19 MARCH 2005

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PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK I na widely leaked tinkering Budget, Mr

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Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, raised the threshold for stamp duty to be payable on houses from £60,000 to £120,000 and the threshold on inheritance tax from...

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Fit for debate

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W hen Michael Howard was asked about abortion by Cosmopolitan magazine he gave an entirely reasonable answer: that he himself supported the case for abortion, and was reconciled...

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A friend of the royal family’s lamented the other day that

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the Princess Royal, for reasons about which he could only speculate, has declined her mother’s offer of a dukedom and, therefore, a place in the nobility for her son and his...

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Has Gordon Brown delivered his last Budget?

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The truth is that Blair hasn’t yet decided T he general election of 2005 is starting to develop along curiously similar lines to 1987’s. A dominant ruling party is seeking a...

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One last canter round the Budget course but now it’s time to dismount

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T his is where I came in. Another Gordon Brown budget: how well we know them by now the thumping delivery, the gabbled numbers, the loopholes closed and opened, so many...

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Out of the ashes

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Terror is putting up a good fight in Iraq, says Boris Johnson , but the opening of the new Transitional National Assembly is an indication that the democratic revolution is...

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Mind your language

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While I was trying to puzzle out the Hebrew for ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people’ last week my husband was moved to begin a series of Christmas carols from the shelter of his...

A new deal for the poor

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In spite of this week’s election Budget, the lowest earners will continue to pay the highest rate of tax. What’s to be done? Nick Herbert suggests an answer: flat rate T he...

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The seeds of hate

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Why is there such hostility to gypsies? Because, says Rod Liddle , the establishment is stifling free debate I llegal asylum-seekers can rest a little easier in their beds for...

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Ancient & modern

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The IRA now revealed as the criminal gang the government has been desperately trying to pretend it is not, there can be no more pretence of democratic dealing with Sinn Fein–IRA...

Nuts and Bolton

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Mark Steyn says that the new US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, is making the transnationalists very cross indeed New Hampshire I f you’re going to play the oldest...

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The devils’ advocate

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John Laughland meets Ramsey Clark, who is campaigning for the rights of the two most despised men in the world F or most people, to defend a blood-stained tyrant is perverse and...

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How I escaped from my hospital hell

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The Spectator today launches an occasional series on the state of the National Health Service. You thought it was difficult to get into an NHS bed? Try getting out when the...

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Alice doesn’t live here any more

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Damian Thompson on the enchanting world of Alice Thomas Ellis, the former Spectator columnist who died last week A lice Thomas Ellis, the novelist and former Spectator columnist...

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A Liddle simplistic

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From Catherine Munro Sir: I read Rod Liddle’s article (‘A question of breeding’, 12 March) with dismay. It appears that my son has autism because I found my husband’s company...

Shame on Patten

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From Andrew Gilligan Sir: Shame on Chris Patten for misrepresenting my report of what he said in order to deny it (Letters, 12 March). What I actually wrote was: ‘There was a...

Unlucky duck

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From Michael Simons Sir: Charles Moore draws attention to the RSPB’s refusal to permit the culling of magpies (The Spectator’s Notes, 12 March). This contrasts with that body’s...

More Marbles

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From Edward Housley Sir: I was amused by Paul Johnson’s article (And another thing, 12 March) describing the French urging us to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece. Recently,...

The wrong punks

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From Calvin Evans Sir: Matthew Parris’s column (Another voice, 5 March) cited the punk band 999 as being composers of the song ‘Police Oppression’. Ïn fact it was the band...

Keep IMF gold reserves

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From Sir Peter Tapsell, MP Sir: Christopher Fildes is to be congratulated on his article on gold (City and Suburban, 26 February). May I add the following supportive arguments...

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D espite already knowing about the IRA’s involvement in the £26

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million robbery of the Northern Bank, Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland Secretary, last month approved a renewal of the exemption which allows Sinn Fein (and other political...

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A message of hope from a teeming church in Kensington

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W e are living through, or so it is universally assumed, the last days of a great pope. John Paul II rescued the Catholic Church from the self-destructive course on which it was...

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Rob Tony Blair of the reputation for winning and you have robbed him of everything

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C atch your opponent unawares. Hit him with an accusation which he cannot come straight back at and answer. While he flails, change the subject fast. Move to a new charge. Keep...

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Camping at a high level

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Philip Hensher T HE L ETTERS OF L YTTON STRACHEY edited by Paul Levy Penguin/ Viking, £30, pp. 496, ISBN 0670891126 ✆ £26 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 A stonishingly, as far...

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Theatre of cruelty

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Allan Massie T HE C OLOSSEUM by Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard Profile Books, £15.99, pp. 209, ISBN 1861974078 ✆ £13.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 ‘T he Colosseum is the most...

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Policemen who didn’t keep the peace

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Caroline Moorehead S HAKE H ANDS WITH THE D EVIL : T HE F AILURE OF H UMANITY IN RWANDA by Roméo Dallaire Arrow, £8.99, pp. 592, ISBN 0099478935 ‘T his book,’ notes Roméo...

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The great general who lost battles

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Harry Mount H IS E XCELLENCY G EORGE WASHINGTON by Joseph Ellis Faber, £20, pp. 352, ISBN 0571212123 ✆ £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 W hat a stupid name for a biography....

The latest and the best

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Peter Phillips T HE O XFORD H ISTORY OF W ESTERN M USIC by Richard Taruskin OUP, £280, pp. 4016, ISBN 0195169794 F or once the publisher’s blurb has it right. This is a...

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Recording secrets under orders

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M. R. D. Foot T HE G UY L IDDELL D IARIES , V OLUME I, 1939-42 edited by Nigel West Frank Cass, £25, pp. 330, ISBN 0415352134 T his book is a goldmine of once highly secret...

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End-of-term report on our masters

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Danny Kruger B ETTER O R W ORSE ? by Polly Toynbee and David Walker Bloomsbury, £7.99, pp. 346, ISBN 0747579822 T he only good thing New Labour have done in office they did in...

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A late run on the rails

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John de Falbe T HE B EAR B OY by Cynthia Ozick Weidenfeld, £12.99, pp. 310, ISBN 02978480898 ✆ £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 A ll of a sudden, there is a buzz about...

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Memoirs of a genius

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Tom Rosenthal PUBLISHER by Tom Maschler Picador, £20, pp. 283, ISBN 0330484206 ✆ £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 T om Maschler, son of a distinguished Jewish publisher, was...

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Dicing with death

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Allan Mallinson WATERLOO: N APOLEON ’ S L AST G AMBLE by Andrew Roberts HarperCollins, £12.99, pp. 143, ISBN 0007190751 ✆ £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 A book on...

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Evocations of London

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Andrew Lambirth on dramatic contrasts in two exhibitions by the artist John Virtue J ohn Virtue (born 1947) is the sixth National Gallery Associate Artist. A great deal of fuss...

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Subversive needles

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Tanya Harrod Knit 2 Together: Concepts in Knitting Crafts Council, 44a Pentonville Road, London N1, until 8 May, then touring W hen Henry Moore wanted to make clear that he...

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Important relationships

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John Spurling Elisabeth Vellacott 1905–2002 The Redfern Gallery, 20 Cork Street, London W1, until 14 April F ox Talbot invented his ‘photogenic drawing’ process in 1834 and ten...

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A kind tyrant

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Russell Chamberlin A part from its size, perhaps, there’s nothing much about the house to distinguish it from its neighbours — one of the countless, vaguely Gothic, Victorian...

Shattering tragedy

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Michael Tanner Die Walküre Royal Opera House On the Town Coliseum T he central theme of the Ring cycle is always said to be love versus power, the initial act of disruption...

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Waste of Wax

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Lloyd Evans The Witches Wyndhams The Fourth Wall Old Red Lion Pedro, the Great Pretender Playhouse H ad a nice week? Good. I’m glad for you. Me, I went to the theatre. Roald...

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Unanswered questions

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Simon Hoggart W e still aren’t sure why, two summers ago, Dr David Kelly killed himself. I don’t believe for one moment he was murdered — cui bono ? And, for example, I have no...

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Evolution, not revolution

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Michael Vestey O n the whole, Radio Four has had some good controllers over the years, the better ones being those who introduced gradual change. The two who were the least...

Reputations on the line

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Alan Judd D o the Japanese do it better and, if so, why? They certainly do it better than Mercedes which, in the past decade, has sunk from 1st to 28th in the US JD Power...

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The Irish are coming

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Robin Oakley F or me there was never a comedian to match Ireland’s Dave Allen, perched on his stool fastidiously flicking imaginary cigarette ash off his suit, drawing out a...

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Skiing for pleasure

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Taki Gstaad S kiing without poles accentuates the new carving technique, which uses one’s edges and the upper body to turn. During the 1950s we checked before a bump, planted...

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Serious laughter

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Jeremy Clarke T he very last out-take in a compilation of humorous out-takes I saw about five years ago has stayed in my mind’s eye ever since, evergreen and distinct, like a...

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F inal curtain for rugby’s 2005 Six Nations tournament: Grand Slams,

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Triple Crowns, Wooden Spoons. Before England and France presumed shared control of the old competition a decade or so ago, a clean-sweep Grand Slam season by one nation was such...


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Dear Mary Q. May I humbly correct the advice you gave about the life-long friend who has developed an ‘unfortunate strain of body odour’? She is suffering from...

Q. At a party I was giving my neighbour —

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a local lady professor of fine arts — observing that I needed to lose a few pounds, kindly gave me 12 sessions at the local hotel fitness centre (swimming pool, sauna, weights...

Q. I have recently returned from a hiking holiday in

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La Palma where I stayed with two elderly vulcanologists. Everything went well until I had to share a lunchtime picnic of smoked Serrano ham, when the male vulcanologist became...