The Spectator's Notes

Coutts has forgotten what the job of a bank is

We now have a reluctant apology from Dame Alison Rose, followed by her even more reluctant resignation. Her departure is a major achievement, but the reluctance is a symptom of the problem. How could she possibly have thought she could stay after she was caught breaking a client’s confidentiality and spreading untruths about him (untruths

The BBC and a 21st-century media madness

The story of the famous BBC television presenter who, at the time of writing, has still not been named, has all the elements of 21st-century-media madness – something allegedly sexual which may or not involve a person too young for such things; a desperate hue and cry to see who will dare to name the

We’re finding out the price of net zero

Now that the cost of net zero has become a pressing political matter, I have been re-reading the prescient words of Matt Ridley in the House of Lords when, in 2019, he was one of very few who opposed the government’s ‘net zero by 2050’ pledge. ‘I was genuinely shocked,’ he said, ‘by the casual

I feel sorry for Nadine Dorries

When Boris Johnson’s resignation from parliament was announced, we were in the audience for Glyndebourne’s production of Don Giovanni. Controversially, this includes a vast cake which is part of the bacchanals and then reappears, in rotting form, as the statue of the Commendatore approaches to take the antihero to his eternal damnation. Don Giovanni sprawls

Why Russia blew up the Kakhovka dam

When I first heard that the Russians had blown up the Kakhovka dam, I assumed that this was an effective tactic to frustrate the Ukrainian counteroffensive. It will surely slow it. But a Ukrainian friend raises an additional possibility – that these are the scorched-earth tactics the Germans used in much the same places 80

A dispatch from Ukraine

Last week, I visited Ukraine – Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kramatorsk. Impressions crowded in. Here are a few: When the Russians attacked Kharkiv last year, they strafed a Holocaust memorial on the way into town. It is particularly poignant to see the monument’s large seven-branch candlestick reduced to five branches. Across the road is Kharkiv’s vast

The power of Penny Mordaunt

The police have said sorry for arresting anti-monarchy protestors under the wrong legal rubric on Coronation Day, but is that really a lead news story, as it was on Tuesday’s Today programme? If the police had failed to contain the mini-mob and a couple of them had, as they intended, obstructed the processional route, there

What do we expect of a modern king?

Perhaps we have not focused enough on the fact that we are crowning a king, rather than a queen, as monarch. It is nearly 90 years since this last happened, so no one alive today has an adult memory of what was expected. There is a further difficulty, in that the coronation of Charles III occurs

Dame Edna’s elusive origins

On 25 October last year, Thérèse Coffey became Defra Secretary. On 2 November, Sir James Dyson wrote to her. The famed inventor, who is the biggest owner and active farmer of agricultural land in Britain, outlined the problems of producing food sustainably and profitably, inviting her to visit one of his farms and meet him.

The common cause of Scottish Unionism

Although it cannot be stated publicly, Labour and the Conservatives have much common cause in Scotland now. They won’t stand down in each other’s favour at the next election; but expect ‘paper’ candidates in constituencies where one is much stronger than the other and the Nationalist is vulnerable. Wavering SNP supporters can be divided into

The apotheosis of Starmerism

To celebrate this week’s 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the European Movement has launched a ‘powerful intergenerational film’ which, it says, ‘exposes Brexit as the biggest threat to peace since the 1994 ceasefire’. The film contains ‘true stories of how… Europe’s mission, commitment and hope for a peaceful future transformed Northern Ireland, changed

Why Tony Blair was a Christian

Easter Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. One of the most interesting things ever written by its most famous architect, Tony Blair, appeared (in the Sunday Telegraph) at Easter 1996, two years earlier. The piece, largely devoid of his vague boosterism, suggested he had thought about his subject. Under the title,

The Guardian’s slavery dilemma

When you read the Guardian free online, a yellow notice appears asking you for money (‘Will you invest in the Guardian?’) to support its fearless journalism. But now arises a donor’s dilemma. After two years’ work, the paper has just produced a full report on and apology from its current owner for its founders’ involvement

Ofsted’s zealous overreach

Obviously it is not the fault of Ofsted that a headteacher, Ruth Perry, killed herself after her school, formerly rated ‘outstanding’, was downgraded to ‘inadequate’ by its inspectors. Suicide is, by definition, the decision of the person committing it. It is also true that second-rate schools and teaching unions detest inspections precisely because they keep

Speak up for the unsung BBC Singers

There are 20 BBC Singers and they cost less than one Gary Lineker. Unlike Lineker, they have broken no rules, but the BBC want to close them down. They have worked in a cave in Maida Vale for a hundred years and it is quite possible that top BBC executives, much too busy to listen

The perils of thinking you are good

The Sue Gray phenomenon fascinates me as an example of the perils of thinking you are good. (A related case study is that of Sir Keir Starmer.) It strikes me again and again that the most self-deceiving people in modern public life are those who publicly set themselves on the side of virtue. You see

Putin and the Almighty’s gender self-ID

Vladimir Putin suffered a difficulty of his own making in his big anniversary speech on Tuesday. He was calling for something not far short of total war – a cluster of schemes to house, improve, offer therapy to and reconfigure the command of the armed services, to withdraw Russia and Russians from the global economy

The fall of Sturgeon

I don’t specially want Sir Keir Starmer to be prime minister, but if that is the eventual price of Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation, so be it. Although Ms Sturgeon’s political skills deserve respect, her rule in Scotland has been rigidly ideological and thus – by an apparent paradox – corrupt. If you believe you are the

Heseltine’s great, misguided speech

On Monday in the Lords, Michael Heseltine, 90 next month, orated (I employ that Welsh usage because it fits him so well) in favour of the European single market. He regarded its regulations as ‘one of the most successful concepts ever developed by humankind’. He deplored the fact that the government is trying, post-Brexit, to