18 MAY 2002

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T he 12.45 train from King's Cross to King's Lynn crashed

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at the station at Potters Bar, Hertfordshire (five miles from Hatfield, where four died in a crash 18 months ago), killing seven and injuring dozens. Two nuts on points were...

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M ore or less every week the Daily Mail front page asks its readers a challenging question to which the answer is No. 'Did ancient fish-men build the Pyramids?' (No); Has...

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T he Lobby is doomed. Alastair has sentenced us to a slow death by 'openness and transparency'. Our briefings will soon be accessible to all-corners, thus widening and diluting...

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The Desmond story has it all: politics, sleaze, pornography. But the BBC seems hardly to care

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STEPHEN GLOVER A nother cash-for-favours scandal, another escape for New Labour. The Richard Desmond story seems nearly dead. Some may say this is because it never had much...

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When your mortgage feels like a dead hand, don't count on the Compensation Fairy

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CHRISTOPHER FILDES Y our sympathy and mine are invited for this week's good cause: the suffering millions who bought their house with a mortgage linked to an endowment policy....

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The Labour government has debased democratic and moral standards, says Simon Heifer, and the middle classes may have no choice but to follow the example of the poll-tax rioters...

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The thoughts of Pericles

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HAD Pericles been asked, 'Is democracy threatened in third millennium Britain?' he would have answered, 'What democracy?' And he would have been right — because whatever our...

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Ideology, big business and pressure-groups now govern politics, says Roger Scruton; and minorities barely get a look in DEMOCRACY is a procedure that people adopt in order to...

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Britain and Europe have free governments, says Mark Steyn, but only in the US are the people truly free New Hampshire EXACTLY 50 years ago, the Voice of America sent along a...

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Chris Patten says that the EU can work democratically, but first we must develop a kind of Euro-patriotism PEOPLE who like sausages shouldn't watch them being made. The same...

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Philip Gould has seen the future and says that it will work — provided we involve all of the people all of the time DEMOCRACY is not dying but changing. The political spasms...

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Bruce Anderson says the former editor of the Sun has come a cropper with his sneering portrait of the Tory leader TORIES hate being out of power. No Conservative opposition...

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Banned wagon

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A weekly survey , of the things our rulers want to prohibit LAST week my six-year-old son arrived home with a couple of stick insects which have been nibbling leaves,...

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Margaret Beckett tells Clive Aslet why she sees herself as an international statesperson (with special responsibilities for hunting) IT's a grand life, in the morning, I'm in a...

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Rachel Johnson explains why so many women are going all the way and saying no to pubic hair ACHTUNG! The subject of this piece is not something one wants to read about over...

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Mind your language

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PERHAPS it was observing Veronica's practice of grazing — never joining us for breakfast or dinner, but picking up bits and pieces day and night on the hoof — that primed my...

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What is a troubadour doing in the middle of a steelworks?

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erdi's Il Trovatore has a strong claim to be considered the greatest of operas, if we concede Dr Johnson's point that opera is, by its nature, 'an irrational entertainment'. The...

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Why it is not fair to assume that all readers of

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Asian Babes are middle-aged Tories T he simple question is this: Mr Richard Desmond is prepared to give money to Mr Blair's party, but would he be happy for his daughter to work...

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Workers lose out

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From Mr Steve Olson Sir: Melanie Phillips's article (How the West was lost', 11 May) correctly addresses the problem of using labels from the 1930s to describe the new political...

Fatal errors

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From Mr Tom Benyon Sir: Neil Clark ('Hanratty deserved to die', 11 May) is wrong to claim that the efforts of left-wing liberals and the Hanratty case were the main cause of the...

Cool it, Kelvin

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From Mr Nicholas Paget-Brown Sir: Kelvin MacKenzie ('Duncan Smith ate my party', 11 May) has lost his touch. Rather than firing crepitatious pot shots at fain Duncan Smith, he...

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Food for thought

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From Mr IC. Riddell Sir: Reading Peter Hitchens's article ('Keep quiet or face arrest', 11 May) put me in mind of the experience of a supermarket manager who told me of the...

Five alive

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From Mr Dominic Low Sir: While Stephen Glover (Media studies, 11 May) must speak for himself, he certainly doesn't speak for me. I can barely remember when I last watched BBC...

Rumbly, not curmudgeonly

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From Mr Nicholas Bagnall Sir: I was sorry to see Stephen Glover (Media studies, 4 May) calling Peter Wilby 'the curmudgeonly editor of the New Statesman'. Readers who know Mr...

What might have been

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From Mr Christopher Ruane Sir: Everybody's favourite fighter (not quitter), Peter Mandelson (Books, 11 May), provides an interesting overview of the transition in the office of...

Three's a crowd

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From Mr John Whitworth Sir: Grey Gowrie (Books, 4 May), in his amusing review of Larkin's girls' school stories, attributes the famous couplet 'I sometimes think that I would...

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Deep waters

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From Mr Richard Bonnor Sir: I can confirm that the nursemaid mentality unearthed by Ross Clark (Banned wagon, 11 May) is not confined to Letchworth. There is a similar...

May Day mores

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From Mr Michael Slipsky Sir: As usual, Mark Steyn's ('Who's ugly now?', 4 May) insights are trenchant, truthful and much needed. I would add to his observations regarding the...

Crossing the boundaries

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From Mr T. Massey Lynch Sir: How agreeable to read Matthew Parris (Another voice, 11 May) on the River Police determinedly securing 'their' body on the Thames shore. Another...

Amen to that

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From Sonia Krimsky Sir: With reference to the word 'amen' in Dot Wordsworth's column (Mind your language, 11 May), the origin is indeed Hebrew. The pronunciation in Hebrew is...

Taki behaviour

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From Mr Robin Moore Ede Sir: Taki enjoyed winding us up with his support for Le Pen (High life, 27 April). I am reminded of the words of (I think) the well-known Rat Packer and...

Feline favouritism

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From Mr Robert Darroch Sir: Paul Johnson (And another thing, 27 April) missed probably the greatest case of cat bias in the English language. It is to be found in the Pocket...

The bottom line

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From Mr Guy Bellairs Sir: Robert Gore-Langton (`Flushed with pride', 11 May) amusingly describes China's primitive sanitation practices, but he forgets that Britain is also...

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A complicated people

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Colin Thubron BAD ELEMENTS: CHINESE REBELS FROM LOS ANGELES TO BEIJING by Ian Buruma Weidenfeld, £20, pp. 368, ISBN 0297643134 T he Chinese dissident, by contrast to the...

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Two marble-hearted fiends

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Sarah Bradford UNGRATEFUL DAUGHTERS by Maureen Waller Hodder, 120, pp. 402, ISBN 0340794615 I had never thought of James II in the role of King Lear; in his complete lack of...

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A ghastly crew

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Francis King LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel Canongate, £12.99, pp. 319, ISBN 184195245 T he cover of this novel makes it clear how difficult it is to define it. 'Hints of The Old...

No one remembered snow

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M. R. D. Foot SPIES BENEATH BERLIN by David Stafford John Murray, £16.99, pp. 211. ISBN 0719563232 N early half a century ago, there was a world propaganda sensation when the...

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Ti-turn, ti-turn, ti-turn, ti-turn, ti-turn

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Alberto Manguel AN INTRODUCTION TO ENGLISH POETRY by James Fenton Viking/Penguin, £14.99, pp. 137, ISBN 0670911003 A fter labouring through the 137 pages (index included) of...

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Sins, great and small

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Digby Durrant THE LENT JEWELS by David Hughes Hutchinson, £14.99, pp. 224, SBN 0091794412 D avid Hughes strolls into Carlisle Cathedral and feels an urge to confess something...

Seeing through glass darkly

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Sara Maitland SEA GLASS by Anita Shreve LittleBrown, £12.99, pp. 325, ISBN 0316859095 F or some time I have been baffled about why the contemporary novel is 'failing' its...

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An unerring eye for the main chance

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D. J. Taylor THE BOSS: THE MANY SIDES OF ALEX FERGUSON by Michael Crick Simon & Schuster, £17.99, pp. 624, ISBN 0743207483 h ere comes a moment in the life of most...

A woman and wife vindicated

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Cressida Connolly A GIRL FROM THE FICTION DEPARTMENT by Hilary Spurling Hamish Hamilton, £9.99, pp. 208, ISBN 0241141656 I f Orwell's biographers are to be believed, his second...

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Russia's squalid backyard

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Charlotte Hobson TO CATCH A TARTAR by Chris Bird John Murray, £17.99, pp. 304, ISBN 0719560276 e always were English, and always will be English, and it's just because we're...

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Blundering and vain, a boaster

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Jonathan Sumption MUSSOLINI by R. J. B. Bosworth Arnold, £25, pp. 584, ISBN 0340731443 P olitics and nationality have always got in the way of objective judgment about...

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Pieces of the rainbow

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Jane Gardam BLUE: THE HISTORY OF A COLOUR by Michel Pastoureau Princeton, £24.95, pp. 216, ISBN 0691090505 MAUVE by Simon Garfield Faber. £8.99, pp. 224, ISBN 0571209173 B...

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By mutual arrangement

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David !slakes ELIZABETH AND GEORGIANA: THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE AND HIS TWO DUCHESSES by Caroline Chapman Murray, £19.99, pp. 288, ISBN 0719560446 T his book portrays a world in...

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Soap seen from four angles

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Zenga Longmore MY COUSIN THE WRITER by Paul Binding Dewi Publishing £8.99, pp. 220, ISBN 1899235094 H oorah! A dazzling new novel has appeared featuring a subject hitherto...

Yank-bashing with blunt instruments

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Irwin Stelzer THE WORLD WE'RE IN by Will Hutton Little, Brown, £17.99, pp. 320, ISBN 0316858714 I f you are in the mood for an anti-American screed, try The World We're In....

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Pamper, coddle and coax

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There are no short cuts to becoming a professional singer, writes Henrietta Bredin S inging requires a particular and vaulting sort of courage. After all, you can never be...

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Rich pickings

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Martin Gayford W ho would have thought it?' remarked an American art critic friend of mine whom I ran into on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Scarcely anyone, it...

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Trouble and strife

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Toby Young W ittgenstein once said of G.E. Moore that he proved exactly how far you could get in philosophy with absolutely no ability whatsoever. I was reminded of this remark...

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High j inks

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Patrick Carnegy T he brilliant artifice of the wit in Much Ado is a dance over an abyss, and yet it needs firm ground if its steps are not to falter, What draws us to the play...

Sir Tim's Top Ten

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Charles Spencer 0 h yes, as dear old John Major used to say, this is the column read by the stars. Very considerably, in fact. It is true that I'm still awaiting Madonna's Top...

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Hard to resist

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Mark Steyn N ot all French movie-makers have Orivcn away their audience. Francis Veber has had his finger on the commercial pulse since La Cage Aux Folles in 1978, and now, a...

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Teenage treats

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Michael Tanner T here can hardly be any question that the most accomplished and effective opera ever written by an 18-year-old is Korngold's Violanta. It doesn't, in my view,...

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Men with a mission

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Michael Vestey

I am greatly in favour of the Internet and use it

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far more than I would have thought possible a few years ago. This column, for example, was emailed to The Spectator in seconds. One disadvantage cropped up recently when Katie,...

Controlled freaks

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James Delingpole I couldn't quite make up my mind whether The Experiment (BBC 2, Tuesday, Wednesday) was boringly interesting or interestingly boring, but either way I was...

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Straight talking

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Robin Oakley I magine Stephen Byers stepping up to the despatch box in the House of Commons and declaring: 'Oh, all right then, I did tell a porkie over the Martin Sixsmith...

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Japanese on top

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Alan Judd O nce again, the message seems clear: you want a good car, you buy Japanese. For the ninth successive year the JD Power customer satisfaction survey has put a...

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Small, sweet and raw

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Simon Courtauld W hen the Huguenots, including my family, were driven from France towards the end of the 17th century by Louis XIV's religious intolerance, they took with them,...

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Wrong signal

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Taki T New York here's a whiff of déja vu in the air, déjà vu as in David Dinkins, the first black mayor of Noo Yawk and probably among the worst the Bagel's ever had. Dinkins...

Unclean spirit

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Jeremy Clarke I was on the exercise bike by the window last week. Hill profile. Ten minutes, Level nine. Optimum heart rate — 145 beats per minute. Only two other people in the...

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Enjoying danger

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Aidan Hartley 0Lailapia nly rarely does my Anglo-Kenyan breast swell with pride at my British origins. It did the other day, when I came across a British army lorry churning...

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Alienating the old

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Petronella Wyatt W hat has happened to our old people? Recently three pensioners deliberately went missing in France after hiring a holiday villa. They decided they didn't like...

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Sports writers win the day

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Michael Henderson A CRICKETER in a hundred retired last week: Angus Fraser played for Middlesex for 18 years and represented England 46 times, taking 177 wickets. But those...

Q. I have recently married into the English aristocracy and

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wonder if you can explain the following incident. Walking into my grandmother-in-law's drawing-room, I found her snapping shut a book. 'Oh dear, how embarrassing,' she said....

Q. Can you recommend some fashionable varieties of vegetables to

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impress a certain royal personage who will shortly be dining at my house? Name and address withheld A. There is currently a revival of interest in vintage varieties of...

Q. Sometimes, when meeting new people at parties, I am

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taken aback by their reaction to the news that I have a son who boards at prep school. 'Well, I think it's barbaric to send children away to prep school!' they say. 'I would...

Q. I am fed up with Stephen Byers. I cannot

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understand why he has not been forced to resign. Each time I see him on television, my blood boils. Mary, can you see a way to shift him? M.D., Wiltshire A. Yes, but I would...