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Every picture tells a story

I am in Paris for the Rolling Stones’ No Filter concert, in Ronnie Wood’s dressing room minutes before he is due on stage. Walking through the door, I find myself in what looks like a giant crèche, and every size of child and grandchild bouncing around on a thick rug woven in the pattern of

Are driverless cars the future?

  Philip Hammond’s last Budget focused on driverless cars as an example of the brave new technological world. But should we believe the hype? The Spectator arranged for Christian Wolmar, author of a new book on the subject, to meet Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of Ogilvy & Mather and The Spectator’s Wiki Man columnist, to talk about

The Establishment of 2018: a guide

  Old establishment New establishment Order of the Garter BBC Sports Personality of the Year Parliament’s Woolsack The Supreme Court The Borgias Sir Nicholas Serota and friends William Rees-Mogg Owen Jones Jacob Bronowski Simon Cowell Ciggy soak and TV cook Fanny Cradock Clean-living (Deliciously) Ella Mills Shirley Williams Lily Allen MCC committee members BBC trustees

Mission impossible? | 13 December 2017

If you work for the Church of England in any capacity, from Archbishop of Canterbury to parish flower-arranger, how do you deal with the distressing statistics that in the past 20 years, average Sunday attendance has plummeted to 780,000 and is going down by a rate of about 20,000 a year? Do you pretend it’s

Right side of history

How nice it would be, in this season of good cheer, to find something hopeful to say. Being a historian, I shall try: history often helps us to see our problems in proportion. But let us grit our teeth and begin with the depressing news. Worst is the sudden emergence — or re-emergence? — of

How to date without getting sued

For the young heterosexual Spectator male, the dating world is beset with perplexities. It was all so different in his father’s era, when making a pass was not seen by women as harassment or assault but as par for the course on the romance-seeking circuit. Lunging for kisses without invitation and even pressing girls against

The Queen of Scots

‘You wouldn’t make good spies, would you,’ chuckles Ruth Davidson as she finds us sitting with our backs to the door in the Scottish Parliament café. She then triumphantly declares that she knows who we’ve been speaking to when preparing for the interview — getting two out of the five names isn’t bad going. After

Order, order | 13 December 2017

Diet nannies will spend Christmas telling us ‘you are what you eat’ but in the House of Commons ‘you are where you sit’. Are you a Tory Whips’ stooge or a Dominic Grieve groupie aching to block Brexit, a braw new blue Scot or an English provincial plodder without hope of advancement? Parliament-watchers discern plenty

Wise old war horse

It is always a delight to drive the country roads of Hampshire to see the man known throughout the army simply as ‘Dwin’ — Field Marshal Lord Bramall. Until quite recently, I was always greeted at the door in person by the last of the Chiefs of the Defence Staff (CDS) who had really seen

The ‘designer baby’ myth

Christmas Day marks the birthday of one of the most gifted human beings ever born. His brilliance was of a supernoval intensity, but he was, by all accounts, very far from pleasant company. I refer to Isaac Newton. Would you like your next child to have the intelligence of a Newton? It may not be

Christmas in China

If you think capitalism has blinged up Christmas, you should see what the Communists are doing to it. At this time of year, Chinese cities are dressed up like one big Oxford Street, but with lights that put London’s in the shade. Christmas Eve has become the biggest shopping day of the year. At the

Have you heard a convincing ghost story?

  Anthony Horowitz   Novelist   I have never really believed in ghosts, but I actually had a personal experience which I still find hard to explain. I was walking beside the river Kwai in Thailand with my wife. We had been told that a steam train travelled across the famous bridge once a week

Madness on parade

As Kim Jong-un might blow up the world next year, if not this, and people are forever trying to work out what is going on in his country, perhaps it is worth describing a military parade I attended in Pyongyang a few years back. The occasion was the centenary of the birth of the current

More features

Here We Come A-Wassailing

Andrew Michael Hurley’s debut novel, The Loney, was an unsettling gothic horror story set on a bleak stretch of the English coast. It was first published in October 2014 by Tartarus Press, a tiny independent publisher. It won the Costa First Novel Award in 2015 and went on to be named Debut Fiction Book of


Miscellaneous Notebook

I have, for utterly explicable reasons, not been asked to guest-edit Radio 4’s Today this Christmas. Had I, though, I would have revived an idea first suggested, I think, by Tony Benn. Everyone loves the Shipping Forecast. But the weather forecast? That’s a different kettle of Michael Fish. The weather is rarely read, it’s emoted. ‘I’m sorry

America Notebook | 13 December 2017

At the end of each year I pull out most of the New Year’s resolutions I’ve ever made — I now have them going back nearly two decades. They make for curious reading: some years they seem less like an account of what I intend to do with my life than what I don’t. I

Winter Notebook | 13 December 2017

Edinburgh is a peach of a city, is it not? Last week, I walked up to the castle on a crisp and sunny morning. Crossing high above the railway line, I watched the trains slink out of Waverley station and snake along the valley floor, a giant Hornby set beneath my feet. The path to

Surgeon’s Notebook

Memory, neuroscientists tell us, is fallible. It is a dynamic process whereby each time we remember something, it will be changed. Our first memories are probably even less reliable, but I think mine is of Christmas 1953, when I was three. My mother was German and we celebrated Christmas in the German way. An English

Notes on...

Smoked salmon

I’m just about old enough to remember when smoked salmon was a rare treat. Then, around 1986 or 1987, suddenly it was everywhere. There were smoked salmon sandwiches at M&S, it was stuffed into lurid-looking canapés with cream cheese, and Christmas became a riot of salty fish. For me, smoked salmon is as emblematic of