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M r Robin Cook, the leader of the House of Commons,

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said of Afghanistan: if you look back over the past month, there has been no situation in which we have put British troops into the ground civil war and I don't myself imagine...

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0 ne can forgive a certain bafflement on the part of the Greeks on discovering 12 British plane-spotters at Kalamata air base. It is hard to explain why a grown man should want...

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S o my show will no longer go on Sadly, Over the Moon — an unfortunate title considering what the critics had to say about this comedy — closes on 1 December, amid much press...

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How Gordon Brown has stamped on New Labour, Tony Blair and the Third Way

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PETER ()BORNE T here have been three great turning points in the history of postwar Britain. The first came immediately after the end of the war, with the election of Clement...

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Queuing, grumbling, and death on the trolley — look out for the National Food Service

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CHRISTOPHER FILDES I t is just as well that we do not have a National Food Service. The queues would be as long as ever, the staff would be grumbling, people would be dying of...

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The political ghosts of Bosnia were exorcised in Kosovo and are being laid to rest in Afghanistan: Brendan Simms on how the Tory appeasers of the Nineties were proved...

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Bruce Anderson says that New Labour may soon have rolled up the Tog party and destroyed kin Duncan Smith's leadership THE crucial battle has already begun, yet one of the...

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There's nothing wrong with good manners, says Mark Steyn, but George Bush is taking his schmoozing of the Muslims too far New Hampshire ARE you a Western leader of the...

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Simon Young on the humbug in Spain's negotiating position over Gibraltar SPAIN and Britain can, at first glance, seem like very different places. Viewed dispassionately,...

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Mind your language

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SOMEONE wrote to blame me for being too soft on the use of the word issues, which he suggested could never be about things, only from them or of them, because issue itself means...

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John Laughland says that Tony Blair is wrong: Britain did not stand aside from Europe in the early days; she was pushed aside IN his speech on Britain's relations with Europe...

Ancient & modern

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IN last week's column, the Delphic oracle was shown to have acted in large part like a Citizens Advice Bureau, with a strong rational streak to it; stories about a foaming,...

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Charles's spin doctor may be good for the Prince's ego, but is he good for the royal family and the nation? No, says Simon Heifer IF the royal family is divided on some issues...

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Will Nietzsche be the next victim in the war for civilisation?

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MATTHEW PARRIS W ith characteristic immodesty, I wish to say that I was among the first, perhaps the first, to raise in the press the looming problem of translating into law...

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Poetry reigned when pea-soup descended softly from the air

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PALL JOHNSON I n my youth the final week of November was the time when autumn ended, the last dead leaves swept away and the winter fogs began in earnest. Fogs have always...

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Labour, too, loves money

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From Lord Crickhowell Sir: One brief section of Bevis Hillier's rant deserves a response (`The party of yobs and snobs', 24 November), and then only because it concerns what is...

Enoch's rant was racial

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From Mr Randhir Singh Bains Sir: In his article on Enoch Powell ('What Enoch was really saying', 24 November) Simon Heffer makes some spurious claims, which need to be...

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Brown's tax credit fiddle

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From Mr Stephen Magill Sir: Frank Field (`Blind eye to fraud', 24 November) is right to say that the Working Families Tax Credit bill will surge as claimants understand how to...

Changing face of China

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From Mr Jonathan Mirsky Sir: Mr Joseph Askew packs a lot of misinformation into his letter (24 November) about my article on Rupert Murdoch On bed with the Reds', 10 November)....

Of bombs and bishops

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From Mr Anthony G. Phillips Sir: That the world's greatest military power should have been able to overthrow the leaders of one of the world's poorest and most backward nations...

The spy who repaid me

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From Mrs Juliet Brooks Sir: I read David Pryce-Jones's savage commentary on Anthony Blunt's character and scholarship (Books, 10 November). The Blunt I knew was a very...

Character reference

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From Mr Alastair Campbell Sir: Having belatedly seen Anne McElvoy's account of Anji Hunter's departure from Downing Street (`The lonely Hunter', 17 November), may I belatedly...

Mangled facts

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From Mr John Crooks Sir: If Beryl Bainbridge is going to produce The Monkey's Paw (Diary, 24 November), she should get the story and its meaning right. The moral is not that...

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Read all about it: why Rupert Murdoch

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might want to sell the Times STEPHEN GLOVER T he government's consultation paper on media ownership, unveiled on Monday, will have pleased the boys at Granada and Carlton. The...

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The Spectator

A vast step beyond the let's-go-to-the-market school of language learning, Champs-Elysees, Schau ins Land, Puerta del Sol, and Acquerello italiano offer a combination of timely...

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A surfeit of camperies

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Bevis Hillier DIVINELY DECADENT by Stephen Calloway and Susan Owens Mitchell Beazley, £30, pp. 208, ISBN 184003286 M atthew Arnold wrote about the Scholar-Gipsy. Stephen...

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Haunter of the black woods

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Colin Wilson STARLIGHT MAN: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF ALGERNON BLACKWOOD by Mike Ashley Constable, £20, pp. 395, ISBN 1841194174 I mmediately after his death in 1951, Algernon...

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To belong or not to belong

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Zenga Longmore A NEW WORLD ORDER by Caryl Phillips Seeker, £17.99, pp. 309, ISBN 0436205602 T he thoughts of Caryl Phillips are many and varied. In this distinctive...

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Gardening books

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Down to earth Mary Keen G ood in a Bed is a ghastly title for a delightful book. Ursula Buchan, the regular Spectator columnist, has just published a collection of her garden...

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Out of this world

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Alberto Manguel THE PURSUIT OF OBLIVION: A GLOBAL HISTORY OF NARCOTICS, 1500-2000 by Richard Davenport-Hines Weidenfeld. £20, pp. 466, ISBN 0297643754 S ome time in the 1830s,...

An icon, but no illumination

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Marcus Berlimann MADONNA by Andrew Morton Michael O'Mara, £18, pp. 256, ISBN 185479888X O ne day, far in the future, someone in publishing will look across his desk at an...

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dying breed

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Nicholas Fearn LOSING FRIENDS by Digby Anderson The Social Affairs Unit, £12.95, pp.205, ISBN 0907631940 H ollywood movies may have raised unrealistic expectations of how the...

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Incomparable dreams of the future

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Robert Edric THE COMPLETE STORIES by J. G. Ballard Flamingo, £25, pp. 1189, ISBN 00007124058 A s a child growing in the terraced streets and willow-herb wastelands of 1960s...

The legacy of bears and monks

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Henry Hobhouse A SOMERSET POMONA: THE CIDER APPLES OF SOMERSET by Liz Copas The Dovecote Press : 19.95, pp. 80, ISBN 1874336873 A pples probably originated, together with pears...

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Living down to a reputation

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Jane Gardam CHARACTERS OF FITZRO VIA by Mike Pentelow and Marsha Rowe Chatto & Windus, £25, pp, 262, ISBN 0701173149 C hatto and Windus should be given a garland for publishing...


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My friend used to make me laugh when she said there was nothing so gross, so slug-like, so fatty or foul, so deserving of loathing and dread, as the female paunch. Instead, we...

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A debate without end

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Richard 01lard ROUNDHEAD REPUTATIONS: THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR AND THE PASSIONS OF POSTERITY by Blair Worden Penguin Press, f20, pp. 387, ISBN 071399603X E verything Blair Worden...

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Sloane, the lone ranger

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Michael Carlson IN A TRUE LIGHT by John Harvey Heinemann, £15.99, pp256, ISBN 0434009962 I t has been four years since John Harvey's last novel, the tenth and last in the...

A master of his own mystery

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Thomas Wright KIERKEGAARD: A BIOGRAPHY by Alastair Hannay Cambridge University Press, ,60, pp. 510, ISBN 0521560772 I t is fitting that a man who was so fascinated by legendary...

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One man and his mouse

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On the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney's birth, Mark Steyn looks at his legacy M ickey and Minnie Mouse made their screen debuts 63 years ago in an obscure silent short called...

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Maschinist Hopkins (Queen Elizabeth Flail)

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Synthetic stuff Michael Tanner M ax Brand's opera Maschinist Hopkins (Engineer Hopkins) was premiered in 1929 in Duisberg, and three years later it had notched up 37...

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Obsessive natures

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Peter Phillips C all me obsessed if you like, but I feel a strong connection between the paintings of Frank Auerbach (currently on display at the Royal Academy) and the music...

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L'Orient de Saladin, Part des Ayyoubides (Institut du Monde Arabe. Paris, till 10 March 2002)

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Serpents and sphinxes Nicholas Powell A nother Osama, surname ibn Munqidh (L095-1188), a famed Syrian courtier, diplomat and poet, celebrated in verse the Crusaders' forced...

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The Dawn of the Floating World (Royal Academy, till 17 February 2002)

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Rosy view Martin Gayford L iving only for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms, and the maples, singing songs,...

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New British Galleries 1500-1900 (Victoria & Albert Museum)

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Ingenious panache Annabel Ricketts F or anyone who remembers the deserted, echoing English Primary Galleries, their re-emergence after a three-year, £31 million refurbishment...

Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness (Shaftesbury) Dangerous Corner (Garrick)

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Heavy breathing Toby Young U mop: The spirit of Togetherness, which features 36 scantily clad South Africans performing a series of song-and-dance routines, is the kind of...

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Onegin (The Royal Ballet)

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Simply superb Giannandrea Poesio I f you want to appreciate the artistic genius of John Cranko, one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century, do not miss any of the...

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Art of deception

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Michael Vestey I t is reassuring to know that the SAS and SBS are operating somewhere in Afghanistan. At the time of writing they have yet to locate Osama bin Laden's cave,...

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Spread thin

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Simon Hoggart T alking about television, either Frank Muir or Denis Norden said that Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin was an awful warning of what happened if you let the...

Sneaky snappers

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Alan Judd T hey are becoming all too familiar, the large, plain white envelopes in the post that could — just could — contain a nice letter from Ernie, but don't. The first...

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Partial to parsnips

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Simon Courtauld W hile it may be a truth universally acknowledged that fine words butter no parsnips, I have to say that in my experience parsnips are seldom cooked in butter....

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Questions of tactics

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Robin Oakley H aving been followed somewhat closely through part of my route to Ascot by a white car with a light on the roof (honestly, officer, it wasn't more than lOmph over...

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Manicured mansions

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Taki A Palm Beach S everyone knows, Palm Beach is a pristine, immaculate resort north of Miami, a manicured place full of palm trees, great mansions by the sea and some awfully...

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In the swim

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Jeremy Clarke T his summer I bought a book called The Royal Marines Commando Total Fitness Programme by Robin Eggar. In it, Mr Eggar promised that if I did the daily exercises...

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Twitches of envy

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PetroneIla Wyatt M aybe the best way for the West to win the war in Afghanistan is through sartorial warfare. We read reports that women in Kabul are tearing off their veils. A...

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I THINK I may be about to break all kinds

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of taboos. But I'm not sure. The beautiful thing about British taboos is that I'm not sure. For instance, I was entertained recently by one of my most cherished friends and his...

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Camus was a goalie

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Simon Barnes IT is the most ancient and enduring principle in football that goalkeepers are crazy. And it's true — the people who take on the most difficult and responsible...

Q. In the last week I have passed three separate

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neighbours in the street who have failed to respond as they usually do to my smiled greeting, and instead have just cut me dead. I am sick with worry that I have done something...

Q. I wonder if you can help me get to

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the bottom of a small mystery? My husband (aged 85) and I (aged 73) have always enjoyed an active social life in both London and the country. I would not want to appear...

Q. The father of a cousin of mine has just

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died. My cousin idolised his father and will be suffering from his loss. I am writing to offer my condolences. My problem is that the man in question was a baronet. His son is...