Alexander chancellor

It’s been a tough year for socialites

New York Here we go again, the annual holiest of holies is upon us, although to this oldie last Christmas feels as though it was only yesterday. Funny how time never seemed to pass quickly during those lazy days of long ago, but now rolls off like a movie calendar showing the days, months, years flashing by. I wrote my first Christmas column for this magazine 43 years ago, sitting in my dad’s office on Albemarle Street. I remember it well because I used every cliché known to man and then some (patter of little feet… children’s noses pressed against snowy windows). The then editor, Alexander Chancellor, said nothing to

Writing my High Life column made a man of me

As Cole Porter might have said, only second-rate people go on and on about their inner lives. Self-analysis, according to Cole, is the twin of self-promotion. Yet in this 10,000th issue of the world’s oldest and best weekly, and in my 43rd year of writing High Life, I have to admit to a bit of both of the above. So before any of you retreat into laptops and mobiles, some nostalgia is called for, starting in the spring of 1977. Many of the writers back then sent in their longhand-written copy via messenger, paid for by The Spectator. I used to type mine and slip it under the door at

The way we were

‘The Spectator, having quite recently been a very bad magazine, is at present a very good one.’ Those gratifying words began a full-dress leading article in the Times on 22 September 1978, headed ‘On the Side of Liberty’. Its occasion was this magazine’s sesquicentenary, which we celebrated with a grand ball at the Lyceum Theatre, and much else besides. Although I can’t possibly be objective, I think that the praise was deserved. The revival of The Spectator 40 years ago was wonderful: it assured what had been the very insecure future of the paper, and it was the time of my life. Founded in 1828 by the Dundonian Robert Rintoul

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 to say it’s been a rainy old day!’ Or, ‘Brrrr, bit of a frost, do wrap up!’ So why not replace emotion with detachment? First we carve up the country into meteorologically logical areas — since it’s Radio 4, let’s use Roman names — and then apply maritime thinking inland. ‘And here is the weather

High life | 31 August 2017

I was appalled. She had asked Lord John Somerset to ask me to join her, and I rose rather unsteadily to do so. This was during a Jimmy Goldsmith ball, and I was writing the Atticus column in the Sunday Times, as well as High life. A German girlfriend of mine at the time warned me about going over. ‘If you go to her, that’s it,’ she told me. ‘Auf Wiedersehen,’ I answered. The princess signalled for me to sit, and that’s where the appalling part comes in. I missed the chair and ended up under the table. Without missing a beat, she stuck her head underneath and asked me:

High Life | 25 May 2017

New York Although both guilt and innocence fascinate me, I’m not so sure that there is such a thing as redemption. I know, it sounds very unchristian, but there you have it. For me bad guys remain bad, and good guys ditto. I didn’t make it to the memorial service for either Rupert Deen or Alexander Chancellor, my first editor — two friends not known for feeling too guilty, nor for their innocence, come to think of it. I’m still in the Bagel and need to stay here because at my advanced age I’m finishing the last part of a TV show, or perhaps film, as yet untitled about two

Charles Moore

The Spectator’s notes | 25 May 2017

In most parts of the world, we have now supped so full of terrorist horrors that the death of 22 people in such a terrible way does not feel decisively worse than what has gone before. You can tell this by the rather pro forma things that politicians say to condemn the attacks. Yet again, the attack is described as ‘cowardly’. This is simply untrue: it must require immense, though repellent, courage to blow yourself up. The other word to avoid is ‘innocent’. It is a word naturally, and rightly, applied to children, but it carries the dangerous implication that some terror attacks might be aimed at the ‘guilty’, and

The Spectator’s Notes | 4 May 2017

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s main Brexit negotiator, tweeted on Monday: ‘Any #Brexit deal requires a strong & stable understanding of the complex issues involved. The clock is ticking — it’s time to get real.’ This was on the same day as media reports — allegedly leaked by associates of Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president — criticised Theresa May for her naivety about Brexit talks at the dinner she gave Mr Juncker last week. These tactics are intended to affect our general election. By throwing Mrs May’s campaign slogan adjectives ‘strong and stable’ back in her face, Mr Verhofstadt was goading her at the decisive moment of her political

Yes, the Spectator’s writers disagree. That’s why they’re Spectator writers

Matthew Parris’s article about the madness of the Brexiteers has caused much interest on social media, as did Alex Massie’s article along the same lines on Friday. I’ve been amused to see this described by some as a evidence of mutiny on HMS Brexit. A magazine’s star writers attacking each other with some passion, and sparing no weapon in the process. What’s going on? Simple: the same thing that has been going on since The Spectator was first published 189 years ago. We have no party line on Brexit, or anything else. That’s why writers of the outstanding calibre of Rod Liddle, Charles Moore, Matthew Parris, Hugo Rifkind and many more write for us:

The Spectator’s Notes | 2 February 2017

As he left the editorship of The Spectator in March 1984, Alexander Chancellor wrote in this space: ‘When I joined the paper as editor in 1975, people were in the habit of asking me what my “policy” was going to be… How desperately uneasy this question made me. If there was a lavatory in the vicinity, I would lock myself inside it. I was sure I ought to have a “policy”… but I most certainly hadn’t got one.’ As his assistant editor, I witnessed the dismay on the faces of proprietors, advertisers and various big shots at Alexander’s answers to this sort of question. He would say, ‘Well, we should

‘Above all else, fun’

Alexander Chancellor’s ‘Long Life’ is over; but it was not nearly long enough. I was feeling rather gloomy last Friday, having just had our old terrier put down, when I opened The Spectator and was immediately cheered up by the first paragraph of Alexander’s column. It was so typical of the way that he often looked at the world, and of his delightfully quirky sense of humour, that he should relate a children’s song to the new President of the United States. Recalling Nellie the elephant and her trumpety-trump, he wrote: ‘I’m hoping against hope that Donald Trumpety-Trump will also say goodbye to the circus in Washington and return to

Diary – 2 February 2017

 ‘A Bill to confer power on the prime minister to notify, under Article 50(2)…’. When it comes to the House of Lords, some of those trying to amend or delay the bill will be paid pensioners of the European Commission. Peers are obliged to declare any interest that ‘might be thought by a reasonable member of the public’ to influence the way they discharge their parliamentary duties — unless it is an EU pension. In 2007, a Lords subcommittee said that because their contracts oblige them to support the EU, an EC pensioner who made ‘intemperate criticism of the commission’ would have contravened their obligations under the Treaty of Rome ‘and

High life | 2 February 2017

When I saw an email from Lucy, the lady who has the unenviable task of editing my copy each week, I knew something was wrong. And sure enough it was. The bad news was that my first editor at my beloved Spectator had died. Forty years, gone in a jiffy. It was back in 1977, and I had gone to Turin to pick up a new car on my way to Paris. Back then one had to drive the first thousand miles slowly, while breaking in the engine. (Yes, I know: a bit like wearing spats and a monocle, but that’s how it was in those prehistoric days.) Driving a

Alexander Chancellor, 1940-2017

Alexander Chancellor, who died this morning aged 77, created the modern Spectator. Since 2012, he has also been a weekly columnist with his Long Life column – which darted from the vagaries of growing old, to memories of his time as editor of The Talk of the Town in the New Yorker, to the wicked foxes who nabbed his beloved ducks at his Northamptonshire house. Spectator editor from 1975 to 1984, he was responsible for giving the magazine the amusing, anarchic, clever but readable feel it has today. It was Chancellor who employed Taki – still happily with us – and had the inspired idea of pairing his High Life

Last words | 5 May 2016

This, my 479th, is to be my last contribution as a regular columnist to The Spectator. I have written here for 33 years and 4 months, a way of life really, and one I have greatly enjoyed. I thank Auberon Waugh in absentia for suggesting me to Alexander Chancellor in the first place; and Charles Moore for keeping me on in the early years, once we were up and running. I also thank three quite exceptional arts editors: Gina Lewis, Jenny Naipaul and the doyenne of these pages, Liz Anderson. Things have moved on from my habitual think pieces, outraged rants, ad hominem demolition of palpable idiots written in the

The unlikely oilman

Algy Cluff is the longest-serving oilman in the North Sea. He was one of the first to drill for oil there, in 1972, and at the last government handout of drilling licences, two years ago, there he was again, making a handsome gas discovery. Now 76, he’s also the least likely oilman you can imagine. Tall, rangy, dressed in Savile Row pinstripes; he is no J.R. Ewing. His diffident, patrician voice is so gentle that I have to turn my tape recorder up to transcribe this interview. Cluff’s Who’s Who entry lists membership of 11 clubs. But there is no clubman stuffiness about him. He’s full of wonderful anecdotes, many

Letters | 16 April 2015

The real road menace Sir: I write in anger after reading Mark Mason’s malicious attack on mobility scooters (‘Hell on wheels’, 11 April). The motorcar has, since its invention, killed many hundreds of thousands of innocent pedestrians. Meanwhile, whole tracts of our beautiful and productive countryside have been flattened or destroyed to accommodate its traffic. I have been a devoted walker for over 80 years and remember how many favourite walks have been erased or spoiled for the construction of motorways. Now that I am unable to do more than dodder, I get about on a mobility scooter. I like it even less than the pedestrians I may inconvenience, but my only alternative is

Spectator letters: the Rowntree legacy, and a suggestion for the Met police

Betrayal of Trust Sir: Rod Liddle has traduced the Quaker values of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust that include non-violence, equality and truth in his piece, ‘Jihadi John, Cage and the fools who give it money’, 7 March. Mr Liddle identified three recipients of JRCT grants: Jawaab UK, Cage, and Teach na Fáilte. Jawaab UK was not set up by an extremist Islamic maniac. On the contrary, it works to help young Muslims play their part in a democratic society. Cage, which JRCT ceased funding in January 2014, has in the past played an important role in defending the right to fair trial and due legal process. Finally, JRCT has

Spectator letters: Camila Batmanghelidjh defends Kids Company

In defence of Kids Company Sir: Your piece ‘The problem with Kids Company’ (14 February) bears an important message: charities need to be transparent and accountable. That’s why Kids Company was independently audited twice last year alone, and our financial structures and functioning put to the test. We also have auditors working alongside us, verifying our outputs and outcomes in relation to our government grant. All such audits have been positive. Several pieces of independent research were carried out capturing our clinical work and our staff wellbeing — two of these found our staff satisfaction and productivity to be above 90 per cent. Some 600 staff, almost 10,000 volunteers and 500 clinical

The perfect job for Britain’s disenfranchised young men: boar hunting

When I went to stay with my German cousin and he showed me the room where I’d be sleeping, the first thing I noticed were the hairy hides on the floor and the spears mounted on the wall. ‘Boar skins,’ he told me. ‘The forest is full of them.’ ‘And the spears?’ I asked him. ‘For hunting.’ I was intrigued. ‘Tell me more,’ I said. He didn’t need much prompting. Apparently, there’s not a great deal of skill involved – only nerve. A cornered boar will charge you. If you turn and run, you’ve had it. But if you stand your ground, they’ll impale themselves upon your spear. This story