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We need the occasional war or economic collapse

Tom Stacey says that there is a part of man’s collective soul that yearns for tribulations like the financial crisis and the philosophical and spiritual questions they force us to confront Amid all the doom and gloom, do you ever get the feeling we had it coming? I do. During all those balmy years of

Mary Poppins’s carpet bag in Deptford

Alice looks down from her perch on top of the rocking horse, bright-eyed behind big specs, says: ‘Catch me!’ then propels herself into the air. I catch, hug, then prop her back up again, ready for another go. ‘Ooh, she likes you,’ says Iris, director of the 999 Club and uncrowned queen of Deptford. ‘She

The faith of Obama: a secular messiah

This Christmas is the last occasion when Barack Obama will have time to reflect and think at his own pace for the next four, and probably eight, years. It offers him a brief gap between the crazed schedule of the campaign — last year he was campaigning on Boxing Day — and the pressures of

Reasons to be cheerful | 15 December 2008

It may feel like the end of the world, perhaps it is, but even so, it’s still the season of goodwill, good cheer and good news for mankind. It seemed right then for The Spectator to ask a selection of Britain’s great and good to shed a little light on these gloomy times, and tell

Christmas in L.A.

Christmas always comes early to Los Angeles. In fact, the slightly tacky decorations hit the lamp-posts even before Thanksgiving. But the really good thing about this time of year in this part of the world is the abundance of new movies being released. They proliferate both in the cinemas, in private screening rooms and in

Best of British: breakfast with Lily Allen

Matthew d’Ancona talks to the quintessentially English pop star about growing up, her longing to have children, celebrity culture, US politics and her new album I am sitting opposite a demure young Englishwoman, sipping on jasmine tea, who would like nothing more, she says, than to settle down and have children. Young people and their

A season to relish language deeper than words

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor says that the heart of the Christian story is the word made flesh. Christ’s language is sacrificial love which took him to the cross One of my favourite accounts of a happy childhood is told by Laurie Lee in his delightful book Cider with Rosie. Early on, he describes his first day

I blame Jonathan Ross for all my troubles

Emily Maitlis looks back on her worst moments in 2008, the anxiety she has caused her fans and her part in a ‘YouTube classic’ Looking back, I suppose you could say the low point of 2008 was when I accused the Chief Rabbi of leaving lewd and abusive messages on people’s answerphones. That’s the trouble

Come with me to Santa’s grotto to discover the state we’re in

Rod Liddle offers a festive tour of the world at Christmas 2008: irrational fear, ignorance, stupidity, vexatious litigation, a foolish longing to abolish ‘risk’, and Christmas parties that, we are warned, have ‘absolutely nothing to do with Jesus’ In Santa’s grotto at a top London department store, Santa in his big white friendly beard sits

A Literary Life

The days leading up to Xmas are such fun, aren’t they? All those cards and presents to buy and all those charity requests reminding one of starving children, crippled adults and abandoned dogs. Over the last few days I’ve been trying to concentrate on more important things, such as Sight and Time. Obviously the two

The C of E should follow John Milton’s lead

It’s the debate of our day, the meta-debate if you like. It unites the issues of Muslim extremism, creationism, irritable atheism, faith schools, Britishness, the future of the monarchy, Sarah Palin, Ruth Kelly: all the juiciest talking points. The radio show The Moral Maze seems to return to it with increasing frequency: Michael Buerk has

Afghanistan will thrive if only we let it

Increasingly the media reports Afghanistan as a disaster story. Casualty lists from Helmand and other provinces sit side by side with accounts of millions of pounds’ worth of aid wasted and booming opium crops. No wonder then that politicians and journalists have begun to debate the wisdom of remaining committed to Afghanistan. In turn, the

We must break down the Berlin Wall in schools

He who controls the past, George Orwell argued, controls the future. Orwell’s warning resonates all the more powerfully as the government considers the erasure of history from the primary curriculum. A sense of the past is a precious thing. And not to know history, as Cicero argued, is to remain a child for ever. Orwell,