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James Forsyth

Boris’s difficult decision: When should lockdown be lifted?

When Chequers was donated to the nation, the accompanying Act of Parliament was explicit about the intended effect. ‘The better the health of our rulers, the more sanely will they rule,’ it said. Prime ministers need time to think, as well as recuperate, and as Boris Johnson continues his convalescence there, he will be in

Virus deaths may not be the greatest challenge ahead for Africa

Red roses are hardly a priority for people in a virus-wrecked global economy, and one day recently the world’s flower market pretty much collapsed. At the vast Aalsmeer auction in Holland, there were scented mountains of unsold roses, gerberas and tulips. Some last stems still find their way into bouquets across a world that has

A cure for Covid may arrive faster than a vaccine

A striking feature of Covid-19 is how medieval our response has had to be. Quarantine was the way people fought plagues in the distant past. We know by now that it will take many months to get a vaccine, whose job is to prevent you getting the disease. But what about a cure once you

Spectator covers that almost were

Sometimes The Spectator goes to press very shortly after election results have been announced. In those instances, Morten Morland, our cover artist, draws versions to cover for any outcome.  These have since been framed and hung at Old Queen Street in the lavatories. For our 10,000th issue, we’re sharing some of them. The last UK general

Spectator writers in lockdown – by the people stuck with them

Andrew Watts (Tanya Gold) ‘I can’t eat this,’ said The Spectator’s restaurant critic, putting down her fork after one mouthful. Our son, who had not yet decided whether he liked mackerel, immediately declared that it was yucky-poo. The correction of taste is, after all, the function of criticism. When we’re not in lockdown, Tanya leaves

The Spectator’s love affair with satire

The Spectator has always known when and how to wield the scalpel. A tour through its history reveals how, from the get-go, it mercilessly parodied the world in which it lived. When still six weeks young, The Spectator savaged the morbid obsessions of late-Georgian society. The caricaturist George Cruikshank exposed the press’s fetishisation of a

Sugared with wit: How ‘Mr Spectator’ came to life

The Spectator is a child of the 19th century, and damned proud of it. First published in 1828, the link provided by its 10,000 issues to a long-vanished age of Regency waistlines and Romantic poets is one of the great wonders of journalism. Its success was built upon Victorian foundations, yet it is a peculiarity

Ad infinitum: 200 years of Spectator adverts show how little changes

A conventional hierarchy of print media would put serious journalism at the top. Far beneath that would be tabloid journalism. And then at the very bottom would be advertising. Except, in one respect, I think that order should be reversed. Yesterday’s advertising is much more interesting than yesterday’s serious journalism. I suspect this is because

Salman Rushdie: ‘The implausible has become everyday’

When I say goodbye to Sir Salman Rushdie in his offices at New York University in Lower Manhattan in early March, we bump elbows. Not that it’s much more than a gesture, by this stage: we shook hands unthinkingly on first meeting, and we’d just shaken hands again. It’s a novelty, still halfway to being

Gone for a song: A short story

It was the week after New Year’s Eve, strings of fairy lights still dangling from the trees and silver stars decorating the windows, when they discovered the dead birds. Dozens, at first. Then more. Four thousand, six hundred and twenty-eight in total. Goldfinches, greenfinches, bullfinches, skylarks, reed buntings, yellowhammers, grey wagtails and red-throated pipits —


I hate joggers more than ever

Empathy and kindness in these difficult times come more easily to some than others, but I’m trying. I had heart surgery in November to repair a faulty mitral valve. Recovery has been terribly scientific. On my daily walk, a heart monitor is synched with an app on my phone so through earphones I can hear

Notes on...

Why beards of convenience are a bad idea

Viewers of the BBC News channel, now that Zoom shows talking heads in their own homes, want before anything to have a good look at the sitting rooms or study shelves of daily newspaper reviewers. But often this important task is distracted by disturbing face-foliage grown during lockdown. Jack Blanchard from Politico presents a face