The Spectator

17 November 2018

The all-seeing state

The dark side of China’s high-tech society



In China’s new surveillance state, everyone will be watched, reviewed and rated

Social credit and a high-tech, all-seeing government will keep every citizen in line


Social credit is just one part of China’s new state control

Any tool that helps to maintain social stability is welcomed by the Communist party


My one-night stand-up hell

Trying my hand at comedy sounded like a great idea. It wasn’t


The Ivy League's dirty secret

The Harvard court case shows US university admissions are anything but meritocratic


Dangerous minds

Labelling criminals as ‘insane’ doesn’t help us to understand them or their crimes

The defeat of Boudica is believed to have been fought on Watling Street

Notes on...

The Roman road that came to define Britain

All roads lead to Rome, the saying goes. Well, all roads except for the Roman road of Watling Street, which…

The Week

Leading article

It’s a bad deal – whichever way you look at it

During last year’s general election campaign, Theresa May declared that ‘You can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit’.…

Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Moment of truth for Theresa May’s Brexit deal

Home Theresa May, the Prime Minister, defended a 500-page technical draft of the agreement on withdrawal from the European Union.…


Jo Johnson: My Brexit resignation was a revolutionary act

Jacob Rees-Mogg observed that my resignation last week was ‘the “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment in the Brexit process’. If this…


Have wildfires really got worse over the years?

Hard bitten A British tourist died after contracting rabies from a cat bite in Morocco. Whatever happened to the prominent…

From The Archives

Trial and punishment

From ‘The Kaiser’, 16 November 1918: What is to be done with the Kaiser? For the question must certainly be…

Ancient and modern

Call the polis

If Brussels is willing to offer the British Parliament only a dog’s Brexit, that should tell Parliament everything it needs…


Letters: Art is as important as history in the remembrance of the past

Hearts as well as heads Sir: Simon Jenkins suggests we should stop remembering and start forgetting about the first world…


The Spectator's Notes

If Corbyn’s PM, expect him to wear a white poppy and Frida Kahlo T-shirt

‘It’s time for Bond — Basildon Bond,’ is the joke among pro-Leave MPs as Theresa May serves up her mess…


The maths probably won’t work for May, however hard she tries

The bad news for Theresa May is that Brexit isn’t over. She might have agreed terms with the European Commission…

Rod Liddle

May's deal proves one thing: the establishment always wins

Peasants’ Revolts tend not to work out too well in this country, for the peasants. I suppose that is why…

James Delingpole

Why I won’t be turning Catholic just yet

I didn’t get an audience with the Pope when I visited Rome last weekend. But given that he’s a borderline…

Any other business

Anyone seen Jeff Bezos? I’m here to talk to him about tax

 Los Angeles/Seattle US stocks briefly rallied after the midterm results as markets looked favourably on a divided Congress and the…


Lead book review

Books of the year – part two

A further selection of the best — and sometimes worst—books of 2018, chosen by our regular reviewers

Saul Bellow, photographed in Paris in 1982. Extraordinary literary intelligence saw him through the mess of his own life


Saul Bellow: love the work, if not the man

His children suffered the misery of several divorces and he fought one wife for a decade in court. But he’s incapable of writing a dull paragraph

Alexander Chee. Credit Bloomsbury Publishing


Does an autobiographical novel really count as fiction?

Alexander Chee explains the mysterious process by which the chaotic facts of an abused childhood became his elegant debut novel, Edinburgh

‘Attack on the Sealkote mutineers by General Nicholson’s Irregular Cavalry, 1857.’ Illustration by Charles Ball


The Lion of the Punjab: the short, brutish career of John Nicholson

Was he a hero and imperialist psychopath? And how could the cultish worship of him in India have lasted into the 21st century?

A river of green topiary cascades down the terrace steps at West Dean. Cotoneaster horizontalis covers the wall on the right


Top topiary: the year’s best gardening books

An appreciation of West Dean is one of the year’s highlights, together with John Brookes’s A Landscape Legacy

Kurt Eisner and friends plan a brave new world. Credit. Getty Images


Dreams of utopia before the Nazi nightmare

During a brief lull in Germany at the end of the first world war, a group of idealistic young writers planned a brave new world

David Garrick in Shakespeare’s Richard III, painted by Francis Hayman


What was the celebrated Garrick really like as an actor?

Norman S.Poser argues that the naturalistic style of acting we take for granted today was born in the mid-18th century. But on what grounds?


Japanese puzzle: how can an advanced, dynamic country function with such an ancient population?

When, in 2020, Tokyo hosts the summer Olympics, will one of Japan’s 70,000 centenarians carry the flame?


‘He strikes me dumb with admiration.’ Van Gogh on Howard Pyle’s pirate illustrations

Arts feature

The facts – and fiction – of piracy

The greatest pirate ever was Ching Shih. With more than 1,500 ships she controlled more of the South China sea than the PRC does now

‘The Laden Table’, c.1908, by Édouard Vuillard


A charming celebration of Vuillard’s muse – his mum: Barber Institute’s Maman reviewed

The recognisable figure of Maman sews, cooks, cleans, dishes out advice – a domestic goddess worshipped by her son

RLPO and the NDR Radiophilharmonie performing Britten's War Requiem in Liverpool Cathedral. Photo: Liverpool Philharmonic / Mark McNulty


Britten’s War Requiem almost sounded like a masterpiece – but it isn’t, is it?

Despite the best efforts of Manze and the RLPO, Britten’s work remains classical music’s answer to Blackadder Goes Forth – simultaneously unchallengeable and troublingly simplistic

Games without frontiers: a scene from Red Dead Redemption 2


What does the commonplace cruelty of Red Dead Redemption say about our times?

Every era has its western. Ours happens to be a game of such attritional violence that it will stop those not totally inured in their tracks

The Somme battlefield today. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images


Radio 3 had the most simple yet effective way of reflecting on war’s impact

Plus: BBC Sounds may be diverting money away from programme-making but it’s also shedding light on old gems from the archives

‘Portrait of a Young Man with a Book’, c.1524–6, by Lorenzo Lotto


Lorenzo Lotto’s 16th century portraits come startlingly close to photography

In his realism, and the anxieties and melancholies of his subjects, Lotto’s spirit is very contemporary, as this marvellous new National Gallery exhibition shows

King David with his musicians: a page from the Vespasian Psalter, 8th century


To say this is a 'once in a generation' exhibition seems absurdly modest

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms at the British Library is perhaps the most significant display in recent times

The whole narrative of Dynasties was too suspiciously shapely. Image: BBC NHU


How does David Attenborough know what the monkeys are thinking?

Plus: the master diplomats of the foreign office deliver a masterly lesson in not telling us very much in Inside the Foreign Office

The Listener

The ideal album for getting rid of guests over Christmas: Yoko Ono’s Warzone reviewed

Trust me, they’ll be gone even before Yoko has observed that there are ‘cats on the hill, ready to kill’


A mess: Fantastic Beasts reviewed

J.K. Rowling’s plots are now so labyrinthine she makes your average John le Carré look like Noddy

Lee Evans in Pinter Three. Photo: Marc Brenner


Lee Evans’s acrobatic clowning is the best thing about Pinter Three

Plus: a Don Quixote for the under-tens at the Garrick Theatre


High life

I love life – and girls – too much to act my age

New York A little Austrian count was born to my daughter last week in Salzburg, early in the morning of…

Low life

France’s second world war shame

Newcomers to the village like me are warned not to enquire too deeply about goings-on during WW2

Real life

Education, spiritual guidance and a good cappuccino: the new face of the NHS

There is not much room in hospitals these days for good old-fashioned curing



It’s no surprise that so many bridge players are computer programmers or systems analysts; it’s an ideal game for those…


Paradise mislaid

World champion Magnus Carlsen missed several chances to win with black in the first game of his title defence, currently…

Chess puzzle

no. 532

Black to play. This is a variation from Carlsen–Caruana (Game 2), London 2018. White has forked the black bishop and…


We’re scamming

In Competition No. 3074 you were invited to submit a scam letter ghostwritten by a well-known author, living or dead.…


2385: R and R

The theme is two historic people who were contemporaries. Unclued lights give their forenames, places of birth and death and…

Crossword solution

to 2382: A pointed remark

The quotation is 10/11/39. Remaining unclued lights are all daggers.  First prize G. Snailham, WindsorRunners-up Lynne Gilchrist, Willoughby, New South…

No sacred cows

Free speech is officially dead in British universities

When I first read about plans for a new academic periodical called The Journal of Controversial Ideas, I got the…

Spectator sport

The All Blacks: world-class time-wasters

Plus: Manchester City’s rise, José Mourinho’s decline, Graeme Swann’s dancing

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I stop rabbits eating Mum’s graveside flowers?

Q. A difficult couple of our acquaintance always object to other guests at dinner and can be very rude to…


It’s a Jewish homage to the Wolseley, and that is no bad thing: Tish reviewed

Tish is a new grand café in Belsize Park, north London, but kosher. There are not really enough Jews to…

Mind your language

Collins dictionary has got ‘gammon’ all wrong

In the annual dictionary wars to nominate words of the year, in the hope of attracting publicity, Collins has made…

The Best of Coffee House

Why MPs should back Theresa May’s Brexit deal

Many things about the politics of Brexit are mystifying. Some are minor puzzles: Why don’t people read the documents they…

The Best of Coffee House

The real reason atheists want to be on Thought for the Day

Oh God. Or maybe not. There’s a letter in the Guardian today from assorted unbelievers asserting their right to a…

The Best of Coffee House

The stop and search race myth

When I was working as a speech writer in the Home Office, under Theresa May, one of her special advisers…