It was a badly timed death, a departure which, ironically, scorned the important press deadlines. The best time to die, if you are a celebrity, is at three o’clock in the afternoon of a weekday — in time for the early evening news bulletins and the next morning’s papers. This, however, was a Saturday into a Sunday, a time when even Christ might have died and there’d be nobody sentient around to pick up the story.
‘The past is the past. It is no longer important,’ says Brigadier Billal Saleh Shukur, commander of Iraq’s 21st army brigade now occupying a part of Basra. We have met on a warm March day at the airbase outside the city, at the start of a five-a-side football tournament between teams drawn from the Iraqi and British forces. I had expressed my profound regret that the American-British Coalition, which rightly reveres every one of its own casualties, has always refused to count how many Iraqi citizens have been killed in six years of violence; and indeed has invested considerable effort in discrediting any human rights organisation that estimated the death toll.
Mary Wakefield meets the successful pop duo the Pet Shop Boys, and finds them eloquent critics of New Labour, staunch defenders of civil liberties — and fans of Vince CableThrough the woods, the trees
And further on the sea
We lived in the shadow of the war
Sand in the sandwiches
Wasps in the tea
It was a free country
In a West End town in a dead end world — OK, no: in a nice Georgian townhouse in central London, on the top floor where once boot boys bedded down, the Pet Shop Boys are revisiting their past.
Over the past four decades I have received many reviews in The Spectator, all of them mixed (in the technical theatrical sense of ‘extremely bad’). For example, in 1976 The Spectator wrote about Fawlty Towers:
I’ve been bellyaching, ever since I started writing this column, about the low standard of the programmes. I have been told by friends and acquaintances, ‘Ah! But have you seen Fawlty Towers? You’ll enjoy that!’.
Gordon Brown tells Matthew d’Ancona why he is so preoccupied with national identity. In the modern world, he says, we must be explicit about what being a Briton means‘The problems will arise if you cannot say to a young person that there’s going to be a job after the training. We’ve got to make sure that we never return to the 1980s, when young people lost hope of ever getting jobs, and you had three-generation unemployment that created a situation where many people did become unemployable.