In praise of Spectator readers

Michael Beloff, QC and past president of Trinity College Oxford, has just had his memoir reviewed in The Spectator, and it brought back memories. Here’s this really good man, the type who does the work, believes in the system, plays by the rules and subscribes to the old graces of courtesy and politeness, but the sort we never read about. Instead, what is shoved down our throats are today’s politicians selling their snake oil on TV, or those untalented but self-entitled celebrities boasting about themselves, and the ultimate horrors, of course, the profoundly ignorant woke brigade who block free speech. I can’t remember how long ago it was that I

Less than one hour left: The Spectator’s Brexit butterfly cover as an NFT

There is less than one hour remaining on the sale, and the current highest bid is 4 WETH / $18,000. Those interested in making a bid can click here. Last month we ran an article about digital art and non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) and since then we’ve had readers asking: what about The Spectator’s Brexit butterfly? In almost two centuries of our publication’s history, this is perhaps the best-known of all our covers: ‘Out, and into the world’ with our endorsement of Brexit. The phrase was reprised from our 1975 cover when we were one of only two publications to back Brexit in that referendum (the other was the Morning Star) and

Is this the start of the lockdown rebellions?

We are frequently reminded of polls that show the majority of Brits supporting lockdown measures. In fact, often the public wants the government to go further than it has done. Local officials tend to reflect this sentiment. Mayors of two of the UK’s largest cities — London’s Sadiq Khan and Manchester’s Andy Burnham — have repeatedly accused the government of not going far enough with its Covid restrictions. But are attitudes starting to shift? While there’s little data available about the public’s adherence to Covid rules, some evidence is starting to build. A comprehensive study from UCL and Kings College London found that only a fraction of people who said they would self-isolate if

Why The Spectator is a true survivor

As print titles battle logistical disruption and falling sales from Covid-19, it’s worth saluting The Spectator’s long-lasting tenacity. It has appeared without fail now for 192 years, week in, week out. Its publication has continued through both world wars, numerous strikes and protests, power cuts, cholera outbreaks and terrorist attacks. Today, even as the country has gone into lockdown, it has maintained its rhythm, with staff compiling issues from their studies and kitchen tables. And next week, on St George’s Day, The Spectator will turn out its 10,000th issue, a benchmark reached by no other magazine in history. The path has not always been easy. At the outbreak of the second

Is it time to revive our play about Boris’s sex life?

I’m writing this from the Conservative party conference where Boris’s attempt to ram home the message that he’s the only party leader capable of getting Brexit done is being drowned out by the claim by Charlotte Edwardes, a Sunday Times columnist, that he squeezed her thigh under the table at a Spectator lunch 20 years ago. In the #MeToo era, this is a bigger news story than our imminent departure from the EU. Or perhaps just a blessed respite from the relentless Brexit coverage. I didn’t help by making a throwaway gag on Monday at a fringe meeting organised by the TaxPayers’ Alliance where I was a panellist. A blue

The men I’ve groped (including Boris)

Charlotte Edwardes reports that Boris put his hand on her leg during lunch 20 years ago. Full disclosure, I put my hand on Boris’s leg 20 years ago during lunch. It wasn’t that I was making a pass at him. I just wanted to hold his attention while I was telling him something I wanted him to listen to. Now I am worrying. What if Boris and/or a cohort of other males come forward? ‘Mary assaulted me in a historic sex abuse incident. #SheToo.’ These are topsy-turvy times. Anything could happen and now I think about it, I’m sure I have been putting my hands on legs and generally assaulting

Rod Liddle

Sorry, sir, we only stock books we agree with

I was on my way to the pub the other evening, about seven o’clock, rain lashing down on my head, when I saw that there was a dim, yellowish light on in the bookshop. Peering closer through the downpour I could see five women sitting on a circle of chairs around either a table or a cauldron, talking animatedly to one another. Or perhaps chanting, I don’t know. I crossed the road and stood directly outside the shop window with my arms outstretched, mouthing at those inside: ‘Where’s my book? Where’s my book?’ Six weeks previously I had wandered into the shop to see if they were stocking The Great

High life | 11 July 2019

Martina Navratilova has never been shy about telling it like it is. She came out when other athletes were hiding in their lockers, and recently spoke out against men transitioning into women in order to cash in at women’s events. She is brave and refuses to be intimidated. Last week, while the centre court crowd was going wild cheering for Coco Gauff, Martina was the only commentator to question the fairness of it: ‘I wonder how Hercog must feel having 15,000 people hate you and cheer your every mistake to the rafters?’ Mind you, sportsmanship is a thing of the past, and Wimbledon crowds now act like football fans. Coco

The Spectator Podcast: who is Boris Johnson, really?

This week has seen the continually bizarre spectacle of the Tory leadership contest grind on. Earlier this week Sajid Javid pitched himself as the candidate best placed to ‘make a better Boris’, reflecting the strange reality of a contest in which only one of the candidates really believes they can win. But who is Boris Johnson, really? The man who looks almost certain to be our next prime minister seems to divide opinion like no one else in British politics. Is he a charismatic man of the people, or a phoney demagogue? A progressive liberal or a Brexit extremist covering for the far right? In this week’s magazine, Toby Young

High life | 14 March 2019

Gstaad   As Emperor Maximilian told his convulsed-by-tears servants as he was about to be executed by the Mexicans: ‘Who knew?’ Last week the owner of the Palace hotel in Gstaad rang me and asked me to join him for a drink with Akira Kitade, a Japanese author best known for Visas of Life and the Epic Journey about how the Jewish Sugihara survivors reached Japan and safety. Like most of his countrymen and women, Mr Kitade was extremely polite and shyly asked me to tell him all I knew about Nissim Segaloff, born between Bulgaria and Serbia before the turn of the last century and a survivor of the

Seven things we learnt from an evening with Jacob Rees-Mogg

This evening Jacob Rees-Mogg joined Rod Liddle in being able to say he has sold out the London Palladium for a Spectator event. The arch-Brexiteer appeared before a packed crowd – of over 2,000 – for an in conversation with editor Fraser Nelson. Despite a busy day in the Commons on Brexit and a spot on the stage, the Moggster still found time in the interval to help out on the ice cream stall. Here are seven Rees-Mogg takeaways from the event: 1. Most people who want to delay Brexit want to stop Brexit In reference to the news today that Theresa May will give MPs a chance to vote to

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

Jacob Rees-Mogg considers writing a letter

Oh dear. The bulk of MPs haven’t even see Theresa May’s proposed deal yet but already suspicion is growing that it’s a stinker. In that vein, Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared on Newsnight on Tuesday evening where – in a significant change in tone – he appeared to suggest he could write a letter of ‘no confidence’ to 1922 chair Graham Brady in the near future if the rumours are correct. The arch-Brexiteer who has previously said the policy – not May – ought to change, said there would come a time when he can’t support her because she’s so tied to Brexit policy: “There comes a point at which the policy

Ideas in the cinema

190 years of The Spectator   19 November 1937 Not even the newspapers can claim so large a public as the films: they make the circulation figures of the Daily Express look insignificant. The voice of Mr Paul Muni [who stars in The Life of Emile Zola] has been heard by more people than the radio voices of the dictators, and the words he speaks are usually a little more memorable. The words of dictators do not dwell in the brain — one speech is very like another: we retain a confused impression of olive branches, bayonets and the New Deal. But does reaching the public necessarily mean reaching the

The Spectator’s Mission

190 years of The Spectator   5 July 1828   The principal object of a Newspaper is to convey intelligence. It is proposed in The Spectator to give this, the first and most prominent place, to a report of all the leading occurrences of the week. In this department, the reader may always expect a summary account of every public proceeding, or transaction of interest, whether the scene may lie at home or abroad.

The awful rise of ‘virtue signalling’

190 years of The Spectator   18 April 2015 Go to a branch of Whole Foods, the American-owned grocery shop, and you will see huge posters advertising Whole Foods, of course, but — more precisely — advertising how virtuous Whole Foods is: ‘We are part of a growing consciousness that is bigger than food — one that champions what’s good.’ This is a particularly blatant example of the increasingly common phenomenon of what might be called ‘virtue signalling’ — indicating that you are kind, decent and virtuous. We British do it, too. But we are more sophisticated, or underhand. Mishal Husain was particularly aggressive to Nigel Farage on the Today

Spice girls back sceptics on Europe

190 years of The Spectator   14 December 1996   The Spice Girls were at the time the biggest girl group in the world, their debut album selling 23 million copies. The interview brought the magazine its highest sales figure for a generation Interview the Spice Girls, I thought. But the Spice Girls are interviewed all the time. My interview, however, would be different. I would ask only questions that I would ask Mr Major, Mr Blair, Mr Heseltine or any other politician. Only one thing worried me about this plan. What if they weren’t interested in politics? It was a needless worry. They were completely political. Politics was really

The new club of rich young men

190 years of The Spectator   15 March 1986   It is difficult to estimate the number of young investment bankers, stockbrokers and commodity brokers earning £100,000 a year. Perhaps there are only a couple of thousand, but they are so mobile and noisy that they give the impression of being far more numerous. Most are aged between 26 and 34, and two years ago they were being paid £25,000, in some cases even less, until the opening up of the City markets precipitated an epidemic of headhunting and concomitant salaries. In this respect they resemble the lucky winners on Leslie Crowther’s television quiz The Price is Right, in which

Out – and into the World

190 years of The Spectator   4 June 1975   At no time during the campaign have the opponents of our membership of the EEC been remotely as unbalanced, as hysterical or as deliberately personally insulting as those in the opposite camp. Naturally, as in any vigorously fought campaign, there have been some fibs and half-truths on both sides; and each partisan has looked eagerly at evidence which may have several possible interpretations in order to find material that will support his cause. But nothing on the anti-Market side has even begun to equal the tirade of personal insults, and the sickening appeal to fear, that has characterised everything the