12 JANUARY 2002

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R ail strikes continued and fares rose as Mr Tony Blair,

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the Prime Minister, asked Lord Birt, the former director-general of the BBC, to draw up a report on transport. Mr Robin Cook, the Leader of the House, and Mr Peter Hain, the...

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I ndia, as far as train buffs are concerned, is the country where you can still see mainline steam trains and where services commonly carry passengers on the roof. It was...

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T ISAF HQ, Kabul he Language Card issued to our troops here gives a flavour. 'Head', 'chest', 'stomach', 'back', 'blood', 'gunshot wound', 'Red Cross', 'Dead', 'wounded', it...

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Churchill v. Halifax and Butler: the great unsolved mystery of 1940 deepens

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FRANK JOHNSON M y last contribution to this space was about something that struck me as extraordinary in History Magazine. a monthly which the BBC publishes; namely, the claim...

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Peter °borne says that the Saville inquiry shows that Tony Blair is prepared to extend clemency to terrorists but not to the British soldiers who were asked to protect us from...

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Ancient & modern

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MANY newspapers have recorded the sad demise of Europe's oldest coinage. the drachma, 'handful' (ancient Greek drattomai, 'I grasp'). Papers did not grasp, however, that coinage...


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Anne McElvoy talks to Peter Hain and finds a rebel — 'We have the worst railways in Europe' — who is essential to the Labour cause HE doesn't half fancy himself, that Peter...

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In a world whose motto has become 'You mustn't blame yourself; sin has been replaced by sickness. Frank Furedi reports ONCE upon a time there were seven deadly sins. They were...

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They keep sniping at Bush's ignorance but, says Mark Steyn, the President is smart enough to know what's going on in the real world New Hampshire THE trickiest bit of the...

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Andrew Gimson meets a group of Catholics who are convinced that the Virgin Mary is appearing in south London THE Virgin Mary is appearing every day in Surbiton beneath a pine...

Banned wagon

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A weekly survey of the things our rulers want to prohibit THIS column does not usually stray overseas, but the behaviour of the Peruvian President, Alejando Toledo, deserves...

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Bruce Anderson says that the fame of our special forces should not be allowed to undermine the morale of other units A BRACE of citations for gallantry are now under...

Second opinion

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IT must be a dull dog who has never wondered what it's all about — life. I mean. It is all so very difficult and complicated, and always ends in osteoarthritis. In the...

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Mind your language

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A READER keeps trying to convince me that billiard-room is wrong and bil liards-room is right. He was as pleased as punch to find a hotel plan showing a 'billiards-room'. It...

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Jessica Douglas-Home on a proposal to vandalise an ancient Romanian town by building a Dracula theme park THE beautiful mediaeval Transylvanian town of Sighisoara is under...

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Why the King screamed in terror, 'Lights, lights!'

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PAUL JOHNSON 0 ur paddock in the Quantocks is at present occupied by a score of sable sheep — gentle, delightful creatures, the reverse of diabolical. Yet when Charles Powell...

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Opt-out was cop-out

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From Mr Frederick Forsyth Sir: In the rewriting of Tory (sorry, Conservative) party history, your editorialist's claim that John Major's trophy on the euro decision ten years...

Simon the supine

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From Mr Mark Fox Sir: Simon Heffer's self-appointed role as Gold Nib-In-Waiting to the Jubilee Court On the line of duty', 5 January) does neither him (as a hitherto robust and...

Unfair to Islam

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From Mr James McDougall Sir: There is nothing unfamiliar in Mark Steyn's article (`The war between America and Europe', 29 December), but a great deal that is unfortunate. The...

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Barry's bad taste

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From Councillor John Whelan Sir: I find the description of parking wardens as 'vindictive black bastards' offensive (Diary, 15/22 December). Barry Humphries may be a national...

Rae's way with dons

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From Mr Ian Hamilton Sir: In his article about Oxford University (Decline and fall', 29 December), Felipe Fernandez-Armesto regrets that 'the old methods, which used to supply...

Canniest of candidates

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From Amy Stroud Sir: Bill Penn (`The semi illiterates', 5 January) reveals his own ignorance of the media marketplace if he does not realise that graduates from 'breeze-block...

100 years of solitude

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From Mr Benedict King Sir: We are not all impoverished by the government's library policy ('An axe to the roots of our culture', 15/22 December). A couple of months ago, as I...

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Mr Mugabe is fixing the election by gagging the press and London is doing nothing about it

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STEPHEN GLOVER R obert Mugabe is nearly there. While the world sleeps, he is putting the final pieces in place to fix the Zimbabwean presidential elections, which must take...

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The playing fields of Persia

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His own best subject

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Rupert Christiansen WORKS ON PAPER: THE CRAFT OF BIOGRAPHY AND AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Michael Holroyd Little, Brown, £20, pp. 319, ISBN 03168567898 M ichael Holroyd's life of Lytton...

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The servant problem

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Jonathan Keates LIFE BELOW STAIRS IN THE 20TH CENTURY by Pamela Horn Sutton, £20, pp. 286, ISBN 0750923172 WHAT THE BUTLER SAW by E. S. Turner Penguin,14.99, pp. 312, ISBN...

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Mania, phobias and more

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Katie Grant ONE-HIT WONDER by Lisa Jewell Penguin, £6,99, pp. 450, ISBN 0140295968 L et's not beat about the bush. Lisa Jewell is Enid Blyton for those who have progressed...

The flaws of Edinburgh

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Allan Massie RESURRECTION MEN by Ian Rankin Orion, £17.99, pp. 440. ISBN 0752821318 T here's now, I'm told. a company that offers you tours of Ian Rankin's Edinburgh: a trawl...

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Grace still under pressure

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John de Falbe THE COLLECTED STORIES OF RICHARD YATES by Richard Yates Methuen, £17.99, pp. 472, ISBN 0413771253 I f Richard Yates is known at all in this country, it is as the...

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The trappings and the suits of woe

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Lucinda Lambton VIGOR MORTIS by Kate Berridge Profile Books, £17.99, pp. 283, ISBN 186197177X V igor Mortis is a triumph, an exhilaratingly original, scholarly and strange — as...

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Memories of a survivor

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Caroline Moorehead A VOYAGE BY DHOW AND OTHER PIECES by Norman Lewis Cape, £15.99, pp. 215, ISBN 0224061712 I f Norman Lewis's new collection of travel pieces has a theme, it...

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Painting still counts

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Martin Gayford on the controversy surrounding Lucian Freud's portrait of the Queen W ell, who says painting is dead? Just before Christmas — you can. I hope, still cast your...

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Who benefits?

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Peter Phillips C harity events are strange things. I took part in one last month in New York in aid of the victims of the September disasters, and came away wondering who had...

The Lieutenant of Inishmore (The Pit, Barbican) Twelfth Night (Barbican)

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First draft Toby Young M artin McDonagh, the 30-year-old author of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, is an outspoken defender of his own work. He called London's theatre producers...

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Organic revolution

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Ursula Buchan A n old man in a cloth cap, collarless shirt, waistcoat and trousers tied up with baler twine, who tends ruler-straight rows of savoy cabbages, leafy parsnips and...

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Domestic Disturbance (12. selected cinemas)

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Lumbering along Mark Steyn A side from the $20 million — or is it $25 million now? — he gets per picture, it's hard to see why John Travolta bothered with his post-Pulp...

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Irritating distractions

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James Delmgpole M y brother Dick has just enlisted as a Roundhead pikeman in the Sealed Knot and I'm worried that it's partly my fault. What happened was that this time last...

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Funny money

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Michael Vestey H aving ordered my newly printed euros for a trip to Italy this week I find they are peculiar little things; they don't really feel like proper money at all. As...

The virtue of patience

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Robin Oakley I t isn't always the pulsating finish or the dramatic leap which provide racing's magical moments. Many in the crowd had already left Newbury before the 25-strong...

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Stylish pugnacity

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Alan Judd h e Sun reported recently that someone called Jennifer (J-Lo) Lopez and her husband, Cris (sic) Judd — quite ordinary people sometimes adopt famous names — recently...

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Simple truths

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Taki A Rougernont though he's hardly my favourite character, I'm seriously worried about Tony Blair. I feel he's in the middle of a nervous breakdown. As a peacemaker in...

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Street safety

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PetroneIla Wyatt I want to begin this column by thanking all those readers who have written to me supporting my anti-McCartney stance on fur. I had promised to put my money...

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New Balfour Declaration

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Simon Barnes PERHAPS one day some historian of academic bent will write a history of South Africa without mentioning sport. If so, the work will be trivial. futile and...

Q. More and more women are taking up shooting. I

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always use a shooting stick, and have done so for years. When I am at my peg and a fellow male gun comes along for a gossip, I stay perched on my stick. If a female gun comes...

Q. My wife and I have recently been staying with

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some dear friends in North Yorkshire. The house is, unquestionably, the most comfortable we ever stay in and our hosts produce only the finest food and wine. The other guests...

Q. I have noticed an alarming trend creeping in during

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the shooting season. I recently asked some friends for a day's sport and was somewhat taken aback when not one but two of them announced during the morning that they would have...