Portrait of the week | 12 March 2015

Home Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said that ‘a huge burden of responsibility’ lay with those who acted as apologists for those who committed acts of terror. Parliament approved new obligations for passenger carriers to restrict the travel to or from Britain of people named as a terrorist threat. The Charity Commission required the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Roddick Foundation to give unequivocal assurances that they had ceased funding Cage, the advocacy group known for speaking up for Mohammed Emwazi, the British jihadist involved in videos of Islamic State murders. England were knocked out of the Cricket World Cup. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, found himself

Argentina’s ambassador to the UK trolls the Tory backbenchers

Nothing like a bit of Argie-bargie to get the Tory backbenchers going. Mr S has been passed a letter and booklet sent by the Argentine Embassy in London to all MPs concerning the ‘Malvinas’. According to the ambassador Alicia Castro: ‘The book provides and overview of the actions that we have been carrying out with regard to the Malvinas Question. We have built contacts with political authorities, trade unions and NGOs; we have participated in university debates; we have produced press articles and information campaigns, and we have visited the UK’s four constituent nations.’ It goes on to hope: ‘2015 will be the year in which the United Kingdom and Argentina

Oh joy! Sean Penn has tried to crack a joke

What a pleasure it is to see the Hollywood actor Sean Penn neck deep in PC ordure. The rodentine thespian was handing out an award at the Oscars to his friend the Mexican film director Alejandro González Iñárritu, for his film Birdman. ‘Who gave this sonofabitch a green card?’ Penn quipped about his mate — at which point the moronsphere went into overdrive. There was splenetic fury and deep sadness and heartfelt outrage and condemnations at this racism, online and beyond. Some demented loon called Stephen W. Thrasher, writing in the Guardian (natch), said: ‘Racism from friends assumed to be benign can be the worst kind, especially at an awards show.’

Adolf Eichmann hoped his ‘Arab friends’ would continue his battle against the Jews

Over Christmas I finally got around to reading Eichmann Before Jerusalem by Bettina Stangneth.  I cannot recommend this book – newly translated from the German – highly enough.  It challenges and indeed changes nearly all received wisdom about the leading figure behind the genocide of European Jews during World War II. The title of course refers to Hannah Arendt’s omnipresent and over-praised account of Adolf Eichmann’s 1961 trial, Eichmann in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of evil.  I would say that Stangneth’s book not merely surpasses but actually buries Arendt’s account.  Not least in showing how Arendt was fooled by Eichmann’s role-play in the dock in Jerusalem.  For whereas

I’ll take Jeremy Clarkson over a howling mob any day

Perhaps it’s a glaring and personal flaw in my observational skills, but if somebody tried to insult me via a number plate attached to their car, I’m not at all sure I’d notice. I suppose if it was really obvious — ‘HUGO TWAT’ sort of thing — then the synapses would fire, but anything more subtle would pass me by. And I don’t think it’s just me. Imagine, for example, driving through Scotland in a car with the registration ‘H746 CLN’. How likely is it, do you think, that some super-observant thug would interpret this as a reference to the Battle of Culloden in 1746, and then gather together a posse to

Allergic to blockbusters? See Wakolda

Wakolda is not a sunny film for a sunny day, just so you’re aware, but as there is so little else around — August is a hopeless month for films; August is a dumping ground for the sub-par — you are going to have to take that on the chin, bear it as best you can, and while this is not sunny it is, at least, masterfully made. Set in Argentina in 1960, it’s a fictional imagining of how a German doctor insinuates himself on a family, and how that doctor turns out to be Josef Mengele, the ‘Angel of Death’ from the Nazi concentration camps. It’s not a thriller

World Cup diary: I can’t take much more of the BBC’s coverage

It takes quite a lot for me to feel even mildly sympathetic towards the French, but they had my support against the semi-reformed death squad of Honduras. One should not put too much store by the character of a country’s football team – but watching the way in which the Central Americans set about France, much as they had previously set about England, it did not wholly surprise one that the benighted mosquito-ravaged country has the highest murder rate in the world. Yes, including Iraq. Its murder rate is not far off double the next contenders (all of whom come from the Caribbean, natch). I’m writing this before Argentina’s game

Argentina’s G-20 membership should be revoked

When Argentina appears in British public discourse, it is normally in relation to one of the two ‘f’s – football or the Falklands. The behaviour of President Cristina Kirchner’s regime towards the islanders is nothing short of disgraceful, and it is very encouraging to see the British government supporting the islanders in the strongest terms. The Falklands, for obvious reasons, are top of our agenda when it comes to discussion of Argentina, but this issue should not blind us from other major problems affecting this country as a result of Cristina Kirchner’s belligerence. Kirchner makes no secret of her refusal to play by the same rules as everyone else. Argentina

Argentina’s Foreign Minister compares the Falklanders to Israeli settlers

Argentina’s foreign minister, Hector Timerman, is in town. He spoke to all the All Party Parliamentary Group on Argentina earlier this afternoon. There are close economic and social links between Britain and Argentina, extending far back into the nineteenth century; but the meeting was dominated by what was euphemistically termed ‘the islands’. Timerman began diplomatically. ‘You can speak to this Argentina,’ he assured the assembled honourable members and lords. ‘This Argentina is ready to talk.’ This sounded encouraging, a welcome contrast to President Kirchner’s bellicosity. Timerman spoke about the need for ‘frank and open’ discussions that did not obsess about ‘the past’. The future is what counts. Deputy Speaker of the Commons Lindsay

Cristina Kirchner forgets the most important people in the Falklands row: the Islanders

The British government has been gently rattling the bars in its stand-off with Argentina over the Falklands of late: giving the Queen a stretch of land in Antarctica which Cristina Kirchner’s government disputes the ownership of is one example. But today, ahead of a referendum in March for Islanders to decide whether they want the Falklands to remain under British sovereignty, Kirchner has upped the tension. In a letter published as an advert in today’s papers, the Argentine President demands that the UK ‘abide by the resolutions of the United Nations’ to end colonialism and negotiate a solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Islands. There’s a question about why

Bad times in Buenos Aires – Shiva Naipaul Prize, 1996

Miranda France won the Spectator/ Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize in 1996. Her winning essay (below) formed the heart of her first, eponymous book. Two years later she wrote her second book, ‘Don Quixote’s Delusions’, which the Sunday Times described as ‘stimulating to the point of intoxication.’ To learn more about the Shiva Naipaul prize for travel writing, and how you can enter, click here.   Bad times in Buenos Aires  ARGENTINES have a word for the way they feel: bronca. An Italo-Spanish fusion, like most Argentines themselves, the word implies a fury so dangerously contained as to end in ulcers. People feel bronca when they wait for an hour to be served at a

Stop funding Argentina

One of the justifications for Britain’s large, and rapidly growing, international development budget is that it promotes our national interests. Politicians are wary of appealing to a public sceptical of the benefits of aid purely on the basis that it will help where it is spent. The idea is that by supporting poorer countries we increase their stability, and thereby create a safer world for British people as well. But the evidence that foreign aid promotes political stability is weak. Harvard economist Nathan Nunn and Yale economist Nancy Qian found in a Working Paper published this January that ‘an increase in U.S. food aid increases the incidence, onset and duration

The US has taken a stance against Argentina’s brinkmanship — it’s time we joined them

The 30th anniversary of the Falklands War – and the bellicose rhetoric (and videos) currently emerging from Buenos Aires — has once more shone a spotlight on the UK’s relationship with Argentina. Were it not for the Falklands, it’s unlikely that Argentina would occupy much discussion in this country. The truth, for those of us who have followed the country’s recent history, is that Argentina, most notably under the current Government, is truly remarkable. But for all the wrong reasons. In Britain, of course, our chief concern is the ongoing nationalist rhetoric that President Cristina Kirchner is whipping up around the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. But if you were

The EU against new booze

You don’t expect to find so much politics in a booze mag, but there’s an intriguing story in a recent edition of the Drinks Magazine. Relations between Britain and Argentina have been very fraught of late, so the good folk at Chapel Down, the internationally renowned vineyard in Kent, decided to promote peace and goodwill by importing Malbec grapes from Argentina to make a special English wine, called ‘An English Salute‘, to mark World Malbec Day, which took place on Tuesday. The vineyard planned to sell the wine in Gaucho, the chain of Argentine-themed steakhouses.  However, the European Commission blocked this neat marketing initiative on the grounds that grapes imported from outside the

From the archives: Defending the Falklands

To mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War, here’s Ferdinand Mount’s column from the time: The last armada, Ferdinand Mount, 10 April 1982 A debacle speaks for itself. All things that inescapably follow — the humiliation, the indignation, the ministers hurrying in and out of Cabinet, the spectacular sitting of Parliament on a Saturday, the calls for the resignation of Mr John Nott, Lord Carrington and anyone else standing in the line of fire — are not only themselves part and parcel of the debacle; they help to explain why it happened. The Falkland Islanders are the last victims of our refusal to be honest with

A new Argy-bargy | 2 April 2012

Another article to mark the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War — this one from the current issue of the magazine. It’s by John Simpson and analyses the current tensions between Britain and Argentina. Buenos Aires Buenos Aires is as exhilarating, as unpredictable, as stylish as ever. But the economic boom is over. Times are hard once again, more shops in Calle Florida are boarded up, the sales are pretty frantic. And so, as Jorge Luis Borges, the blind sage of Calle Maipu, just off the superb Plaza San Martin, once remarked: ‘When Argentina’s economy goes bad, you can be sure that nationalism will soon be beating its wings.’ Argentina’s

Sean Penn: A Kissinger For Our Time

One of Henry Kissinger’s great gifts is the ability to write op-eds that are clear as petrol. I recall one such piece, published by the Washington Post (his favoured venue for ex cathedra announcements), that left opponents and supporters of tougher measures against Saddam Hussein believing the old man was on their side. Kissinger had, still has I assume, the ability to inject complexity into a coin-toss. He baffles with nuance. Though I suspect their politics differ, Sean Penn evidently fancies himself a Kissinger for our times. The great man has space in the Guardian today, revealing his thoughts on the future of the Falkland Islands. For this we should,

Falklands Talks? There Is Nothing To Talk About.

So much for today’s Guardian. In the Independent, Philip Hensher has a grand solution for the “Falklands Problem”: we should jst sell the islands to Argentina. [I]t might be worth raising the question with the Argentinians. We’ve got absolutely no money. I really doubt we have much stomach for another Falklands War, and then another. They are clearly passionately keen to acquire some territory with rich resources, high GDP and as much sentimental value as you can maintain for something 300 miles from your coastline. It might be worth a lot of money in the future, but actually we could quite do with some money now, this second. Perhaps we

The politics hovering over the Falklands

With HMS Dauntless and now Prince William gliding across the Atlantic to reinforce Britain’s claim on the Falklands, there’s no denying that tensions with Argentina have been raised. But let’s not get carried away. As Admiral Sir John Woodward reminded us last week, the latest round of defence cuts rules out, or at least undermines, a British counter-invasion. The deployment of our shiniest boat is, in reality, the sum total of what Britain can do to scare off any invasion. And there could be another barrier to the government’s hawks, other than resources: namely, the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg did try to rally support for our cause on a trade

Cameron’s fight over the Falklands

Thirty years on from the Falklands War, and the hostility between Britain and Argentina persists. And it was that hostility that delivered the most striking moment of PMQs earlier. Not only did David Cameron, at the insistence of Andrew Rosindell, describe the Argentinian attitude towards the Islands as ‘far more like colonialism’ than that of the British, but he also confirmed that the National Security Council yesterday discussed the simmering situation in the south Atlantic. As he put it himself, he wants to send out a ‘strong message’ to Argentina, after the recent sabre-rattling actions of their President, Cristina Kirchner — which Daniel has blogged about here. The question that’s