13 DECEMBER 2008

Page 5

Help Purnell

The Spectator

I t is one of the oddities of politics that a Labour government can sometimes get away with announcing policies which, had they come from the mouth of a Conservative minister,...

Page 9

D oing the rounds of various Christmas parties including the Arts

The Spectator

Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, I can report that there was not a glass of champagne in sight. This year it’s all white wine and water. The collective...

Page 10

Brown’s Britain is broke and creeping towards the ignominy of an IMF bail-out

The Spectator

B efore a country has to beg the IMF for a bail-out, there are normally several clear warning signs. Its national debt needs to be vast — say, several times its entire economic...

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I t is a continuing pleasure of our parliamentary life that

The Spectator

no one really quite knows what the rules are. In the Damian Green affair, learned opinions differ about whether or not Parliament can exclude the police from the premises when...

Page 14

The real lesson of this fiasco is that we need elected police chiefs

The Spectator

The Commons row on Monday over the Damian Green arrest was a distraction from the most pressing issue, say Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell. We already have a politicised...

Page 16

The prospects for a proud Olympic legacy are bleak

The Spectator

John Patten , an Olympics adviser, warns that there is still much strategic thinking to be done for 2012 — not to mention the lax anti-terror measures at the construction sites...

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Ancient & modern

The Spectator

Andrew Motion’s tenure as Poet Laureate is about to end, and the search for a successor has begun. It is accompanied with the usual tidal wave of claptrap about this not being...

Things we’ll really all be better off without

The Spectator

Venetia Thompson and Rory Sutherland list the pointless luxuries and trends that will, quite rightly, be culled by the recession. Here are 13 reasons to be cheerful this...

Page 20

I am ready to go to prison for hamster murder

The Spectator

James Delingpole is threatened by the RSPCA after releasing a savage pet into the park, and marvels at another encroachment on freedom of speech by the nanny state RSPCA Press...

Page 22

Mind your language

The Spectator

Clichés gather on the tide and stick on the shingle of daily life like tarred bladderwrack. A curious species of cliché sets a stereotyped pattern, into which words may be...

Obama is just Bryan Adams without music

The Spectator

O’ar Pali talks to the ageing Canadian rocker and realises that the President-elect has merely emulated the pious popstar rhetoric that has made Adams a global brand I t would...

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The White House will be run like Chicago

The Spectator

Clinton brought Arkansas to Washington, and Texas followed Bush. Now, says Alexandra Starr , Obama is bringing the take-no-prisoners politics of Al Capone’s city to the Beltway...

Page 26

Silence over Mumbai

The Spectator

Sir: If Britain is still a safe haven for Lashkare-Taiba and Deobandi sympathisers (‘The global force behind Mumbai’s agony in our midst’, 6 December), this must place a big...

Al Jazeera’s ‘attackers’

The Spectator

Sir: A shop assistant who is offhand is readily described as ‘rude’; the person who puts his feet on a train seat attracts the word ‘lout’; similarly, a threatening, vomiting...

Prop forward

The Spectator

Sir: Like Mr Saunders (Letters, 6 December) I was irritated to see the obvious misdescription of what looks like a Yak-52 as a ‘Spitfire’ in the article on Nick and Giles...

We need those Sarahs

The Spectator

Sir: The remarkable and admirable Sarah (‘After Baby P: the crisis in child care’, 6 December) not only analysed and acted in the best interest of her own integrity and...

Mill in France

The Spectator

Sir: In his review of The British in France Raymond Carr (Books, 29 November) states that J.S. Mill never settled in France. This is not true. He lived in France in the years...

Name that tune

The Spectator

Sir: In his praise of Sondheim, Gerald Kaufman (‘A brand new Sondheim musical’, 6 December) narrows the field by comparing him with other composer-lyricists and then widens it...

Over the Moonie

The Spectator

Sir: Like Matthew Parris (Another Voice, 22 November) I discovered, travelling to Australia, that time does not change according to zone, season, alcohol, whistling,...

Page 28

It is very British to pass a law making it illegal to create a nuclear explosion

The Spectator

I dread to think why a Liberal Democrat would want to impersonate a traffic warden. It wouldn’t just be to get free parking. Not with them. It would have to be a sex thing. Some...

Page 30

A simple explanation for the origins of the universe — and us too

The Spectator

S ome people maintain that, in the age of the internet and Google, public lectures are an outmoded way of acquiring knowledge. I don’t agree. They demand effort to get to,...

Page 32

Ever wondered who’s wearing your cast-offs?

The Spectator

Katrina Manson explores Africa’s extraordinary multimillion-pound trade in secondhand clothing, much of it imported from Britain and the United States C hristmas might be a time...

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Prices are crashing in cyberspace

The Spectator

Ross Clark Z ero interest rates, record borrowing, printing money; the government has indicated that it is prepared to consider anything to slay the spectre of deflation. But...

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The Spectator

L ast year, having been to Scotland, I called on the mother of an old friend. Mrs Molly Jones of Carmarthen, I found to my great surprise, was very enthusiastic about Scotland....

Boldly for restoration

The Spectator

Byron Rogers WALES by Simon Jenkins Allen Lane, £25, pp. 292, ISBN 9780713998931 ✆ £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 boards and computer screens. Atmosphere is replaced by...

Page 37

Dark and creepy

The Spectator

William Leith T HE F OLIO B OOK OF H ISTORICAL M YSTERIES edited by Ian Pindar £24.95 (plus £3.95 p&p), pp. 396, available through the Folio Society, 44 Eagle Street, London...

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The Temple Of Flora

The Spectator

More than two centuries after it was completed, Robert John Thornton’s magnum opus is still virtually unsurpassed in terms of botanical illustration. By employing the foremost...

The devil’s work

The Spectator

Andro Linklater P AYBACK : D EBT AND THE S HADOW S IDE OF W EALTH by Margaret Atwood Bloomsbury, £9.99, pp. 230, ISBN 9780747598497 ✆ £7.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 T...

Page 40


The Spectator

scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!’ Scrooge’s sin is what Atwood fastens upon. Deftly weaving in the diabolic pacts made in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and James...

Children’s books for Christmas

The Spectator

Juliet Townsend I n these hard times it is gratifying to find one Christmas present which has remained virtually unchanged in price for the last seven or eight years — the...

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Memoirs of the Great War

The Spectator

Hugh Cecil S URVIVORS OF A K IND by Brian Bond Continuum, £18.99, pp. 256, ISBN9780091925840 ✆ £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 I n Survivors of a Kind , Brian Bond, one...

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I NVISIBLE I NK What kid didn’t do it back then? —

The Spectator

sneak into the kitchen while mum was out, to pilfer a few precious drops. Lemon juice. Paper. Just so you could hover at the gas ring, grin brown letters into being as though...

Not quite one of the masters

The Spectator

F lying to Athens on one of his last visits to Greece, Simon Gray started reading a novel by C. P. Snow, one of those old orange Penguins. After 50 pages he ‘still had no idea...

Page 46

Music and emotion

The Spectator

Damian Thompson says we can learn a lot about Beethoven if we look beyond the symphonies B eethoven Unwrapped is the title of the year-long musical celebration marking the...

Page 48

Forgotten gems

The Spectator

Andrew Lambirth A Countryman in Town: Robert Bevan and the Cumberland Market Group Southampton City Art Gallery, until 14 December The Women’s Land Army — A Portrait St...

Page 49

A dog’s life

The Spectator

Deborah Ross Dean spanley U, Nationwide D ean Spanley is a family film and a sweet film and a kindly film with the most delicious cast (Peter O’Toole, Jeremy Northam, Sam...

Page 50

Resigned despair

The Spectator

Michael Tanner Riders to the sea Coliseum Ascanio in Alba King’s Place V aughan Williams’s short opera Riders to the Sea was to have been conducted by Richard Hickox, but in...

Page 51

Alive and kicking

The Spectator

Giannandrea Poesio The sleeping Beauty English National Ballet, Coliseum F orgive me the lame pun, but although The Sleeping Beauty is performed worldwide, there are not that...

Page 52

Diffident misfits

The Spectator

Lloyd Evans In a Dark Dark House Almeida I Found My Horn Tristan Bates Maria Friedman: Re-Arranged Trafalgar Studios W hat, already? Another Neil LaBute play? Here we go again...

Page 54

Russian resolve

The Spectator

Peter Phillips O ver the years I have met some unusual obstacles to my selfappointed task of spreading interest in unaccompanied singing around the globe. The main one is that...

Present ideas

The Spectator

Charles Spencer W e have a super-efficient friend who has all her Christmas shopping both purchased and wrapped by the end of the summer holidays. It drives Mrs Spencer — who...

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Positive thinking

The Spectator

Kate Chisholm I t’s not a job I could do now that I’m supposedly mature, let alone when I was in my twenties. To take charge of a prison full of angry young men plus a team of...

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The body politic

The Spectator

James Delingpole I f I had been given a monkey for every time someone had told me knowledgeably that Boris Johnson was a comical buffoon unfit for high office, I’d be able to...

Quality check

The Spectator

Robin Oakley T he clatter of hooves in the stable yard, the smell of the work riders’ bacon butties drifting in the air. Warmly wrapped trainers and bloodstock agents...

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Friends in high places

The Spectator

Taki A Brooklyn-born rapper by the name of John Forte had a business idea of sorts about eight years ago. It was one of those get-rich-quickly schemes that, alas, work most of...

Page 58

Brief encounter

The Spectator

Jeremy Clarke O n our last evening in Cairo we were joined for dinner in the hotel restaurant by a local businessman who liked to socialise with the English tourists. He drew...

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Oasis of calm

The Spectator

Alex James A 2,000-year-old thoroughfare, St Martin’s Lane, and certainly one of my favourite places; contender, any time of year, for the world’s most festive location. On...

Clever tricks

The Spectator

Susanna Gross I t may be a truism, but winning at bridge has far less to do with executing dazzling coups than with not making elementary mistakes. I spend so much time looking...

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Get in the right spirit

The Spectator

’Tis the season to crack open a bottle of the good stuff, writes Venetia Thompson I would never be one to advocate drinking responsibly, especially not over the festive season...

Page 62

Give them time...

The Spectator

James Forsyth CONCIERGE SERVICES I n November — a time when I normally refuse to think about the coming holidays — The Spectator ’s Style and Travel editor offered me a wife...

Resist the urge to purge

The Spectator

James Sherwood SHOPPING D ickens had a point in Bleak House when he said of fashion that ‘it is a world wrapped up in too much jeweller’s cotton and fine wool, and cannot hear...

Page 70

In our house, Santa Claus keeps an eye on the children via CCTV cameras

The Spectator

‘D addy, there’s something I want to ask you,’ said Sasha, my fiveyear-old daughter, as she was eating her supper. ‘Yes darling?’ ‘Is Father Christmas real?’ This is a question...

Page 71


The Spectator

Rory Sutherland I t’s not always a good idea to read certain books when you’re too young. At school it didn’t occur to any of us that Brave New World was meant to be a bad...

Dear Mary

The Spectator

Q. I am godmother to a dear eight-year-old boy whose parents are separated. Every so often I try to see the little chap by inviting him to lunch in a smart restaurant for a...

A. Simply allow the father to do his usual trick

The Spectator

but, as you leave, hand the eight-year-old boy a parcel containing a money box (very much back in fashion) containing cash to the value of what you would have spent on the two...

A. It is unfortunate that your gallant intentions were stymied

The Spectator

but — no matter how many mutual friends’ names you were able to drop as endorsements — it would, indeed, have been faintly Fred West for you, a stranger, to offer Mrs Cameron a...

A. Spare his feelings and yourself any power struggles by

The Spectator

telling the man the white lie that you have bought the property because the garden so closely replicates in size and positioning another garden — make up a name such as...