Matthew Dancona

Amis at 60

Martin Amis says that when a man turns 40 he stops saying “hi” and starts saying “bye”. So, as a 41-year-old, I now stand unequivocally on the farewell side of the tracks, putting my affairs gradually in order before the eventual arrival of the Grim Reaper – who in an Amis novel would probably be

Introducing Cappuccino Culture

Just to introduce The Spectator’s new team blog on arts and cultural affairs – Cappuccino Culture. Spectator writers will be posting all day, every day on what’s new and what matters in the cultural landscape: from arthouse movies to X Factor, from modern poetry to the latest production of Hamlet, all the reviews and the

The spooks are squirming. But be careful what you wish for

As the controversy over torture gathers pace, it is ‘open season’ on the intelligence agencies — investigated by the police and challenged by MPs. Scrutiny is fine, says Matthew d’Ancona — but beware of making life impossible for those responsible for our security ‘One question at any rate was answered. Never, for any reason on

McBride and the omertà of Team Brown

The Guardian’s interview with Damian McBride illustrates why “McPoison” was much more than an assassin for hire: he was a very clever man indeed, a Cambridge graduate as much as a lager-swilling lad (and since when were the two mutually exclusive?). Whether through calculation, instinct, sincerity or a blend of the three, this really is

A poetic evening

From its founder Joseph Addison – a poet of some significance – to its present poetry editor, Hugo Williams, the Spectator has always had a rich association with the poetic art. Indeed, an editorial by J.D.Scott in 1954 was widely regarded as the founding text of the so-called “Movement” of that decade; Vita Sackville-West, Sassoon,

Blur in the park

Been meaning to post all day a hat-tip to our very own Alex James who – before he was a Spectator columnist and celebrated cheese-maker – used to play the bass in a rather successful little group called Blur. Last night, reunited and re-energised, they played their final UK gig in Hyde Park. And, whether

The Spectator’s 50 Essential Films: Part Two

Peter Hoskin and Matthew d’Ancona count down the final 25 of The Spectator’s 50 Essential Films 25. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975) Cinema sure does work in mysterious ways. Take Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick’s account of an Irish lad (played by Ryan O’Neal) who rises — and then falls — in 18th-century society. It’s a

The price of Mandelson’s support

The cover piece in the new issue of the magazine is by my former opposite number at the New Statesman, John Kampfner, and is a defining addition to our knowledge of the crucial 48 hours in which Gordon Brown’s fate was decided earlier this month. As the polls for the local and European elections closed

Debating selection

It never fails. Assemble a group of highly intelligent people (the more, the merrier), invite them to debate the merits of selective schools, stand well back and enjoy the fireworks. So it was this beautiful summer’s evening at the Royal Geographical Society, as The Spectator hosted its inaugural debate, chaired by Andrew Neil  – the

The Spectator’s 50 Essential Films: Part One

Peter Hoskin and Matthew d’Ancona count down the first 25 of The Spectator’s 50 Essential Films The studio logo fades. The opening credits roll. And so we come to the main feature: The Spectator’s 50 Essential Films — a selection of the very best that cinema has to offer, and all in glorious Technicolor. This

The Spectator’s 50 Essential Films

Attention all film fans: tomorrow’s issue of the magazine – print version only – launches a truly special celebration of the best films of all time, edited by our very own Online Editor, Pete Hoskin.    CoffeeHousers will have their chance to pitch in in due course – but if you want to join the

The new chief of MI6

So MI6 is to have a new chief: Sir John Sawers, presently our man at the UN, is going back to the service he worked for in his early years, replacing the estimable Sir John Scarlett in November. Scarlett, who flickered on to the public stage much against his wishes during the Hutton Inquiry, was

Following a dividing line to oblivion

Following on from Fraser and Pete’s earlier posts: the spat in today’s Guardian between Ed Balls and Jackie Ashley is fascinating and relevant to George Osborne’s milestone article in The Times. Balls remains an unabashed proponent of what I would call ur-Brownism: emphasise “dividing lines” that distinguish Labour from Tories at every available opportunity, especially

If you were a Labour MP…

A thought experiment, albeit an unpalatable one: imagine you were a Labour MP (I know, I know, but indulge me) and the fate of the Prime Minister and thus, by implication, the nation lay in your hands tonight and tomorrow. What would you do? Your party has just suffered a historic defeat, taking a disastrous

The symptoms of a sickly political system

‘The fascists are coming’ read the coverline of the Spectator’s May 30 issue. Fraser’s brilliant cover piece, analysing the cunning and tactical mutability of the BNP, looks all too bleakly prescient this morning. It is axiomatic to democracy that we have to tolerate views we find objectionable. But, really, the election of two BNP MEPs

Your coup update

Just been on Newsnight – yes, a special Saturday edition – to take part in what amounted to a Lineker-style half time coup round up. Charlie Kennedy, who knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a successful leadership coup, made the astute point that it is authority, not arithmetic that

The idea of a Sheerman-Miliband plot is rubbish

The smears begin: Number Ten is briefing that Barry Sheerman’s calls for a secret ballot on the Labour leadership are part of an elaborate Miliband-ite plot – the “how-they-are-connected” reasoning being that the MP for Huddersfield and chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, is also the father of one of David Miliband’s

Livingstone carries the standard for the Labour left

That it should come to this: one can barely turn on the television without seeing Ken Livingstone vociferously defending Gordon Brown against what he describes, wrongly, as an “uber-Blairite plot.” Ken – of all people – says that this disunity really will not do, and that Labour has a duty to rally behind the Prime

Is this the measure of Johnson?

Susan Boyle leaves the Priory, Alan Johnson goes to the Home Office.  Or is it the other way round? The revolving doors continue to spin. I have long been mystified by Mr Johnson’s position as the Pearly Dauphin, the heir apparent to Gordon Brown. Nobody has been able to explain to me why he should