7 APRIL 2001

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M r Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, introduced legislation to postpone

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the local elections until 7 June; this is now expected to be the day of the general election too. The news was first leaked to the Sun newspaper. 'A short postponement for the...

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CHINA vs AMERICA T wo things are clear about the drama

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now being played out between Beijing and Washington. The Americans have behaved well and, despite their rhetorical fireworks, the Chinese are in a corner. There is little doubt...

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Ten weeks when a hypocritical government will meet a cynical electorate

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BRUCE ANDERSON here is a mood of hiatus around Westminster, with a certain grumpy unclearing of desks; an uncertainty as to whether to pretend that normal service has been...

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M v daughter was mugged last month. Not at midnight in a dark, nefarious alley or near a run-down council slum; she was mugged in broad daylight, waiting, with her baby in a...

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Why liberal England is not at all sure it wants to hear the voice of the people

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MATTHEW PARRIS 'The Net Election — are you ready?' asked Guardian Unlimited on its invitation to an Internet launch last week. I went along. A gathering in a theatre where...

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Four years ago the Tories were badly defeated by New Labour Now, for the first time, John Major speaks his mind about a government spinning machine that is running out of...

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Boris Johnson says that Ian Gilmour and other critics of Israel should study the humanity and generosity of Rome's best poet IT was the custom for many centuries, and in some...

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Mark Steyn breathes a sigh of relief as George W Bush takes the compassion out of conservatism New Hampshire FOR us uncompassionate conservatives, one of the pleasant...

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Ancient & modern

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Prime Minister Blair decides to address the 'faith communities', and every wiseacre in the world immediately announces that religion and politics do not mix. But it all depends...

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We spoil our children and ourselves, says Andrew Gimson. The coming recession need not be a disaster IT is always sad to see a fine old game undermined by rampant...

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Mind your language

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THE great Michael Wharton, in his Peter Simple column in the Daily Telegraph a couple of weeks ago, remarked that countryside was an unpleasant word for what we used to call the...

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Racial tensions are less of a problem in Fiji than traditional, anti-democratic values, says Mark Chipperfield Suva, Fiji Islands FOR a country that has spent most of the last...

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All over the country, says Debbie Barham, girls with big boobs and black dresses are dreaming of following in Helen Fielding's footsteps SINGLE? Thirty-something? So desperate...

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What God is vain about is the ultimate problem in theology

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PAUL JOHNSON A. you vain, reader? And, if so, what are you vain about? I have been thinking of vanity because many will have it that Tony Blair was betrayed into postponing the...

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Teachers on the rack

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From The Lord Deramore Sir: John Turnbull (Letters, 31 March) correctly points out that the Conservative party was in government for most of the years between 1945 and 1997....

Lessons of war

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From Mr Franz Metzger Sir: Your 'military issue' (24 March) casts a crucial light on a fundamental difference between the British and the Continental Europeans: their attitude...

Animal welfare

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From Mr Peter Davies Sir: The 'point' of the RSPCA (Country life, 17 March) is to prevent cruelty and promote kindness to all animals. This we achieve through hands-on...

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Wrong Thaw

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From Mr Eugene Victor Thaw Sir: I was, of course, very pleased to read Paul Johnson's kind words (And another thing, 17 March) about my collection of drawings, now housed at the...

Objecting to Randolph

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From Mr Geoffrey Wheatcroft Sir: An unreasonable degree of confusion over Randolph Churchill seems to have crept into your pages. Stephen Glover (Media studies, 31 March) now...

Tarka and Mosley

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From Lady Diana Mosley Sir: Paul Johnson asks 'Is John Bull the fascist heading for the dustbin of history?' (And another thing, 10 March). 'Fascist' has come to mean anyone...

The noble Thames

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From Mr Glynn Boyd Harte Sir: I cannot imagine why Peter Bazalgette should describe Tower Bridge as 'chocolate box' and 'sentimental' (Letters, 31 March). It is both a stunning...

BA knitwits

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From Miss Carol Maddison Sir: British Airways has had some odd policies for quite some time. Mr Duncan Reed's letter (17 March) reminds me of the time I tried to travel, years...

Pouring oil on. . .

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From Mr Fernando J. Garay Sir: The lead story in The Spectator of 10 February, 'Whose oil is it anyway?: Opec's new leader accuses the West of racist humbug', portrays the...

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The Countess yielded to blackmail and behaved like a chump; conspiracy theorists are in heaven

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STEPHEN GLOVER L ast Sunday the Countess of Wessex gave an interview to the News of the World in which she reassured readers that her husband, Prince Edward, was not gay. She...

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Dig a mile-long pit and bury a ministry the search is on for a scapecow

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CHRISTOPHER FILDES F arms are dangerous places. 'Shakes' Morrison was his party's rising star when Neville Chamberlain, who was Prime Minister, sent for him: 'Morrison, I want...

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Unabashed and prolific

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Philip Hensher DANIEL DEFOE: MASTER OF FICTIONS by Maximillian E. Novak OUP, £30, pp. 756, ISBN 0198126867 P ope allowed that Defoe was not alto gether . a bad writer,...

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The anatomy of agony

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William Feaver ENDURING CREATION: ART, PAIN AND FORTITUDE by Nigel Spivey Thames & Hudson, £24.95, pp. 272, ISBN 0500237832 T here should be a special category for it, the sort...

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The good ship Venus

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Byron Rogers WIDOWER'S HOUSE by John Bayley Duckworth, £16.99, pp. 256, ISBN 0715630768 I n the spring of 2001, as Britain's agriculture slid into the greatest crisis it has...

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What price the Dome?

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Jane Ridley THE WORLD FOR A SHILLING by Michael Leapman Headline, £14.99, pp. 227, ISBN 0747270120 T he success story of the Great Exhibition of 1851 should make the government...

Swings and roundabouts

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Allan Massie BIRTHDAY by Alan Sillitoe Flamingo, 116.99, pp. 249, ISBN 0007107811 T here was a time when the English provincial novel was fashionable — from, say, the early...

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A richly personal matter

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Jonathan Keates READING PICTURES: A HISTORY OF LOVE AND HATE by Alberto Manguel Bloomsbury, £30, pp. 337, ISBN 0747552959 T he title of this book is likely to provoke outrage...

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Saved by Mickey Spillane

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Michael Moorcock LANDOR'S TOWER: OR, THE IMAGINARY CONVERSATIONS by lain Sinclair Granta Books, £15.99, pp. 368, ISBN 1862070180 A lthough I knew him as a poet, I wasn't...

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A life less threatened

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Harriet Waugh THE FALLS by Ian Rankin Orion, £16.99, pp.399, ISBN 075282130X B efore the start of The Falls, Ian Rankin quotes from Philip Kerr's book The Unnatural History...

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We are a garden walled around

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Sarah Bradford THE LONDON TOWN GARDEN, 1740-1840 by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan Yale, f3a pp. 289, ISBN 0300085389 T his is a fascinating, important and scholarly book, the first on...

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Playing the numbers game

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Michael Tanner on how musical anniversaries have become big business T he first big musical anniversary that I was aware of was Mozart's 200th birthday in 1956. It was...

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Free spirit

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Andrew Lambirth J ock McFadyen (born 1950) made his early reputation as a figure painter of thuggish East Enders in settings of urban squalor. Critics often dubbed his work...

Bridal bore

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Mark Steyn T he Wedding Planner is a dandy romantic comedy circa 1955 that for some reason has taken half a century to make it to the screen. As a result the brisk but perky...

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Long-lost folly

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Sheridan Morley C ontrary to its current sales pitch, Noel Coward's late 1920s Semi Monde (now in a vastly courageous London premiere at the Lyric) did not really fall foul of...

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Childish tantrums

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Patrick Carnegy W ith the RSC well launched in London into the completion of its sequence of the eight major histories from Richard II to Richard III it isn't surprising that...

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Don Giovanni (Scottish Opera) Irresistible bounder Michael Tanner T he most pressing reason for going to see Don Giovanni was to erase the appalling memories of last season's...

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Just dreaming

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Michael Vestey A ter a serious bout of radio listening we repaired to the Castleman Hotel for dinner. With its Jacobean interior, its feeling of having experienced an absorbing...

Normal behaviour

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Simon Hoggart W hen I tell people I write about wine for the Spectator they get quite envious. But if I let slip that I review television, a few say, 'I don't watch TV myself,'...

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Too late, too late

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Robin Oakley W hen the G8 summit of the leading industrial democracies was held in London one year recently, some Russian officials were quartered temporarily in No. 10 Downing...

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Interesting thymes

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Simon Courtauld T owards the end of this month, we shall be gathering St George's mushrooms, named for the day when they are supposedly at their best — though the season...

Setting standards

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Taki SNew York ir Tom Stoppard is our greatest living playwright or my name is Hillary Clinton. Last week I had the pleasant surprise of listening to his voice inviting me to...

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Broken Britain

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Jeremy Clarke I t was spitting. The train was late. When it did come there was no hot water in the buffet car and the lavatory floor was awash with urine. The next station on...

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Watery rave

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PetroneIla Wyatt T hey came at me like a herd of cattle disgruntled by the news that the chief vet had decided to put them under the gun. I was just one and they were a legion,...

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Superfluous superlatives

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Simon Barnes 'BLAST the sports pages,' said Marshall McLuhan, 'creators of pickled gods and archetypes.' We could, I suppose, design a new way of writing about sport, but we'd...

Q. The other night I had dinner in a private

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house. There were ten around the table. During dinner one of the other guests — a famously bitchy woman — made two or three jokes at my expense and a couple of crushing remarks....

Q. I have a long-standing neighbour who is kindness itself

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and also does much for the local community. However, he is a caravan addict and frequently parks his caravan where it not only partly blocks my view, often for several weeks at...

Q. I have moved from London to Wiltshire, where I

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am fortunate enough to have accommodation suitable for entertaining large numbers of people. My problem is that, although the cellar contains plentiful amounts of reasonable...