’s over. Christmas and New Year’s Eve that is. What a ghastly palaver. It went on for…



The 2018 UK Knockout, won by Gawain Jones, ahead of Luke McShane (silver) and Michael Adams (bronze), was played in…

Chess puzzle

no. 537

White to play. This position is from Jones-McShane, UK Knockout, London 2018. White’s next move was the start of a…


Unauthorised version

In Competition No. 3081 you were invited to supply a parable rewritten in the style of a well-known author. Like…


Stout and bubbly

According to Brewer, a five-word phrase was used to describe a creature, but applies also to a three-word fictional character.…

Christmas crossword solution



No sacred cows

Yes, the Brexit debate is robust – but UK politics is moderate, calm and civil

There’s a scene in Lord of the Flies, William Golding’s masterpiece about the collapse of western civilisation, in which a…

The Wiki Man

The TWaT revolution: office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday only

I recently saw a series of photographs depicting a rural home in China. Pride of place in a grimly furnished…

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: We have new friends but can’t bear to eat in their filthy kitchen. What to do?

Q. I note that (Dear Mary, 12 January) you advised your correspondent, resentful of Christmas expenditure, to offer instead ‘mutual…


Forget Dry January – if there was ever a month to drink, this is it

January really is the cruellest month. No wonder some fortunate friends have dodged the column of dreary weather and short…

Mind your language

What lies behind John Bercow’s use of the word ‘colleagues’?

The parliamentary press gallery has in the past given a pair of silver shoe buckles to the Speaker as a…

The Best of Coffee House

Gillette and the rise of woke capitalism

The politicisation of consumer products is one of the weirder developments of recent years. First, Oreos came out in support…

The Best of Coffee House

Theresa May’s confidence vote problems will only get worse

Theresa May is in a peculiar position after suffering the largest government defeat in history. Her Brexit plans look dead…

The Best of Coffee House

Who can spare us from this Brexit disaster?

God help us all, because no-one else can or will in these present circumstances. If you wished to apportion some…