How do people respond to Rubens these days? Is all that lush flesh so out of fashion that he is of historical interest only? The good people of Lille evidently think not, for a large and ambitious Rubens exhibition has been organised under the special patronage of M. Jacques Chirac to celebrate the fact that this year Lille shares with Genoa the status of European Cultural Capital. Rubens is considered an apt choice for a landmark exhibition, and certainly the sumptuous display at the Palais des Beaux-Arts is impressive.
Freddie Sayers went to an EU conference for young people in Ireland — and no one turned up. Euroenthusiasm is not groovyImagine a huge celebrity wedding before any of the guests have arrived. A romantic Irish castle, a giant marquee with ruched egg-white lining and silver-birch detail, flurries of organisers talking into radios and making last-minute adjustments. The County Clare police department, excited as never before, have committed 720 officers to the weekend-long security operation.
Bob Alexander on the need to reform the voting system to get rid of ‘electoral bias’One of New Labour’s most outspoken commitments in opposition was that it would reform Parliament. It vowed to make the House of Lords more democratic and representative and later committed itself to the Wakeham recommendation to introduce some elected members. But now it is reduced to a grudge match against the remaining hereditary peers who are there as part of the clandestine deal agreed by Lords Irvine and Cranborne to stand security for the government’s pledge to have a second stage of change.
Simon Jenkins says that Tony Blair’s Sedgefield speech was just another attempt by the Prime Minister to scare us into believing that we are all in mortal danger. We are not‘And the clouds came flying through the air bringing winds and hurling lightning and arrows, and it rained hail, fire and swords, and killed a great number of people.’ So cried the Florentine monk Savonarola of the coming Day of Judgment in 1492.