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Letters: save our churches!

Free the C of E Sir: Patrick Kidd’s article on the shortcomings of today’s Church of England maintains the importance of the ‘volunteers in the pews’ who bind the church together (‘Miracle workers’, 18 May). He warns that these people ‘can so easily run away’. This is exactly what happened to the Church of Scotland in 1843 when the hierarchy got things badly wrong. The Great Disruption was caused by a disagreement over patronage: should a patron be the sole arbiter in hiring and firing ministers or did this undermine the spiritual independence of the congregation? The exit of more than 400 ministers from the Kirk’s General Assembly and the formation of

Lacks the bite and bracing malevolence of Call My Agent!: Amazon’s Ten Percent reviewed

In theory, it should be a perfect match. John Morton – the man behind the brilliantly assured sitcom W1A which so gleefully skewered the BBC – gets to give us the English version of Call My Agent!: the brilliantly assured French lockdown hit which so gleefully skewered the Parisian showbusiness world. In practice, at least judging from the first two episodes, Ten Percent feels surprisingly uncertain of what kind of programme it wants to be. At first, it looked as if we were in for a straight remake, using the same plots and characters and with the original cast replaced by British lookalikes (except, oddly, that the French agent who

Mind the gap: striking Tube drivers on up to £100,000

Bob Crowe may have passed on but his spirit lives on. The militant Marxist’s Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union is on a 24-hour strike today in a dispute over changes to drivers’ rotas as Sadiq Khan seeks to bring back the night Tube. Union heavies on the Jubilee, Victoria, Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines started a 24-hour walkout at 4.30 a.m. in a move that has brought much misery and strife to London’s long-suffering commuters. According to RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, the Tube strike action is solely down to ‘management failure to recognise and address the anger of their staff at the imposition of damaging and unacceptable

The man who built Britain’s first skyscraper

In 2011 Britain’s first skyscraper was finally given Grade I listing. The citation for 55 Broadway — the Gotham City-ish home of Transport for London, which sprouts up from St James’s Park Station — said that the building was important in a number of ways: its architect Charles Holden, the designer of Senate House and a range of breakthrough modernist Tube stations in the 1930s, was increasingly recognised as major. The building’s scale and structure were pioneering for London in 1929. And the sculpture on its otherwise plain façades was by important artists including Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill and the young Henry Moore (his first work on a public building

Letters | 21 February 2019

The breakaway seven Sir: ‘In both parties there are fools at one end and crackpots at the other, but the great body in the middle is sound and wise.’ One of the magnificent seven speaking this week? Well, the sentiment is surely present day, but rather they are the words of Churchill in 1913 trying to engineer a centrist national movement from ‘a fusion of the two parties’. In those days, it was the Conservative and the Liberal parties, but the history of the middle ground since then augurs poorly not just for the breakaway seven, but for those of us who feel disenfranchised by politics. We can argue who

Maps of the mind

MacDonald ‘Max’ Gill (1884–1947) is less well known than his notorious brother, Eric. But was he less of a designer, less of an artist? The son of a Brighton clergyman, his career was built on a sequence of remarkable connections. The architect Halsey Ricardo, a descendant of the economist, was his tutor. While working for church builders Nicholson and Corlette, Gill very likely met Edwin Lutyens at the Art Workers’ Guild. And for Nashdom, the neo-Georgian house Lutyens built in 1909 for Prince Dolgorouki at Burnham in Buckinghamshire, Gill drew an imaginative ‘Wind Map’. Somewhere between illustration and cartography, this was a pointer of what was soon to come from

Watch: Ken Livingstone revisits his favourite topic

In this world nothing can be said to be certain except for death, taxes, and Ken Livingstone banging on about Hitler. The former London Mayor rang up Talk radio this morning to discuss anti-Semitism in Labour, but couldn’t help bring up the German dictator at the first opportunity. He told a visibly exasperated Julia Hartley-Brewer: ‘I still get people come up to me on the street and say, ‘I’m Jewish why did you say Hitler was a Zionist?’ and I point out, of course I never said that, that’s all just this fake news’ Ken Livingstone: "I still get people come up to me and ask 'why did you say

Ken Livingstone: Boris Johnson should be kicked out of the Tory party

Oh dear. Of all the figures to come out against Boris Johnson over his comments comparing women wearing the full face veil to ‘letterboxes’, Ken Livingstone is perhaps the most audacious. Despite his penchant for talking about Hitler and zionism at every broadcast opportunity, Red Ken has today declared that Johnson has gone too far and must go. Speaking on LBC, he said: ‘He isn’t really a politician, he just wants to be a famous celebrity. Frankly, I think the Tory Party should dump him.’ Not the most obvious candidate for taking the moral high ground…

12 times Labour failed to give Red Ken the boot

There are few sights more pitiful than Labour ‘moderates’ – I prefer to call them what they are: Corbyn-enablers – plating up meagre scraps as a feast of optimism for the party’s future. Last week, it was the routing of Momentum – and Unite-backed candidates for the Lewisham East by-election. That didn’t last long. Now, it’s Ken Livingstone, allowed to resign rather than risk possible expulsion. In its ‘all out war’ on anti-Semitism, Labour sued for peace on the enemy’s terms without firing a single shot.  Expelling Livingstone would not have undone the bias and abuse the party has inflicted on British Jews. It would have been a hollow gesture in

Ken Livingstone: I was too left-wing for the KGB

The row about Jeremy Corbyn and a Czech spy shows no sign of dying down. Following a former Czech spy’s claim that Corbyn was paid by the Eastern bloc to spy on Britain in the 1980s, the Labour leader has denied the claim and instructed solicitors to respond to ‘any false and ridiculous smears’ appearing online. Meanwhile, Tory MPs are calling on Corbyn to give permission for the publication of the Czech intelligence file on him. While that looks unlikely, one man who is happy to talk about his Communist dealings in the eighties is Ken Livingstone. Red Ken tells the Daily Mail that he met a KGB spy posing as

The female gaze | 2 November 2017

Every weekday, I travel by Tube to The Spectator’s office, staring at the posters plastered all over the walls. I like looking at the plays and exhibitions that have recently opened or wondering whether that shampoo really will add more ‘oomph’ to my hair. Often there is a pretty girl on the poster. A picture of a woman can sell almost anything. I’ve rarely thought much about the individuals who produce the posters. But as a new exhibition at London’s Transport Museum called Poster Girls reveals, there is a rich history of female art running through the city’s concrete veins. For more than 100 years, the transport network has provided

Einstein vs Weinstein

Before I forget, I was cheered by the letter from Keith Aitken in last week’s issue noting another sense for tube (Mind your language, 7 October). ‘What are ye on about, ya tube?’ people shout as an insult in western Scotland, he says. He derives the term from the idea of their digestive functions dominating their lives, like tube-worms: just one big alimentary canal. I fear, though, that the origin lies in another bodily part. As Joyce wrote in Ulysses: ‘I suppose the people gave him that nickname [Mr de Kock] going about with his tube from one woman to another.’ Yes, tube in this slang sense means nothing other

Explosion on the Tube – police confirm ‘terrorist incident’

An explosion has been reported on the London Underground this morning. Passengers fled from Parsons Green in panic after a device exploded on a District Line tube at 8.20am. Witnesses at the scene report seeing a fireball hurtle down the carriage – thought to have come from a bucket left on the tube. A number of people are injured, suffering burns as a result of the explosion. Images of the suspected IED linked to the Parsons Green explosion — Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) September 15, 2017 The attack has been declared a terrorist incident, with the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command investigating. Emergency services remain at the station and commuters are being advised to stay clear

Red Ken: Venezuela went wrong when they ignored my economic advice

Ken Livingstone caused a stir this week when he blamed Venezuela’s problems on the United States. Now, the former Mayor of London has a new reason for the country’s desperate state – and it isn’t the fault of the leader Nicolas Maduro. Instead, Red Ken said one of the explanations for Venezuela’s woes is simple: they failed to listen to his pearls of wisdom. During an interview this morning on Talk Radio, Livingstone said that he had offered economic advice to the country’s minister of finance back in 2008. But instead of taking his suggestions on board, Ken said his wise words were brushed aside – and now the country is reaping the consequences. Here’s

Corbyn attacks Arsenal’s owner – but keeps quiet on Venezuela

Venezuela is on the brink of collapse, with thousands taking to the streets and the government locking up those who dare stand in its way. Yet while Jeremy Corbyn has been all too eager to voice his support in the past for Venezuela, the Labour leader is keeping a radio silence on the current situation. Corbyn has said that the country’s previous leader, Hugo Chavez, showed ‘a different and better way of doing things’. Having been called on today to condemn the country’s current regime by Labour MPs, Corbyn has so far kept schtum. But Mr S was curious to note that Jezza isn’t afraid to speak out on some matters close

United Airlines prove Corbyn’s point about bad business

The French have their uses, don’t they? They offer us their food, their wine and their bankers, and they also offer some reassurance. No matter how demented our politics may seem, things are never quite as dramatic, as emotional, as they are over the Channel. The best Britain offers Nigel Farage is an embarrassed slap on the back in the hope he’ll move down the bar to tell his war stories to someone else; the French are considering making Marine Le Pen head of state. As if that wasn’t mad enough, they’re now taking Jean Luc Melenchon, the Gallic Chavez, seriously, or at least seriously enough to ruffle the markets. More proof

What the papers say: Why Labour must give Ken the boot

Ken Livingstone’s Labour membership card remains valid – but for how long? The former Mayor of London avoided being booted out of the party following his comments about Hitler. But he was told by Jeremy Corbyn yesterday that he faces another investigation into remarks he has made since the party’s decision to suspend him. The newspapers are unanimous: this sorry mess is doing the Labour party no favours at all. We should be grateful, suggests the Daily Telegraph that Ken Livingstone reached for another dictatorial analogy yesterday rather than his usual choice. But his suggestion that being in the disciplinary hearing deciding his future place in the Labour party was

Douglas Murray

In defence of  Ken

We never loved each other, Ken Livingstone and I. We first clashed in public more than a decade ago, and have enjoyed castigating each other ever since. But now that he has been suspended from the Labour party for a second year in a row, I come not to bury him but to praise him. For there is something valorous, even glorious, about his downfall. It was the MP for Bradford West who triggered his demise. In April last year Naz Shah was exposed for sharing anti–Semitic content on social media. Among these posts was a graphic advising the deportation of all Israeli Jews to the USA. Though such views

The sorry saga of Ken Livingstone isn’t over yet

The sorry saga of what Labour decides to do about Ken Livingstone isn’t over yet. In the last few moments, Jeremy Corbyn has released a statement saying Livingstone will now face a fresh probe into comments that he made about Hitler since yesterday – when he avoided being booted out of the party for doing exactly the same thing. Corbyn said that it was ‘deeply disappointing’ that Livingstone had refused to apologise for his remarks. He also criticised the former London mayor for continuing to do what he seems to do best these days: talk about Hitler. The Labour leader said: ‘Many people are understandably upset that he has continued to make

Stephen Daisley

The Labour party has become institutionally anti-Semitic

Listen to Douglas Murray and James Forsyth debating Ken Livingstone’s non-expulsion: In the past, Labour has been quick to take a stand against bodies where racism, sexism, and homophobia were allowed to fester. Discrimination was discrimination, and institutions in which it routinely took place were culpable for it. But anti-Semitism now routinely takes place in the Labour party – and party members must acknowledge this. By its own definition, the Labour party is institutionally anti-Semitic.  No fair-minded person can read the failure to expel Ken Livingstone from the party any other way. After careful consideration of his latest calumny, Labour’s National Executive Committee has chosen merely to extend the former London mayor’s suspension for a further year.