1 JANUARY 2005

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PORTRAIT OF 2004 JANUARY Lord Hutton’s report declared that the

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government was not ‘dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous’. Mr Mikhail Saakashvili, who had led popular demonstrations in Georgia against Mr Eduard Shevardnadze, won the...

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Don’t mimic Blair

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S ince 1 January is traditionally the moment for facing grim reality, and since we are now only 14 weeks from the official opening of the general election campaign, it is time...

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H eathrow. Crawling back into the country like a whipped cur

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after another disastrous American book tour. Difficult to pick the most abject humiliation. Dallas, where just one person showed up for the event? Boston, where it was twice...

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It was tribalism that finished Rome, and it will finish Brussels too

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W henever the subject of the EU comes up, someone is bound to compare it to the Roman empire. If the comparison relates to the beginning and subsequent development of that...

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However bad things may seem, the news for newspapers is good

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A s another year looms, I cannot remember such despondency in what used to be called Fleet Street. It is not just that several newspaper groups are losing money: it was ever...

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Let the people of England speak

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The BNP may be odious but, says Rod Liddle , there is something fishy about the arrest of its leader I n the middle of December last year, five police officers turned up at the...

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A weekly survey of world restrictions on freedom and free trade The favourite fatuous gesture of loony councils in the 1980s was to declare themselves ‘nuclear-free zones’ — a...

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Taking liberties

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Mark Steyn says that big government — whether in the form of ID cards or gun bans — makes life more dangerous for everyone New Hampshire W ired magazine ran an interesting...

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Was it all a terrible mistake?

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Neil Kinnock tells Julia Langdon that he wishes he had never become leader of the Labour party T he rooftop view from the sixthfloor office of the chairman of the British...

Mind your language

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For the New Year, let’s begin at A. I’ve been nursing a little bundle of newspaper cuttings sent from Majorca by Mr Terence Dunn. They got into the bucket for the compost heap...

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The bullet and the ballot

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Conditions in Iraq are far worse now than they were three months ago, says Patrick Cockburn , and the 30 January elections are unlikely to reduce the violence Baghdad A month...

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My grubby secret

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Mary Kenny says that now she is getting older she finds she is taking fewer baths — and is none the worse for it W e all notice those little signs of the passing years: the...

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Religion is never easy, and sometimes it’s hard to be a truly faithful Wagnerite

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T wo weeks ago, quite a few of us in London were at a religious occasion. On the face of it, this was unsurprising since it was just before Christmas. But few competing...

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The angry Megalosaurus coming fast up Holborn Hill

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W hen the new year is young I always have the impulse to do something sensationally novel in writing. But what? Is there anything which has not been done before? I answer: yes —...

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We are not evil

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From the Revd Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP Sir: I am sorry that Steve (‘We are all Pagans now’, 18/25 December) believes that we Dominicans are evil. I expect he thinks that we are...

Critical error

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From Sheridan Morley Sir: Could somebody give Toby Young a reliable theatrical history, preferably one of mine? One minor example, taken at random from your otherwise superb...

Armenian genocide

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From John Halford Sir: I have long been an admirer of the work of Professor Norman Stone, so it was with disbelief that I noted his denial of the Armenian genocide (‘Vote Turkey...

Selfish Blunkett

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From Victor Black Sir: I was surprised to see Matthew Parris (Another voice, 18/25 December), normally so perceptive and original, following other commentators in missing the...

You can’t do both

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From Joyce Walker Sir: With reference to the article ‘Help mothers by cutting taxes’ (11 December) I have the perfect answer to all the problems in this article: Don’t have...

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Curiouser and curiouser

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Philip Hensher K AFKA ON THE S HORE by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel Harvill, £12.99, pp. 656, ISBN 1843431106 ® £11.99(plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 H aruki...

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Recent sporting audio books

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Robert Cooper T hey don’t make them like ‘Fiery’ Fred Trueman any more. Asked how he wanted to be remembered he replied, ‘as t’finest bloody fast bowler that ever drew breath’...

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Gamesmanship of the mind

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John Shand T HE A RT OF A LWAYS B EING R IGHT : T HIRTY E IGHT W AYS TO W IN W HEN YOU A RE D EFEATED by Arthur Schopenhauer Gibson Square Books, £9.99, pp. 204, ISBN1903933617...

Neither fish, flesh nor fowl

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William Brett T HE L AST D UEL by Eric Jager Century, £14.99, pp. 242, ISBN 0712661905 ® £12.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 A ccording to a Yale professor, Eric Jager has...

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Striving ever upwards

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Simon Poë G. F. W ATTS : T HE L AST G REAT V ICTORIAN by Veronica Franklin Gould Yale, £40, pp. 458, ISBN0300105770 ® £38 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 G eorge Frederic Watts...

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General fiction from France . . .

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Anita Brookner O n 30 August 2004 a woman wrote a letter to Le Figaro registering her dismay at the number of novels scheduled for publication in the three months that...

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. . . and a Parisian bombe surprise

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Lee Langley PIANO by Jean Echenoz, translated by Mark Polizzotti Harvill, £12, pp. 179, ISBN 1843431807 ® £11 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848 T his is a French novel, a very...

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Artistic sustenance

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Andrew Lambirth finds much to enjoy on his gallery trawl round London B y no means all commercial galleries run their Christmas exhibitions on into the New Year, but several...

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Finding salvation

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John McEwen Boom Boom Clusters Southampton City Art Gallery, until 9 January A tragic love story lies behind the jovial title to this delightful exhibition, which unveils the...

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Pain and pleasure

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Charles Spencer T he so-called festive season is the time of year all serious drinkers dread. Their favourite pubs are filled with amateurs, largely consisting of braying...

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History mystery

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Mark Steyn National Treasure 12A, selected cinemas I always like it when some fellow has a kid late in life and two centuries later you wind up talking to some l’il ol’ lady...

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Race and roots

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Lloyd Evans Fix Up Cottesloe Aladdin Old Vic F ix Up is a sitcom. The traditional formula is honoured in all its structural details. There’s a single location, a black bookshop...

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Eclectic taste

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Michael Vestey S tephen Fry was on jovial form when he appeared on Private Passions on Radio Three on Boxing Day, approaching music with an unstuffy blend of reverence and...

High life

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That’s Rich Taki New York L est there be some of you that missed it, a lifelong dirty dealer is walking around us free as a bird, and there’s nothing any of us who don’t flout...

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Christmas revisited

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Jeremy Clarke L ast February, our last resident died and the house reverted from a Residential Home for the Elderly to a private house. On Christmas Day, there were just two of...

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Peacocks on parade

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Petronella Wyatt S o many outfits in so many shapes and colours; so many ruched tight trousers, or legs encased in flowing chiffon; sharp jackets in claret or blue velvet;...

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Testing time for Sky

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FRANK KEATING W ith 2004’s multinational motley done, dusted and delivered, other activities can bloom. The jingojangle palaver and babel of the Olympics, European soccer, and...

Q. I have a huge crush on a man who

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works in the same building as I do, but on a different floor. He lives quite near me but, although I have bumped into him on the Tube from time to time and in the lobby of our...

Q. I would be very grateful if you could help

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me with the following conundrum. I recently attended a wedding of two great friends of mine. As the day of the event approached, and no call from the groom — hitherto an almost...