18 JUNE 2005

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PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK M r Tony Blair, the Prime Minister,

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flew to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin, then to Berlin, Luxembourg and Paris, in preparation for the European Union meeting later this week. A bone of contention...

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Nationalising children

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W hen Ruth Kelly became Education Secretary last December, one of her female colleagues, angry at having been passed over for promotion, denounced her as a ‘cow’ who insisted on...

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J ust back from a weekend in Venice, where I attended

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the 51st Biennale, along with what seemed like tens of thousands of others. I arrived in the city tired and late at night, so it wasn’t until the following morning that I...

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Is the Cabinet secretary about to warn Tony about Cherie?

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F or more than 100 years one overriding principle has governed British public life: the fastidious separation of public and private interests. Those who have worked for the...

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W hat do we think of children? Boarding schools are out

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of fashion because they represent ‘delegated parenthood’ and we are taught to believe that we should be very ‘hands on’ with our children, and that everyone else’s hands are...

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More exams, less education

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Anthony Seldon, headmaster of Brighton College, says that children are being overworked by dumbed-down tests, and that analysis and creativity take second place to getting the...

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Ancient & modern

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The hysterical reaction of many people to the pop singer Michael Jackson’s acquittal on charges of child abuse suggests that, where public figures are concerned, people feel the...

Conservatives do not have a party

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The Tories are fighting over a corpse, says Peter Hitchens . What the country needs is a new alliance that will champion tradition T he haggard patient heaves himself into a...

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A city above suspicion

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Liverpool play Millwall and the Scousers riot. The FA fines Millwall. Funny old world, says Rod Liddle T he case of Sam Brown is, I grant you, hard to beat — but I think...

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Mind your language

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Like small brown birds in the bushes, subjunctives in English are hard to spot. They can be mistaken for other common creatures — the imperative, the infinitive or the...

The engine that runs the world

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Google has never had it so good, says John Naughton , and is now set on global domination H ere we go again. As the share price of Google, the Californian search engine, nudged...

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Harmless old buggers

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Leo McKinstry says that many so-called paedophiles are no more dangerous than Michael Jackson D espite the not guilty verdict, Michael Jackson’s reputation has collapsed as...

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I went to a different prison last week, in an

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ancient market town, to see a man about an arson. He had set fire to a house with four of his friends — or should I say former friends (his subsequent apologies not having been...

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Why Mr Duncan refuses to drop his knickers

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M r Alan Duncan, the Conservative transport spokesman, announcing in the Daily Telegraph his candidacy for the party leadership, was quoted as likening the Tories’ situation to...

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Let them smoke dope

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From David Hockney Sir: Eric Ellis is way way off in his piece (‘The whingers of Oz’, 11 June). Why are the Australians angry? I would think it’s because the 20-year sentence...

School choice

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From Andrew Haldenby Sir: Michael Heseltine’s description of school choice — allowing parents to use taxpayers’ money to choose independent or state schools — as...

From Philip Feakin

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Sir: If there was one thing that came out of the last week’s discussion it was that the Tory party really did reject someone who could have led it to victory, viz. Michael...

BBC balance

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From Michael Cockerell Sir: I was glad that Charles Moore (The Spectator’s notes, 11 June) enjoyed my BBC documentary on the 1975 Common Market referendum. But in talking about...

Exam pressure

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From Aimée Schofield Sir: In his article ‘Stagnant Britain’ (28 May) Martin Vander Weyer wrote about what he calls the ‘dumbing down of A-levels’. I am 17 years old and am at...


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From Christopher Leadbeater Sir: Mark Steyn writes of ‘fraudulent stories about the Koran being flushed down a toilet’ and then goes on to repeat the incredible US claim as to...

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The CAP doesn’t fit, so we won’t wear it a family row clears the air

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N othing clears the air like a really good family row. Funerals can bring them on. Cousins and aunts, wives and husbands, even, say what they have long since thought and then...

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It’s Party Time in the gardens of the West End

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T his is the party season. Time was when I would go out virtually every night between mid-May and Goodwood, sometimes to three shindigs in an evening. Not any more. I am choosy....

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The revenge of ‘the Thing’

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Jane Ridley T HE L IFE AND A DVENTURES OF W ILLIAM C OBBETT by Richard Ingrams HarperCollins, £20, pp. 333, ISBN 0002558009 ✆ £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 W hat is the...

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Majority rules OK?

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Jonathan Sumption S ETTING THE P EOPLE F REE : T HE S TORY OF D EMOCRACY by John Dunn Atlantic Books, £16.99, pp. 246, ISBN 1843542110 ✆ £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848...

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Sweden’s plodding policemen

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Andrew Brown B LOOD ON THE S NOW by Jan Bondeson Cornell University Press, £16.50, pp. 227, ISBN 0801442117 T here has never in the history of human incompetence been anything...

Great wheezes of the world

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Harry Mount IDEAS: A H ISTORY FROM F IRE TO FREUD by Peter Watson Weidenfeld, £30, pp. 822, ISBN 029760726 ✆ £26 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 C oleridge was supposed to have...

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The last of the vintage wine

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Hilary Mantel Q UICKSANDS : A M EMOIR by Sybille Bedford Hamish Hamilton, £20, pp. 370, ISBN 0241140374 ✆ £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 W hen Sybille Bedford was born, in...

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Downhill all the way?

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Richard Dowden T HE S TATE OF A FRICA : A H ISTORY OF F IFTY Y EARS OF INDEPENDENCE by Martin Meredith The Free Press, £20, pp. 752, ISBN 0743232216 ✆ £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870...

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A century of riding high

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Mark Archer M EDICI M ONEY : B ANKING , M ETAPHYSICS AND A RT IN F IFTEENTH -C ENTURY F LORENCE by Tim Parks Profile Books, £15.99, pp. 273, ISBN 1861977913 ✆ £13.99 (plus...

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The frogman who failed

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Nicholas Harman M AN O VERBOARD by Tim Binding Picador, £12.99, pp. 244, ISBN 0330487477 ✆ £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 I an Fleming pretended they were glamorous,...

Turning to crime

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Kate Chisholm T HE P URE IN H EART by Susan Hill Chatto, £12.99, pp. 370, ISBN 0701176814 ✆ £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 I n a recent profile, the bestselling crime...

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Singular dualism

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W hen I was learning some art history by teaching it, at Maidstone College of Art some 40 years ago, there was a student who invariably raised his hand after each lecture, no...

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Listening to whales

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Andrew Lambirth Rebecca Horn: Bodylandscapes — Drawings, Sculptures, Installations 1964–2004 Hayward Gallery, until 29 August Colour After Klein Barbican Art Gallery, until 11...

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Doing the business

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Toby Young Guys and Dolls Piccadilly I was in a troubled mood when I sat down to watch Guys and Dolls and, alas, it didn’t do much to raise my spirits. Before I started...

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Crowning glory

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Giannandrea Poesio Royal Ballet Triple Bill Royal Opera House Naked The Ballet Boyz , Sadler’s Wells Theatre I n 1976, Frederick Ashton’s new ballet, A Month in the Country ,...

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Marital stress

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Mark Steyn We Don’t Live Here Anymore 15, selected cinemas W e Don’t Live Here Anymore is very faithfully adapted from a couple of Andre Dubus novellas I read a long time ago....

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Sure and subtle

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Michael Tanner Il Turco in Italia Royal Opera House Cosi fan tutte Coliseum A s good luck would have it, London’s two opera houses have been presenting two operas which are...

Force for change

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Michael Vestey I t was something of a shock to hear the first episode this week of Radio Four’s adaptation of BBC television’s popular 1950s series Dixon of Dock Green...

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Bottling out

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James Delingpole Q uite the most upsetting thing I saw on TV all week was Bob Geldof on the Jonathan Ross show (Friday), talking about all the dead Africans who are found...

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Shop around

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Simon Courtauld S almo salar, the Atlantic salmon, is a most remarkable fish. Having gone to sea, where it has to run the gauntlet of modern deep-sea trawlers, it returns, a...

Dodgers beware

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Alan Judd F orget spy-on-your-car road pricing (but, remember, it would work only if prices are penal), forget fuel costs, forget the stealth tax on insurance and consider...

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Flying high

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Taki London ‘W here did it all go?’ asks Mark Steyn in the National Review , talking about airline service, or the lack of it, rather. Well, I read the piece before getting on...

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The art of lying down

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Jeremy Clarke T he morning after the students’ summer ball they told me that, just beside the entrance, a girl, naked except for red striped knee-length socks, was lying on her...

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I t’s my niece Daisy’s 16th birthday and after not quite

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having the courage to accept my initial gift offer, one I still think quite brilliant — that we go out and get her tattooed, possibly with ‘I hate dad’ on the knuckles of one...

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I suppose that, like most people, I had vaguely assumed that

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if you’re eating ethnic food, and you don’t specially want a pint of Kingfisher, you should wash it down with something white, very dry and very cheap. That may work if you’re...

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Blowers on song

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FRANK KEATING I t was good last week to catch up with Henry Blofeld, relishable old bean and Grub Street comrade from way back. To prime his loquacious enthusiasms for a long,...


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Q. Let me offer a variant on your wet towel advice (21 May). My partner and I were married for more than 60 years between us, but not to each other, so we came to this new and...

Q. I was invited to stay with a friend of

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a friend for a weekend and, before setting off for her substantial property in Devon, I telephoned to announce that I was on my way. My hostess told me she hoped I would arrive...

Q. My wife, and at least two of my daughters,

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seem to have acquired a taste for television programmes such as EastEnders . These programmes feature nothing but unpleasant people shouting at one another the whole time. What...