Alexander chancellor

Oldie friends again? Richard Ingrams and Alexander Chancellor end bitter feud

‘Tis the season for forgiving, and Mr S is pleased to report that what Vanity Fair called ‘one of the juiciest rows in recent Fleet Street history’ appears finally to have been put to bed. After months of squabbling in the press, Alexander Chancellor and Richard Ingrams were seen chatting amiably at the launch of Teresa Waugh’s novel A Long Hot Unholy Summer. The row started after The Oldie magazine let go its founding editor Ingrams to make way for his old friend Alexander Chancellor. Ingrams was furious, and he let the gossip columns know it. ‘He’s a bloody fool for taking the job!’ he said. But bygones be bygones,

Mark Amory’s diary: Confessions of a literary editor

Until recently I used to claim that I had been literary editor of The Spectator for over 25 years; now I say almost 30. The trouble is I am not quite sure and it is curiously difficult to find out. Dot Wordsworth arrived on the same day as me but she cannot remember either. Each of us assumed that the other was an established figure and so our superior. A similar imprecision may undermine other memories. In the early Eighties then, when Alexander Chancellor had reinvented the magazine after a bad patch, and it seemed daring, anarchic and slightly amateurish, I wrote theatre reviews and one late afternoon went round

The Spectator’s notes: Diana’s bed, Boris’s dirty trick and Prince Philip’s mystery tie

On Friday night, I went to Althorp, childhood home of Diana, Princess of Wales, to speak at its literary festival. My first duty was to appear on the panel of the BBC’s Any Questions? in a tent there. It was 30 years to the month that I had first been on the programme. Then it was at Uppingham School, presented by David Jacobs, and the panel included Roy Hattersley and Esther Rantzen. This time, it was presented by Jonathan Dimbleby, and the panel was George Galloway, Nigel Evans (the Tory MP who did not rape any men), and a beautiful woman called Rushanara Ali, the Labour MP for Bethnal Green

Spectator letters: Ken Loach defended, and the music of Pepys

We need religion Sir: Roger Scruton (‘Sacred hunger’, 31 May) describes a reason, dare I say a ‘purpose’, for religion in society. Evolutionary biologists such as the evangelical atheist Richard Dawkins should accept the concept of evolution in the social behaviour of Homo sapiens. Archaeological and anthropological evidence suggest that some form of religion played a part in the earliest of primitive societies, going back tens of thousands of years. If religion is so toxic to society, how could it have developed into so many complex and varied forms around the world unless it had powerful social ‘survival’ value? Indeed in countries where religion was outlawed, such as the USSR and

Spectator letters: America as a genetic experiment, and a gypsy reply to Rod Liddle

The American experiment Sir: One can test Nicholas Wade’s hypothesis that social and political life is genetically determined (‘The genome of history’, 17 May) by constituting a nation along European lines, admitting immigrants from all over the world, and measuring the extent to which these immigrants assimilate to the dominant culture. That experiment is called the USA, and the evidence from that country suggests that within a generation or two these immigrants hold social opinions more like those of other Americans than natives of their ancestral countries. Cultural inheritance therefore outweighs genetic inheritance in the political sphere, and historians may rest easy. Dr James McEvoy Centre for Biomedical Sciences, Royal

The strange case of the missing novelist

Mr Steerpike was last night invited to the launch of Esme Kerr’s debut novel at Daunt’s in Holland Park. The author herself was nowhere to be seen. The organisers of the launch, journalists Emily Bearn and Claudia Fitzherbert, were as uncertain as Mr S as to Kerr’s whereabouts. ‘She’s definitely here somewhere. Look there she is,’ proclaimed Fitzherbert, pointing to Bearn who was also scanning the room for the elusive Esme. Mr Steerpike suspected some rum goings-on. Despite Kerr’s mysterious absence, the party was a great success. Several stalwarts of this parish attended: former Spectator editor Alexander Chancellor, journalist Mary Killen and biographer Piers Paul Read. The Glass Bird Girl is

How I became editor of The Spectator – aged 27

Thirty years ago this Saturday, I became editor of this magazine. In the same month, the miners’ strike began, Anthony Wedgwood Benn (as the right-wing press still insisted on calling him) won the Chesterfield by-election, the FT index rose above 900 for the first time and the mortgage rate fell to 10.5 per cent. Mark Thatcher was reported to be leaving the country to sell Lotus cars in America for £45,000 a year. Although she now tells me she has no memory of it, Wendy Cope wrote a poem entitled ‘The Editor of The Spectator is 27 Years Old’. Because I was young, the events are vivid in my mind,

Spectator letters: Fears for Scotland, and John Cornwell answers Melanie McDonagh

Save our Scotland Sir: Matthew Parris is quite right to praise Lord Lang’s speech in the Lords on Scottish independence 9 (‘The End of Britain’, 8 February) and there were other notable contributions, especially from Lord Kerr, on the European dimension, and Lord Robertson, the former secretary-general of Nato. But is anyone listening? The debate got virtually no coverage in the Scottish editions — and I suspect even less in the English ones. Meanwhile the SNP publicity machine rolls on here and is now promising an annual ‘Indy bonus’ of £600 for every man, woman and child in Scotland, exceeding the £500 threshold at which (as Alex Massie pointed out in

Spectator letters: Aid, Arabs and how to spot a gentleman

The battle over aid Sir: Why Nations Fail, the book rightly lauded in The Spectator (‘Why aid fails’, 25 January), is one of the inspirations for many of the changes this government has made in international development policy. Those changes can best be described as driving value for money through the system, tackling conflict and instability, and building prosperity. Bringing together defence, diplomacy and development — not least through the mechanism of the National Security Council — has made a significant difference to the success of British development policy. Buried in the article is the sentence: ‘We do not argue for its [the aid budget’s] reduction.’ Our development policy is

The Falklands victory

A little rejoicing is now in order, but only a little. We may rejoice that the Falklands war did not end in a bloodbath at Port Stanley, that the Argentinians did not stage a last doomed defence of the islands’ capital. We may rejoice at the performance of our armed forces who have conducted themselves with great skill and courage and with as much humanity as is possible in war. We may rejoice that they achieved their objectives, for to have lost a war against the Argentinians would have been an unthinkable disaster. We may rejoice that the conflict has accelerated the decline of the British Labour party. We may

Cecil Parkinson, Charles Powell, John Simpson and Steve Hilton remember Margaret Thatcher

Cecil Parkinson: Underestimated – but unbowed Even among Mrs Thatcher’s original shadow Cabinet, there were those who simply did not believe that she would be capable of dealing with the problems of a declining country. To a man they were wrong. Each underestimated the determination of Margaret Thatcher. She did not regard the manifesto on which she had been elected as a set of pledges designed merely to win an election and to be abandoned when the going got tough. She intended to honour hers: to reduce the role of the state; to transfer power to the people. Trade union members were given the right to elect their leaders at regular

Introducing our first ebook: Margaret Thatcher in The Spectator 1975-1990

No publication understood the Thatcher project better than The Spectator. We backed her for the leadership in 1975 when no other national publication would. We understood her opportunities, foibles and genius when many of our rivals were baffled by this coarse-sounding lady and her popular appeal. We have put together 21 essays from the period into our first-ever ebook: Margaret Thatcher in The Spectator 1975 – 1990. It’s available today on the Kindle, for just 99p. It begins with Patrick Cosgrave advocating Thatcher as Tory leader, then gives a six-month and one-year progress report. Ferdinand Mount describes the uneasiness that followed the 1979 triumph. Then, as now, The Spectator was

At last! A tango-dancing pope

Just a year ago on this page I was writing about Pope Benedict XVI’s elder brother Georg and how, while ostensibly discreet and loyal to his celebrated sibling, he contrived at the same time to make him look too old and bumbling for the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. In a book, My Brother, the Pope, this old priest from Bavaria said that his younger brother had never wanted the job, was too physically frail for it, and found it a tremendous strain. Georg Ratzinger must now be feeling somewhat vindicated, but at the time he was ‘off message’, for the Vatican was insistent that the pope was on

Long life: Polite silence on my old prep school’s possible paedophile

It is usually a mistake to return to places one has known as a child. I have only once been back to the large, white-stuccoed, early-Victorian manor house in Hertfordshire where I was born and brought up, and it was a dispiriting experience. Although the house was near to the town of Ware, less than an hour’s drive from central London, it was set in unspoiled country alongside a village in which the names of some of the inhabitants had been there in the Domesday Book. Apart from a small row of bleak pre-war council houses on the edge of the village, there was nothing there to offend the eye

Edinburgh Zoo and the great panda racket

If you have nothing to do, are suffering from stress, and wish to be rendered comatose, I recommend that you get interested in the efforts being made by Edinburgh Zoo to mate its two giant pandas. The zoo has thoughtfully installed video cameras in the pandas’ enclosure so that we can constantly watch them online and marvel at their sloth. I had my laptop tuned to the ‘Panda Cam’ throughout the weekend and checked it from time to time to see what the pandas were up to. The answer was never anything at all except for sleeping or eating. Often there was no panda in camera shot; but when there

Letters | 7 March 2013

Gove’s history lessons Sir: ‘The idea that there is a canonical body of knowledge that must be mastered,’ says Professor Jackie Eales, ‘but not questioned, is inconsistent with high standards of education in any age.’ This is not true. Primary education is, or should be, all about just such a body of knowledge. This gives children a foundation of fact, preferably facts learnt by heart. Without it, they cannot begin to reason, and develop valid ideas, in the secondary stage. It may be a tight squeeze to get them through English history up to 1700 by the age of 11, but it is better than not covering the ground at