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19 november 2016 [ £4.25

www.spectator.co.uk [ est. 1828

The new normal It’s Trump, says Rod Liddle. It can’t be, says Nick Cohen

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established 1828

Jail break

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ne of the stated objectives of this week’s brief strike by prison officers was to publicise the dire conditions in many of our jails. In this regard, as in many others, it was a failure. The strike triggered discussions as to whether it was legal (it wasn’t, the High Court ruled) and questions about how exactly it helped prison safety to abandon the wings to the inmates for the day. But there is all too little awareness of or concern about the increasingly desperate living conditions of those sentenced to spend time at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Order seems to be breaking down. In the past year there have been 625 serious assaults by prisoners on prison staff — up 30 per cent on the previous year — plus six homicides and 2,197 serious assaults against fellow inmates. When schools, hospitals and trains deteriorate, we notice because we can see what is happening. All we tend to hear about prisons are dry statistics. Dry, but still shocking. Since 1993 the prison population has almost doubled to 85,000. Given how much crime is committed by a handful of prolific criminals, there is a strong argument for using prison to protect us from the worst offenders. But that should not blind us to the conditions behind prison walls. While the number of inmates has risen, the number of prison officers has plummeted — down by a quarter in the past six years. Violent incidents have more than doubled over the same period. You don’t have to be a liberal extremist opposed to incarceration to see how wrong this is. If safety is so badly compromised, if about half of adult prisoners are re-convicted within a year of release, then prisons are not working. And it is the poorest members of society who have to put up with recidivist thugs and drug-dealers prowling their neigh-

bourhoods. Those with high fences, burglar alarms and CCTV need not worry as much. This is a crisis which demands a debate. First, just how many criminals should we be incarcerating — and what results should we demand of prisons? If we do decide as a society that we want so many people in jail, then the costs must be met head-on. Over the past two decades governments of all colours have been increasing sentences to satisfy public demands, yet they have failed to provide for the consequences. That cannot carry on. Much more, for instance, should be done to educate prisoners and prepare them for employment when they have served their time — including the temporary release to part-

If current trends continue, the risk is of a mass riot or a terrorist event time jobs of those in open conditions. That means more investment and, yes, some risk; but the results will be quickly measurable. Then there are challenges from technology. In April, security cameras caught a drone delivering drugs and mobile phones through an open window at Wandsworth Prison. Inmates now smuggle thumb-sized mobile phones into jail up their backsides. These are freely for sale online under the name ‘Beat the Boss’: Boss being the ‘body orifice security scanner’ designed to detect concealed metal objects. Synthetic drugs such as ‘Black Mamba’ and ‘Spice’ are also on the rise; they are far harder to test for than marijuana and cocaine, and their use has undoubtedly contributed to increased levels of violence. If current trends continue — a justice system quick to incarcerate; new threats and

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

challenges; a government that won’t fund prisons properly — then it is easy to see what lies ahead. Another mass riot like that at Strangeways in 1990, or perhaps a terrorist event — hardly unthinkable, given how many Islamic fundamentalists are now locked up. At the start of the year, David Cameron gave a speech about prisons — the first by a prime minister for more than 20 years. He was following the lead of Michael Gove, the former justice secretary, who was asking good questions that discomfit Conservatives: does prison work? Are prisons places of redemption and hope? Does the taxpayer really get value from a system where it costs as much as the school fees at Eton to lock someone up? At the moment we warehouse criminals, often in rundown Victorian buildings, rather than reform them. As the former chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick has said: ‘It is hard to imagine anything less likely to rehabilitate prisoners than days spent lying on their bunks in squalid cells watching daytime TV.’ In the government’s recent white paper on prisons, there is at least the recognition that things have got out of hand — and the promise of ‘the biggest overhaul’ of the system in a generation. Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, has made funding available for prison officers to use body-worn cameras. But prison safety cannot be dealt with incrementally over the next four or five years. It is too urgent for that. Theresa May, who was one of the longest serving home secretaries, knows this area well. She is aware that prison reform is no vote-winner; but she also knows the risks of allowing these problems to fester. While much of her time will be taken up with Brexit, she should prioritise prisons before they deliver the first real crisis of her premiership. 5


The view from Texas, p32

A new Russian hero, p23 The man who messed up the Middle East, p41

THE WEEK 5

Leading article

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Portrait of the Week

11 Diary Nobody knows anything Gerard Baker

BOOKS & ARTS 14 The new normal Trump has sensed a paradigm shift. So did Theresa May Rod Liddle

12 Politics Hammond’s dilemma James Forsyth

15 Which side are you on? A moral test for conservatives Nick Cohen

13 The Spectator’s Notes The Brexit memo, Trump and O-level grammar Charles Moore

16 Trump’s inside man On vice-president Mike Pence Patrick Allitt

17 Mary Wakefield My husband’s ‘gay affair’

18 The Breitbart conspiracy On Trump ‘counsellor’ Steve Bannon Freddy Gray

20 Barometer Walls, elections, US immigrants and internships 24 From the archive German bankers 27 Ancient and modern Thucydides on Trump 28 James Delingpole We won! 31 Letters Mob rule; the special relationship; terms of address 32 Any other business Oil men on Trump; the 747; Leonard Cohen Martin Vander Weyer

24 London notebook Glitter and prizes Evgeny Lebedev 27 The perfect mismatch What’s wrong with dating apps Ariane Sherine

41 Andrew Lycett The Man Who Created the Middle East, by Christopher Simon Sykes 42 Marcus Berkmann on Christmas stocking fillers Keith Miller on first novels 43 Simon Heffer Revolution, by Peter Ackroyd

20 Italy’s Brexit moment The EU’s next referendum trauma Nicholas Farrell 23 Moscow rules Trump fans and TV hucksters Owen Matthews

CHRISTMAS BOOKS II 38 Books of the year

44 Kate Webb Autumn, by Ali Smith 45 William Cook Reality is Not What It Seems, by Carlo Rovelli Sara Wheeler White Mountain, by Robert Twigger 46 Rhian Edwards Pied Margot; Three (The Reckoning); Five (Jocale): a poem in three parts 47 Peter Parker Thomas Hardy: Half a Londoner, by Mark Ford 48 Geoffrey Wheatcroft Remembering Eric Christiansen

Cover by Morten Morland. Drawings by Michael Heath, Castro, Phil Disley, Nick Newman, Paul Wood, Adam Singleton, RGJ, Weef, Grizelda, Steve Way and Bernie. www.spectator.co.uk To subscribe to The Spectator for £111 a year, turn to page 70 Editorial and advertising The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP, Tel: 020 7961 0200, Fax: 020 7681 3773, Email: editor@spectator.co.uk (editorial); letters@spectator.co.uk (for publication); advertising@spectator.co.uk (advertising); Advertising enquiries: 020 7961 0222 Subscription and delivery queries Spectator Subscriptions Dept., 17 Perrymount Rd, Haywards Heath RH16 3DH; Tel: 0330 3330 050; Email: customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk Newsagent queries Spectator Circulation Dept, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP, Tel: 020 7961 0200, Fax: 020 7681 3773, Email: dstam@spectator.co.uk Distributor COMAG Specialist, Tavistock Works, Tavistock Road, West Drayton, Middlesex UB7 7QX Vol 332; no 9821 © The Spectator (1828) Ltd. ISSN 0038-6952 The Spectator is published weekly by The Spectator (1828) Ltd at 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP Editor: Fraser Nelson

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the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


The delights of Ardizzone, p56

Is she really going out with him?, p27

Sticking up for stucco, p54

LIFE ARTS SPECIAL 50 Charles Foster Where the wild things are

LIFE 69 High life Taki Low life Jeremy Clarke

52 Drawing Is this newly discovered Van Gogh sketchbook authentic? Martin Gayford

70 Real life Melissa Kite

54 Architecture In defence of stucco Laura Freeman

It’s a rare political leader who isn’t ‘known’ to be homosexual by someone or other Mary Wakefield, p17

71 Long life Alexander Chancellor 73 Wild life Aidan Hartley Bridge Susanna Gross

56 Exhibitions Ardizzone: A Retrospective Melanie McDonagh

AND FINALLY . . . 64 Notes on… National Hunt racing Camilla Swift

58 Photography The woman who invented the selfie Bob Colacello

74 Chess Raymond Keene Competition Lucy Vickery

59 Opera Lulu; Simplicius Simplicissimus Michael Tanner

76 Status anxiety Toby Young Battle for Britain Michael Heath

75 Crossword Columba

60 Theatre Lazarus; Bits of Me Are Falling Apart Lloyd Evans

77 The Wiki Man Rory Sutherland

61 Cinema Indignation Deborah Ross

78 Drink Bruce Anderson

When my cancer was first diagnosed, my brother had invited me out for a long walk. So now it was my turn to invite him out Jeremy Clarke, p69 By exploiting the media’s virtue-signalling reflex, Trump found the thermal exhaust port on the liberal Death Star Rory Sutherland, p77

Your problems solved

Mary Killen Mind your language

62 Television James Walton Radio Kate Chisholm

Dot Wordsworth

CONTRIBUTORS Owen Matthews is a contributing editor to Newsweek; he used to head its Moscow bureau, and returns to the city on p. 23.

Freddy Gray, who writes about Steve Bannon and the Breitbart phenomenon on p. 18, is The Spectator’s deputy editor and a former literary editor of the American Conservative.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

Michela Wrong, who picks her books of the year on p. 38, is the author of It’s Our Turn to Eat, Borderlines and In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz.

Andrew Lycett has written biographies of Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming; he considers Mark Sykes, of Sykes-Picot fame, on p. 41.

Bob Colacello edited Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine for 12 years, despite his father having threatened to break his legs if he went to work for Warhol. He remembers the inventor of the selfie on p. 58.

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Home

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igel Farage, the caretaker leader of Ukip, was photographed with a smiling Donald Trump as the two men held a meeting at Trump Tower in New York. Downing Street was furious at suggestions that Mr Farage might act as a go-between. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said at the Lord Mayor’s banquet that policies favouring the common good should protect everyone from the effects of globalisation. Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, complained of a European ‘collective whingerama’ about Mr Trump and decided not to attend a summit of EU foreign ministers summoned by Germany; France and Hungary did not attend either. The prosecuting counsel in the trial for murder of Thomas Mair told the court that the accused repeatedly shouted ‘Britain First’ as he shot and stabbed Jo Cox, a Labour MP, just before the EU referendum.

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ementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, overtook heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales, accounting for 11.6 per cent of deaths, two thirds of them women. An Italian man living in south London was found guilty of murdering a policeman he met on a gay dating site and whose body he tried to dissolve in the bath. Police said that a 14-year-old girl who claimed in September to have been abducted in Oxford was not. A memorial is to be erected to the six men and a woman killed when a tram overturned in Croydon. Someone accidentally sent an email to all 840,000 employees on the NHS internet

list; chaos followed when hundreds of recipients clicked on ‘reply to all’.

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ngrid Isgren, Sweden’s chief prosecutor, questioned Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London (where he has lived since 2012) about a rape allegation. The government obtained a High Court injunction ordering protesting prison officers to return to work. Dominic Chappell, the man who brought BHS for £1, confirmed that he had been arrested on 2 November by HM Revenue and Customs over an unpaid tax bill of about £500,000. Unemployment fell to an 11-year low of 4.8 per cent. The rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, fell from 1 to 0.9 per cent, though a rise had been expected; the Retail Prices Index remained at 2 per cent. Google said it was to open a new headquarters building in London. The route of the HS2 rail link to Manchester and Leeds was announced; residents of a housing estate at Mexborough, which would be demolished, were displeased.

Abroad

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onald Trump, the president-elect of America, said that he wanted to expel or jail two or three million ‘people that are criminal’. He conceded that part of his wall with Mexico might be fence. He said future nominees to the Supreme Court would be ‘pro-life’ and defenders of the constitutional right to bear arms. He would take only $1 of the $400,000 presidential salary. A week after the election, not all votes had been counted but an interim total gave 61,324,576 for Hillary Clinton

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

and 60,526,852 for Mr Trump. Mr Trump appointed Reince Priebus to be his chief of staff and Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of the Breitbart News Network, as his chief strategist. Leonard Cohen, the Canadian singer-songwriter, died aged 82.

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rnaud Danjean, an ally of presidential election frontrunner Alain Juppé, a right-wing contender for the presidency of France, said that France would close the British border post in Calais. Igor Dodon, the pro-Russian candidate, won Moldova’s presidential election. Alexei Ulyukayev, Russia’s economy minister, was charged with taking a $2 million bribe. Work began at Chernobyl in Ukraine to move a cover 345ft tall and 900ft wide over the ruins of the nuclear reactor there. The Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego planned a cull of 100,000 beavers, first introduced in 1946.

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slamic State shot 40 civilians accused of treachery in besieged Mosul and hung their bodies on electricity poles, the UN human rights office reported. Islamic State said that one of its people set off a bomb that killed 52 worshippers at the Sufi shrine of Shah Noorani in Balochistan, Pakistan. Pakistan said that seven of its soldiers had been killed by Indian shelling in Kashmir. The pilot was saved when a Russian Mig-29 fighter jet crashed into the Mediterranean as it tried to land on the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier off Syria. Bombing of Aleppo resumed. Two people were killed by a powerful earthquake on the South Island of New Zealand, which caused much damage. The moon came its closest to the Earth since 1948. CSH 9


Gerard Baker

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obody knows anything. William Goldman’s famous first law of the movie business — that no one can say before the fact what’s going to be a hit or a flop — is our new rule of political punditry. Pollsters, experts, markets tell us with scientific certainty what’s going to happen. Then the voters come along and ruin everything. Brexit. Trump. Ed Balls and Strictly Come Dancing. Who knew? As last Tuesday dawned in New York, the US election was deemed a formality. Newsrooms had lovingly compiled their historic ‘First Woman President’ editions. The final polls pointed to a clear Hillary win. And then the actual votes rolled in, uncannily like Brexit. Clinton was doing worse than expected where she needed hefty totals. Trump was doing better. Just as the UK’s big cities voted Remain, only to be swamped by the non-urban Leavers, the early clamour of Clinton victories in Miami, Philadelphia and Cleveland was drowned out by the silent roar of smaller towns and counties in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. President Trump. Nobody knows anything.

cuts — and alarming anti-growth, antibusiness populism like protectionism and punitive measures against companies that ‘ship jobs overseas’. The markets have chosen to bet for now that we’ll enjoy the former and never get the latter. We’ll see.

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denounced as moral terrorists. And Trump is accused of extremist language!

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he media and the educational establishments may have been in mourning but the markets loved it. The Dow Jones Industrial Average moved up and kept moving in its biggest weekly gain since 2011. Interest rates rose sharply as investors anticipated both rising growth and more debt and inflation. The Trump agenda is a curious mix of pro-growth, pro-business measures — infrastructure spending, big tax

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ike Brexit, the shock of Trump’s victory was greeted the next morning with a keening that was taken up like the call of the muezzin from the minarets of traditional and social media. Confirmation of the result came in the early hours of November 9: that’s 11/9 in the US convention, 9/11 in Europe, and of course the distraught members of the establishment quickly wrapped themselves in the symbolism. Much of New York City stumbled around in the fog of mourning. The principal of the school to which a colleague sends his child sent a note to parents explaining how the school would lead their children through their grief. ‘And now when we most want to weep and mourn, we must come to work and be a source of both solace and inspiration to all our young students,’ it said. Tom Friedman, the blowhard, self-anointed intellectual voice of proper-thinking elites (the New York Times), went on TV to pronounce Trump’s victory a ‘moral 9/11’. The difference, he said, was that the first 9/11 had been inflicted on us by others. This one we had inflicted on ourselves. Thus, 60 million Americans were instantly

n Friday, I’m invited to Trump Tower for the inaugural post-election interview. The man himself lives in the penthouse up top and descends for his daily grind, as it were, to the 26th floor. He sweeps in and greets us, just back from Washington and a first meeting with his presidential predecessor. The helmet of hair is even more golden than usual, having received a fresh posttriumphal, presidential burnishing. Someone once said that Trump is one of those businessmen who absorbs the ideas of the last person he spoke to, and in our conversation, he is clearly eager to demonstrate that his meeting with President Obama has woken him up to the need to be more presidential. He’s at pains to stress he’ll govern pragmatically. He declines politely to say whether he still wants to imprison Hillary.

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n Monday I’m in Washington for the Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council, a gathering of corporate globalists nervously breaking bread with leading figures from the Trump transition. Rudy Giuliani is on fine form, gleefully telling me he’s going to be Secretary of State. We poll a sample of the nation’s top chief executives in the room and discover that 50 per cent of them voted for Hillary. Just a third voted for Trump. Nobody knows anything. All of this mayhem — Brexit, Trump, a rising populist tide shattering the stable world of our elites — reminds me of a moment from the hit Broadway musical Hamilton about the life and times of perhaps the most gifted of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. As the British troops surrender at Yorktown to General George Washington, they play a mournful rendition of an old drinking song that captures the improbable enormity of it all — the world’s mightiest empire brought low by a motley crowd of deplorables: ‘The World Turned Upside Down’. Villa Tasca gold cufflinks Cassandra Goad, 147 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9BZ

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

Telephone: 020 7730 2202 cassandragoad.com

Gerard Baker is editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal 11


POLITICS|JAMES FORSYTH

The economic consequences of Philip Hammond

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hat are now called ‘fiscal events’— the Budget and the Autumn Statement—have become the biggest dates in the Westminster calendar. The Chancellor lights up the landscape with political pyrotechnics. There are attempts to bribe prospective voters through tax and spending changes, a litany of pork-barrel projects designed to help individual MPs, and fiendishly complicated schemes no one expects. But with the Treasury under new management, this will all change on Wednesday. Philip Hammond is the least political Chancellor Britain has had for quite some time. The two longest-serving incumbents of recent times, George Osborne and Gordon Brown, doubled up as electoral strategists whose fiscal policies were informed, above all, by political aims. Hammond is different: he does not see this job as a stepping stone to another. Addressing Tory MPs recently about his plans for the Autumn Statement, he mentioned Labour only once in more than an hour. But the limits to his ambition, and his dislike of the limelight, shouldn’t blind us to his importance. He has already made it clear privately that if the economy grinds to a halt and he needs to introduce a fiscal stimulus, he would rather embark on an infrastructure splurge than cut VAT. Hammond’s logic is that with infrastructure spending you have something left to show for it afterwards — whereas with a VAT cut (Alistair Darling’s policy after the crash) you simply boost consumption. His new approach raises the question of how he will deal with the cost-of-living squeeze which even some of his closest allies think is coming down the track. If the pound’s fall in value pushes inflation up and wages fail to follow suit, then disposable incomes will be hit badly. The ‘just managing’ classes, whom Theresa May promised to help, might start to ask who stole their recovery. Might this economic pain make voters turn against Brexit? And might this lead to pressure for the UK to remain inside both the single market and the customs union? These questions are being asked by several proRemain Tory MPs, including some in the government, but it looks unlikely. Theresa May has promised control over EU immigration, which is hard to square with single-market membership. And what’s the point of leaving the EU but staying in the customs union? It would stop the UK doing trade deals with other, non-EU countries — removing one of the main reasons for quitting. The most likely 12

UK government approach on the customs union is to leave it then try to opt back into it in various sectors, such as car manufacturing. Many Brexiteers regard Hammond as worryingly gloomy. They complain that he dwells on the negatives of leaving the EU and fear that his pessimism about the economy might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hammond himself believes that the most important thing is for him to maintain his credibility. If he declared everything to be rosy and the economy then stalled, he argues, his credibility as Chancellor would be shot. His friends say that if he asks difficult questions about Brexit, it doesn’t mean he is trying to block it. It just means

If he is downbeat, it risks giving the impression that Brexit Britain’s prospects are nothing to smile about he’s ensuring things are done properly. But one thing Hammond should start doing is talk about the government’s options if there is no exit deal with the EU. He should make clear that the UK will not be passive in these circumstances and will enact radical measures to improve competitiveness if we are driven back into reliance on World Trade Organisation rules for our trade with the EU. The government should, for instance, say that it will seek a deal to ensure the right of UK financial institutions to operate within the single market. But if that cannot be achieved it will take immediate steps to make the UK a more attractive place to base a bank. It will hack away at needless regu-

lations such as the cap on bankers’ bonuses and scrap the corporation tax surcharge that banks currently have to pay. And it needs to get this message out soon, because banks will start considering whether to relocate parts of their operations in the new year. These measures are exactly what the French fear we will do, so will tend to make a UK-EU deal on financial services more likely. Hammond is not a natural cheerleader, but he needs to be careful that he doesn’t come across as the government’s Eeyore. A chancellor can’t create consumer and business confidence through sheer force of personality. But if Hammond looks and sounds permanently downbeat, there is a risk that he creates the impression that Brexit Britain’s long-term prospects are nothing to smile about. He needs to counter that. One way would be to emphasise the success of the British tech sector. Hammond recently told Tory backbenchers that both Bill Gates and Google’s Eric Schmidt believe the UK is ahead of Silicon Valley in developing both artificial intelligence and the internet of things. This is an astonishing achievement and one that Hammond should be shouting from the rooftops. Coming from him it would be authentic — and a reminder to voters and international investors of the UK economy’s bright medium-term prospects. Most of the attention in the run-up to next week’s Autumn Statement will focus on housing. Hammond, a large part of whose personal fortune comes from property development, is keen to get more homes built; he regards it as one of the best ways to boost the economy in the short term and one of the most important structural changes to be made for the long term. He will also publish a housing white paper proposing various changes to the planning laws. He clearly thinks that the coalition’s efforts to overhaul them in the last parliament were inadequate. The UK economy has performed far better than the Treasury feared since the Brexit vote. But Hammond will want to keep in reserve the possibility of a fiscal stimulus should the economy hit the rocks. So expect him to present a new set of more flexible fiscal rules that will let him step in if the economy needs it. His success or failure as a Chancellor, will, ultimately, be judged on the effectiveness of these rules. SPECTATOR.CO.UK/EVENINGBLEND

‘Are you one of those shy Trump supporters?’

Your essential daily email

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Charles Moore

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n a day when much fuss was being made about ‘false news’ on the net, it was amusing to study the Times splash of Tuesday, greedily repeated by the BBC. It concerned a ‘leaked’ memo, ‘prepared for the Cabinet Office’ and ‘seen and aided by senior civil servants’. The memo, from a Deloitte employee, was in fact unsolicited. It was not a bad summary of why the government’s Brexit plans are confused, but its status was merely that of journalism without an outlet. By the use of the single word ‘leaked’, a piece of analysis was turned into ‘news’ — false news.

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t least two former Spectator figures understood things about the recent American contest which eluded most commentators. The first is our former proprietor, Conrad Black. Disagreeing with the anti-Trump conservative National Review, for which he writes, Conrad filed a powerful piece at the time of Trump’s nomination: ‘What the world has witnessed, but has not recognised it yet, has been a campaign of genius.’ He enumerated virtually every issue where Trump was nearer to the voters than Democrats, the media and other Republicans. The second is Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, nowadays the Telegraph’s international business editor. In the 1980s, Ambrose wrote wonderful pieces from central America for The Spectator, the only British journalist to predict the electoral defeat of the Sandinista regime. As editor of the Sunday Telegraph in 1993, I sent him as our correspondent to Washington. In that almost pre-internet time when the American media were still in thrall to Washington power, Ambrose was the first in the entire world to carry through investigations into the Clinton scandals in Arkansas and after — Sally Perdue, Whitewater, the death of Vince Foster, etc. Bill and Hillary were never quite able to extricate themselves from what he found out.

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mid all the recent electoral upsets caused by the global revolt against the elites, more attention should have been paid to the Colombian referendum last month. The people of Colombia were invited to vote on the ‘peace deal’ made

Lewis, has just sent me the club’s badge. It is a handsome metal square, depicting a fat, recumbent rat with a long, well-curled tail, and the single word ‘VERMIN’. Not so easy to depict the deplorables, who, said Mrs Clinton, include racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes, and Islamophobes, but perhaps Trump merchandising can produce an attractive memorial basket.

between the Colombian government and the Farc rebels. On the ballot paper was what Latin grammarians call a ‘nonne’ question: ‘Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and build a lasting peace?’ Yet despite this carefully crafted expectation of a Yes — and opinion polls all predicting one — the answer, very narrowly, was No. The BBC was amazed by the result because the Yes campaign was backed ‘by a wide array of politicians both in Colombia and abroad, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’. It would be helpful in global media organisations if top executives could point out to their staff that, nowadays, the backing of conventional politicians, especially foreign politicians — and of Mr Ban — for any vote in any country on anything now virtually guarantees its defeat (see Obama’s pro-Remain intervention). The governing establishments of the whole western world got ready to hail the deal with Farc as a model for peace (hence, presumably, President Santos’s recent state visit to Britain), but the Colombian majority decided that it let the terrorists literally get away with murder. In a metaphorical sense, getting away with murder is what voters no longer permit their boss classes to do.

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hen, in September, Mrs Clinton consigned ‘half’ of Mr Trump’s supporters to what she called the ‘basket of deplorables’, I reminded readers of how some people grab an insult from their opponent with pride (see Notes, 24 September). The ‘Iron Lady’ is a classic example — intended by Red Star newspaper to mock Margaret Thatcher. I mentioned the Vermin Club. This was a response to Aneurin Bevan’s claim that the Tories were ‘lower than vermin’, and quickly attracted a large membership among Conservatives in the late 1940s. A kind reader, Mr Philip

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

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n Northern Ireland recently, I sought out the Mass times of the local Church of the Immaculate Conception. Its website duly listed them, but I was surprised to find roughly half its webpage filled with a picture of a young woman’s all-but-naked torso and the invitation to click for more ‘Diva pics and videos’. I couldn’t tell whether this was a viral invasion or an Irish parish’s highly unimmaculate conception of how to make extra money for its good causes. When I met the priest, I was about to ask him, but he looked so young. I remembered that this is still the Year of Mercy, and stayed silent.

I said will you let me ask nofowyouitthenhedukestopped ‘make what you think you will and said by heaven I think blucher and myself can do the thing do you calculate on any desertions in bonapartes army i asked not upon a man he said from the colonel to the private we may pick up a marshal or two perhaps do you reckon i enquired on any support from the french kings troops oh he said dont mention such fellows no’. A reader sent me the document of which the above is a part. Candidates were asked to ‘punctuate, supply the necessary capitals, and paragraph’ the passage. It comes from an English Language O-level paper of 1953. Examinees are not allowed to remove the modern GCSE equivalent from the examination hall, so I cannot make a direct comparison. But the difference, between then and now, in grammatical accomplishment expected and depth of cultural reference assumed does not need labouring. The exam also contains a choice of essay questions. One is: ‘“The application of science to entertainment has made us lazy.” Do you agree or disagree?’ 13


The new normal Trump’s victory is the latest manifestation of an enormous paradigm shift ROD LIDDLE

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hat was your favourite response from the liberals to Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election? Actress Emma Watson handing out copies of a Maya Angelou book to bewildered commuters in New York? Cher announcing that she wasn’t simply leaving the USA, ‘but Planet Earth too’ — a move some of us assumed she had made at least 40 years ago? The hysterical protestors who set fire to their own shoes because they thought the said shoes were pro-Trump? The hyperbolic hatred spewed out towards those who voted for the Donald, or Matthew Parris suggesting that maybe this democracy caper has gone too far, or the teachers telling tearful children that we’re all going to die? There’s just too many to choose from, a cornucopia of riches, of wailing and fury and outrage. And yet they still don’t quite get it, the liberals — don’t get the full import of what Trump’s victory, and this tumultuous year 2016 in general, means for us all. It presages an enormous paradigm shift to a postliberal future. They are weighty, cumbersome things, paradigms, and take a lot of shifting. This one has been at least 20 years in the making. But once they turn, the course is set, and you can set fire to as many shoes as you like — it will do no good. In a sense, 2016 is 1968 in reverse. Theresa May clearly gets this. Gets the change, the momentum behind the change. Even before Trump’s astonishing and deserved victory she had grasped, postBrexit, that patriotism, long considered a bit long in the tooth, had made a rather remarkable comeback: ‘If you are a citizen of the world, then you are a citizen of nowhere,’ she said, to derision from the Guardian. Patriotism, a sense of historic pride in one’s nation state, persuaded a good few Americans to vote for Trump; it persuaded most of Scotland to vote SNP last year. It is, you have to say, very much alive and well in Russia, and growing in continental Europe. It is a corrective to globalisation, though, not a denial of it. Much of what we are seeing now and will come to see even more in the future is not a denial of reality, but an adjustment to it. Our Prime Minister gets this too, I think. The post-liberal economic world will have some time for protectionism once again — the very left-wing US film-maker and writer Michael Moore spoke approvingly of Trump telling Ford executives in Detroit that 14

he would slap a 35 per cent tariff on their cars if they moved production to Mexico. So the intelligent parts of the left get it, too. The economic paradigm shift, away from the inviolable sanctity of the free market, long predates Trump’s victory, mind. It started after the financial crisis of 2007. For three decades, state ownership was considered de trop — not any more. The opinion polls suggest that there is a huge appetite for nationalising the railways and the utilities, while even that old liberal David Cameron (remember him?) offered to take parts of our steel industry into public ownership. There is no great wish for a return to 1973, when even some travel agents were owned by the state — it is, instead, an

Much of what we are seeing now is not a denial of reality, but an adjustment to it adjustment, a tilting of the tiller. The interesting thing, for me, is the degree to which social policy will change — because change it certainly will. Those who voted for Brexit and those who voted for Trump are often derisively accused of wishing to turn the clock back to the mid-1950s. But that is not the case at all. The 1950s was the thesis — overly authoritarian and conservative about how people lived their lives, how children were taught in schools, how people could express their sexuality. The antithesis came in the 1960s and early 1970s, with legislation which made divorce easier, increased welfare, legalised homosexuality, changed for two generations the way in which teachers went about their work — all or most of this stuff long overdue. But as is ever the case with these lumber-

ing paradigms, we went too far. The liberalism of the 1960s has resulted in this decade with too many broken families and failed, inarticulate, unhappy children. With people who proudly will say they will not work for a living because they don’t like working and prefer to be on the dole. With the manifest insanity of safe spaces in universities where absurd liberal shibboleths about race and a ludicrous multiplicity of gender options must not, under any condition, be gainsaid. In scores of tenthrate universities turning out unemployable young people with useless degrees in fatuous subjects. Oh, and so much more. And yet the imperative now is not to roll back that earlier legislation. It is to achieve instead a synthesis, an accommodation, if you like. Take the issue of homosexual rights and equality. There is not the remotest desire to return to a time when gay people were considered criminal and, further, were the subject of contempt from the man in the street. The opinion polls show an enormous majority favouring equality for homosexuals (a rather larger majority here than in the States, mind). But ask people if homosexuality should be considered the norm, or whether it is perfectly OK for gay people to adopt children then tell them that, further, people who think it is preferable for children to be raised by a mummy and a daddy are irredeemable bigots who shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children themselves, and I suspect you will get a very different response. Even now, despite the enormous opprobrium which attends if you express this view, and the almost impossible task of expressing this view if you hold public office, the electorate is split pretty much 50-50 on gay adoptions. My guess — and it’s only a guess — is that if you put before the electorate the statement: ‘Children are best raised in a traditional family, by a mum and a dad’, three quarters would agree. There is also an aversion to gender and LGBT propaganda being doled out to young children in school, especially transgender propaganda. My guess — only a guess again — is that people would in general prefer a greater proportion of NHS funds be spent on cancer care than gender realignment procedures. And what of heterosexuals? The last opinion poll I saw (Ipsos-MORI) suggested that more than 70 per cent of people thought that marriage should be for life. We marry, or don’t marry, and have children too readily, too easily — and there is plenty of evidence suggest-

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


ing that children from single-parent families are prone to greater mental strife, poorer educational ability and more future joblessness than those from a traditional nuclear family. Should people have kids if they can’t afford to bring them up without substantial help from the taxpayer? Much like the issue of single parents, this was an almost impossible issue for a politician to raise without being labelled a bigot. The opinion polls suggest a majority of voters think people should have children only when they can afford to provide for them. All of this stuff is likely to be back on the agenda now. Should people who do no work as a consequence of idleness be allowed to live their entire lives on taxpayer’s money? An enormous issue — and one which arouses fury particularly among the hardest-working, poorest-paid of us, for obvious reasons. The public think they should not be able to get away with this. If you don’t give, you don’t get. And there are more obvious issues, such as immigration. There is no animus against the immigrants themselves, except among a handful of untermensch knuckle-draggers. Nor a wish to return to the almost pristinely white 1950s. But more than 70 per cent of the public think there is too much immigration, and almost 50 per cent think it should be cut substantially. And that people who come here should learn the language pronto and ‘fit in’. Both Donald Trump’s victory and the Brexit result demonstrated the potency of this issue — as does the rise of right-wing populist parties across Europe. I would suggest that it is an unstoppable force. It is time that the left got to grips with it. The liberals, of course, cannot get to grips with it. Neither Brexit nor Donald Trump brought about this paradigm shift. They are simply manifestations of it. The liberal elite (it was a conservative elite which ran us back in the 1960s, remember; elites rise and fall) may flail against Trump and Brexit for as long as they like. But to use a phrase which the liberals rather like, and use a lot — they are beginning to look as if they are on the wrong side of history. SPECTATOR.CO.UK/PODCAST

Hear Rod discuss the new rules of politics.

‘I predict a long journey… looking for a new job.’

Which side are you on? The new President is a moral test for the right – and it’s failing NICK COHEN

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rump’s victory sets a test for conservatives, a test they are failing with embarrassing ineptitude. They are making the oldest mistake in politics. They are carrying on as if nothing has changed. In the early 21st century, it was easy to attack the supposed liberal left. These alleged liberals were for real censorship. The white working class was their enemy. Radical Islam was the fascism of the time, yet liberals who thought themselves anti-fascists accepted that misogyny, prejudice and hatred of individual rights were fine, as long as the haters had brown rather than white skin. Apparently moral conservative writers joined the democratic left in tearing into such double standards. Yet in the background hung questions they should never have been allowed to duck. What does it mean to be a conservative? What are conservatives for? Now we have, if not a new fascism, at least a new nationalist authoritarianism. But conservative politicians and the media’s claque of Tory talking heads are unable to oppose it. Instead they have doubled down on liberal hypocrisy. Trump incites his fans to attack reporters. He wants to ‘open up’ America’s libel laws to make it easier for rich men to sue news organisations that do not treat them with enough deference. There is even talk among his supporters of a Trump presidency sending state inquisitors into universities to root out academic bias. Maybe I do not read as widely as I should. But I have not seen any of the conservatives who condemn the ‘Stepford students’ take on these threats to free speech. Censorship, it appears, is deplorable when it is enforced by their opponents but unremarkable when enacted by their friends. The white working class, for whom they expressed such concern, appear to be as dispensable as the freedom to speak and write without punishment. Why aren’t our new tribunes of the proletariat raising their indomitable voices against Trump’s tax plans? They are nothing more than a swindle, which

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

will see Trump’s household and all other households in the top 0.1 per cent receive a cut in their tax bills averaging $1.1 million. I am not going to go on about the attacks on women, Latinos and blacks — let’s just say that you cannot deplore the left’s indulgence of Islamist reaction if you don’t also condemn these. Nor will I linger on how those who make so much of their opposition to the ‘establishment’ and the ‘elite’ are falling over themselves to excuse a nepotistic and corrupt president-elect, who lets his son-in-law run his transition team and refuses to put his investments in a blind trust. I will not even give you a lecture

Censorship, it appears, is only deplorable when enforced by opponents on how a right that tells us not to get ‘hysterical’ about Trump’s support for Putin can’t go on to denounce Corbyn’s admiration for Russian gangsterism. The point surely is that conservatives are trying to have it all ways. On the one hand, they say they support the rule of law, freedom of speech, the independence of the judiciary and the sovereignty of Parliament. On the other, they sniff the air like tomcats and sense the growing power of the radical right. Rather than deal with accusations of treachery from their own side, rather than face the discomfort of breaking from their herd, they have decided to become its fellow travellers. George Orwell provided the clearest warning against refusing to see the darkness in your midst. He said to the left intellectuals who went along with Stalin: ‘Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for. Don’t imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the bootlicking propagandist of the Soviet regime and then suddenly return to mental decency. Once a whore, always a whore.’ The same applies to the bootlicking apologists for Trump. You have to choose. Are you radical right or respectable right? For you surely can’t be both. 15


Trump’s inside man Veep Mike Pence is the new president’s link to his party PATRICK ALLITT

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et’s take stock. Donald Trump, until last week, had never done a government job or held an elected office. He ran for president as a kind of anti-politician, ignoring the conventional wisdom about how to win. Amazingly, he won. It was, in its way, an impressive feat, overturning much conventional wisdom. Still, there’s no getting around the fact that, as president, he’s got to be political and must surround himself with politicians. Mike Pence, his vice-president, may turn out to be the most important of the lot. The two men did not previously know one another, but have become friends over the past five months, and recognise each other’s merits. They are a study in opposites. Trump is larger-than-life, tempestuous, never boring; Pence is mild, methodical, steady and a trifle dull. Pence is a ‘Tea Party’ critic of politics-asusual, but by comparison with the new chief he looks like an insider. Even if Trump’s team dismantle parts of the immense federal government, as they intend, they’ve still got to know how to manoeuvre in the Washington labyrinth. Pence knows his way around. In last week’s jostling for power, he clearly came out ahead of Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. Trump almost selected Christie as his running mate back in July, before settling for Pence. He gave Christie the consolation prize of organising the transition, at a time when hardly anyone thought there would be a transition. Now that the impossible has happened, Trump has taken the suddenly significant job out of Christie’s hands and given it to Pence. Trump may well believe, along with nearly everyone, that Christie was to blame for ‘Bridgegate’, the deliberate creation of paralysing traffic jams on one of the major bridges from New Jersey to New York to punish a Democratic town mayor who refused to endorse Christie for governor in 2013. Two of Christie’s aides took responsibility, were recently convicted and may go to jail. Pence, by contrast, has an untarnished personal record and is now in a position to shape the Trump administration by pushing his preferred candidates into key positions. He’s also low-key, patient, and a reconciler. For example, Trump has had a succession of rows with Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives. Each insulted the other during the campaign. Pence gets on well with both men, is already their go-between, 16

and might become the peacemaker. He was a member of the House of Representatives for 12 years up to 2012, then governor of his home state, Indiana, for another four. He has worked with most of the leading Republicans, and has a reputation among them for hard work and ideological purity. At a time when rumours abound that Trump is planning a hands-off presidency — it’s said he will spend a good amount of time in New York — an intriguing question pre-

sents itself: how much else will be devolved to Pence? Might his duties include running the American government? Pence was born in 1959 in the Indiana town of Columbus, population 45,000, graduated from a small religious college, attended law school and made his name as a conservative radio commentator, once describing himself as ‘Rush Limbaugh on decaf’. Catholic by birth, with Irish ancestors, he became a born-again Christian in his teens, claiming that evangelical Protestantism gave him, for the first time, the chance to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. He has promised never to drink alcohol unless his wife was in the room, and apparently has stuck to the pledge. He finds the theory of evolution unconvincing and doubts the human role in global warming. He favours balanced budgets and a strong defence posture while opposing abortion, gay rights and sex education. He supported an Indiana law that would have let

business owners deny service to gay people, but was forced to back away from it under intense local and national pressure. His office, the vice-presidency, has been a mixed bag historically. Often a place where presidents have mothballed prominent rivals, it remains nevertheless — as the cliché goes — just a heartbeat from the presidency. Eight presidents have died in office, pushing eight vice-presidents into the Oval Office. Six other former veeps have advanced to the top job, sometimes in subsequent elections but once (Gerald Ford, 1974) when a sitting president had to resign. Even if the president survives but is weak or inexperienced, the right vicepresident can play an influential role. The US constitution says nothing about the work the vice-president should do, other than to break deadlocked votes in the Senate and to preside over the quadrennial work of the electoral college. In the early days of the republic, the president was the man with the most votes, and the vice-president the man with the second most. George Washington’s vice-president, John Adams, found he had nothing to do, and complained in a letter to his wife that he held ‘the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived’. When Adams finally became president in the election of 1796, however, he was saddled with Thomas Jefferson, that year’s runnerup, even though they belonged to opposite parties and clashed over all the major issues. The Twelfth Amendment to the constitution (1804) changed the rules but further diminished the prestige of the post. Things have looked up for vice-presidents since then. Richard Nixon sat in on President Eisenhower’s cabinet meetings and acted as his liaison with Congress. When Eisenhower was taken ill on three separate occasions Nixon ran the cabinet in his absence. Walter Mondale supervised the Jimmy Carter transition team in 1976-77 and played a major role in the Camp David negotiations that culminated in the Israel-Egypt peace treaty of March 1979. Dick Cheney was a central figure in the George W. Bush administration, and Pence may well rival him for influence and power. Cheney, too, was in charge of the transition. The unspoken, but doubtless not unthought, reality for Pence is that Trump has two immense weaknesses. First is his lack of experience. It’s one thing to claim that only a new broom can sweep clean but it’s another to show up, green and credulous, in a city full of tough janitors. The new president is going to need a lot of help. Second, Trump is an old man, already 70, and likely to decline in energy as the years pass. It may not be long before Pence, 13 years his junior, comes to seem like the dynamic half of Washington’s strange new duo. Patrick Allitt is a professor of history at Emory University in Atlanta.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


MARY WAKEFIELD

My husband’s ‘gay affair’ with Gove

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few weeks ago I discovered that while he should have been focused on the fight of his life during the referendum campaign, David Cameron was instead obsessing over whether or not his justice secretary, Michael Gove, had had an affair with my husband, Dom Cummings, campaign director of Vote Leave. The story was in the Mail on Sunday, who eked it out across two consecutive issues. On week one it kept Dom and Michael’s names under wraps (for ethical reasons, it said) but revealed the source of the thrilling bit of gossip to be an aide of Cameron’s called Gavin Williamson (now Chief Whip). Williamson had, said the MoS, dashed into No. 10 ‘in the heat of the bitter EU campaign’ to deliver news of the fling to the PM. Even before I knew Dom was one of the Brokeback Brexiteers this seemed a very curious tale. What could have made Williamson so sure? Why did he rush to tell the PM, ‘in the heat of the campaign’? The story was written as if somehow Williamson thought a gay romance shed light on the otherwise inexplicable success of Vote Leave. Perhaps he imagined they were all fuelled by homoerotic passion in the manner of the Spartans. The following week the MoS, recovered from its bout of ethics, printed the names of the secret lovers and I felt an odd mix of emotions. First sadness, that it wasn’t a more exciting revelation, then a glimmer of understanding, followed by a feeling of anxious shame which has stayed with me ever since. The understanding was about what might have been Williamson’s motive. Not then, nor now, does David Cameron accept that his pal Gove — a lifelong Eurosceptic — chose to campaign for Leave for the sake of his country. Cameron’s position on the matter, I’ve heard it said, is simply that ‘Gove chose the wrong DC’, Dominic C over David C, and that for this crime he will be forever dead to Dave. So what if Williamson, in the manner of all successful courtiers, was simply telling his leader what he thought he wanted to hear: an explanation as to how the ‘wrong’ DC could ever be preferred? This all makes Cameron’s No. 10 sound like teenage group chat on WhatsApp. If the young knew what really makes a modern Tory tick, they might identify with them more.

But though he (allegedly) spread lies about my husband, though he conjured images I will never quite recover from, I can’t be too cross with this Gavin — and here’s where the shame comes in. Over the past few decades I must have heard many dozens of stories about politicians or actors being secretly gay. Magazines, newspapers, the internet are full of them. Gay rumours follow like vapour trails in the wake of any star: in politics, sport, Hollywood, and I’ve never before paused for long enough to wonder if they’re nonsense. I’ve thought: no smoke without some roman-

Cameron’s position on the matter, I’ve heard it said, is simply that ‘Gove chose the wrong DC’ tic spark, and more often than not passed them on. But what if almost all of the endless ‘insider’ stories about secretly gay celebs are as bogus as the Dom/Gove story? It’s a rare political leader who isn’t ‘known’ to be homosexual by someone or other — excepting Cameron, for some reason, who perhaps doesn’t have the imagination to be gay. There’s many who’ll swear Obama’s marriage is a sham, and that he was a frequent visitor to gay saunas in his Chicago days. He’s believed, among the sorts who think him a secret Muslim, to have had a fling with the very straight, very married mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel. I interviewed the late fat chef Clarissa Dickson Wright a few years before she died,

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

‘Is it gender neutral?’

and she told me that she believed Tony Blair to have had gay relationships. They moved in the same circles at the Bar in the 1970s, she claimed, and his nickname was ‘Miranda’. Why? ‘Because of The Tempest — you know, when Miranda says: “How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,/ That has such people in ’t.”’ It didn’t previously occur to me, even through the Wendi Deng affair, that this might be entirely untrue. And what of all the whispering about the supposedly secret sexuality of William Hague, which eventually forced an embarrassing and sincere public denial? I spent my formative years in journalism as a gossip columnist and barely a month went by without my editor including a little paragraph on Hague’s ‘friendship’ with Seb Coe. Why did they practise judo so often, we wondered pathetically in print. It’s all just utter cobblers, isn’t it? Is Tom Cruise straight? Is George Clooney’s marriage for real? What about John Travolta? What’s behind this great yearning need of ours for famous men and women to be gay? There’s certainly nothing moral about all this fictitious ‘outing’. It’s not that we’re all intent on a healthy flinging open of all the closet doors because — what would be the need? There was a time when homosexual stars laid low for fear of suffering professionally; perhaps some politicians still do. But in 2016, in the West, all and any sexuality is increasingly a-OK. In the world of fashion and music, it’s decidedly cooler for a young star to be pansexual than narrow-mindedly straight. I suspect the answer is that though our culture has moved on, our monkey minds haven’t. Though we think of ourselves as nonjudgmental, it still seems excitingly transgressive to us that someone might be gay. If this were just about illicit sex or infidelity, there’d be rumours cooked up about settled gay couples having straight affairs, perhaps a secret affair between Elton John and Lady Gaga for instance, but no one has any interest in that. The great gay rumour mill churns on. Just this week a great friend of mine insisted to me that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian. He knows, he says, really knows it for a fact. Everyone does. Thanks to Gavin Williamson, instead of passing on the news, I’ve bet him £100 it’s rubbish. 17


The Breitbart conspiracy Is Steve Bannon really pulling the strings in Team Trump? FREDDY GRAY

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onald J. Trump always keeps everyone guessing. Is the president-elect ditching his crazy act in order to bring in a conventional Republican government? Or ditching conventional Republican government in order to bring in his crazy act? Is he bringing together the anti-politics outsiders and the Washington insiders? Or is he playing them against each other? Are we witnessing the usual scramble for power that accompanies every incoming administration? Or is the Trump transition a new kind of shambles? The answer to all these questions is yes, probably. Take the role of Steve Bannon, executive chairman of the right-wing website Breitbart (aka ‘Trump Pravda’), who served as the Donald’s campaign manager in the run-up to the election. Bannon, a former US navy officer, has reportedly described himself as a Leninist who wants to tear down the system. The fear, among the anti-Trump press at any rate, was that he would be rewarded with the chief of staff job in the new administration. It came as something of a relief on Sunday, then, when the news broke that Trump had instead appointed Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, to be his main man in the White House. For those craving a return to normality, however, the press release was the opposite of satisfying: ‘Trump for President CEO Stephen K. Bannon will serve as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will serve as White House Chief of Staff’. Bannon and Priebus would be ‘equal’ partners, it said. Nobody could fail to notice the order in which the two posts were revealed. Again the announcement threw up more questions than it answered. Was Team Trump softening the blow to Bannon’s ego — emphasising his importance as consigliere when he had in fact missed out? Was Bannon being pushed aside? Or was he still pulling the strings? Had he composed the statement himself? It certainly read like a Breitbart PR declaration. The media, predictably enough, had a sense of humour failure and freaked out. Bannon is an anti-Semite and a white nationalist, screamed the hacks. The accusations were based on the editorial tone of Breitbart, which often flirts with racial politics in a mischievous way, as well as an allegation made by one of Bannon’s ex-wives in a

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divorce court. Mary Louise Piccard (hardly a neutral source) claimed her former husband ‘doesn’t like Jews’ and ‘doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be “whiney brats”’. Right-wingers rallied to Bannon’s defence. Newt Gingrich, a Grand Old Party stalwart and now Trump crony, countered by saying Bannon couldn’t hate Jews because he had worked in Hollywood and for Goldman Sachs, which prompted a lot of chortling about what a bigot Newt must be. Others pointed out that Bannon is a fierce supporter of Israel. On Breitbart.com, of all places, the Democrat Alan Dershowitz came out to say that Bannon ‘has very good relationships with individual Jews’.

As if all that weren’t silly enough, various websites started posting articles listing Breitbart’s most offensive articles, pretending these were the direct fruits of Bannon’s evil mind and therefore proof that the White House was being taken over by a Nazi. Selected headlines included such gems as ‘Would You Rather Your Child had Feminism or Cancer?’ and ‘Birth Control Makes Women Crazy and Unattractive’. The hundreds of thousands of people being offended on the internet are making fools of themselves. They seem pathologically incapable of realising that they have fallen for the Breitbart trick, which is to wind them up. Breitbart isn’t anti-Semitic or white nationalist; it isn’t sincere enough for that. Andrew Breitbart, the site’s late founder, was brought up in the Jewish faith and was a pas-

sionate pro-Israeli. It’s true that the website is now connected to the ‘alt-right’, a growing web-based movement of freaks and geeks who dabble in misogyny and racial antagonism, only to plead irony when called out. Anybody who isn’t with them is a ‘libtard’ — liberal retard — or a ‘cuckservative’ — a cuckold conservative. Breitbart is at the PC end of this politically incorrect spectrum: altright lite, if you like. Most of its contributors are harmless provocateurs, such as The Spectator’s own James Delingpole (see his humble insights into the age of Trump on page 28). Breitbart surfs the waves of internet outrage in pursuit of clicks, while pretending to be a real news operation. That is what most web journalism is about: but Breitbart is on the vice-signalling right rather than the virtuesignalling left. In other words, it’s not worth taking seriously. That’s not to say Bannon is without real political ambitions. He is, I’m told, a ‘true believer’ — although what he truly believes is not altogether clear. He’s not a libertarian as such. But he wants to smash international governance, corporatism and the centralised state wherever he finds it. He believes in ‘a global tea party movement’ against globalism and likes to lecture people about ‘crony capitalism’. In interviews he identifies himself as a working-class Catholic boy — a classic Reagan Democrat — and says he is a defender of Judeo-Christian values and traditional marriage. He’s been divorced three times. He swears a lot. Yet he doesn’t want Breitbart to publish saucy images. He wants to expose the dark money secrets of the Clintons, but Breitbart never reveals where its considerable funding comes from. He’s apparently sometimes charming as well as being a nasty thug. ‘He’s always trying to make a star out of new recruits before he totally screws them over with a shitty work life and a long debilitating contract,’ claims one DC-based journalist. ‘On the other hand, a seemingly jovial guy.’ What’s certain is that long before Trump, Bannon had been trying to hitch Breitbart’s fortunes to various anti-establishment politicians on the right. He attempted to jump on the Sarah Palin phenomenon after the 2008 election. That petered out. He set up Breitbart UK in London and forged an alliance with Nigel Farage and Ukip ahead of last year’s general election. That went awry. In Trump, he has found a winner — and, perhaps the ultimate prize, a senior role in the new US government. Breitbart France is coming soon, presumably to help Marine Le Pen win the presidential election next year. But Bannon can’t be that important. Not many of the 60 million people who voted for Donald Trump would have done so because they read Breitbart or because they share Bannon’s revolutionary worldview. They just wanted change and better prospects. Is Bannon on the right side of history? A lucky jackal? Or a bit-part in the greater Trump farce? The answer on all counts is yes, probably.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


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Please quote MINC S 22


Italy’s Brexit moment

BAROMETER

Unelected prime minister Matteo Renzi is losing his own referendum campaign

Long divisions Donald Trump reaffirmed his plan for a border wall between the US and Mexico, but said parts might end up as a fence. Who has the longest, highest barriers? India-Bangladesh India is still building a 2,545-mile three-metre-high barrier of barbed wire and concrete. Morocco-Western Sahara Separated by a 1,700-mile sand berm, typically two metres high, reinforced with land mines. US-Mexico 580 miles of fence already exist along the 1,950-mile border. Israel-Palestinian territories 440-mile barrier: part concrete wall, part barbed wire. Hungary-Serbia To thwart migration there is a 110-mile, four-metre-high fence. Catholic and Protestant Belfast 25-mile long ‘peace lines’ up to 8.5 metres high still separate some communities.

Unpopular winners Hillary Clinton lost the US presidential election despite winning the popular vote. Other elections where the loser won more individual votes than the winner: 2000 Al Gore (51 million) lost to George W. Bush (50.5 million) by 266 votes to 271 in the electoral college. 1888 Democrat Grover Cleveland (5.5 million) lost to Republican Benjamin Harrison (5.4 million) by 168 to 233. 1876 Democrat Samuel J. Tilden (4.3 million) lost to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes (4 million) by 184 to 185, after 20 electoral college votes were disputed.

Coming to America Where did the million people who emigrated to the USA in 2014 come from? Mexico...... 133,000 Cuba........... 46,500 India ............ 74,500 Dominican China ........... 72,500 Republic .... 44,600 Philippines .. 48,600 Vietnam ..... 29,800 Source: Department of Homeland Security

Labouring in vain Alan Milburn, head of the Social Mobility Commission, wants a ban on unpaid workexperience placements lasting more than four weeks, saying only the children of the better-off benefit. But a study of US students suggests unpaid internships during college don’t help you to get a job anyway: No internship: 35 per cent found a job at graduation, average salary $37,100 Unpaid internship: 37 per cent found a job, average salary $35,700 Paid internship: 63 per cent found a job, average salary $51,900 Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

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NICHOLAS FARRELL

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hough he is a big fan of the European Union, Barack Obama brings bad karma to it. So perhaps he should not have chosen Greece and Germany, the two countries which illustrate so poignantly why the euro is doomed, for his last foreign tour. His farewell visit is, if not a kiss of death, surely a bad omen for the EU and most immediately for one of those present in Berlin to bid him goodbye: Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, who has called an all-important referendum on constitutional reform for 4 December. If he loses, as looks ever more likely, it could cause a run on Italy’s sclerotic banks that could engulf the eurozone. Obama was certainly defying the gods last month when he gave his last state dinner at the White House — ‘a swirl of Dolce Vita diplomacy’, CNN called it — in honour of the 41-year-old Renzi. The Italian prime minister, who is the leader of Italy’s former communist

Instability is rising rapidly once again and all eyes are on the referendum result party and the third unelected leader of this troubled country in five years, was praised by Obama as ‘bold’ and ‘progressive’. The outgoing President was generous enough to add: ‘I am rooting for [his] success.’ Renzi might ask David Cameron how that kind of support tends to work out. Ten days later, a massive earthquake destroyed the Basilica of San Benedetto in Norcia, near Perugia, built on the site where St Benedict, patron saint of Europe, was born in about AD 480. So, as Italy gets ready to vote, the omens are not looking good for Renzi, whose motormouth oratory about tough but progressive reform to drag Italy’s economy out of the mire earned him the nickname ‘Il Rottamatore’ (demolition man) — and catapulted him from being mayor of Florence to prime minister in February 2014 without so much as a general election. Nor are the opinion polls — the modern equivalents of haruspicy (as practised on animal entrails in Ancient Rome) — looking much better. These show the ‘no’ vote in the referendum, which is constitutionally binding, consistently ahead by three or four points. They also show that up to a third of Italians

have yet to decide. This is hardly surprising: only one in five, according to other polls, understands what the referendum is about. And who can blame them? For here is the byzantine question they are called to answer with either a ‘sì’ or a ‘no’: ‘Do you approve the text of the Constitutional Law concerning “dispositions for the overcoming of equal bicameralism, the reduction of the number of parliamentarians, the containment of the running costs of the institutions, the suppression of the National Economic and Labour Council and the review of Title V of Part II of the Constitution” approved by Parliament and published in Gazzetta ufficiale n.88 on 15 April 2016?’ In essence, Renzi wants to curtail the powers of the upper house, the senate, and to cut the number of senators — who would no longer be elected, but appointed by regional governments — from 315 to 100. If he succeeds, his economic reforms should be easier to pass. The two houses of parliament currently have equal power which, according to Renzi, causes huge delay, hobbles decisive law-making and causes weak government. In fact, Italy spews out more laws than the British, American, French and German governments, — many of them bad. What it needs is fewer, better laws, and a decent judicial system to enforce them, not the abysmally slow, politicised and inconclusive one it is cursed with. The reason Italy has had 60-odd governments in the past 70 years — all coalitions — is not thanks to its senate but to its electoral and party systems, which make it impossible for one party to win a majority of the seats. The referendum proposes many other things, including electoral reform. The idea is a version of proportional representation

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


which awards bonus seats to any party that gets 40 per cent or more of the popular vote right away — or in a run-off between the two most popular parties. The winning party will thus be guaranteed 340 seats in the lower house, an impregnable majority. Only twice since the war has a single party got more than 40 per cent in a general election, in 1948 and 1953.

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dmittedly, Renzi’s Democratic party is ahead in polls when Italians are asked which party they would vote for in a general election, at roughly 30 per cent, but only slightly ahead of the populist Five Star Movement that was founded by the comedian and internet comedian Beppe Grillo and whose slogan is Vaffa! (fuck off) to more or less everything, including the euro but excluding wind farms. Grillo has dismissed the referendum question as ‘incomprensibile’. His movement and most of what remains of media tycoon Berlusconi’s party, Forza Italia, will vote ‘no’ in the referendum. So too will the right-wing populist Northern League party, which also wants Italy out of the euro and illegal immigrants out of Italy. On top of that will be a significant tranche of Renzi’s own party. So this has become a referendum not just on constitutional reform but on Renzi — and if not on Italian membership of the EU, cer-

‘She wants to be an MP so she can be on Strictly Come Dancing.’

tainly on the euro. The Brexit vote, the triumph of Trump and the populist spring tide sweeping Europe are sure to convince many Italians to vote against Renzi. The Italian economy, meanwhile — which Renzi boasted he would sort out — is a prisoner of the euro and remains mired in recession. Italy’s GDP has shrunk by 8 per cent since 2008 while Britain’s, for example, has grown by 8.2 per cent. Italy’s unemployment rate remains stuck at around 12 per cent (youth unemployment is nearly 40 per cent). Public debt keeps growing and is now 135 per cent of GDP — the third highest in the world by that measure. Italy’s banks — including

Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest, founded in 1472 — are in deep trouble. They are badly undercapitalised and hold €360 billion of bad loans — the equivalent roughly of a fifth of Italy’s GDP. In short, things are hotting up. What finished Berlusconi was not bunga bunga but the spread between Italian government bond yields and German ones, which had soared into the meltdown zone. The spread is rising rapidly once again and all eyes are on the referendum result. The more the spread rises, the more the interest Italy has to pay on its stratospheric public debt. If Renzi loses and resigns, there will be even more political instability in Italy than normal. Even if he does not, there probably will be anyway. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winning economist and former adviser to Bill Clinton, recently warned that the eurozone is heading for ‘a cataclysmic event’. Asked if the Italian referendum could be it, he replied: ‘That is a big risk.’ He said the only solution, however, was to cancel the referendum. Last week, while filming a referendum video, Renzi took down the EU flags that for years have stood alongside the Italian flags behind the prime ministerial desk at Palazzo Chigi. Perhaps he too is getting a little superstitious. But win or lose on 4 December, there is big trouble ahead for Italy — and for the EU.

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Moscow rules Encounters with Trump fans and TV hucksters in Russia’s increasingly glossy capital OWEN MATTHEWS

Moscow o the Union Jack pub on Potapovsky Lane for a US election night party. The jolly Muscovite Trump supporters who organised the event had gone to the effort of providing girls with tight-fitting Trump-Pence T-shirts and Make America Great Again baseball caps. In pride of place beside the bar hung a specially commissioned triptych of oil paintings — heroic Soviet-style portraits of Russia’s new heroes: Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen. Among the guests were a group of young men from Tsargrad TV, Russia’s popular new Orthodox nationalist channel. Sporting neatly trimmed beards and sharp suits, they were a Russian version of Republican evangelicals. In one corner was a motley collection of middle-aged American right-wingers, identifiable by their lapel buttons and red ties. The foreigners were feted lavishly, as communist fellow travellers once were. For these chaps, Vladimir Putin has become a kind of Che Guevara for the anti-establishment right, the leader of a worldwide movement whose time, they believe, has come. Perhaps rashly, I had accepted a series of invitations to appear on Russian TV talk shows. The very first thing Putin did on coming to power in 2000 was eliminate independent television stations: the lookingglass worldview projected from the nation’s screens remains the cornerstone of his power today. Russian TV is a strange world where nothing is true and everything is possible, in Peter Pomerantsev’s memorable phrase. Naturally, all channels were in a lather of excitement about the triumph of Trump and, apparently, the forthcoming disintegration of Nato and collapse of the West. I was told by grateful TV producers that while pro-Putin Americans are two-apenny, there is a terrible dearth of foreigners in Moscow willing to take a pro-western line on their show. I quickly realised why. My role appeared to be to act as a human punchbag — and also to answer personally for the multitudinous sins of the West, from the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 to America’s ‘aggression’ in Ukraine in 2013. I found myself momentarily stumped by this last, but was quickly enlightened: America apparently orchestrated the Maidan revolution in Ukraine that brought a ‘fascist junta’ to power, from which the Crimean people

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fled to the protection of Russia. And by the way, the US obviously wants to take over Iraq and Syria and only Russia stands against the march of American global hegemony. Advancing into that barrage felt like going over the top into raking machine-gun fire. It got worse. By Friday, Russian TV was joyously showing footage of anti-Trump riots across the US, calling it an ‘uprising’. One of the axioms of Russian TV is that no demonstration can be spontaneous. Every revolt, from Tahrir Square in Cairo to the Maidan Square in Kiev to downtown Portland this week, must be the work of sinister secret forces working for Hillary Clinton. The US tried to stoke popular risings to destabilise Russia, but now the ‘Orange boomerang’ (named for Ukraine’s Orange Revolution) has rebounded on America, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zaharova told us gravely.

I feel like an early Christian facing the lions, vainly shouting about the truth making you free An ad from Craigslist offering $15 an hour to people willing to ‘Stop Trump’ was triumphantly flashed onto the screen as evidence of a Hillary conspiracy to overturn the election result — until I pointed out that the ad’s purpose had been to encourage voters to go to the polls, three days previously. Momentary confusion reigned until the host came back with a spirited response. ‘With what we know about Hillary’s corruption and America’s flawed voting system, I don’t think you have anything to teach us about democracy or thieving politicians.’ Cut to an ad break.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

One of the hosts asked me jokingly if I enjoyed this kind of ‘gladiatorial combat’. I felt more like an early Christian facing the lions, vainly shouting about the truth making you free. But in fairness I was encouraged to say whatever I liked — and it was really broadcast live, to Moscow, with no time-lapse. After a few shows I got a few lines off pat. ‘You realise that all this stuff about Syria and America is all cooked up to distract your attention from the staggering thievery of Russia’s leaders?’ and ‘Russia’s economy is the 12th largest in the world and shrinking fast — it’s time to get over the pain of this phantom limb that’s your lost empire and work out how to pay your pensioners.’ And so on. Slightly to my surprise, the producers seemed delighted by these zingers. Perhaps many of them are simply clever conformists who don’t wholly believe the party line. On the day of Trump’s victory, an editor came up to me in the corridor with a concerned expression. ‘Embarrassed for the idiocy of your countrymen?’ she asked consolingly, taking me for a Yank because I work for Newsweek, an American magazine. ‘Now you know what Russians feel like.’ After all this, facing off against the veteran Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky felt almost refreshing. At least he’s occasionally honest. ‘The only reason you like Trump is because you wish America harm,’ I ventured. ‘I spit on America,’ he agreed. Meanwhile, outside the TV studio, Moscow flourishes. The city centre has been fitted with new granite pavements complete with cycle lanes, newly planted trees and even swings for grown-ups. There’s city-wide Wi-Fi and a thriving hipster foodie culture. Thanks to Russia’s self-imposed ban on imported foodstuffs, local chefs have been forced to become locavores, with brilliant results that have transformed Moscow into a gourmet destination. Of course these are just the playthings of a small metropolitan middle class — but compared with the grim, almost post-apocalyptic Moscow I found when I first came to work here in 1995, it feels like progress. Nonetheless, Moscow’s European makeover made me feel nostalgic for a lost future — one without Putin’s return to power in 2012 or his disastrous miscalculation over Crimea that heralded Russia’s plunge into nationalism and self-delusion. My talented Oxford friend Louise Mensch has tweeted that ‘Russia has nothing. Russia is joyless.’ You are quite wrong, Louise. The arts still burn bright. The brilliant Gogol theatre, the Garazh museum of modern art, the upcoming Moscow Art Triennial and a slew of small galleries and theatre workshops ignore the official doom-mongering. None of this makes up for the casual racism, the institutional homophobia, the scary rising fringe of ultra-nationalists who refuse to be co-opted by the Kremlin. Modern Russia may be deluded, aggressive and possibly dangerous. But never joyless. 23


LONDON NOTEBOOK Evgeny Lebedev

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he new government seems to be struggling with the logistical intricacies of removing Britain from the European Union. I can only assume they have never tried to put together a theatre awards. The Evening Standard Theatre Awards take a year to arrange, but it can sometimes feel like the whole thing is done in a week, which passes in a blur of seating plans, speeches, menus and other thespian miscellany. It is theatre within theatre. If the Prime Minister is reading this, I am available to consult on how to manage conflicting egos in a high-pressured environment.

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etween Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Joan Collins and Shirley Bassey, a full range of damehood is on display. As Rob Brydon pointed out, with the exception of Kristin these ladies are all eligible for the government’s winter fuel allowance. The usual complaint is that the worlds of stage and screen are obsessed with youth. Not here. It wasn’t just the women, either: David Attenborough and Michael Gambon are many things, but few would call them sprightly youths. Diversity takes many forms.

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s usual there were several contenders for the worst-behaved guest, but the competition for best behaviour had a standout star: Vladimir, my borzoi puppy. He arrived and left on time, sat quietly during the speeches, and didn’t once get up to go to the loo. He even hummed along to Elton John’s performance of ‘The Circle of Life’, from The Lion King. The borzoi is also known as the Russian wolfhound. They were bred by the Tsars to hunt wolves on the steppe. So despite Vladimir’s immaculate manners he will probably not be introduced to Boris and Lara, my other two pets, who are timber wolves and live in Italy. We all have difficult cousins.

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adio 2 broadcast the event live, and as part of the build-up I recorded Tracks of My Years with Ken Bruce, whose gentle Glaswegian burr was later subject to a brilliant Brydon impression. I could hardly leave out David Bowie,

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Not that height makes much difference most of the time. Some of the most impressive people I ever met were the Bayaka pygmies, who live in the middle of the Central African Republic. They are only about 4ft tall, but highly accomplished at tug of war, as I learnt. They also smoke a terrific amount of weed, which has the effect of making them very horny and liable to rub themselves against the nearest person — or the nearest tree, if a person isn’t around. At the Old Vic we made do with champagne and cocktails. who died this year. And one of my other choices was Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. Dylan had just been awarded his Nobel Prize and we talked about how Cohen was the only other living singer-songwriter who would be up to the prize. Had I known I was cursing my choice to die immediately afterwards, I might have picked someone else. Cohen was a genius.

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lizabeth Debicki, the wonderful Australian actor who starred in The Night Manager, stole the show on the red carpet. Elizabeth is 6ft 2in and manages to be even more glamorous in real life than on screen, which is saying something. FROM THE ARCHIVE

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he Duke of Cambridge was our guest of honour and presented Sir David Attenborough with his Beyond Theatre award. The Duke and I share a love of animals, as well as the theatre. It is perhaps a surprise that London is such a centre of elephant conservation, but I suppose it’s harder to organise a fundraiser in the middle of the Serengeti. Later this month is the Animal Ball, the elephant family’s conservation knees-up. I’d never put it like this to the actors, but you could argue that the elephant’s cause is even more urgent than theirs. (The jury’s out on who holds a grudge better.)

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Germany and the City From ‘English versus German banking’, The Spectator, 18 November 1916: At the present moment a good many of us are in the mood to feel that we never wish to see any kind of German within our country again; but it is quite certain that this attitude of mind will not endure for ever, and it is equally certain that if we prevent German bankers from establishing themselves in London after the war they will take their business elsewhere, and to that extent London will lose its character as an international banking centre. Mr Pownall well expresses the main proposition: ‘It is the universality of London, its cosmopolitan composition, that creates its character. Deprive it of that character and its pre-eminence dies.’ We cannot, in a word, retain our position as bankers of the world unless we allow foreign bankers to settle among us.

he advantage of owning a newspaper or two is that there is never just one thing to monopolise your attention. While all this glamour is going on in one part of the Evening Standard, much of the rest has been taken up by Food for London, our campaign to combat food waste and food poverty. We have raised more than £1 million for the Felix Project, which delivers surplus to charities that make meals for the nearly 400,000 people who live in food poverty in the capital. Soon our Christmas campaign will start. These projects do brilliant work. It’s more important than ever that we help improve the lives of London’s most vulnerable citizens. Nothing could be more gratifying than less fortunate Londoners saying that the Evening Standard has changed their life. Evgeny Lebedev is the proprietor of the Evening Standard and the Independent.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


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The perfect mismatch

ANCIENT AND MODERN

Thucydides on Donald Trump

Dating apps encourage their users to pair off by looks. That’s a mistake, as I learned the hard way ARIANE SHERINE

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s she really going out with him?’ asks the old Joe Jackson song about a mixedattractiveness couple. ‘They say that looks don’t count for much — there goes your proof.’ High society used to abound with couples in which the woman was far more beautiful than the man. But while we can still point to famous aesthetically mismatched partners (pudgy Trump and pulchritudinous Melania anyone?), the mating patterns of the young now mean we are witnessing the death of the mixed-attractiveness couple. This is thanks to the way millennials fall in love — more often than not, online. They flick through potential matches on sites such as Match.com and MySingleFriend with distressing rapidity, discounting anyone they don’t fancy straight away. This process becomes even more savage on apps such as Tinder, Bumble, Happn and OKCupid. Habitually, users barely bother to write anything about themselves, opting instead to upload snaps of significant parts of their anatomy. If you spot a young person furiously attending to their phone, chances are they are swiping through thousands of faces — right for ‘yes’ and left for ‘no’ — and bypassing hundreds of members of the opposite sex with whom they might actually be compatible in favour of those they find simply delectable. Multiple studies have shown that the most successful relationships are built through ‘assortative mating’ i.e. pairing up with those who share the same background, social aspirations, education and attractiveness. But only the latter is readily apparent on dating apps. When couples who fancied each other rotten find the physical fascination wearing off, those who met via dating apps may discover that they have nothing in common with their partner besides relative good looks. When it comes to long-term love, the lack of mixed-attractiveness couples marks a troubling trend. Research shows that it takes between 18 months and three years for a relationship to move on from the ‘being in love’ phase. But, as Louis de Bernières put it in that passage so often read out at weddings, real love ‘is what is left over when being in love has burned away… Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.’ I discovered this to my cost seven years

ago, during my relationship with my daughter’s father. When we first met in a crowded pub, our mutual physical attraction was so powerful we didn’t notice that, other than sharing a profession, we had little in common. He liked art films, foreign literary novels and playing football: I preferred Hollywood blockbusters, comic fiction and going to watch stand-up comedy. He drank wine and was a seasoned traveller; I was teetotal and had never ventured out of Europe. We weren’t even similar in character: he was adventurous, sporty, mentally stable and private, while I was risk-averse, sedentary, had an anxiety disorder and, as this piece would suggest, often used truths from my personal life to illustrate my journalism. When I had a major nervous breakdown, fell pregnant, put on weight, and we moved in together, our relationship broke down. We struggled along but split up before our third anniversary: we simply weren’t compatible enough to withstand serious difficulties. Fascinatingly, it turns out that the longer two people know each other before beginning to date, the less important beauty is, and the more likely the partners are to differ in attractiveness. In one experiment at the University of Texas in Austin, researchers asked students to rate their classmates for desirability (including non-physical attributes) at the start of term, and after knowing them for three months. While students agreed who was attractive to begin with, their ratings at the end of term differed. Over a three-month period, personality had a powerful effect. When looking for love, young people might do better to revert to the slower courtship rituals of past generations. After all, mutual beauty is a flimsy basis for a relationship. If, instead, a partnership is founded on shared hobbies and genuine friendship, it is more likely to be able to withstand the vicissitudes of life. Beauty always fades with time, but relationships need not fade with it. I don’t regret my passionate but ultimately doomed romance — without it, our wonderful, sweet and hilarious five-year-old girl would never have been created. But I can’t help but think how much better it would have been if we’d been compatible as people, and if I were now married to the father of my child. SPECTATOR.CO.UK/PODCAST

‘America’s journey into the great unknown’, screamed a headline greeting Donald Trump’s election as next President of the United States. Most of us call it the future, which has a long and distinguished tradition of being unknown. In the ancient world there was quite an industry in attempting to foretell the future: oracles, auguries, dream interpreters and so on. But to rely on the supernatural was to put one’s trust in something equally unknowable, and the great Greek historian Thucydides (5th century BC) proposed a better way: as doctors’ evidence-based analysis of the course of an illness enabled them to generalise about the course of any future example, so human history gave clues to to anthrôpinon, ‘the human condition’, ways in which humans were likely to respond to the situations in which they found themselves. As a result of his researches, Thucydides’ ‘human constants’ included e.g. ‘States which suddenly and unexpectedly become prosperous are inclined to ideas above their station’; ‘It is prestige, fear and self-interest that prevent men giving up power’; ‘It is human nature to despise conciliation and admire resistance’; ‘When men desire something, they are inclined to trust in mindless hope, but to reject what they do not care for with ruthless logic’; ‘War is a violent teacher and tends to assimilate men’s character to their condition.’ But the spanner in the ointment, as Thucydides was well aware, was tukhê, ‘chance’, or what Harold Macmillan called ‘Events, dear boy, events.’ However intelligently one planned, tukhê could not by definition be prepared for or explained; it was unaccountable to both men and gods, and however unjust, never reversible. Admittedly, as the Roman Valerius Maximus pointed out, ‘When chance puts aside her malicious nature, she piles up great and numerous gifts that are also permanent.’ But there were no guarantees. The commentariat has been caught completely on the hop by Trump’s victory, and even more by his assorted volte-faces after it. One rather hopes he continues the good work, if only to make the fourth estate think a little harder about their own journey into the great unknown. — Peter Jones

Ariane Sherine talks with Cosmo Landesman

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

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JAMES DELINGPOLE

The moral arc of the universe bends towards me

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o I made £250 betting on Trump to win the presidency. It would have been more, except that every time I got close to topping up my stake, this boring, mimsy, responsible voice in my head kept saying: ‘Now, now James. Don’t be silly. All your sensible friends who know much, much more than you do about politics have been telling you that President Trump just isn’t going to happen.’ One of them was m’learned colleague Toby Young. Until recently we used to do a podcast together. Because it was partly aimed at a US audience, we’d usually chat about the presidential race and I’d go into my crazy spiel about why Trump was the only sane choice; and Toby would patiently explain how silly this was because Trump wanted to disband Nato and we’d probably end up with the third world war. Toby has now got himself a proper job (working for an education charity), as have most of my journalistic contemporaries. Of late, I’ve begun to feel like the pilled-up, grey-haired rave casualty on the dance floor who hasn’t quite accepted that the party’s over. There I am, persuading myself that I’m the last of the breed, fearlessly relaying truth to power when all the rest have fled the field. But maybe the truth is — or so I’ve sometimes wondered in my darker moments — that I’m just a puerile contrarian raging against reality, when what I should really have done is embraced Remain and rooted for Hillary, like all my more sophisticated friends at places like the Economist, the Times and the Financial Times. Instead, look at what happened! No, I can’t believe it either — it feels so weird and unnatural I almost want a rerun. Not only was I in the journalistic minority of being right about Brexit, but I was in the even tinier minority of being right about Trump. Maybe it wasn’t such a totally lunatic thing taking that contract with Breitbart, after all. Breitbart, as you’re probably now aware, is the right-wing US website which can more or less claim ownership of Donald Trump’s victory. Until last week, they were derided by the left-liberal media as being quite beyond the pale of civilised discussion because of their shockingly rude stories about feminists 28

and Islamists and Black Lives Matter activists. Even one or two conservative friends advised me that I’d be tainting myself by association with such a fringe organisation. What I replied to these kind friends was: ‘One — you clearly don’t understand what’s happening to the media. Fat fees and fantastical expenses have gone. To earn a living you have to go where the money is. And increasingly that ain’t on what’s left of Fleet Street. ‘Two: you obviously have no idea how well Breitbart is doing. You may not like their punchy, attack-dog style but they’re part of a populist revolution, representing the kind of

When Trump says he doesn’t believe in ‘global warming’ it’s not some wind-up stunt to troll lefties people who are ignored and often despised by the mainstream media. ‘And three: how many other outlets are out there would be prepared to pay me a regular income to write whatever the hell I like, especially on my pet topic, the hatefulness of the environmental industry?’ A lot of Breitbart’s success is down to its former executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon (aka the Steve Monster; aka Honey Badger), a truly terrifying figure: ex-US Navy; ex-Goldman Sachs; ex-movie industry, where he made a fortune accidentally buying up the rights to Seinfeld; infamous for his short temper and epically foul-mouthed outbursts. But though I found him petrifying to work for — he’s like the eye of Sauron: he sees every-

‘Your father’s feeling emboldened.’

thing and exists on Diet Coke and no sleep — he’s probably the most impressive galvanising force and greatest political visionary I have ever met. When we first met a bit over three years ago, he had it all planned out: he was going to destroy the corrupt, sclerotic, self-serving political establishment which he utterly despised — squishy, centrist conservatives even more than lefties — and the first stepping stone towards achieving this would be securing Britain’s exit from the European Union. Thereafter, he’d capture the US presidency. ‘Yeah, right,’ I thought. But look where he is now: newly appointed ‘chief strategist and senior counsellor’ to the next president of the USA. He’s earned it too. It was his idea, I suspect, to copy from his friend and hero Nigel Farage the strategy of campaigning on an outsider ticket, whereby Trump revelled in the hatred and brickbats of his establishment opponent because it just showed what a people’s revolutionary he was. Before that, Bannon did an awful lot of groundwork on Breitbart’s daily radio show on Sirius FM, engaging with and building Trump’s voter base even before Trump’s presidential campaign was really a thing. These were blue-collar workers but they definitely (and this was the left-liberal media’s fatal error) weren’t low-information voters nor were they dumb rednecks. Bannon would talk to them like an impatient, irascible professor trying to get the very best out of students he knew were much cleverer than they realised. More often than not he was proved right. One of his pet peeves is the great climatechange con. It’s partly why he recruited a notorious sceptic like myself. This is going to be painful news to the BBC, the University of East Anglia and Caroline Lucas, but this thing where Trump says he doesn’t believe in ‘global warming’: it’s not some wind-up stunt to troll lefties; it’s going to be a core part of his administration’s political programme. This is great news for science (the sort that cleaves to empiricism, rigour and the scientific method), great news for the global economy and great news for the handful of journalists who’ve been saying for years that the climate emperor has no clothes. Basically, we won.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


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LETTERS

Wisdom of crowds Sir: According to Matthew Parris (‘Can we trust the people?’ 12 November), I have become part of the mob. Nevertheless, I have never really thought of myself in that way. Although it may be reasonable to criticise the antics of Farage or Trump, surely it is wrong to characterise all those who voted for their causes as a mob? My motives in voting for Brexit were simple and reasonable. Many of my generation — who lived as children through the 1940s when our parents went to war to preserve our sovereignty, our justice system and control of our borders — voted to leave the EU because they saw these three vital powers slipping away into the hands of an unelected bunch of bureaucrats. The mob which Parris describes in America are people whose livelihoods have been devastated by the globalisation of trade, which has enriched big business. Their votes were against the status quo (Hillary Clinton) and in favour of change. Sadly it appears that Parris is joining the ranks of an elite who not only are unable to accept the will of the people, but whose detachment from their rationale leads him to think them a mob that might endanger democracy. He should think again. Brian Thornton Malvern, Worcestershire

of the special relationship. US assistance, in terms of military hardware, aircraft fuel and, above all, satellite intelligence helped ensure our victory in a conflict whose outcome was never a foregone conclusion. The wholehearted commitment to our cause by Caspar Weinberger, who even offered us an aircraft carrier, earned the US defence secretary an honorary knighthood and Margaret Thatcher’s claim that ‘Britain never had a truer friend’. E. MacIntosh Darlington, Co. Durham

Glorious ignorance Sir: Like Claire Fox (‘In defence of post-truth politics’, 12 November), I am constantly struck by the way ‘experts’ get it wrong, and how enterprising folk, along with the ‘masses’, hit the nail on the head. What fascinates me is the glorious unpredictability of mankind. We can predict the lunar orbit to within a hairsbreadth and understand the internal chemistry of stars. Yet try to calculate beforehand the results of the EU referendum or the US election, then you might as well go and whistle. What we have

Please don’t fix it Sir: Matthew Parris’s view that the ‘procedures’ need to be reformed to avoid killing our faith in democracy is both arrogant and wrong. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump clearly strike much of the electorate as clear signs that, for once, their views did count. Whether I or anyone else agree with their views, changing the rules so the masses cannot change how nations are governed will lead them to conclude that democracy no longer works for them. Other routes to achieving their desired outcomes involve violence and lawlessness. The people have spoken. We ignore them at our peril. Jonathan Little Penshurst, Kent

Friends over the Falklands Sir: I normally agree with most of what Rod Liddle says, but I must challenge his implication that the special relationship did nothing for Britain during the Falklands war (‘Trump will be much, much better for Britain’, 12 November). In siding so openly with Britain as he did, President Reagan was prepared to put his entire Latin American policy in jeopardy for the sake the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

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here is not so much ‘post-truth’ as a ‘higher truth’ — one reflected in the patriotism and simple common sense of the ‘deplorables’. Renaissance monarchs had astrologers armed with brass astrolabes to help fathom the future. Their modern equivalents have ‘experts’ with supercomputers. The results are often about the same. Dr Allan Chapman Wadham College, Oxford

Double issue Sir: Your publication of an edition devoted to Donald Trump’s victory within 24 hours of the result is impressive. Did you perhaps follow the example of your former editor (now our Foreign Secretary) and prepare editions for either outcome? David Hadden Ardingly, West Sussex

Cheer up, me duck Sir: May I suggest to Mrs Slade Crombie, who is upset by odd forms of address (Letters, 12 November), that it is better to accept these endearments in the spirit in which they are intended? In the north of England it is an everyday occurrence to be addressed as ‘love’, but it is always by people who only mean to be friendly. My son, who lives in Derby, has found himself occasionally addressed as ‘duck’, and although tempted to quack in response has so far managed to refrain. Clare Johnson Glossop, Derbyshire

Cosy fan tutte Sir: There seems a lot of fuss about this Danish notion of homely cosiness (Mind your language, 12 November). People the world over have words that mean the same as ‘hygge’. I bet the Eskimos have 50. June McManus Leeds

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First-name terms Sir: I recall meeting a lady who shared Mrs Prior’s Christian name (Letters, 12 November). Holding out my hand, I gave my own name by way of introduction. A wry smile crossed her lips as she said: ‘Well this was bound to happen one day’ before giving her name as ‘Fanny’. Since then I’ve introduced myself as Richard. Dickie Ellis London EC4 WRITE TO US

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ANY OTHER BUSINESS|MARTIN VANDER WEYER

In Trump’s Texas, the oil men awaken to hope of new prosperity

Houston, Texas t’s hard to find anyone in polite society here who admits to having voted for Trump, even among the oil men. But 4.7 million Texans did so, giving him 53 per cent of the popular vote. In redneck rural counties the Donald carried four fifths of the ballot, but Hillary Clinton was ahead in urban Houston, whose citizens pride themselves on good relations between white, black and Latino communities and on the welcome they offer to newcomers — including, a decade ago, a quarter of a million refugees from hurricane-hit New Orleans. But still this is predominantly an oil town, and an industry that has suffered losses and slashed capital projects under the combination of sub-$50-a-barrel prices and Barack Obama’s environmental policies, awoke last week to the hope of new prosperity. Curiously, ‘Big Oil’ gave four times more in campaign contributions to Hillary than to her Republican opponent — but not much to either, having shown an earlier preference for Jeb Bush. The industry evidently didn’t take Trump’s candidacy seriously, and the biggest players such as Exxon Mobil were concerned that his protectionism would restrict their global trade more than his deregulation policies would boost the domestic production, which is a relatively small part of their portfolio. But now he is president-elect, there’s a buzz of expectation of new drilling licences on federal land, pipeline permissions, lighter regulation of emissions and fracking, less call for renewables and even a resurgence of coal mining. Key appointments are awaited, but hot tips include climate-change sceptic Myron Ebell to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma shale oil billionaire Harold Hamm for energy secretary, and oil products tycoon Forrest Lucas as secretary of the interior. So if you’re a bold investor — but not so adventurous as to contemplate shorting the Mexican peso, which has been in free fall since election day — you might want to take a look at mid-sized US oil and gas companies with prospects in west Texas

I

32

and elsewhere that will become viable under the new regime, at coalminers such as Westmoreland (already up 25 per cent since the election), at rail companies that carry coal, and at contractors to the fracking industry such as Halliburton. But if you’re an environmentalist concerned for the American wilderness, hold your head and weep.

Tomorrow’s America Sunday brunch at Hugo’s, a bustling Mexican restaurant with a mariachi band and a multi-ethnic clientele: at the next table, a big Latino family with a happy baby in a high chair. This is a true picture of Houston: only a third of its citizens are white, and only 22 per cent of under-20s; the Latino population has risen from 6 to 41 per cent in two generations, its birth rate boosted by a culture of family support that tends to produce healthier babies. What’s significant about this, according to sociologists at the city’s Rice University, is that by 2050 all of the US will look like Houston today, with a majority of minorities in all age groups below 60. Which means that what Donald Trump has been threatening — halting immigration, building a wall on the Mexican border, deporting ‘undocumented’ immigrants — cannot possibly achieve his objective of rebalancing the economy in favour of the older, white, non-college-educated working class who are his core supporters, because the societal change he and they so dislike is already irreversible. In Houston, immigration peaked in 2007: the continuing shift of population pattern is all about birth rates. The Trump revolution is an attempt to turn back history, and it must surely fail.

Still up there Talking of time travel, I was excited to find myself flying to Houston in a Boeing 747. The aircraft I once described as ‘one of the very few commercial products that has actually changed the world — which it did by making it smaller’ is two years short of its

half-century and has long been scheduled for obsolescence. The last passenger versions left the Seattle factory in 2005, though British Airways still has several in operation. A bulbous workhorse with a near-perfect safety record, the ‘Jumbo Jet’ is a symbol of the world-beating manufacturing prowess and blue-collar self-confidence the United States has lost: hence the rise of Trump. If you had to name an American product with comparable global impact today it would almost certainly be the iPhone — which is made in Shenzen, China. Thirty years ago, when I was a frequent long-haul explorer of Asian markets and the 747 had no rivals, hardly anyone was correctly predicting the great rise of China. Back then, it was Japan that was widely — but as it turned out wrongly — feared and courted as the next superpower. And it was on a Tokyo-bound 747 in 1984 that I watched a fellow passenger who could have been my identical twin and stage double, right down to his copy of The Spectator, drink himself to oblivion on vodka and grapefruit juice. I wonder if he’s still a reader?

Ballads of despair It’s rare for me to celebrate anyone’s financial misfortune, but if Leonard Cohen had not lost $5 million of his retirement savings due to alleged fiddling by his former manager, he might not have re-embarked on recording and touring in his seventies, and we would have heard much less of that uniquely stirring voice in his last years. The Canadian-born ‘poet-laureate of pessimism’ — who I contend would have been a more deserving and gracious Nobel winner than Bob Dylan — died in Los Angeles on the eve of the US election, so we’ll never hear the ballad of despair he might have composed on Trump’s victory. When he sang ‘democracy is coming’ in 1992 (and Bill Clinton’s campaign briefly adopted the song as an anthem), he called America ‘the cradle of the best and of the worst’. It still is, and it needs poets today.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


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A DV E RT I S I N G F E AT U R E

HOW TO SOLVE THE ENGINEERING SKILLS CRISIS

UK

engineering is facing an insidious threat to its success – a chronic failure to get enough young people to become the engineers and skilled technicians we need. Post-Brexit, the UK is likely to face greater challenges than before in recruiting enough professional engineers and technicians to meet industry’s needs. As engineering contributes 20 per cent of the UK’s gross value added (GVA), it is vitally important for our future prosperity and economic growth that we address this problem as soon as possible. So what can we do to plug the skills gap? One of the biggest barriers to the uptake of engineering as career is how it is perceived. If you look up ‘engineer’ in Google images, you will see page after page of pictures of men in hard hats. This completely belies the reality of modern engineering, which includes so much more than just construction. A graduate with an engineering degree or a skilled engineering technician can enjoy an exciting and rewarding career in a host of sectors – developing medical technologies, advancing artificial intelligence, designing sports equipment or inventing sustainable energy solutions, to name just a few potential opportunities. Children – girls as well as boys – are natural engineers: a small child at play uses their imagination to design, modify, innovate, perfect and often test to destruction. Unfortunately, throughout their years of education, we fail to capture this innate ability by nurturing in them a range of practical, creative and problem-solving skills. We owe it to young people to develop these talents through a curriculum that provides opportunities to grow, skills to fall back on throughout their lives and clear paths to future careers. The Royal Academy of Engineering is leading a project to meet this challenge at the front line. The Engineering Talent Project is bringing together the entire engineering profession in a drive to transform perceptions of engineering among young people, their parents, teachers and peers. Founder partners Airbus, Atkins, Babcock, BAE Systems, GKN, Jaguar Land Rover and National Grid are working with the Academy on a major communications campaign to bring perceptions of engineering up to date and to encourage our young people, whatever their background, to consider it as a career. The group has also identified five key policy areas, which, if tackled, could make a real difference to efforts to solve the UK’s engineering skills problem:


A DV E RT I S I N G F E AT U R E

• Promote teaching careers in maths, science, computing and D&T, to those engineering graduates — currently around 1,000 a year in the UK — who do not want a career in industry. • Improve careers education, guidance and transition to work in every school. • Improve further education provision in engineering. • Broaden the curriculum up to age 18, to avoid the need for children to make decisions by the age of 16 that could be wrong and will affect them for the rest of their lives. • Enable universities and colleges to invest further in engineering higher education — a high cost subject — to ensure that they can grow to meet increasing demand. Delivering these solutions is something that Philip Greenish, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, believes will rely heavily on coordination between professional bodies, engineering employers and government: ‘We must all work together if we are to secure the skilled people needed for the advanced, high growth businesses that will keep us ahead of the competition and to maintain our position as a world leader in science, research and innovation. Much of our energy, transport and communications infrastructure needs huge investment in future years, all of which requires people with engineering skills. We must work harder to develop creative, inventive and skilled people and attract them into the huge range of roles across engineering. This is what the Engineering Talent Project aims to do and we encourage government, industry and the profession to support us in this’. The UK economy has, so far, been fairly resilient following the Brexit referendum, with economic growth for 2017 reforecast up by the IMF. But, from the perspective of the engineering profession, we cannot be complacent. The development of new technologies such as driverless cars, missions to Mars, revolutionary treatments for cancer and the worldwide drive for plentiful, clean water for everyone demands bright young minds to meet the many challenges ahead. Simply put, the engineering community — and indeed society as a whole — cannot afford not to fill the skills gap. The Engineering Talent Project is a critical step towards ensuring Britain’s prosperous future.

WHAT’S CAUSING THE CRISIS? The crisis to date is a result of a variety of factors spanning every stage of schooling and education, workplace environments, and societal perceptions, including: • The arts versus science divide currently imposed on pupils at the age of 16, before they have decided on their future career path • The lack of STEM subject teachers who have enough knowledge or experience of the engineering sector • Inconsistent provision of careers advice at school • Outdated perceptions of engineering as a narrow and male-dominated profession • The attraction of graduate jobs in other areas, such as banking or management consultancy

Photo credit: The Archway Project Ltd

To find out more about the project please contact ETP@raeng.org.uk


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Illustration from ‘Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain’ by Edward Ardizzone Melanie McDonagh — p56

Geoffrey Wheatcroft mourns Eric Christiansen – one of our sharpest, funniest and most original reviewers William Cook finally finds a book on physics he understands

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

Marcus Berkmann delights in the surreal preoccupations of the posh Highgate mum Laura Freeman comes to the defence of the muchmaligned, double-cream streets of Stuccovia

Martin Gayford gives his verdict on the authenticity of a newly discovered Van Gogh sketchbook Bob Colacello remembers the wayward deb who invented the selfie 37


BOOKS & ARTS

CHRISTMAS BOOKS II

Books of the year A further selection of the best and most overrated books of 2016, chosen by some of our regular contributors

Michela Wrong Back in 2006, David Cornwell, aka John le Carré, hired me as guide for his first trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to research The Mission Song. Evenings were spent on the terrace of the Orchids Hotel in Bukavu, watching pirogues languidly traverse Lake Kivu, ice cubes clinking in respective glasses of Scotch. It was easily the most entertaining ten days of my life, despite the stonking hangovers. Cornwell proved to be a thespian manqué. The wry, extremely funny anecdotes about his career as diplomat, spy and writer, his charming conman father, his peripatetic childhood and his encounters with the likes of Yasser Arafat, Richard Burton and Rupert Murdoch were all gloriously enriched by the fact that he can do all the voices. Not approximately — it’s pitch perfect. Reading The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life (Viking, £20) felt like being back on that terrace. I savoured the gravelly, quietly insistent voice of a master storyteller examining his own life. Another highlight of the year was a new biography of Africa’s most extraordi38

nary monarch: King of Kings: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (Haus Publishing, £20). Its author, Asfa-Wossen Asserate, was the emperor’s great-nephew; his nobleman father died in a coup defending the leader he no longer believed in. It’s an accessible, well-written insider’s account, and the depiction of the doomed royal court’s last days is haunting. We Are Not Such Things by Justine Van Der Leun (Fourth Estate, £14.99) was a book I carelessly picked up but kept returning to. It’s not so much the story of the idealistic US activist Amy Biehl’s murder in the South African township of Gugulethu but about what happened next: the lies and self-delusion of both perpetrators and family and the inevitably manipulative ends to which her death was put in a nation still choking on apartheid’s legacy. Van Der Leun has a compassionate but admirably clear eye. It was also good to see another chapter in the DRC’s tortured history probed in Spies in the Congo: The Race for the Ore that Built the Atomic Bomb (Hurst & Company, £25). Susan Williams unpicked

the mystery of UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld’s death in her previous book. This time she turns to the discovery in Shinkolobwe of the uranium eventually dropped on Hiroshima by the Enola Gay. An intriguing, beautifully documented tale.

Claire Lowdon Does size matter? This year my go-to stocking filler will be the pocket-sized Grow a Pair by Joanna Walsh, from Readux Books: 64 pages of unadulterated pleasure ($4.99). Walsh’s collection of hilarious, nimbly interlinked ‘fairy tales about sex’ (‘The Three Big Dicks’, ‘The Princess and the Penis’) is a comic gem to set beside Nicholson Baker’s slim masterpiece Vox (1992), a book about phone sex. Make like Monica Lewinsky and give Vox to the Bill Clinton in your life, or treat yourself and go solo: either way, both these books will make you laugh, blush, and nod in delighted — if risqué — recognition. Not so good on sex was Eimear McBride’s highly anticipated The Lesser Bohemians (Faber, £16.99). ‘Come with me, he says and

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


I, holding on as it rises, the high tide.’ There were a few demurrals this time round, but I’m still surprised that McBride’s skimpy bouillabaisse of modernism has so many people coming back for seconds.

Frances Wilson Hot on the heels of his books about the Bible and the Queen comes A.N. Wilson’s witty, learned, utterly self-possessed novel Resolution (Atlantic, £16), about the turbulent life of George Forster. He was the Polish-born, Warrington-raised, multi-lingual Enlightenment scholar-scientist who, aged 18, was appointed botanist on board the Resolution. His popular account of the voyage pipped Captain Cook’s own book to the post. So Wilson’s Forster is a guilty man, a protégé who murdered his master: ‘It now amazes me that I had the gall, the sheer cheek, to write my Voyage book. I wrote it fast. We finished it before Cook. It sold well — only now do I see how justifiably angry the Captain must have been! I’d done more than jump the gun. I’d violated him.’ Forster’s own protégé, Alexander Humboldt, praised him for combining scientific accuracy with ‘the vivifying breath of imagination’. This is also A.N. Wilson’s achievement. Best novel of the year.

Cressida Connolly Easily the most original novel of the year was Charlotte Hobson’s The Vanishing Futurist (Faber, £16.99). It tells the story of an English governess who finds herself caught up in the Russian Revolution; but instead of retreating to the safety of Cornwall, she stays on in order to join a sort of prototype commune run by the charismatic Futurist Nikita Slavkin. Entirely sui generis, it also boasts the year’s best cover design. This is the book I’ll be giving people for Christmas. World events were gloomy when Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth (Bloomsbury, £18.99) and Ali Smith’s Autumn (Hamish Hamilton, £16.99) appeared. Each of these books describes the best in human nature: our capacity for love and loyalty and kindness; our love of storytelling. Fantastic writing, big ideas and generosity of spirit. If I had been in charge of the Man Booker Prize this year, I would have given it to one of these. Speaking of which, how on earth did Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin, £8.99) find its way onto the shortlist? I absolutely hated this squalid little tale of small-town revenge, which rejoiced in its own nastiness. The characters are flat, the story flimsy, the writing clichéd: it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, like last night’s onion gravy. When I heard the author being interviewed on the radio, I was disgruntled to find that she sounded lovely: her editor should tell her to stop trying to shock.

Christopher Howse Kate Loveman’s Samuel Pepys and his Books (Oxford, £60) abounded in memorable touches: Pepys buying a Mass book in 1660 and reading it aloud late into the night ‘with great pleasure to my wife to hear that

Portrait of Samuel Pepys

she long ago was so well acquainted with’; or Pepys writing handy memos to self: ‘Consult Sir Wm Petty about the No. of Men in the World &c’. I like the ‘&c’. From The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver (Oxford, £40) I learnt that Charles Onions, 1872–1965, the OED’s fourth editor, pronounced his name like the vegetable and, on a larger canvas, of the stupendous struggle to wrestle millions of pen-and-ink quotations from 1,000 years into a history of the language. My biggest surprise was to be swept away by The Bird of Dawning by John Masefield, which should be republished and made into a Netflix series.

Thomas W. Hodgkinson Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize should have persuaded everyone to reassess their snobberies. Can a songwriter be a literary genius? Then how about a graphic novelist? Charles Burns’s Last Look (Cape, £16.99) is a sleazy, slow-burning, page-turning exploration of a midlife crisis, in which the queasy imagery of William S. Burroughs meets the Death Hex and sex horror of Hamlet — all sketched out, incongruously enough, in the spare ligne clair style of Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin. I doubt if Burns will be up for a Nobel any time soon, but he’s not a million miles off. A curmudgeonly scholar, who lurks in a little village on the north coast of Corfu, Richard Pine has long been publishing his monthly reflections on the state of Greece in the Irish Times. His highly readable book, Greece Through Irish Eyes (Liffey Press, £14.45), provides an excellent introduction to the country’s recent troubled history.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

Philip Hensher A good year for novels. Rachel Cusk’s Transit (Cape, £16.99) is a brilliant and original enterprise, as well as a hymn to the joys of the good story. Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton (Viking, £12.99) shouldn’t work, but its frail texture was a triumph of tenderness, and sent me back to her excellent Olive Kitteridge. And I loved David Szalay’s scabrous, intelligent and hugely engaging All That Man Is (Cape, £14.99). My major discovery, though, was Joy Williams, whose collected stories, The Visiting Privilege (Tuskar Rock, £16.99), proved an electric and dangerously human volume. Not making sense, and making too much sense, is Williams’s alarming territory. You will probably do what I did afterwards, and order her old novels from America — I don’t think they were ever published here. Cheever would have liked her Breaking and Entering in particular. In non-fiction, Edmund Gordon did a splendid job with the first Angela Carter biography (The Invention of Angela Carter, Chatto, £25). The responsibility of the research and the just sobriety of his writing have produced a book which will always have a special place on the Carter shelf. Stanley Price’s James Joyce and Italo Svevo: The Story of a Friendship (Somerville Press, £14) was lovely, even joyous. Srinath Raghavan’s India’s War (Allen Lane, £30) is a book that has unearthed a lot of interesting and generally unfamiliar material. Unusually for this subject, it had no particular axe to grind or point to prove.

Matthew Parris Spymaster by Martin Pearce (Bantam Press, £20) is a study of my late constituent Sir Maurice Oldfield, once the head of MI6. Oldfield rose high from a small Derbyshire village, fell very hard — denounced in the press as secretly gay — and died in something close to national disgrace. He was the author’s great-uncle, but this is a frank and clear-eyed, if affectionate, biography of a great public servant, cruelly traduced. The Bible for Grown-Ups by Simon Loveday (Icon, £12.99) persuaded your columnist, a confirmed atheist, of the power and beauty of the Old and New Testaments, and to see them as a window into humanity’s soul. My hopes of Tristan Gooley’s bestselling How to Read Water (Sceptre, £20) were dashed by a book that sacrificed depth for popularity. The most interesting thing about puddles, surely, is how splashing through them enlarges them. And to say a river’s level is a good guide to the local water table is dangerously inaccurate. 39


BOOKS & ARTS

Jane Ridley Christopher de Hamel’s Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Penguin, £30). De Hamel has spent a lifetime working with medieval manuscripts, and he provides a superb and sometimes idiosyncratic history of the manuscripts themselves. The book sheds a penetrating light on an extraordinary medieval world which until now has been closed to most of us. Brilliant and original. Artemis Cooper’s Elizabeth Jane Howard: A Dangerous Innocence (John Murray, £25). Biography at its best, this is the story of a novelist whose life was in some ways stranger than the fiction she wrote. Cooper gives a vivid, insightful account of Howard’s romantic misfortunes, and especially her doomed marriage to the impossible Kingsley Amis. A cracking read.

Julie Burchill I must admit that I write a beautiful essay about my dad in My Old Man: Tales of Our Fathers (Canongate, £14.99, edited by Ted Kessler), but it would be nearly as good without me. James Bloodworth is one of the most elegant and passionate (not an easy combo) writers about politics in this country today, and in The Myth of Meritocracy (Biteback, £10) is especially eloquent on the way the diversity divas have diverted attention from the lack of opportunities for a whole swathe of underprivileged children put beyond the pale of pity by their risibly named ‘white privilege’. We Don’t Know What We’re Doing (Faber, £7.99) is the first book of short stories by Thomas Morris, a young writer whose descriptions of the mundane magic of everyday life make one blissed out beyond envy. And while I very much enjoyed Richard Cohen’s How To Write Like Tolstoy (One World, £16.99), I do for the first time feel like calling down the wrath of the Trade Descriptions Act, as I’ve seen no improvement whatsoever.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst For sheer readerly pleasure, two books stand out. Sebastian Barry’s novel Days Without End (Faber, £17.99) is an American Civil War tearjerker about the many kinds of suffering that people inflict on each other (and sometimes on themselves), but is written with such swaggering charm you end up wanting to read it at two speeds simultaneously, turning the pages as quickly as possible while lingering over every beautifully crafted phrase. Alan Bennett’s memoir Keeping On Keeping On (Profile/ Faber, £25) is equally quick with its one-liners, and altogether they add up to a handsome brick of a book 40

some 700 pages long. Don’t give a copy to your neighbour unless you want the soundtrack of Christmas Day to be dominated by muffled laughter coming from next door.

Lewis Jones ‘I pray I shall not find a biographer,’ said Steven Runciman, eminent historian of Byzantium and the Crusades, Grand Orator to the Patriarch of Constantinople, Astrologer Royal to King George II of the Hellenes, Laird of Eigg, screaming queen, howling snob and honorary whirling dervish. His prayer has been denied, but he could not have found a better biographer than Minoo Dinshaw, whose Outlandish Knight (Allen Lane, £30) is monumentally impressive: scholarly, witty and gorgeously written. When Runciman was in charge of the British Council in Athens after the war he dismissed Patrick Leigh Fermor from the only job he ever had, having tired of ‘Paddy’s little irregularities’, such as drinking too much and not paying his debts. Paddy took it badly at the time but later forgave him, as he had a generous and sunny spirit, which irradiates Adam Sisman’s selection of his letters, Dashing for the Post (John Murray, £30), a feast of adventure, gossip and flirtation.

Nicky Haslam I don’t really care — as I’m sure you don’t either — whether Duchess Kate agrees to a photoshoot or whether Dolce and Gabbana will show up at the gala centenary dinner. But you will when you read Alexandra Shulman’s Inside Vogue: A Diary of My Hundredth Year (Penguin Fig Tree, £16.99). In a candid, introspective, generous and witty way, Vogue’s editor shows the slog, guts and diplomacy that are needed to produce the magazine — often to the detriment of family life. The eventual results of a year’s long-planned coups are page-turners. The people of Thierry Coudert’s The Beautiful People of the Café Society: Scrapbooks by the Baron de Cabrol (Flammarion, £75) are surely anything but café — château and yacht more like. Beginning in the 1930s, Fred de Cabrol painted fauxnaif watercolours of the grandest European houses, gardens and resorts, which he enlivened with invitations, menus, cuttings and découpé photographs of their frequenters at balls, races, hunts, weddings and on the beach. It’s a lavish panoply of the elegant style, decor and beauty of a long-forgotten world. One of its most serenely elegant beauties was Fred’s wife Daisy, shown wearing a simple couture creation franfreluché — delicious word meaning ‘with ribbons’.

The war didn’t prevent that set from having a gay old time, or Coco Chanel from holing up in the Ritz in Paris with her Abwehr officer and other collaborateuses horizontales. But Anne Sebba, in her meticulously researched Les Parisiennes (Weidenfeld, £20), paints a very different picture of many other women at the time who were trying to preserve some vestige of dignity as they witnessed and worked against the humiliation and terror that the Nazi occupiers inflicted on that city. Not many ribbons, then; rather more Ribbentrop and his like.

Richard Davenport-Hines This has been a bumper autumn for firsttime biographers making tremendous debuts. Three of them have deployed radiant empathy and keen detective instincts to produce compelling studies of self-concealing, image-conscious and teasingly deceptive subjects. James Stourton’s Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation (William Collins, £30) leads the field. It is such a lithe, elegant, astute celebration of patrician values, all-surpassing intelligence and glorious style. I read it with joy. Edmund Gordon’s The Invention of Angela Carter (Chatto, £25) is a wise, generous and inspiring book by an exciting young scholar who writes like a prize-winning novelist. The combination of emotional cool and protective tenderness in Gordon’s approach is specially appealing. Minoo Dinshaw’s Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman (Allen Lane, £30) is idiosyncratic in some of its digressions and structure, but Dinshaw bubbles with nimble wit, wicked gossip, curious oddities and a walloping glee for his subject.

Martin Gayford A study of medieval manuscripts which is also a gripping page-turner might seem a most improbable combination. But Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel (Allen Lane, £30) is just that. Like many excellent books, this is a unique hybrid of heterogeneous ingredients. De Hamel mingles meticulous scholarship, enthusiasm, autobiography, wit and gossip while pursuing each clue about dating or origin with the tenacity of a detective. It is sometimes said of such books that they read just like a novel. But John Preston’s account of the affair of Jeremy Thorpe, Norman Scott, Peter Bessell and Rinka the dog — A Very English Scandal (Viking, £16.99) — is more engaging by far than most fiction. The story it narrates is an astonishing farrago of wickedness, insouciant risk-taking and stratospheric levels of incompetence. Preston’s account is frequently hilarious and — especially when dealing with the tragicomic figure of Bessell — poignant too.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


A fateful squiggle on the map Andrew Lycett The Man Who Created the Middle East: A Story of Empire, Conflict and the Sykes-Picot Agreement by Christopher Simon Sykes William Collins, £25, pp. 368

When turbaned warriors from Daesh (or Isis) advanced on Raqqa in Syria two years ago, they whooped wildly about having ‘broken the Sykes-Picot Agreement’. They were celebrating the destruction of national frontiers which had stood for nearly a century, since the fall of the Ottoman empire in 1918. They were also venting their spleen against the two villains (as they saw it) of the piece — one British, Sir Mark Sykes, and the other French, François GeorgesPicot, who, after months of diplomatic haggling, had drawn metaphorical lines in the desert sand to reach their secret 1916 agreement apportioning Ottoman lands and creating the modern Middle East. In doing so, Sykes and Picot set aside promises of an Arab homeland made to Sharif Hussein of Mecca. Together with the Balfour Declaration, their pact not only perpetuated western influence in the region but advanced the cause of Zionism. Christopher Simon Sykes, best known as a photographer of country houses, had long been curious about his reviled grandfather Mark who died, exhausted, in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1919. (I don’t know the author; Christian names are the easiest way of distinguishing the two men.) By all accounts, Mark was remarkable, with his fierce curiosity, sense of humour and passion for the Arab world, which he vividly conveyed in hundreds of letters to his beloved wife Edith, many of them lavishly illustrated with line drawings or cartoons. His father Tatton Sykes, the fifth baronet, was a neurotic who escaped the drudgery of running Sledmere, his large Yorkshire estate, by embarking on lengthy trips to the Middle East. Hearing of his own father’s death while in Egypt, his only comment was: ‘Oh, indeed. Oh, indeed.’ He often dragged along young Mark on his travels. The boy’s initial education had been among the books in the library at Sledmere, where the grounds fostered his love of military games and fortifications. At his father’s side in Ottoman lands, Mark became familiar from an early age with Arab hospitality and culture, as well as with musty British embassies. Mark’s impulsive mother Jessie, née Cavendish-Bentinck, pulled in another direction, after finding consolation in Roman Catholicism. After a belated chris-

Mark Sykes in Vanity Fair, June 1912 GETTY IMAGES

tening, where his godfather was the Duke of Norfolk, he attended Beaumont, the ‘Catholic Eton’, while Jessie looked to alternative panaceas — gambling, affairs and drink. When her husband absolved himself of responsibility for her debts, she resort-

Gertrude Bell is dismissed as a ‘conceited gushing globetrotting rump-wagging blethering ass’ ed to money lenders, leading to a distressing court case in which ‘Lady Satin Tights’ (as she was derisively known) was found to have forged his name on promissory notes. Jessie intended Mark to go to Trinity College, Cambridge. Arriving there late for an interview, she excused herself by saying she had been at the Cesarewitch. When the nervous Master replied, ‘Oh, and where may that be?’, she concluded he was a cretin, turned tail, and put her son down for Jesus. Despite Mark’s own traumas (after he impregnated a servant girl, his father ordered his favourite dogs to be hanged), he continued his explorations of the Ottoman world. While an undergraduate he wrote his first book, Through Five Turkish Provinces (later trumped by Dar-ul-Islam: A Record of a Journey through Ten Asiatic Provinces of Turkey). A common theme was his scorn for Europeans’ dismissal of eastern customs. During the Boer War, he excoriated dimwitted British officers and put his enthusiasm for ramparts to practical use. Wiling his

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

time in the veldt, he also indulged his aptitude for drawing and storytelling, writing a spoof book about military training under the pseudonym Major General George D’Ordel, who featured in two further volumes on official ‘spin’ and the popular press, the last of which was described in a review as ‘probably some of the most brilliant nonsense ever written’. After Cambridge, Mark followed a traditional career path for a young man of his caste as private secretary to George Wyndham, Chief Secretary to Ireland, and honorary attaché in the British embassy in Constantinople, where one intelligencegathering expedition led to his Report on the Petroliferous Districts of the Vilayets of Baghdad, Mosul and Bitlis. After becoming an MP, his fascination with Arab (really Ottoman) affairs propelled him through various committees about the future of the region to his negotiations with the fiercely nationalist Georges-Picot. Turkey’s entry into the war on Germany’s side altered Mark’s inclination to preserve the integrity of the Ottoman empire. He began to support Arab aspirations for independence. But he realised a postwar accord in the Middle East required French involvement. As a Tory romantic who had admired Disraeli (and hated Gladstone, the scourge of Turkey’s ‘Bulgarian atrocities’), he succumbed to the attractions of Zionism and helped draw up the Balfour Declaration, which promised Jews a national home in Palestine. Christopher tells this complex story with gusto, though he adds little to the existing literature. Judging from his bibliography, his material is dated: no mention of James Barr’s A Line in the Sand (2011), for example. A decent map would have been welcome. The reproduction of so many of Mark’s wispy cartoons, while evocative, seems a trifle haphazard, a first outing for a personal treasure trove. But Christopher did not set out to write a history of the Middle East. (His editor once suggested an alternative title — ‘The Man Who Fucked Up the Middle East’.) He aims to put a human face on a imperialist adventurer, and in this he succeeds brilliantly. Mark’s fiercely independent spirit shines through. He meets all sorts of characters from Cecil Rhodes to Gertrude Bell, a potential rival whom he dismisses as a ‘silly chattering windbag of a conceited gushing flat-chested man-woman globetrotting rump-wagging blethering ass!’ Looking back on Mark in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence took a harsh line: ‘His instincts lay in parody: by choice he was a caricaturist rather than an artist, even in statesmanship.’ That’s a sad reflection on a man whose best known squiggle — that fateful line on the map ‘from the “e” in Acre to the last “k” in Kirkuk’ — did much to shape the modern world. 41


BOOKS & ARTS

I do) to know that these snippets of haute bourgeoise wisdom are terrifying accurate. It’s based on a Twitter account, as everything has to be now, but it will make you laugh out loud on page after page. Someone heard a very chic woman admonish her toddler with, ‘I just don’t understand your priorities right now.’ Or, overheard in a coffee shop, ‘Archway’s so bloody full of posh mums now that there’s no room in any of the cafés to put the pram.’ Or ‘The social etiquette for first playdates has obviously changed. She turned up without anything. Not even a shop-bought cake.’ Or, possibly my all-time favourite, ‘Like everyone, I am appalled by the Islamist attack on Charlie Hebdo. But I am also struck by its similarity to the plot of my last novel.’ It’s my favourite because I was there when it was spoken. Although not by me, I’m relieved to say.

A choice of first novels Keith Miller

Show cats at the National Cat Club Show, 1983, photographed by Jane Bown

Christmas stocking fillers Marcus Berkmann The gift books come in all shapes and sizes this year: big, little, tiny, huge, long, short, fat and thin, rather like their writers, I would guess. Biggest and fattest of them all is The Art of Aardman (Simon & Schuster, £16.99). This is a coffee-table book, pure and simple, that celebrates 40 years of animation at Aardman Studios, who make Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and others, and I would suggest that you have known since the beginning of this sentence whether or not you want this book for Christmas. It’s everything you would wish for from such a volume, featuring stills from the films, drawings from the animators’ sketchbooks, portraits of sets, technical drawings for props, manifold character studies and very, very few words indeed. It’s a book to get lost in on Boxing Day, or any day before or after. Slightly smaller is Jane Bown’s Cats (Guardian/Faber, £14.99). Bown was a photographer who joined the Observer in 1949, worked almost exclusively in black and white with natural light, and died a couple of years ago. This is, again very simply, a book full of photos of cats. ‘Why would anyone need this?’ said my partner, before spending the entire afternoon leafing through it. They are not obvious photographs of cats, but oddly enough each one seems to tell a story, and because the photos were mainly taken between the 1950s and the 1980s, there’s the slightly sombre knowledge that all of these cats are long dead. It’s probably best consumed with a cat on your lap, or at the very least, one purring around your legs asking for the food you’ve forgotten to give it. 42

One constantly thriving sub-genre of the gift book category is the Book About Words, of which there is an apparently never-ending supply. I already have more than enough of these on my shelves to be going on with, but Paul Anthony Jones’s The Accidental Dictionary (Elliott & Thompson, £12.99) is certainly worth adding. It’s all about the changes in meaning that many words have experienced over the years. Hussy, for instance, originally meant housewife: somehow, calling someone a brazen housewife seems a less effective insult than it once did. Heartache originally meant heartburn, and heartburn originally meant lust. If you called someone buxom in 1867, you meant that they were obedient. I knew very few of these, which is a good thing, and now I know more, which is a better one. Alexandra Coghlan’s Carols from King’s (BBC Books, £9.99) tells the stories of everyone’s favourite Christmas carols, from the grandeur of ‘Hark! The Herald Angels

Somehow, calling someone a ‘brazen housewife’ seems a less effective insult than it once did Sing’ (originally the less catchy ‘Hark How All The Welkin Rings’, welkin meaning the sky or heavens), to the blatantly commercial ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, a big hit for Gene Autry in the 1940s. Every song has its tale, and they are carefully collected in this bijou volume. Smallest book of this batch is also by far the funniest. Highgate Mums, compiled by Dan Hall, is subtitled ‘Overheard Wisdom from the Ladies Who Brunch’, and you don’t have to live in Highgate (as I’m afraid

Constellation by Adrien Bosc (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99) picks nimbly along the divide between fiction and non-fiction. It’s really a speculative group biography, telling the story of a Air France plane crash in the Azores in 1949, and the lives of the plane’s passengers, mostly (except for a quintet of migrating Basque shepherds) of an appropriately stellar socio-economic stratum. It does a fair job of knitting the known into the unknown, hopping from seat to seat like a solicitous flight attendant, shifting pace and perspective, throwing some metaphorical flesh on to the bare bones of what remains an unsolved tragedy (astrology, Bergson’s theory of durée, even — somewhat improbably — a boxing match between the ill-starred Flight F-BAZN and the plane sent out by investigators to shadow its last minutes). Bosc trips over the historic present tense from time to time, as almost everyone does who uses it; and his disinclination to use invented material means that the characters aren’t much fleshed out (though there’s a spicy love letter from Edith Piaf to her lover Marcel Cerdan, en route to fight Jake LaMotta in New York). But it’s a book that’s defined by what its author knows to be true; and as a result it never quite — as it were — takes wing. Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte (Oneworld, £12.99) is in some ways the most conventional of these books: the story of a group of recent college graduates embarking on careers — or not — in San Francisco’s tech industries. I could have done with a lot more exposition here, not to mention a little less sex. It’s unclear what most of these people actually do for a living — and I don’t think Tulathimutte intends to leave it unclear for the purposes of satire; he just thinks we should know, or somehow be above caring.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


But the book is plainly offered as a political document of a sort — a sketch of the way US millennials, and the only slightly older men and women who employ them, live now. And they’re just awful: needy, rude, dishonest, crippled by self-consciousness to the extent that they can barely use language meaningfully, culturally inert and in general as strong an advertisement for compulsory military service as you could hope to find. Admittedly, they’re awful because they’re unhappy. They are what happens when you take the tube-addled lost children of David Foster Wallace’s 1990s, disburse stupid amounts of money among mediocre people who happen to be able to code or know one end of an SEO algorithm from another (while consigning their contemporaries who don’t to a life hanging by their fingernails above Skid Row), add internet porn on tap and stir well. Also much preoccupied with gruesomeness — in this case the gruesomeness of uncontrolled bowel movements, decomposing body parts and auto-erotic asphyxia — is Feeding Time by Adam Biles (Galley Beggar Press, £8.99). Yet there’s tenderness and joy in there too. It is set in an old people’s home that’s shockingly run even by the standards of our deregulated age. The book treats its elderly protagonists with imagination and respect, using repetition

and dislocation to suggest their disordered mental state, concocting a sort of crazed picaresque whereby the unfolding events at Green Oaks mirror and merge with passages from the Boys’ Own adventure stories beloved of ‘Captain’ Ruggles, the Randle McMurphy of this particular cuckoo’s nest. The lurches of tone and lapses in taste initially made me feel that Biles wasn’t quite in control of his material; but I think there’s a courage there, too, a reluctance to treat his themes with deference or piety, that I found intensely refreshing. Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes (Atlantic, £12.99) is the most fully realised of these first novels. Its classy, understated jacket design doesn’t exactly scream Richard and Judy; and sure enough, an epigraph from Clarice Lispector heralds a novel that follows the austere edicts of modernism: few names, not much pack drill. It is a metaphysical police procedural, with lashings of made-up science and a paradoxically vivid sense of place. The metaphysical policeman, aka ‘the inspector’, begins to identify with his (possibly imaginary) quarry, Carlos, with a shamanic intensity that echoes the behaviours of certain microparasites found on the disappeared (but was he ever here?) man’s computer. This is a book that’s not overly concerned with detail. It’s haunting, oneiric, cir-

cling warily around themes of environmental damage and corporate excess in an exotic setting. What marks it out is that the writer has a clear sense of how much he wants to tell us, and how much he wants us to figure out for ourselves.

Full steam ahead Simon Heffer Revolution: A History of England, Volume IV by Peter Ackroyd Macmillan, £25, pp. 352

To write, and indeed to read, a history of considerable range, both in terms of chronology and of subject matter, is a profound challenge. The fourth volume in Peter Ackroyd’s History of England starts with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and ends with Waterloo in 1815. It was a period that laid the foundations of the modern British state and created the basis of its prosperity, and of its status as the world’s greatest power later in the 19th century. During the 130 years Ackroyd covers there were revolutions in attitudes too: though when he writes of the coarse humour of cartoonists such as Gillray, and

CHRISTMAS READING

William Hogarth A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings Elizabeth Einberg Distilling over twenty years of research, this publication serves as the complete catalogue of the paintings of iconic British artist William Hogarth. Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

390 colour + 120 b/w illus. HB with Slipcase £95.00

The Voynich Manuscript

Jerusalem 1000–1400

Edited by Raymond

i“i˜ÃÊUʘÌÀœ`ÕV̈œ˜Ê by Deborah Harkness

Barbara Drake Boehm >˜`Êi>˜ˆiÊœVœ“L

Explore firsthand the world’s most mysterious book – this volume invites a new generation to join the centuries of readers who have contemplated this one-of-a-kind enigma. 268 colour illus. HB £35.00

Every People Under Heaven

Published to accompany a major show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this catalogue explores the role Jerusalem played in shaping the art and culture of the Middle Ages. Published by The Metropolitan -USEUMOF!RTs$ISTRIBUTEDBY Yale University Press

354 colour illus. HB £50.00

YaleBooks www.yalebooks.co.uk the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

Æthelred The Unready

The Long, Long Life of Trees

iۈÊ,œ>V…

Fiona Stafford

In a much-needed reassessment, this first biography of the infamous English monarch presents a rich portrait of a complex king driven by faith and devotion.

‘Everywhere her eye for detail brings the trees to life … The Long, Long Life of Trees is elegant, engaging, impeccably written and packed with interest.’ – John Carey, The Sunday Times

21 b/w illus. HB £30.00

60 illus. HB £16.99

43


BOOKS & ARTS

Scotland and England, to which the union with Ireland was added nearly a century later. None of her numerous children survived her, which brought Sophia’s son, George, the Elector of Hanover, to the throne of England: Sophia had died just two months before Queen Anne. Ackroyd depicts the gradual detachment of the Hanoverians from the centre of the political process, and the growing reliance on their first ministers, from Walpole onwards, to manage the domestic and foreign policy One of the famous victory tapestries shows John Churchill, 1st Duke of of the country. It was a Marlborough, at the battle of Blenheim century in which Britthe aggressive expressions of public opinion ain, partly because of the need to maintain in incidents such as the Gordon Riots, one the balance of power in Europe, and partly wonders whether the temper of the English because of its imperial interests in America people is so very different today. Indeed, one and India, became embroiled in wars, from of the pleasures of reading this history is the those of Marlborough to those of Wellingoccasional, subtle indication that Ackroyd ton and Nelson. It was the politicians and gives, when he writes of the importance of not the king who suffered when things went coffee houses, the influence of the press, the wrong: George III may have been upset at decline of the Anglican church and the need the loss of his American colonies, but it was to improve the road network, that the Eng- North and Shelburne who paid for it with land he writes about is not a foreign country their careers. at all, however far in the past. Ackroyd deals with much more than high Ackroyd ensures he covers all the main politics and policy. His wide cultural knowpolitical trends and events of the period, ledge allows him to flesh out his picture of though he cannot do so in any depth, given 18th-century life with descriptions of the the need to cram 13 decades into 370 pages. People worked 14-hour days in the He is adept at pen-portraits of the main players — conveying the moral repellency new factories, and even children as of Harley, the geniality and guile of Walpole, young as four were employed the ugliness (and loyalty) of North, the etiolation of Pitt the Younger and the uprightness of poor old Spencer Perceval, the literature and the theatre of the time, and only one of our prime ministers to be references to Turner and some of the other assassinated. painters of the period. Given his celebrated But this is also a period in which politi- novel Hawksmoor, based on the life of the cal power seeps from the monarch towards architect though not about him, it is surpristhe House of Commons — even though, as ing he makes so little reference to the archiAckroyd also notes, Pitt the Younger was the tecture of the period, which is, after all, the only member of his own cabinet to sit in the means by which today we most register the lower house. After the revolution of 1688 it presence of the 18th century in our lives. is monarchical power that holds the country He deals, too, with the scientific and techtogether — the dual monarchy of William of nical advances that underpinned the massive Orange and Mary Stuart — and it is a peri- social changes of the century. The invention od in which important and enduring changes of the steam engine and the Spinning Jenny occur: such as the establishment of the Bank were the triggers of the Industrial Revoluof England in 1694 and the removal of cen- tion. Together with the ideas of Adam Smith sorship of the press the following year. Par- — notably the division of labour — this proliament also passed the Act of Settlement pelled Britain to the head of the advanced (1701), which ensured that no Roman Cath- nations. While this created a new class of olic could sit on the throne, and made Sophia capitalists, and gave them enormous wealth, of Hanover, a grand-daughter of James I, the it plunged their workers into appalling conheir presumptive. ditions, with children as young as four workQueen Anne’s reign saw the union of ing in the new mills and factories, and people 44

working 13- or 14-hour days in gruesome conditions. Yet, as Ackroyd also indicates, these conditions were regarded as sufficiently superior to working on the land to cause a mass migration to the expanding towns of northern England, and to end the economic predominance of the agricultural economy. This is a beautifully written book, and the narrative is easy to follow, while packed with information, even though nothing is covered in depth. There is a select bibliography but no footnotes, so its use for serious students as opposed to the general reader who wants to know something about the past will be limited. It is also littered with literal errors, which suggests poor editing and proof-reading (an egregious error introduces the second paragraph of the whole work). But Ackroyd has constructed a fluent, intelligent and informative work that will be enjoyed by those curious about the 18th century: and he correctly conveys the idea that as well as being an age of revolution, it was also an age of great significance.

Things fall apart Kate Webb Autumn by Ali Smith Hamish Hamilton, £16.99, pp. 259

Ali Smith is that rare thing in Britain: a much-beloved experimental writer. Part of her attraction for readers is that she continually connects formal innovation and the freedom to reinvent a story with the freedom to reinvent the self. It’s a beguiling proposition that can make liberation seem like a matter of style. Following the success last year of How To Be Both, the most dazzling and accomplished of her novels, Smith planned to write a long-gestated novel quartet, its four volumes reflecting successive seasons — an idea that would allow her to pursue her fascination with what is perhaps the novel’s greatest subject: time. But the times overtook her, and the events of 2016 turned Autumn, the first of her intended novels, from a farce in an antique shop into a meditation on the upheavals surrounding Brexit. Autumn opens by acknowledging that it is a tale, one, which like all tales, is influenced by others and fashioned in part from their language. ‘It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times,’ Smith begins, and once again, ‘Things. They fall apart.’ From the imaginative place Christina Stead once called the Ocean of Story and Salman Rushdie, the Sea of Story, a figure emerges, washing up on some unknown shore. He is a literary figure trailing the memories of Odysseus and Crusoe in his wake, who questions everything (is he dead or alive?) and keeps changing shape, morphing from nakedness to leaf-dressed Green Man,

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


from old age to youth. Daniel Gluck is his name and he recalls a life of good fortune, of being lucky through the accidents of time. But as he strolls along the beach to discover what kind of world he has landed in, Gluck finds the corpses of children lying close by holidaymakers sunning themselves under parasols. Something is amiss here: in more ways than one the times are out of joint. From these dreamlike beginnings, Smith’s novel jumps into a prosaic world where Elizabeth Demand keeps vigil at Gluck’s bedside as he lies unconscious in a care home, hovering at death’s door. A refugee from fascism in Europe, Gluck was once a neighbour who befriended her in lonely adolescence. Watching him now, she thinks back over this vital relationship in which he opened up the world of art to her. The rest of her time is spent queuing for a passport in a soon-to-beclosed-down Post Office, battling with the Kafkaesque bureaucracy that seems determined to stop those unhappy about Brexit from leaving the country. She also visits her mother, who lives in an English village where the mood is turning sour. People glower at strangers on the street, someone has daubed ‘Go Home’ across the front of a house, and a faceless company erects a giant fence around a patch of common land. Meanwhile her mother, in the grip of nostalgia, obsesses about an antiques TV show. This is England 2016, Smith tells us: narrow, suspicious and backward-looking. As the three parts of her book progress through the season’s three months, the political climate darkens with the weather. Against this all too familiar gloom, Smith offers, once again, ideas about the moral value of art. In How To Be Both she argued for the inherent ‘friendliness’ of narrative, here (drawing on the Odyssey) she makes a demand for ‘hospitable’ stories. And where in the former novel she lionised the swinging Sixties and the young, free and stylish women of the French pop scene, so here the figure of hope is another Sixties figure, the similarly young and glamorous pop art painter, Pauline Boty, discussing in particular her portrait of Jean-Paul Belmondo with a huge open rose on his head. It is clear that Smith is emphasising the delight and openness of art, its ability to hearten and fortify us in difficult times. But is this enough? The unease in Autumn stems not just from troubling signs of a nation becoming more divided and cruel, but from a writer looking to aesthetics as a salve for ugliness in politics. The final demand of the book, the demand of art, is that we pay greater attention — in this case to a ‘wide-open rose’ still blooming in the depths of November: ‘Look at the colour of it.’ But it feels as if Smith has failed to do precisely this, to look hard enough at what’s novel in the Brexit situation, what might disturb well-trodden narratives, relying instead on the consolations of art.

Secrets of the universe William Cook Reality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli, translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre Allen Lane, £16.99, pp. 255

A few years ago, in Berne, I visited the apartment where Einstein wrote his theory of special relativity, which changed our understanding of the world forever. It’s a small apartment, plain and nondescript. The best thing about it is the view. From the window you can see Berne’s huge medieval clock, the Zytglogge. It was this clock which inspired Einstein’s great breakthrough. At the end of every humdrum day, in his deadend job at Berne’s patent office, he took the tram home, past the Zytglogge, back to this apartment. As he gazed at that clock through the tram window, he wondered: what if his tram could travel at the speed of light? Logically, the light from the Zytglogge should never overtake him. Relatively speaking, it should remain static, just as two trams travelling side by side at the same speed in the same direction remain static in relation to each other. But that wouldn’t work, because the speed of light never alters. Therefore time would have to change. Carlo Rovelli doesn’t tell this story in Reality is Not What it Seems, but he tells lots of stories like it, and the result is a book that brings physics alive. If you’ve read his previous book, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, you’ll know what to expect. If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat. Rovelli is the director of the quantum gravity research group at the Centre de Physique Théorique in Marseilles (no, I’d never heard of it either, but I imagine you must have to be pretty brainy to get a job there). Consequently, you might expect this book to be completely impenetrable. You couldn’t be more wrong. Complexity is the hallmark of second-rate minds. Like all great thinkers, Rovelli has a talent for simplicity. His prose is lucid and poetic. I scoured this book for quotable phrases, and ended up copying out entire paragraphs. It’s not a scientific treatise. It’s a paean to the wonder of the natural world. Reality is Not What it Seems is a sort of prequel to Seven Brief Lessons in Physics. Rovelli wrote this book first, and then wrote seven shorter articles based upon it. Those articles were published as Seven Brief Lessons, and the huge success of that slim tome (translated into 31 languages) prompted this new translation of his first book. Being unable to read it in the original Italian, I can’t assess the merits of Simon Carnell and Erica Segre’s translation, save to say that their joint effort reads far better than most books by native English speakers.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

So what’s this book about? Well, in the course of just 255 pages, Rovelli charts our understanding of the universe, from the astronomers of the ancient world to today’s boffins — and all the key points in between. He explains how Newton built on Galileo, how Faraday and Maxwell built on Newton, and how Einstein transformed their theorems, by uniting space and time. I scraped a C in my Physics O-level and haven’t been near a physics textbook since. If I can understand— and even enjoy — Rovelli’s book, then anyone can. What thrilled me most of all was his revelation that physics and philosophy are actually twin disciplines — two sides of the same equation, if you like. Mind you, the ancients knew that too. Had you realised that it was Aristotle who coined the term Physics, in his book of the same name? I hadn’t until I read Rovelli. Reality is Not What it Seems is full of fascinating nuggets like these. Rovelli concludes with some mindboggling stuff about quantum physics. This was the only part where I got brain ache, but it seems I’m in good company. Apparently, even Einstein couldn’t quite get his head around it. Indeed, the best thing about this beautiful, compact book is its celebration of uncertainty. As Rovelli demonstrates, confusion is the creative impetus that drives us on to fresh discoveries. Certainty is the enemy of science. He begins with a tale from Plato’s Republic, which would work just as well as an epilogue. It’s about some men imprisoned in a dark cave, whose only source of light is a hidden fire which casts strange shadows on the wall. One of the prisoners escapes, and ventures outside. For the first time he sees the sun, and all the splendours that surround us. He returns to the cave and tries, and fails, to describe the amazing things he’s seen. Like Plato’s prisoner, Rovelli has seen the splendours beyond the dark cave of our imaginations. Unlike Plato’s prisoner, he can tell us what he’s seen.

Up where the air is clear Sara Wheeler White Mountain: Real and Imagined Journeys in the Himalayas by Robert Twigger Weidenfeld, £20, pp. 460

Robert Twigger’s father was born in a Himalayan hill resort and carried to school in a sedan chair. His son, born in 1965 and long fascinated by the region, has produced a social and cultural history of the mountains. It is a hybrid volume — and why not? Twigger leaves no mountain path untouched in his bookish reportage. Topics covered in this long book include crustal formation and destruction, the pre45


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Buddhist Bon religion (even today 10 per cent of Tibetans are Bon-worshippers), shamans, yeti, Colonel Francis Younghusband (‘the first mountaineer’), altitude sickness (which fascinates Twigger), the 19th-century exploration of Nain Singh, that bloody annoying Madame Blavatsky and much else. Chapter titles include ‘The Mapping of It’, and ‘Mythical Origins’, in which we learn that ‘Himavant was the ancient ruler of Himalayan India. He was father of Ganga, the river goddess,’ and so on. Other chapter titles — such as ‘The Major is Drowned and to be Auctioned off Today’ — are less guessable. The author, one of whose previous books is Red Nile: A Biography of the World’s Greatest River, is a solid researcher, a good writer and an amiable companion. The subject matter is dense. It turns out that even the geographical definition of the big mountains is more complicated than I’d imagined. ‘It is excusable to believe that the Himalayas simply provide a north-south barrier,’ explains Twigger. ‘This is true, though less significant than the more formidable east-west barrier they provide.’ Few of the ‘real journeys’ of the subtitle are Twigger’s own. Despite scores of pages on Tibet, he says he didn’t want to go there, as he dislikes travelling in a group (the only way to reach the tabletop, apparently). But it doesn’t matter: White Mountain doesn’t pretend to be a travel book. On the few journeys Twigger does make, he tends to put up in hovels to save money; but in Kalimpong, in West Bengal, he does stay at the legendary Himalayan Hotel, which all the greats visited, including Alexandra David-Néel, Hillary and Tenzing. As for the ‘imagined journeys’, Himalayan people’s strong sense of the transcendental is inextricably bound up with their surroundings. Twigger does a good job with what he calls ‘the endless complications of Tibetan Buddhist writing’. Then, of course, come the pundits — religiously learned Brahmin. ‘The British invader,’ writes Twigger, commenting not for the first or last time on the terrible imperialist clashes in the region, ‘decided to become a slightly different kind of pundit.’ Each chapter opens with a proverb from the various tribal groups of the zone, some quotes more enlightening than others. Twigger shows respect and compassion for indigenous people’s sufferings as the old world vanishes and they find no place in its replacement — a global story. No foreign nation emerges with credit: The British were the last to give up on Tibet; in 2008 the foreign secretary David Miliband claimed that it was ‘archaic’ to insist on Chinese suzerainty rather than sovereignty. It was just another deal to make money for Britain; more importantly it meant that China’s invasion had succeeded — Tibet no longer existed as an independent or semi-independent nation.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed the brief and 46

unexpected excursions into the author’s past: ‘I spent a week in the 1990s,’ he announces, ‘teaching aikido to Indian soldiers at a training camp above Dehradun.’ His response to the beauty of a snowy landscape is obviously heartfelt. Twigger has published several volumes of poetry, and one observes a poetic turn in some of his lines here. Many of the ‘real’ journeys in this book are made by climbers. Twigger is excellent on the rasp of crampon on ice and the headiness of thin air. The unlikeable Reinhold Messner, perhaps the greatest mountaineer ever to have lived, receives much attention. As does, of course, that May day on Everest

in 1996 when so many climbers perished, and about which so many books have been written. ‘The movie,’ Twigger writes of the recent major feature film on the disaster, ‘of course gets it wrong.’ He doggedly sifts through the evidence and reaches his own conclusions. Generally the book drifts west to east, ending up among the Naga on the IndianBurmese border. White Mountain is more quirky than most others in the field — volumes by Charles Allen and John Keay, for example. I’m not sure if these variegated chapters make a coherent whole, but they are lively, interesting, unusual and entertaining.

Pied Margot The term ‘magpie’ comes from ‘magot pie’ (Pied Margot), first found in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

One for sorrow, two for joy; Three for a girl, four for a boy; Five for silver, six for gold; Seven for a secret, never to be told; Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss; Ten for a bird that’s best to miss. The following are the third and fifth poems in a sequence entitled ‘Pied Margot’. Three (The Reckoning) My womb is gambling again, waging its luck against the house that took me for all I had. *** I have been squandering the waxing trimesters in the fields where I was sown; a faltering scarecrow, fending off the minstrel theatre of birds. There is no slighting or warding you for you parade where you hatched, sedentary to the core, handicapped and blunted in your nerve to migrate. Now Your Eton Morning dress, checkerboard gang colours, have become my ultra sound, my skull theory, the noosed wedding ring swaying above my belly. the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


I keep spying your tidings in triptych, the figure which clinches it, a girl in the gut, helixed behind the blanche of my own magpie paunch.

In life divided Peter Parker Thomas Hardy: Half a Londoner by Mark Ford Belknap Harvard, £20, pp. 305

The sonogram inches across the cold, stretched drum of my belly. The monitor picks up the echo of a mermaid, a flailing of legs blurring into a fin.

The ten pallbearers at Thomas Hardy’s funeral in Westminster Abbey on 16 January 1928 included Kipling, Barrie, Housman, Gosse, Galsworthy, Shaw and both the prime minister and leader of the oppposition. This distinguished gathering was not strictly necessary for the job at hand, because Hardy’s coffin merely contained his ashes — all that there was room for in Poets’ Corner. At exactly the same time in Dorset, at a smaller funeral, a casket containing Hardy’s unincinerated heart was being borne to its final resting place alongside his parents and his first wife in the churchyard at Stinsford. As Mark Ford observes, this macabre compromise

It hears the ghost of a snub nose, the spit of my own mouth, the temples of a head bridged by the arrow of a hand, the near certainty of a girl. Science christens the magpies’ call, the coveted daughter, a second chance at myself; the reckoning of a wishing lash blown clean away from my finger.

Hardy wrote many poems set in London, ranging in subject from prostitutes to St Paul’s Cathedral

*** Five (Jocale) The word ‘jewel’ was anglicised from the Old French ‘jouel’ and beyond that, to the Latin word ‘jocale’, meaning plaything.

Never one for the magpie’s eye, avid as the pawnbroker’s magnifier, the mesmerised quarry of the tinsel shine. Never the gilded valentine, the decorated lover on parade, the brandisher of a cariad’s rapture in a trifling bauble. Never the squirreller of trinkets, the trover, the hoarder, the purser, the chary archivist of the rhinestone nest. Never one to grasp the whimsy of dearness, the pretty penny dwarfed, the wild tender vaulted in a precious metal’s brevity. Never once starry-eyed by the dangling carat, still I accepted your ex-fiancée’s diamond. At that ungainly moment in the autumn New York woods, I wish I had resigned myself to your secondhand proposal with the regalia of a Coke ring. — Rhian Edwards the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

between the nation’s and the author’s wishes seems appropriate for a writer whose life and career was divided between the capital and the countryside. It also neatly reflected Hardy’s poetic ‘obsession with the physical and imaginative afterlives of the dead’, a persistent and disturbing theme inspired by graveyards in Old St Pancras as well as ‘Mellstock’. The title of Ford’s lively introductory chapter, ‘In Death Divided’, is borrowed from a poem containing some distinctly odd postmortem musings that Hardy wrote about Florence Henniker, one of several women who had captured his heart while it was still securely lodged in his chest. As both a poet and novelist, Hardy is always associated not only with English gloom but also with the English countryside in which he was born. It was in London, however, that he became a writer, and Ford shows just how significant a role the capital played in both Hardy’s life and imagination. Hardy first came to London in 1862, shortly before his 22nd birthday, in order to work in an architectural office while at the same time attempting to launch a career as a poet. Having failed to interest publishers in his poems, and suffering from ill-health, he returned to Dorset after five years, but would frequently live for extended periods in London, and when he became a fêted literary figure he would spend the season there. As a map in this elegantly designed book shows, choosing which of Hardy’s 34 London residences warranted a blue plaque must have been difficult, though the eventual choice was 47


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48

OBITUARY

Eric Christiansen Geoffrey Wheatcroft remembers the idiosyncratic historian whose funny, sharp reviews were only bettered by his exquisitely entertaining letters WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE WARDEN AND SCHOLARS OF NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD

1 Arundel Terrace in Tooting, where he and his first wife Emma lived from 1878 to 1881. A damp, dark street in Tooting was the setting for ‘Beyond the Last Lamp’, written many years later, in September 1911, when Hardy’s relations with Emma ‘had reached their nadir’. This is among the many poems Hardy set in London, ranging in subject from prostitutes to St Paul’s Cathedral; and Ford’s discussion of these urban verses, particularly in a chapter on ‘London’s Streets and Interiors’, is both engrossing and illuminating. He places this poetry in a literary context and relates it both to Hardy’s life and to entries, often as beautiful as the poems themselves, that Hardy made in his notebooks and diaries. Ford provides equally valuable insights into the London of Hardy’s fiction, starting with The Poor Man and the Lady. This ‘socialistic, not to say revolutionary’ book, as Hardy characterised it, failed to find a publisher, but accurately reflected what he called his early ‘years of London buffeting’, and it was subsequently cannibalised for Desperate Remedies, published as his first novel in 1871, and A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873). Hardy continued to explore London in later novels, and although he is famed for his descriptions of ‘Wessex’ landscapes, such as Egdon Heath in The Return of the Native and the turnip field in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Ford shows that evocations of metropolitan life in The Hand of Ethelberta and The Well-Beloved are equally striking. What Ford calls ‘the London-Dorset axis’ is an important aspect of the work, and Hardy was able to shuttle between the country and the capital because of the arrival of the railways. He would later complain that Dorchester had become ‘almost a London suburb, owing to the quickened locomotion’, but he was not slow to take advantage of the railways as both a passenger and a writer. ‘Trains speed from town to town, and to and from London, carrying characters and plot, on a regular basis in Hardy’s novels and short stories,’ Ford observes, and he explores the often crucial psychological function these journeys have in the fiction. In A Pair of Blue Eyes, for example, Stephen Smith and Elfride Swancourt’s disastrous decision to leap onto a London-bound train ‘initiates the first of the ghastly episodes of disillusionment towards which so many of Hardy’s novels inexorably move’. Ford has the true measure of his subject, and his admiration for Hardy does not blind him to occasional dud moments and absurdities, which he treats with a light and witty touch. His discussion of less wellknown novels and poems is particularly welcome, and this fine book will encourage readers to return to the work they know with a quickened perception and explore further what is new to them.

Eric Christiansen at New College in 1972

O

ver the past year, we have lost two names cherished by Spectator readers. Rodney Milnes, our opera critic for 20 years before he moved to the Times, as well as editing the monthly magazine Opera, died last December, and Eric Christiansen, the Oxford medieval historian, who was a regular book reviewer here for many years, followed on the last day of October. They both died at 79, both of cancer. Their upbringing and education were similar — Rugby and Christ Church for Milnes, Charterhouse and New College for Christiansen. From the last peacetime ‘call-up’ generation, both served unenthusiastically and unheroically in the army. They were both old and dear friends of mine. Although I was sad that Rodney’s death wasn’t marked in these pages, I’ve written about him at some length for Opera, and so here I want to remember Eric. In the autumn of 1965 he had just returned to New College as a Fellow, and I had just gone up to the college, where Eric became a friend before he taught me, or tried to, about the Middle Ages, to which he had also returned, after a dissertation on the politics of the 19th-century Spanish army.

As soon as he began writing for The Spectator, he proved to be a marvellous book reviewer, clever, sharp and funny. ‘It seemed to go on for ever,’ a review of a book on the Thirty Years War began. ‘Leathery, unshaven pikemen traipsing over a frosty plain… unexpected gunfire… perpetual low jabber…’ before telling us that this was the Coliseum in 1956, where the Berliner Ensemble had brought Mother Courage, ‘a drama of NAAFI life on the battlefields of 17th-century Europe’. He had begun ‘that sad and sticky evening convinced that Brecht was right: if something is worth saying, say it in German and inaudibly’, and as the evening wore on, it seemed to endorse ‘the motto we National Service intellectuals had engraved on our metal cap badges: War is hell’, but by the end he wondered whether ‘even the Thirty Years War can have been as hellish as this’. I thought of that much later when one of Eric’s exquisitely entertaining letters mentioned his two years ‘as a glorified filing clerk’ in the ranks of ‘the dear old Steel-backs (Northamptons to you). No shots were fired in battle, but gosh! the uniforms scratched.’ Sometimes Eric could be derisive about

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ill-informed amateurs — ‘I could believe anything about the chronological system of the Mayans, but not from a source that thinks that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was written up year by year from Alfred the Great onward’ — but then again he asked us to understand the plight of the don who knew that he ought to be pursuing his scholarly avocation rather than cutting a public figure, but was faced with ‘the rocketing price of leather patches for tweed jackets’. And with a gift that not many working journalists possess, Eric could write his own headlines. A review of a book by the tout ce qu’il y a de chic French historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie appeared here under, ‘Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel’. In another piece more than 20 years ago, Eric mentioned 1066 and All That, and said, quite rightly, that it’s a very clever and amusing book, but added that it was a joke which had lost any point, since the kind of narrative history Sellars and Yeatman satirised in 1930 simply hadn’t been taught in this country for a generation. At the time, I thought he was exaggerating; since then, my own children have been through the educational system and I now think that Eric was understating the problem. And he sardonically lamented the decay of the Oxford history syllabus, and the hateful regimen of bureaucratic ‘assessment’.

Some of Eric’s wit was for private consumption. Many years ago I looked for him in his rooms in the Front Quad. On the table was a portfolio outlining the latest desecration of the Oxford townscape, a proposed new brutally brutalist edifice which had just been discussed at a college meeting. As well as plan and elevation, the architect had helpfully provided a perspective drawing of his work seen from the street. For added realism, a young couple

He flew the Dannebrog above his house to celebrate the Danish vote against the Maastricht Treaty were walking by, and a mother was pushing a pram. In Eric’s copy, a cartoonist’s bubble emerged from the hood of the pram, lettered in his fine copperplate, so that the little baby was looking up at the new building and saying, ‘Innit fuckin orrible?’

I

f Eric wrote anything better than his reviews it was his letters. He told me about the election of a new Fellow, and of one colleague who’d read this man’s books, ‘and announced delightedly, “He’s even more fraudulent than I am!”’ Some letters make me wince as well as smile. When I sent him a chapter of book I was writing,

and apologised by way of saying that it had been turned out fast against a deadline, he replied that, if it had really been written so quickly, ‘I am astonished. Can this really be the man whose inability to complete an essay was once a source of such constant relief to me?’ And he snapped at any hint of affectation. Once when I incautiously wrote in the TLS that ‘One thinks again of Grillparzer’s haunting epitaph for Schubert…’ his next letter began, ‘Yes, no doubt in some circumstances “one” may think of the sodding epitaph, in consequence of having thought of it on a previous occasion, which I’m ashamed to say I haven’t. I didn’t know you used the poufs’ pronoun, but if that marks a significant change in sexual orientation, I won’t even smile.’ His loyalty to his ancestral country went beyond his scholarly work on the 11th-century Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus. An idiosyncratic Tory and Churchman, and the most sceptical of Eurosceptics, Eric flew the Dannebrog, the venerable red flag with a white cross, above his house to celebrate the Danish vote against the Maastricht Treaty, and lived to vote Leave, though not to see the outcome of the American election. How I wish I could hear Eric on President Donald.

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ARTS SPECIAL

Where the wild things are We’ll do anything to forget we are animals. Charles Foster hails a forthcoming exhibition that makes us face up to reality

‘W

hat is man, that thou art mindful of him?’ asks the Psalmist. It’s a good question. God Himself doesn’t give a very satisfactory answer. In one breath he insists that humans are a little lower than the angels, made in His own image, but also (in a formulation as bleak and more terse than any modern reductionist’s) that they are made of dust, and to dust they will return. Darwin tells us a similar story. We don’t have to flip back too many pages in our family albums, he says, before we see furry, feathered and scaly faces. But then he draws an exuberantly branching tree of life, rooted in stardust, and tells us that we’re perched on the topmost bough. It’s not surprising that we’re confused. This confusion is at the bottom of all our neuroses. Our predominant feeling is the queasiness of ontological vertigo. We know ourselves too well, and read the newspapers too diligently, to believe that we’re gods. And yet our pride, and our love of literature and old churches, convince us that we’re not mere beasts. We see human deaths as more morally significant than animal deaths. We hold ourselves to different standards: we can tolerate cannibalism in wolves, but not in ourselves. We’ll do anything to reduce the queasiness. That’s what our moral and religious and cultural and scientific lives are about. We read books, draw pictures and watch plays to try to describe ourselves to ourselves. We worship gods in us and gods outside us, trying to find some comforting affinity with the divine. We frenetically name animals in an attempt to feel, like the first animal-namer, 50

Adam, that we have dominion; but also so that we can caress and relate. There are no unnamed pet dogs. But nothing really works. We’re still amphibians: neither properly spiritual nor satisfactorily material. We’re never at home. We can’t romp, copulate or die quite like our dogs; nor can we thrive on light and abstraction. Faced with the hopeless prognosis for our condition, a common palliative strategy is to try to forget our connection with the natural world; to hole up in cities; to eat plastic animals blithely, denying what they are; to have actual and metaphorical air-condi-

We are animals in the bedroom and the boardroom; bloodless, besuited apologies for animals everywhere else tioning; to be animals only in the bedroom and the boardroom, and bloodless, besuited apologies for animals everywhere else. Yet this doesn’t work either. At some level, if only in our dreams, we know we’re wild things, and that we’ll only have functional relationships with ourselves and each other if we acknowledge what we are and where we’ve come from. And where we’re going, which is back to the wild. One day I’m going to be eaten by worms or fire, and so are you. One way of asserting some reassuring control over the wildness out there — and hence the wildness in us — is to classify. Pigeonholing is anxiolytic. Adam did it, Aristotle did it, the medieval bestiarists did it, and then, from the 18th century (Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae was published in 1735), it

became a popular, opioid religion, telling us what we wanted to hear about what we are. A few anarchic protestors (notably Swift, in Gulliver’s Travels) objected to the hubristic pedestal on which the taxonomists placed humans, but they have still not prevailed. There are other emollients. We can collect, and tell ourselves that if wildness is stuffed and locked in a glass case, it won’t come out and get us. We can put strange and dangerous things in zoos, invite them electronically into our rooms, courtesy of David Attenborough, or embody them in soft toys with eyelashes like ours. There they’ll be safe, and so will we. These are vast themes, normally thought of as too big or too scary to examine. It is hugely impressive that Making Nature, shortly to open at the Wellcome Collection, addresses them at all. That it does so with such steely, elegant, iconoclastic verve and nerve is astonishing. Swashbuckingly curated by Honor Beddard, Making Nature is an exploration of the way that humans represent the non-human world — and hence how they see themselves in relation to that world. For (and to acknowledge this is the real genius of the exhibition) we are always self-creators: everything we paint is a self-portrait. Beddard knows that the act of representation is political: that to juxtapose X with Y is necessarily to make an assertion about the nature of both, and to change both. She has a wry awareness that to hold an exhibition to highlight the distortions of taxonomy, control and display is to create a new set of distortions. That means that she has to subvert

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


HENK SNOEK, MARCH 1965

The Elephant House at London Zoo, designed in 1964 by Casson Conder Partnership

her own event. And, splendidly, she does. For me, the centre of the exhibition is Hiroshi Sugimoto’s eloquently ironic picture of a museum diorama. To make artifice into art is smart and unnerving. It’s a small exhibition: there are just over 100 objects, many of which are images. But the ground is well covered. There are pedigrees, drawers of bird skins, comparisons of human and animal faces, glass-eye catalogues, ethereal seaweeds (like their own Platonic forms), an interrogation of the notion of ‘type specimens’, and there’s plenty of mere exuberant weirdness. Our thirst for patterns and metanarratives is gently

exposed — most beautifully in Werner and Syme’s 1814 catalogue of colours in different natural domains: the same ‘buff orange’ is said to recur in the ‘Streak from the Eye

At some level, if only in our dreams, we know we’re wild things of the Kingfisher’, the stamen of the large white cistus, and the mineral natrolite. This is a bracingly philosophical exhibition: a rigorous exposition of the phenomenologist’s axioms that context matters profoundly, and that each of us creates a universe. If you know you’re a wild thing, go

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

along to meet some more of the family and to see what others think of them — and so of you. If you don’t know you’re a wild thing, go along to realise that you are. ‘The most dangerous worldview,’ wrote von Humboldt, ‘is that of those who have never viewed the world.’ ‘Or themselves,’ I’m tempted to add. But my addition is unnecessary, as Making Nature so brilliantly shows. Making Nature: How we see animals is at the Wellcome Collection from 1 December until 21 May 2017. Charles Foster is the author of Being a Beast, Profile Books. 51


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‘Study of Two Blossoming Branches of Almond Trees’, early February 1890, Saint-Rémy

Drawing Will the real Van Gogh please stand up Martin Gayford Vincent van Gogh spent a remarkably short span of time in the southern French town of Arles. The interval between him stepping off the train from Paris on 20 February 1888 and his departure for the asylum at Saint-Rémy on 8 May the following year was a scant 14-and-a-half months. For some of this time the painter was hospitalised and seriously ill, yet in this brief period he produced not just one, but several of the greatest pictures in the history of art. It might be thought that there was nothing more to discover about Vincent in Arles, a subject that has been so discussed, investigated, dramatised and filmed over the years. But this year a flurry of fresh information has appeared. In the summer, strong evidence emerged in Van Gogh’s Ear, a book by Bernadette Murphy, about how much of that organ he had sliced off on the evening of 23 Decem52

ber 1888. It was not just a portion of lobe, as is often believed, but the whole damn thing. Now, in Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence (Frances Lincoln, £25), Martin Bailey, an indefatigable and much-respected researcher into Van Gogh’s life and art, has lucidly marshalled the facts of the case, and added several fresh pieces of information. One poignant detail he underlines is that,

Many of the recently discovered Van Gogh drawings look positively inept on the very day that Vincent descended into delirium and mutilated himself, his youngest sister Wil passed on a compliment from Jozef Israëls, a famous older Dutch artist. On seeing ‘Pink Peach Trees’, one of the paintings of orchards in blossom from the previous spring, Israëls exclaimed that Van Gogh was a ‘clever lad’. This undercuts another persistent legend: that his work was neglected and derided during his lifetime. In fact, very few got a chance to see the great paintings from Arles and Saint-Rémy until near the end of Van Gogh’s life. As Israëls’s remark shows, those who did often liked them.

Had this praise reached Vincent, would it have forestalled his breakdown? There were other factors pushing him over the edge, one of which, as Bailey argues, was the announcement that his brother Theo had become engaged. Through assiduous detective work he has demonstrated that a letter, almost certainly containing the good news, arrived on the morning of the 23rd. This might well have caused Vincent’s anxiety levels to surge, since he depended on Theo for money, and the latter would now have a family to support. This could well have triggered the catastrophe — although there was more than one factor undermining Van Gogh’s mental equilibrium. He had been working furiously hard for months, was probably drinking heavily, and his house-share with Paul Gauguin, the most fraught in art history, was about to disintegrate. There was also an underlying malady, probably inexorable and genetic, since his sister Wil later also became deranged. Bailey’s book reproduces a large number of works, including a recently unearthed sketch of Van Gogh by his friend Émile Bernard, and the oil ‘Sunset at Montmajour’, which was rediscovered a few years

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MESSUM’S www.messums.com

Henry Herbert La Thangue R A NEAC, 1859–1929

In a Cottage Garden (The Sawing Horse), 1896 oil on canvas 114 x 88 cms 45 x 34 5 ⁄8 ins

While never ceding objectivity, H. H. La Thangue knew that sentiment was a powerful tool in depicting rural subjects: a way of life that was disappearing in the wake of modernisation. Despite its topicality, In a Cottage Garden startled critics and audiences when it was first exhibited. The public thought the painting’s intense focus radical, and La Thangue’s inclusion of blossoms and golden light in no way softened the woman’s raw energy. As far as English contemporaries, La Thangue’s only rival in the genre was George Clausen, and La Thangue’s work actually had more in common with that of French contemporaries, like Léon Lhermitte, than any of his New English Art Club confrères.

The Studio, Lord’s Wood, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, SL7 2QS by appointment – please telephone 01628 486565


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ago. There is, however, a yet more sensational supposed find, which has just been announced: a unknown sketchbook that has — apparently — been preserved, unnoticed, in Arles since 1890. This, and the 65 drawings it contains, was revealed to the world this week at a press conference in Paris and in a book, Vincent van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketchbook, written by a distinguished Canadian scholar, Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, with a foreword by Ronald Pickvance, doyen of Van Gogh specialists. It contains many versions of familiar subjects — the cornfields, the cypress and olive trees — plus a few novelties, including an alleged portrait of Gauguin and a strange self-portrait, quite unlike any other image of Vincent. It is claimed that the sketchbook was presented to his friends and ex-landlords Joseph and Marie Ginoux, the proprietors of the Café de la Gare, by Van Gogh shortly before he took the train north to Auvers,

The shocking revelation would have been that Van Gogh’s work could be this bad where he killed himself a few months later. He did not give it to them in person, but entrusted it to Félix Rey, the doctor who treated him immediately after the earcutting episode. Dr Rey allegedly visited him at SaintRémy and carried the sketchbook back to Arles. Neither the gift nor this visit was previously known, but are referred to in another discovery — a fragmentary notebook recording various dealings at the Café de la Gare that was preserved with the drawings (which are not in a conventional artist’s sketchbook but a recycled commercial ledger). There are several aspects of this provenance that make one feel cautious. It is surprising, for example, though possible, that such a valuable object should have lain around undetected for more than a century. However, that would not be so important if the sketches themselves were comparable in quality to the masterly paintings and drawings that Vincent was producing at the very same time. But they are not. I must emphasise that I have not seen the originals, but judging from reproductions many of them are weak and some — especially the portraits — look positively inept, no better than amateur art-class standard. The opinion of the Van Gogh Museum experts, released just after the unveiling of the sketchbook, is convincing: that they are in fact ‘imitations’ containing ‘striking topographical errors’ — such as omitting part of the asylum at SaintRémy — which Van Gogh did not otherwise make. The verdict is also a relief. If the sketchbook had proved genuine it would have contained a truly shocking revelation: that Vincent could be this bad. 54

The white stuff: drawing showing sections of the stucco interiors at 20 Portman Square, c.1775, by Robert Adam

Almost from the moment the first stucco suburbs — Belgravia, Pimlico, Bayswater, Paddington, Notting Hill, North Kensington — went up in the 19th century, modelled more or less devotedly on John Nash’s Regent’s Park scheme, ‘Stuccov-

Architecture Stuck on stucco Laura Freeman Whenever the words ‘stucco house’ appear in the newspapers, you can be certain the occupiers have been up to no good. The Russian kleptocrat in his stucco palace in Mayfair. The shamefaced prime minister seeking refuge in the stucco mansion of a party-donor chum. The disgraced wife-throttler with a stucco terrace in Eaton Square. In each case, it is miscreant stucco, offshoretrust stucco, stucco hiding corruption and foul play behind whiter-than-white, butterwouldn’t-melt façades.

The Spectator, in 1875, called stucco immoral ia’, as it was called, was treated with suspicion and sometimes derision. Those runs of piano-key houses were too smooth, too bourgeois, too bland, too samey, too suburban. This, when any street west of Marble Arch was thought to be the outer reaches of civilised London. ‘People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing

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Ch r i s B e e t l e s G al l e r y

THE ILLUSTRATORS THE BRITISH ART OF ILLUSTRATION 2016 ‘The best private gallery in London’ Paul Johnson, The Spectator

Saturday 19 November 2016 – Saturday 7 January 2017 Monday – Saturday 10am–5.30pm

H M Bateman (1887-1970) The passenger who dared to feel sick on the Queen Mary

All images can be viewed on our website www.chrisbeetles.com

‘Your catalogues are a harbinger of Christmas, which I still love with a childish glee’ A A Gill

Our annual exhibition, the biggest event worldwide for cartoon & illustration collectors, features over 500 pictures from the last 200 years. The 156 page exhibition catalogue presents a selection of illustrations from 1900-2016 £15 (free p&p for Spectator readers)

Paul Cox (born 1957) Through Twenties France by Bugatti

Paul Mak (1891-1967) The Princess & The Phoenix

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they like,’ said the satirist G.W.E Russell of small-minded, ‘excruciatingly genteel’ Stuccovia in 1902. There are two sorts of stucco (which is a type of plaster). The first is the delicate, filigree stucco work of Italian stuccatori craftsmen: lace-like wedding-veil patterns applied to ceilings and drawing-room panels and popularised in this country by Robert Adam. Adam was the master of intricate stucco-work ceilings, not always white, but often coloured in his palette of pinks and blues. Horace Walpole mocked Adam’s stucco daintiness as ‘gingerbread and sippets’, but clients adored it. Less so Adam’s external stucco work. Frances Sands, curator of a superb new exhibition, Robert Adam’s London, at Sir John Soane’s Museum, cites Kenwood House where Lord Mansfield complained that far from being a cheap alternative to stone, the stucco needed so much upkeep and redoing that ‘it would have been cheaper to cover it all in Parian marble’. There were similar problems with Adam’s stucco at 11 St James’s Square and at the Adam brothers’ Adelphi scheme. This was slap-it-on stucco, stucco as the

In a country that is often grey, stucco is a salamander: when there is sun, it basks in it, glories in it cake icing on so many Georgian and Regency streets and vaguely Italianate Victorian terraces. External stucco could be grand — as it was in the hands of Nash and Adam at their best — or a cheap way of making shoddy, rapidly built houses look like Bath or Portland stone. The architectural historian John Summerson thought stucco suggested ‘faintly and agreeably, the artificiality of powder and rouge’. He is too kind to say that like heavy make-up, stucco often hid buildings that were much pocked and wrinkled. It is this sort of stucco, smothering street after street — Stucco Square, Upper and Lower Stucco Place, Stucco Gardens, Stucco Mews West — from the 1820s that comes in for such a drubbing. Already in 1871, editorials in the Times were weary of ‘eternal stucco’. The paper hailed the first brick-and-terracotta buildings of the South Kensington Museum — now the V&A — as sights for stucco-sore eyes. By 1879 the Times was running special reports on unscrupulous builders who covered ‘jerry’ dwellings, unsafe and unsanitary, with stucco, pronounced them ‘improved’ and hiked the rents. It is ‘cracked stucco’, ‘blistered stucco’, ‘dreary stucco’, ‘sham stucco’ and ‘the disfigurement of the country’. The Spectator, in 1875, called stucco ‘immoral’. In Henry James’s The Princess Casamassima (1886), we know the Princess has sunk in society when she moves from Mayfair to a stucco crescent in — horrors! — Paddington. As far as the Princess’s friends 56

are concerned, ‘The descent in the scale of the gentility was almost immeasurable.’ Madeira Crescent, her new address, is not only ‘shabby’, but ‘mean and meagre and fourth-rate and had in the highest degree that petty parochial air, that absence of style and elevation, which is the stamp of whole districts of London’. Virginia Woolf, born in a stucco house in Hyde Park Gate, thought stucco stood for merchant middle-class timidity: nice manners, no guts. She resented the ‘pale pompous beauty’ of the Kensington of her youth. When her time-travelling hero-heroine Orlando arrives in the late 19th century she looks at London’s Stuccovia and finds her mind ‘dizzied with the monotony’. It wasn’t just London, but Bristol, Brighton, Canterbury, Bath, Liverpool, Manchester — a whole country stucco’d from basement to cornice. In Gilbert Cannan’s novel The Stucco House (1917), set in Thrigsby, a fictional Midlands industrial town, stucco becomes something demonic. The stucco house bought by the Lawrie family, wanting to go up in the world but not really able to afford the upkeep, is blamed for all their subsequent misfortune. Jamie Lawrie’s descriptions of the house on Roman Street become more and more hysterical: ‘a great big sarcophagus of a house’, a ‘prison’, ‘hideous and pretentious’, ‘an absurdity of a house, a monstrosity in which it was grotesque to imagine that happiness could dwell’. All because of a marzipan layer of stucco. Who will speak for stucco? Where are its white knights? Here they come, trotting down the ivory avenues of Regent’s Park: John Betjeman and Osbert Lancaster. To Betjeman, stucco was always ‘creamy stucco’, while Lancaster wrote fondly of his birthplace, the ‘bright creamy’ 79 Elgin Crescent. Lancaster later became a champion of ‘sensible and attractive’ stucco, which harmonised so well with the ‘scenery and atmosphere of the English seaside’. I’m with the white knights. To my eyes there is nothing so scrumptious as a Jerseycream, Eton-mess meringue of a house in Maida Vale, revelling in its own whiteness in the Regent’s Canal. In a country that is often grey, stucco is a salamander: when there is sun, it basks in it, glories in it, is white, gorgeous and gleaming against blue skies; when it is overcast, stucco is defiant, it takes what little light there is and shines and smiles, where red brick, steel and concrete frown. Yes, it is prone to falling off in lumps if not maintained. But when pristine, is there a nicer, nobler sight than a stucco crescent? When the pearly gates open on my vision of heaven, it is on an uninterrupted vista, a John Nash utopia, of street after double-cream street. Robert Adam’s London is at the Sir John Soane’s Museum until 11 March 2017.

Exhibitions Serious concerns Melanie McDonagh Ardizzone: A Retrospective House of Illustration, until 22 January 2017

It’s funny, isn’t it, how a dust jacket on a book can draw you to it from the other end of a room — always supposing the illustration is by Edward Ardizzone. In fact, is there anything more suggestive of delight than a book illustrated by him? It’s the Midas touch even for unprepossessing authors. The exhibition of his work at the House of Illustration finishes off with a wall lined with them: The Little Grey Men, Jim at the Corner, Italian Peepshow, Johnny’s Bad Day, Eleanor Farjeon’s Book. . . you’ll recognise lots. And there’s something utterly distinctive about every one: the boy’s upturned nose, the rounded line of a motherly woman’s bottom — he’s good at soft women’s lines; the tapering narrow shins of two children in

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


© ESTATE OF EDWARD ARDIZZONE

tures of tarts, drunks, chipper working-class girls, many of them seen close by his home in Maida Vale, were affectionate, unjudgmental — and reflected the political preoccupations of the International Artists’ Association to which he belonged, which emphasised the importance of social realism. Indeed, for a man of his kindliness, it’s notable that his least sympathetic figures are rich men. You can see as much in his collaborations with Graham Greene in books such as The Little Horse Bus where the plutocrats are baddies. (Interestingly, those books aren’t really successful: Greene was too arch, too knowing.) He seems an improbable choice of official war artist, given that others included Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Henry Moore, but he was recommended by Kenneth Clark who wanted an artist ‘who would show the earthy part . . . what military life was really like’. And while he of all artists found it most difficult to show man’s hate-

There are times when Ardizzone resembles no one so much as Watteau

‘Shelter Scenes, Tilbury’ by Edward Ardizzone

Edwardian dress; the curve of a dragonfly’s body over a pool where a dwarf with a wooden leg sits fishing. Just a line, usually a curved line, but evocative of a delicacy and humanity that characterised everything — well, nearly everything — he ever drew. Actually, there’s a dragon in this exhibition that he did when he was a boy, and it’s reminiscent of the feisty, fierce one in what is, I stoutly maintain, his masterwork: The Land of Green Ginger, Noel Langley’s wonderful tale of dragons and djinns and an enchanted island that was never in the same place twice. And of course there are illustrations from the books for which he’s probably best known, the Tim and Ginger series, which he wrote as well as illustrated — he did 17 books as author and illustrator — but the exhibition isn’t just about the children’s books. That’s the point. Actually, I feel rather embarrassed now that I only ever associated Edward Ardizzone with children’s stories — which Puffin, to their infinite credit, are still producing (check out The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll).

It’s like going on about how brilliant T.S. Eliot is when all you’ve read is Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. He was a serious artist, much admired by Kenneth Clark, often compared to Daumier for his thick outlines and heavy shadows, and as an official war artist he was probably the most effective in capturing the human aspect of the war. He was quite extraordinarily prolific — one of the good things about being financially hard-pressed quite a lot of the time — and his oeuvre, represented here in more than 100 pieces, encompasses his advertising and commercial work (there’s a charming poster for Guinness showing a cheery workman carrying not only a piano but also a piano player), his many illustrations for adult books, his pictures of London pub and street scenes and his war paintings. He was never — except in his murals for a church in Faversham — overtly religious, though his own Catholic sensibility, a warm humanity, infused everything he did. As an artist he was a lover of mankind, a storyteller, in the way Dickens was; his pic-

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

ful aspect — as with Dickens, ‘cheerfulness will keep breaking out’ — his sympathetic approach and eye for the absurd was entirely apt. One image, ‘On the Road to Tripoli: Cup of Tea for the Burial Party’, shows squaddies calmly drinking mugs of tea in front of three open graves, which, you feel, was how it was. There are uncharacteristic exceptions here, though, including the sparse, bleak ‘A Battery Position in an Orchard of Young Fruit Trees in the Snow’, in ink and wash. Paring the material down to the selection here must have been a formidable undertaking for the curators, Alan Powers (who has written an admirable monograph to accompany the exhibition: Edward Ardizzone, Artist and Illustrator, Lund Humphries, £40) and Olivia Ahmad. In fact, the exhibition, over three rooms, is probably the right size, given that a number of the exhibits are small-scale, to be pored over. For good measure, there’s a bookshelf that stood in his sitting room, and a little theatre that he made for domestic theatricals. It’s a gem of an exhibition; for fans of Ardizzone, and we are legion, it’s a must. There’s also a small, charming display of his work at Chris Beetles Gallery in St James’s, The Human Comedy, which includes some lovely pub scenes (‘Barmaids Old & New’), pictures from one of his collaborations with Robert Graves, and some enchanting illustrations for Eleanor Farjeon’s Italian Peepshow. Honestly, there are times when he resembles no one so much as Watteau — a world in which sin and death never enter. And from the end of the month the show will be incorporated into the gallery’s ever-brilliant annual exhibition, The Illustrators. It’s a delight. 57


BOOKS & ARTS

mother’s mirror image, however, she was her mother’s worst nightmare. Brigid was Generation Gap. Whatever her mother did, Brigid did the opposite. Honey was thin. Brigid was fat. Honey had tea with the Duchess of Windsor and Diana Vreeland. Brigid had sex with John Chamberlain and Larry Rivers — and got them to draw their penises in her infamous Cock Books. Honey adored Bill Blass. Brigid told her he was gay. Of course, millions of children of the rich and upper middle class were rebelling against their boring, bourgeois parents in the 1960s. But Brigid took her rebellion to extremes: blowing her trust fund on a

curiosity value. In recording life, she captured our times. By myopically depicting her own transgressions and self-indulgences, she has prophetically reflected the narcissism and exhibitionism, the craving for fame and confusing of fame and infamy that have become the staples of American popular culture. ‘I invented selfies,’ she says It took a while for Brigid and I to get to know proudly. ‘I did. I’d put in a roll of film. And each other, not to mention like each other. then I would suck in my cheeks to look like But then it was total lifelong devotion. At a model. And then snap, snap, snap. I’d use first, when I started out at Interview, in 1970, six of the eight pictures on the roll. I couldn’t Brigid would give me The Glare, which was think of what else to take, so I’d just take two the negative equivalent of Nancy Reagan’s pictures of the floor.’ The Gaze. One or two seconds of that killBrigid bought her Polaroid 360, with Difing look were enough to put fuser Portrait and Close-Up across Brigid’s message: stay lenses, in 1968. ‘It was the © BRIGID BERLIN/REEL ART PRESS away. But a few years later, only camera I ever used,’ she gave up speed, moved she says. Taking pictures to a proper apartment on with it quickly became her East 22nd Street, and took newest addiction. As she a steady job as receptionist puts it, ‘Running out of film and transcriber of Andy Warwas worse than running hol’s tapes at the new Factoout of speed.’ The recently ry at 860 Broadway. That was invented camera was the when we bonded. perfect toy for the great big Our newfound friendspoiled child she was and ship was partly based on our the perfect tool for someshared Republican roots — one enamored of disrobing her Dad was a close friend whenever she felt like it. of Richard Nixon and NelWith its in-camera, 60-secson Rockefeller; my Mom ond development process, had been a Republican party this wondrous portable precinct captain in Plainview, machine not only providLong Island. We also shared ed instant gratification, but the highly developed apprealso eliminated the threat of ciation of absurdity that you censorship at the photo lab. needed to survive at Andy Brigid’s artistic approach Warhol Enterprises, to get was somewhere between what was going on and go opportunistic and nihilisalong with it. Not that Brigtic, addict-style: ‘No picture id worshipped Andy or his ever mattered. There was art — quite the contrary. I never any subject that I was think she felt because she after. It was clicking it and had given him two of his best pulling it out that I loved.’ ideas — Polaroids and tapeActually, she was quite recording — she had the right definite about her favourto call him ridiculous and his ite subjects: herself and art a big nothing. She cerAndy, in that order. Brigid tainly was the only Factory and Andy made the perfect worker to spurn a Christmas couple: the outcast heiress What you see is what you get: ‘Self-Portrait’ by Brigid Berlin gift of one of his paintings, and the nerd desperate to saying she’d rather have a get in; the self-destructive washer-dryer. By then, she had given up tak- quickie marriage to a ‘staple gun queen’ exhibitionist and the ambitious voyeur; the ing Polaroids, and was stitching needlepoint (i.e., window dresser); lolling about naked high-camp nun and the Pope of Pop (never slippers, at $1,200 a pair, for Andy’s dealers in underground movies; tweezing the gem- underestimate the Catholic influence on the and clients. She’d also lost a lot of weight, and stones out of a silver box the Shah of Iran Factory mentality). I found it telling that in once a week had her hair teased and sprayed had given her parents so she could score Brigid’s portraits of Andy he frequently had more speed. And she was surely the only his eyes closed, as if he couldn’t be bothered into a grand bouffant, just like her mother. Brigid’s mother, Muriel ‘Honey’ Ber- alumna of the Convent of the Sacred Heart to look at her. ‘Oh, Brigid,’ one can hear him lin, was a popular New York society host- to record her fights on the phone with her saying. ‘You’re never going to do anything ess. Her father, Richard E. Berlin, was the mother and turn over the tapes to Andy with these pictures anyway.’ On the other president of the Hearst Corporation from Warhol to turn into an off-Broadway play. hand, maybe he thought he was prettier with The key word is record. Brigid’s need his lids downcast — and pretty was some1943 to 1973. Hearst owned a dozen or so magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Town to rebel has always been matched by her thing he always wanted to be. & Country and Cosmopolitan, several radio need to document her rebelliousness, and A remarkable aspect of this new book and TV stations, and a chain of right-wing the overlapping of these two compulsions of Brigid’s Polaroids is the large number of newspapers. Before Brigid became her is what gives her work meaning beyond its important artists who had Brigid take their

Photography The woman who invented selfies Bob Colacello

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picture. Or perhaps I should refer to painters and sculptors as ‘other artists’, whose names she would drop to make Warhol jealous. Some had been her lovers, and they all seemed to adore her, probably because she was at least as crazed as they were in those days. It’s quite an assembly: from De Kooning to Donald Judd, Cy Twombly, and Roy Lichtenstein. One of the best photos is of the poet Joe Brainard, Bill Katz, John Cage and Jasper Johns huddled together against a white brick wall. One also finds Brigid’s fellow superstars, the wayward debs, poets and drag queens who appeared in Andy’s movies. Nico, Baby Jane Holzer, Ultra Violet, Candy Darling and Joe Dallesandro are all here — looking not glamorous but ordinary. This is the opposite of fashion photography or studio portraiture. Brigid was a realist. What she saw is what you got. Moreover, she was a master of the expressionless, the almost empty, the deader than deadpan. In that regard, she outdid even Andy. Yet for all her aching to be shocking and perverse, her work remains tinged with the innocence of a sheltered Catholic schoolgirl. This is an edited extract from Brigid Berlin Polaroids, £29.95. Deluxe Limited Edition, £650, published by Reel Art Press, www. reelartpress.com.

Opera Another fine mess Michael Tanner Lulu London Coliseum, in rep until 19 November Simplicius Simplicissimus Independent Opera, Lilian Baylis Studio, until 19 November

I wonder why ENO has invested in a new production of Berg’s Lulu, when the previous one, which we first saw in 2002 and then in 2005, was so brilliant as to be virtually definitive. (Of course, that last word is anathema to operatic ‘creative’ teams, for obvious reasons.) Not that this new one, directed by William Kentridge, isn’t good too, though it is excessively busy, compounding the hyperactivity of the score and action. It doesn’t do anything to clarify matters, though almost all the questions one is left asking are ones that the composer-librettist has set. The very full and useful notes in the programme trace the history of the Lulu plays and their transformation into the opera, in a way that makes clear what a mess it was how the whole thing slithered into being, both dramatically and,

hardly separably, conceptually. What emerges with some degree of lucidity is that both Wedekind and Berg made artistic capital out of their highly ambivalent attitudes towards women and women’s sexuality, and hoped that by leaving their feelings unresolved and letting them coexist uneasily they would engender something that counted as a modern myth, and so make confusion seem deep and labyrinthine. It’s not a particularly highrisk strategy, since audiences are only too content to be baffled and impressed. But it is worth thinking about the difference between a dramatic experience that leads you into a problem and which enriches your life by having you constantly returning to it and using it as a reference point, and on the other hand an experience that leaves you bemused and, so to speak, standing on the outside and wondering what is going on within. It seems clear to me that Lulu belongs to the second category. It is a work of enormous allure as well as repulsiveness, and one to which I have returned regularly over the five decades since I first saw it, fascinated. Its sound-world is all its own, almost always quite different from that of Wozzeck, a far greater work. The point of nearest contact is the supercharged orchestral interlude after Act One scene two, which rubs shoulders with the notorious D minor interlude in Wozzeck after

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BOOKS & ARTS CATHERINE ASHMORE

us Hartmann’s Simplicius Simplicissimus at the Lilian Baylis Studio. Hartmann was part of the ‘inner immigration’ of Germans hostile to the Nazi regime, but determined to stick it out. His idiom would not have given even the Nazis’ sensitive ears offence, but the opera, like the rambling novel on which it is based, is an indictment of war, hence the delay in its production. Simplicius is a young man, brilliantly performed in this production by Stephanie Corley, who encounters several archetypal figures and gets roughed up. Nearly everyone is dressed as a boy scout, and there is lots of running around and wrestling. It could just as well be staged as a cantata, in fact might make a greater impact that way. The performance was excellent, the inyer-face acoustics of the theatre giving it maximum impact, but that turned out to be pretty small, thanks to Hartmann’s generalised idiom, neither expressive nor illustrative, uniform in its depiction of whatever varying ordeals or consolations Simplicius encounters. Under the convincing baton of Timothy Redmond, and in David Pountney’s translation, one can’t imagine the work being better served, so it has only itself to blame.

Theatre Space oddity Lloyd Evans

Intimations of perplexity: Joanna Dudley in ‘Lulu’ at ENO

Lazarus King’s Cross Theatre, until 22 January 2017

Wozzeck drowns. The world of the earlier opera is permeated with strong feelings, unironically expressed, so that that interlude can seem to render explicit what we have already grasped. By contrast, Lulu is so sharp and dry for most of the time that any chance for emotional abandon is gratefully taken. The relationship between the stage and the pit is a vertiginous one: on stage,

Lulu is a work of enormous allure as well as repulsiveness people say and do things that are only intelligible if they are intensely overwrought, yet the reactions of other characters, especially Lulu, are offhand and often comically brutal. The same goes for the orchestra, which seems to be enjoying itself in self-sufficient musical ingenuities, alternating with passages of typically Bergian heavy breathing and compassion. Yet the music and the action are only sometimes coincident, and it’s hard to predict when. This allows for further intimations of perplexity and the abyss. Kentridge and his team update the action to the 1920s, thus prolonging Jack the Ripper’s life by several decades. Projected cartoon images come and go at a vertiginous 60

rate, and since almost all Lulu’s words are inaudible or unintelligible, the eyes are kept dizzyingly busy. Brenda Rae is Lulu, and in Act One on the first night at least she undersang, with only her top notes carrying. Lulu may be a blank on which the other characters, and the audience, can project their own image of womanhood, but she does at least need to be sexy. Rae has the figure but not the magnetism that leads to cardiac arrests, suicides and the other fates that await those who exploit and are exploited. The survivor, apart from Jack, is the malodorous Schigolch, well sung but hygienically acted by Willard White. The most sympathetic figure, as usual, is the Countess Geschwitz of Sarah Connolly, her acting and singing equally moving. The rest of the amorous team are a distinguished group, many of them veterans. Mark Wigglesworth and the orchestra are tremendous, but even so I’m heretical enough to wish that Act Three had never been completed by Cerha, and to return to my older recordings, with the music from the Lulu Symphony, much briefer and at last giving permission for a straightforward response. Independent Opera is giving four performances, the first in the UK, of Karl Amade-

Bits of Me Are Falling Apart Soho Theatre, until 3 December

One of David Bowie’s last works, Lazarus, is a musical based on Walter Tevis’s novel The Man Who Fell to Earth. Enda Walsh has written the script. The lead character, Newton, is a derelict celebrity addicted to gin who occupies a big brown apartment full of bickering attendants. It’s unclear who or what Newton is. Human or alien? Something in between? His ontological status is a further puzzle. He

He may be alive, dead, half-dead, non-dead, half-undead or semi-notquite-half-unalive may be alive, dead, half-dead, non-dead, halfundead or semi-not-quite-half-unalive. This is a problem, dramatically. A character who exists outside the mortal realm can’t make choices or perform actions that affect himself and others. He’s not a personality, therefore, just a puzzle wearing some clothes. Beige clothes in this case. Newton’s light-brown shirt and fawn trousers match his fudge-y make-up. The playing area, also beige, is arranged in rec-

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


tilinear blocks like a bookless municipal library. A glass wall at the rear of the stage reveals a lugubrious band of musicians who churn out Bowie’s magnificent back catalogue without a trace of passion or involvement. These visual and spatial effects are cooling, distancing. The emotional register is frozen reverence. The plot dodges here and there, never settling on anything for long, as Newton’s employees pootle around the place, whining. A black-clad helper announces that he’s gay and dies. A foxy maid and her clingy boyfriend exchange petulant gripes and accusations of infidelity. A scene of bloodshed in a nightclub darkens the mood temporarily. Then a sexy sprite appears. She creates a low-budget Mars probe by sticking some tape on the floor in the form of a winged cone. Newton climbs into this imaginary rocket, and his trip to the red planet, perhaps also imaginary, begins. Somebody persuades

The curved-spine community can’t hear a thing unless the amps are cranked up to 11 Newton to stab the sprite with a penknife. He hesitates. In a normal play this would be tense and gripping but here the wouldbe killer and his potential victim are ethereal spectres so the result of the knifework is impossible to guess at. Newton wields the blade, the sprite falls flat on her back, turns into milk, gets up again and announces that she has a new name. The foregoing sentence, I’m sorry to say, describes the most coherent narrative passage in the show. Box-office business seems healthy enough and the Bowie fans, many now qualifying for free bus travel, watched the show in motionless silence. Was that ennui or medical advice? ‘Don’t overdo it, dear.’ The music itself outstrips everything. Michael C. Hall (Newton) gives a vocal performance that ascends gloriously to the level required. As an actor he’s over-demonstrative but his voice is transfixing, like Bowie’s, intimate and vast, full of weird shadings and colorations, haunted by pain and need. It’s always a treat to hum along to classic tracks like ‘Heroes’ and ‘Changes’ being thrashed out at top volume. But let’s be honest about this. In its heyday, rock music was played over-loud as an act of defiance. Now it’s an act of prudence. The curved-spine community can’t hear a thing unless the amps are cranked up to 11. Ade Edmondson was part of a comedy duo that famously lacked a straight man. Pop-eyed maniac Rik Mayall played everything at breakneck speed. And Edmondson, to match his friend’s inspired lunacy, assumed the role of a ranting goblin whose zaniness never fully convinced. Behind the braying vocalisations and the distorted grimaces lay something softer and more humane, a genial intelligence, a quiet thoughtful figure embar-

rassed, perhaps, by the posturing caricature he’d been forced to create. The true Edmondson emerges in William Leith’s sad-dad memoir, Bits of Me Are Falling Apart. Edmondson is a wry, unshowy, presence who brings warmth and likeability to Leith’s troubled persona. He ruminates on life’s disappointments as he makes his weekly journey across London to fetch his son from his estranged partner. Self-pity is a lure he can’t resist. Though a successful writer, he regards himself as a failure. In perfect health, he’s convinced that lethal ailments are about to budge him into the boneyard. Securely housed, he regrets not scrambling on to the property ladder earlier. And he insists that his little lad, aged two, is the only source of comfort in his life. This is false, of course, as he probably realises. He derives far more pleasure from the relentless contemplation of his own shortcomings. What he forgets is that he’s exceptionally fortunate, in his mid-50s, to be fit, intelligent, solvent, fertile, available romantically and therefore capable of starting afresh. As his son grows into boyhood he will start to view his distant but loving father as a figure of romance and glamour. Steve Marmion has added some colourful flourishes to the script but the material is devoid of theatricality. It would work better on radio. And best of all in book form. Which is where it began.

Cinema About a boy Deborah Ross Indignation 15, Key Cities

Indignation is an adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2008 novel and amazingly, for an adaptation of a Philip Roth novel — see the recent dog’s dinner that was American Pastoral, for example — it may even be worth two hours of your time. (Depending on what you would otherwise be doing with that time; I wouldn’t wish for you to cancel that hip operation or similar.) It stars Logan Lerman as Marcus Messner, a 19-year-old Jewish boy from Newark who, in 1951, escapes the Korean war and the over-anxious clutches of his parents by winning a scholarship to a college in Ohio. Marcus, at the outset, is a good Jewish boy — an exemplary Jewish boy. Marcus is the Jewish boy you would want if you happened to be in the market for a Jewish boy. He is super-bright, serious, a straight-A student. Marcus and his parents (his father is a butcher) are determined he will make it to law school, and there is no reason to imagine he won’t. But Ohio is an unknown quantity — ‘How will you keep kosher?’ asks his

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

mother’s friend, worriedly. And it’s in Ohio that his life does, indeed, go awry, as the college’s conservative Christian values close in on him and he’s forced to feel the emotion for which the film’s title is absolutely the mot juste. This is the directorial debut of James Schamus, who also penned the screenplay, and is otherwise a producer (Suffragette, Happiness, Brokeback Mountain, Sense and Sensibility) and writer (The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Eat Drink Man Woman) and if he doesn’t take out the rubbish or unstack the dishwasher, I put it to you: where would he find the time? Schamus conjures a compelling sense of dread — it feels ominous from the opening frame — and also captures the stifling, suffocating nature of a 1950s campus where girls are constrained by curfews, boys are strangled by buttoned-up shirts worn with ties, and regular chapel-going is mandatory for all, regardless. Two encounters are pivotal for Marcus. One is with a fellow student Olivia (Sarah Gadon), with whom he becomes infatuated. She is a blonde shiksa goddess with a history of mental instability (uh-oh, here comes

It bristles with a sexual energy and an emotional richness as well as, yes, indignation trouble) and who introduces him to both treif food and handjobs. (But not simultaneously, which would be super-messy; you’d need quite a clutch of napkins for that.) The other pivotal encounter is with the head of the college, Dean Caudwell (Tracy Letts), who is adversarial, prying and insinuating. ‘It says here your father is a kosher butcher,’ says the Dean, reading through Marcus’s file, in his presence. ‘No, it does not. I remember writing down just “butcher”,’ Marcus replies. ‘I’m merely assuming he is a kosher butcher.’ ‘He is, but it’s not what I wrote down.’ ‘I acknowledge that. But it’s not inaccurate to identify him more precisely as a kosher butcher. . . ’ What is Caudwell’s game? Caudwell’s game is anti-Semitism. That is, the kind of institutionalised, systemic antiSemitism where hostility is never expressed directly, but thrums chillingly beneath the surface. Caudwell doesn’t wake up every morning consciously thinking of new ways to hate on Jews. (He isn’t like the RE teacher from my secondary comprehensive who referred to the few Jews in the school as ‘the Jesus killers’ and would turn to you mid-class to ask: ‘What does the Jesus killer think about this?’ Um . . . really sorry? Um . . . won’t happen again?) He thinks Christianity is good for everybody, and Jews can be accommodated so long as they attend chapel and toe the line. The most gripping section of the film is an 18-minute two-hander between Caudwell and Marcus which culminates in nice Marcus shedding his niceness. 61


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And also puking all over the Dean’s trophies. Riveting. (Not the puking: the to-andfro between the two.) Having never read this particular Roth, I can’t say how true this stays to the novel; can’t say whether it captures it’s complexities, nuances, depths, obsessions with sex and death and so on and so forth. I can only say that it bristles with a sexual energy and an emotional richness as well as, yes, indignation. It is also tremendously well served by a terrific cast. Letts is wonderful, of course, while Lerman exactly portrays a boy who is brilliant yet naive, morally righteous yet flawed. Further, there is a fabulous scene late on where Linda Emond, as Marcus’s mother, appraises Olivia (uh-oh, trouble) and extracts a promise from Marcus that will prove shattering. This is also riveting. And it doesn’t come with puking. You could pick holes, so I will. For instance, Marcus offers a sporadic firstperson narration that feels like what it is — Roth’s prose spoken aloud — while Olivia seems horribly underwritten. What is her story? And I couldn’t tell you what it all adds up to. That the thrum of prejudice can destroy you? That fate is simply the sum of incidental happenings? Whatever, it’s still worth two hours of your time, but only depending on what else you have to do. (A hip will always come first.)

Television Old stamping ground James Walton If I tell you that on Monday there was an hour-long documentary about the history of stamp-collecting, then you probably don’t need this column’s usual bit in brackets saying which channel it was on. Indeed, at times Timeshift: Penny Blacks and Twopenny Blues seemed determined to be the most BBC4-like programme in the history of BBC4: cheerfully niche, heroically indifferent to all notions of cool and so old-school in its production style that any mention of France was introduced with a blast of accordion music. Above all — and unlike so many other documentaries elsewhere — it was wholly confident that its viewers would be interested in interesting things without having to be shrilly reminded every few minutes of how interesting they are. Admittedly, presenter Andrew Martin did permit himself the odd modest flourish when offering us a particularly fascinating fact: that the word ‘philately’ comes from the Greek for ‘a love of the exemption from tax’, for example; or that the first-ever commemorative stamp was issued in 1871 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Peruvian railway. Otherwise, he followed the trusty method of his previous BBC4 documenta62

ries — by simply casting a knowledgeable and often amused eye over a subject clearly close to his heart. Of course, another element of the programme’s considerable appeal was nostalgia, even if it came at the cost of making the target audience realise that their youth took place in a long-vanished era. ‘When I was a boy,’ Martin began wistfully, ‘there was much talk of hobbies.’ And back when he was, in the early Seventies, the ‘default hobby’ consisted of carefully using adhesive paper hinges to stick stamps in the cor-

Was this the most BBC4-like programme in the history of BBC4? rect part of a special album. (We made our own fun in those days.) By 1972, you could increase the pleasure still further by playing the board game Collect, the lid of which promised ‘All the excitement of the stamp collecting world!’ But, as we learned, this golden age had a long gestation. The first stamp was collected on the day the first stamp was issued in 1840, when a British Museum zoologist bought a couple of Penny Blacks to keep for himself. After that, the practice unexpectedly went underground, with collectors meeting in London backstreets to avoid prosecution for unlicensed trading. It finally became big business when Stanley Gibbons opened his London shop in the 1870s — although, weirdly, Gibbons chose to sell up in 1890 and go round the world womanising, when he could have been, say, cataloguing the stamps of Mauritius. When it reached the present day, the programme struck a more melancholy note. These days, it seems, philately’s main purpose is as an investment opportunity, with a one-cent magenta from British Guiana selling at auction in 2014 for $9.5 million. Nonetheless, Martin did discover a group of amateur collectors still meeting in an East Croydon church hall. To his evident surprise they even included a woman. (Fortunately, in a thoughtful concession to maintaining gender stereotypes, she specialises in stamps with cats on them.) What he didn’t find there, though, was anybody under about 55. The Undiscovered Peter Cook (BBC4, Wednesday) was, among other things, a strong argument against the current fad for decluttering. When Cook died in 1995, his wife Lin locked up his Hampstead house just as it was, with a lifetime of memorabilia scattered about, and refused all requests to look inside. ‘Until,’ as the unseen presenter Victor Lewis-Smith inevitably put it, ‘now.’ In fact, this thumping cliché pointed to the one disappointment about the programme: that the unruly talents of LewisSmith and Cook himself were combined to produce a documentary that not only

observed TV conventions so scrupulously, but that also treated its subject with a most un-Cook-like reverence. Happily, there was no denying the quality of the material that Lewis-Smith unearthed from various cardboard boxes, shelves and carpets. Home movies from the 1930s reminded us how posh Cook’s upbringing was, by featuring garden parties and servants — and by being home movies from the 1930s. We also got any number of never-before-seen clips, including from Cook’s fabled 1971 chat show, originally planned to last 13 episodes, but pulled after three. (Left with a sudden gap in the schedules, the BBC hastily replaced Cook with a journalist called Michael Parkinson.) Given the reverent tone — which was presumably linked to Lin’s involvement — Cook’s last years were duly treated with almost Jeeves-like discretion. Cook, LewisSmith told us, was by no means the ‘tortured genius’ of popular imagining, and had ‘long periods off the booze’, once ‘even’ giving up for seven months. Yet, despite such efforts, the final sections of this programme were distinctly melancholy too — not least when Lin rather gave the game away by explaining that she once asked her husband why he drank so much. ‘Despair, really,’ Cook replied.

Radio Whodunnit Kate Chisholm Barbed wire, concrete, razor blades, passports, Bakelite and the sewage system are all crucial to the way we live now yet what do most of us know about who, when, how they were invented? In an ambitious new series for the World Service, 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy, Tim Harford intends to put us straight, taking one thing each week over the next year and in just nine, tight, well-ordered minutes giving us its potted history. This weekend, for instance, Harford introduced us to the Haber-Bosch process, which he argues is ‘the most significant invention of the 20th century’, allowing the world’s population to grow exponentially from four billion people in the 1910s when it was first introduced to seven and a half billion now. What Fritz Haber did was to work out a way to convert the nitrogen in the atmosphere into ammonia, used as the basis of fertiliser. Carl Bosch replicated the process on an industrial scale, thereby revolutionising farming and food production. Both won Nobel prizes. Acquiring more land was no longer the only way to feed more people; all that was needed was nitrogen, which was freely available in the atmosphere. The process was just like alchemy, or ‘Brot aus

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


Luft’ (bread from air) as the process came to be known in Haber’s native Germany. But as followers of Harford’s programme on Radio 4, More or Less, will know, to be ‘informed’ is not just to be told the facts. Harford helps us to understand the back story, the broader implications. His nine minutes on Haber-Bosch began by telling us about the sad life of Haber’s wife Clara, who was also a scientist, the first woman to gain a doctorate in chemistry in Germany. Once married to Haber, she was not encouraged to continue her research, and whenever she did give a lecture it was assumed he must have written it for her. Later, Clara pleaded with her husband to stop his pioneering work devising chemical weapons for the German government. In 1915, after chlorine was used to gas allied troops at Ypres, she took his gun and killed herself. This was great storytelling; precise, colourful, to the point. The programme was blighted, however, by the intrusive background music and the format, which is very much moulded for the podcast audience, who often listen on the move, or maybe while doing something else, who are rarely focused on what’s being said. You can tell by the amount of aural busyness, the way the voices are underscored by music or other sound effects to ensure the listener (or rather half-listener) stays tuned.

More facts and figures were bandied around for those up early on Sunday morning when Caz Graham took On Your Farm to north Lancashire. Apparently, we now spend ÂŁ8 billion a year in coffee shops. ÂŁ8 billion? But our newly developed and voracious appetite for cappuccinos and

Our voracious appetite for cappuccinos and lattes may save our dairy farms lattes may be a way to save our dairy farms, which have suffered so badly recently, in large part because of the supermarket wars and the way the price of milk is used to draw in customers rather than reflect the cost of its production. Graham talked to Joe Towers, who persuaded his father to let him buy a new herd of Jersey cows so that their farm could start producing milk specially formulated for the coffee-shop market, blending each day the rich yield from the Jerseys with a varying amount of milk from their existing herd of Friesians. Those foamers and steamers beloved of baristas need milk that is high in solids and proteins to froth up properly and create those perfect toppings: 3.6 per cent, precisely, according to a Danish researcher who spent two years analysing nothing but steamed milk.

Towers, who has worked on coffee farms in Kenya, was intrigued when approached by Shaun and Rebecca Young, baristas from London who believed there was a market for milk designed to make coffee taste better. His milk now sells direct to more than 100 specialist coffee bars in London and business is booming. A back story to ponder next time you order a latte (but don’t go for the skinny option). Over on Radio 4 Extra on Friday there was another chance to hear Nigel Planer’s gently comic play (his first for radio) about Michelangelo and the painting of the Sistine Chapel from 1508 to 1512 in a classy production by Mary Peate. Lapo (Phil Daniels), a Plato-reading plasterer, and his apprentice Loti (Bryan Dick) are stuck up the scaffold waiting for the great artist to arrive. He’s late, and believed to be sulking because things are not going well. Lapo has been working on frescoes for decades, and reckons he can teach Michelangelo how to do it. After all, ‘he’s not as good as Leonardo’. Lapo has mixed the artist’s colours, prepared the skimmed plaster, punched the holes in his cartoon and transferred the lines to the ceiling using charcoal. He even claims parts of the paintwork. He’s not impressed that Michelangelo gets all the credit. ‘That buttock,’ says Lapo. ‘I did that.’

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63


NOTES ON …

National Hunt racing By Camilla Swift

‘A

more thrilling, uplifting, glorious way of living has yet to be invented,’ the jockey John Francome said of National Hunt racing. Watching last weekend’s action from Cheltenham racecourse, it was easy to see what he meant. Now is when the National Hunt — or jump — season really gets under way. The summer months are about flat racing, although these days flat racing goes on through the winter, too. There are now six all-weather racetracks in the UK; the latest, Newcastle, opened earlier this year. Of course, it’s not quite the same (floodlights are no replacement for long summer evenings), but it does enable flat horses, trainers and jockeys to stay in business all year round. For most racing aficionados, winter is about the jumps. While summer racing brings to mind ginormous hats, picnics and Pimm’s, the National Hunt season tends to be far more relaxed. You’ll see plenty of tweed and probably some fur — although hats (of a more sensible type) are a common sight too. Essentially, it’s about keeping warm. You can’t really write about the jump season without mentioning the most famous steeplechase of them all: the Grand National. Both famous — for the sheer thrill of the Aintree course’s enormous fences — and infamous for the sad fact that horse deaths

Ruby Walsh riding Al Ferof at Cheltenham

have historically been higher there than average, it still attracts crowds of over 73,000, and up to 10 million television viewers. The other major event is the Cheltenham Festival in March — a four-day spectacular which climaxes with the Gold Cup on the Friday. The legendary ‘Cheltenham roar’ (the noise the crowds let out as the first race begins) has to be heard to be believed, and with St Patrick’s Day coinciding with the third day of racing it’s difficult to have a bad day out — even if the luck of the Irish doesn’t go your way. There are other big races which will take

place much sooner: on Boxing Day, Kempton Park racecourse plays host to a grade one race, the King George VI Chase. Surely that’s more fun than drowning in a post-Christmas hangover with a turkey sandwich? It’s not all about the big race meetings, though. Many people’s first introduction to jump racing is at a point-to-point, which take place across the country from November until early summer. Originally designed as a race from one steeple to another (hence ‘steeplechase’), point-to-point racing involved crossing everything in your way — be that a ditch, a hedge or a wall. These days, it’s more structured. The races — which are for amateur jockeys rather than professionals — are run over a set course of about three miles with a number of birch fences as obstacles, though the rules say that there must still be a couple of ditches in there too. They are far more relaxed affairs than the professional jump races; just turn up with your picnic and pay on the gate. (To find out where your nearest race is, consult www.point-to-point.co.uk.) It’s here that you’ll find the real grass roots of jump racing. There’s no money in it (perhaps a couple of hundred pounds for a win), but that’s not the point. It’s the love of the sport that gets the entries rolling in — and the punters too.

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‘Splendid red trees, certainly, but how many red men were lurking among them?’ — Bruce Anderson, p78

High life Taki

New York The only thing worse than a sore loser, I suppose, is a sore winner, but thank God we don’t run into too many of those. Thirty years ago, The Spectator and I lost a libel case that cost the then proprietor and yours truly a small fortune. As it turned out, after the plaintiff had gone to that sauna-like place below, everything that I had written was the truth and nothing but. (The hubby of the woman who sued me came clean after her death, but a lot of good that did the Speccie and me.) The sainted editor at the time was Charles Moore, and in view of Justice Otton having taken a great dislike to yours truly, he ordered me to remain at home when the decision was about to be pronounced. Nevertheless a few hacks parked themselves outside my front door and demanded a statement. I asked them if they could find out the name of the German pilot who mistakenly bombed the Temple in 1942 and killed a hell of a lot of lawyers. ‘I would like to call my next son after him.’ Sportsmen used to be neither sore losers nor excuse-makers. By sportsmen I mean the old amateur type of athlete of both sexes. My father used to go crazy when someone made excuses after losing a contest. Old dad was a wonderful 800-metre runner back in the days when track and field athletes ran for the glory of it, and the sport had not as yet become drug central. He told me about a friend of his who, having lost badly when running the marathon, said that he had only lost because the winner had jumped the gun. When I was on the tennis circuit back in the late Fifties, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans never made excuses after losing a match, whereas the French and Italians never failed to make one. The Greeks are pretty good at excuses, too, and it used to drive me crazy when I was competing. Now that sport has become professional, excuses are the order of the day. I guess it goes with the territory. If a pro admits that the oppo-

nent was better on a given day, he or she diminishes his or her own value dollar-wise. American professional football and basketball players are the worst. They make millions and all they do is complain and cry foul. Female professional tennis players are great big crybabies, much more so than the men. And speaking of crybabies, they are all over the streets nowadays, some of them rioting because the election didn’t go the way they wanted it to go. I suppose that this is a new phenomenon: you lose and so you

What really won it for Trump was the slogan Black Lives Matter cry, demonstrate, stamp your feet and disrupt normal life, even attacking people who voted for the ‘monster’. There is counselling at American prep schools and classes have been called off in American universities. The spoilt dears are too upset to attend them. One memory I shall never forget is my piano teacher, during the second world war, hiding underneath the instrument she was teaching while an air raid was going on. So my brother and I went into the garden and played. British and German kids went to school every day and the only time they did not attend classes was when the school had been blown up. Not to mention the poor Japanese kids who were boiled alive daily in their wooden schoolhouses by Curtis LeMay’s B-29s. Seventy years later, American kids do not go to school because 60 million of their fellow citizens did not vote the way the little dears wanted them to, and that upsets them greatly. Would you say the western race is improving? The Donald’s not a great apologiser. I find that quite funny given that we’re living at a time when all we do is apologise for things that we need not apologise for. The other trait I like is his arrogance. When a headline screamed, ‘It’s Trump against the world,’ he told his entourage that if it were any other way it wouldn’t be a fair contest. Now everyone’s circling trying to land jobs in DC. Even the vile New York Times wants access having abandoned all fairness and having lost its credibility — hence haemorrhaging readers. (Like all phonies, the owner and executive editor have pledged to try harder and have apologised.) Basically, this was an uprising of the unprotected against the rich elite, a revolt à la Brexit. But what really won it for the Donald was the slogan Black Lives Matter. They do, but lots of folks, as Trumpie calls them,

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

saw that as a threat to law and order. Worse, Hillary embraced it and encouraged the big lie that cops are out to kill blacks. Racial victimology works in schools but not in the rust belt or Florida, where cops are seen as the last line of defence against criminals. Take it from Taki. When the world’s biggest unelected asshole, Jean-Claude Juncker, calls a meeting to examine what Europe can do about Trumpism, it’s time to call the men in the white suits and vote for Marine Le Pen. We’ve had two great victories, Brexit and Trump. With Marine’s win it will be a perfect trifecta. Once again, yippee!

Low life Jeremy Clarke

The day after the American people applied a very welcome touch on the brakes to the Enlightenment juggernaut, I went for a walk with my brother, who the day before had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Which is a crying shame because three years ago, after I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, he had conscientiously toddled down to the doctor to have himself checked out with a PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) blood test, in case it ran in the family. But the doctor had thought the precaution unnecessary for a man of his comparatively young age (47) and vetoed it. A fortnight ago he couldn’t pee and went again to the same doctor. This time the doctor agreed to a PSA blood test. When the result came back, his PSA score was 112. For most doctors, ‘normal’ is four and below. My brother’s score was off the scale, in other words. It wasn’t a question of whether he had cancer, but how far it had spread. The morning after Trump’s victory he had received the results of the biopsy on his prostate gland. We’d of course hoped that his ridiculously high PSA score was a ghastly mistake, or that the decimal point was in the wrong place. It was neither. His prostate was diseased; the cancer highly aggressive. When my cancer was first diagnosed, my 69


LIFE

brother had invited me out for a long walk. So now it was my turn to invite him out for a post-prostate cancer diagnosis walk. Our walk took us and his three Border terriers, Roxy, Ruby and Taz, across coastal moorland and down to a steep and remote cove. To give the walk a purpose, no matter how spurious, I brought a supermarket ‘bag for life’ and scissors for collecting edible seaweed. Iodine kills cancer cells, reputedly. We could dry and powder the seaweed and sprinkle it on our cornflakes every morning, I thought. Not for one moment do I believe that it would cure us. It was merely a bow in the homeopathic House of Rimmon. I reasoned, however, that snipping at seaweed with kitchen scissors might make us laugh and take our minds off things. My brother has spent his entire working life as a big, incorruptible Devon and Cornwall policeman. Nowadays he specialises in training other police officers in the art and science of containing public disorder. Sometimes he spends entire days throwing petrol bombs at other policemen or having them thrown at him. He is a judo black belt and built like the proverbial outside lavatory. He is one of the fittest, sanest, healthiest people I know. He loves his job. He lives cleanly and decently and is dedicated to his wife and two adolescent children. That my prostate gland should turn out to be cancerous

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surprised nobody. Many, I’m sure, assumed it was an apposite kind of long overdue natural justice. But it is heartbreaking that a chap as physically fit and morally upright as my brother should get it, and so early on. As we trod the saturated fields down to the sea and talked, I was glad to know that his fine sense of humour had remained intact, in spite of his pessimistic assumption that he will be dead and buried by Christmas. He showed me how he has been practising crossing his wrists over his chest in the mirror to see what his laid-out corpse might look like. He did this several times and grinned and waggled his eyebrows at me. Also he told me how, after announcing his diagnosis to his team of police instructors, he came to work one day and found Post-it notes attached to the personal effects on his desk in their shared office. Each item bore a colleague’s name, claiming the item when he died. His West Ham mug, his spoon, his bravery award certificate, even the framed photograph of his pretty daughter had a Post-it stuck to it. My brother said he had taken this as the best possible joke. One of his fellow instructors, however, took him privately aside to express his sympathy. My brother is a hilarious mimic. ‘All those bleeding scumbags out there,’ he said, mimicking the guy’s Bristolian accent to exquisite perfection. ‘None of them get cancer, do they? Why’s that then? Why?’ The path down to the cove was washed away and we had to abseil the last few yards on a rope. At the bottom I got out the seaweed guidebook, positively identified one of the several types strewn about in a stinking heap as carrageen, and we started snipping. Thinking we were searching for something for them to kill, the dogs nosed up the seaweed to a frenzy of excitement. It did make us laugh. It was a crying shame, though, that that doctor hadn’t given him a PSA test when he’d first asked for one.

Real life Melissa Kite

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70

The Israeli chef and I have become firm friends since he moved out of my flat. He has his own place now, and is trying to find a job. I take him horse riding at the weekends. On the way down the A3 he asks me all sorts of questions about his new life in Britain and the things he is struggling to make sense of. Like why he can’t get a work visa. He is very upset about this. ‘You have to understand,’ I explain, ‘that the mistake you made

was to come here legally and apply to the system honestly and openly, stating clearly that you wanted to find work.’ I glanced at him as I drove, surveying his handsome baby face, dark skin, slightly curly black hair. ‘It may be too late now, but if you could pretend to be 12 and from Syria you would find our country a lot more welcoming. And I have to say, you look a lot more like a Syrian child than most of the ones I’ve seen in the paper. However, if you did that you might have to go to school on a sink estate for a bit.’ The Israeli chef knows all about sink estates because while he was staying with me on Airbnb, he went house-hunting on a Brixton estate because he had heard me boasting about spending the weekend on a friend’s shooting estate. He traipsed back looking very despondent. ‘How did it go?’ I asked. ‘It was terrible. I went to an estate but it wasn’t nice, like the one you went to, with the lovely big house.’ So I had to explain that in England there are two kinds of estate, each one being the polar opposite of the other. ‘Although, the estate you went to prob-

If you could pretend to be 12 and from Syria you would find our country a lot more welcoming ably was a shooting estate, in its way. It’s just they weren’t shooting pheasants, they were shooting people.’ He always nods conscientiously and tries to look like he understands these home truths I’m telling him about the country he has come to, believing the streets are paved in gold. It is interesting to see it from the point of view of the settler, to see the young people who come here on travel visas trying to convert them to work visas, and thereafter, one supposes, into indefinite leave to remain. While he was staying with me he got very upset about Brexit until I explained that if it weren’t for our being in a Europe of open borders, there would be plenty of space left for skilled people like him. But it’s no use me trying to convince him of the difficulties, because shortly before he moved out and went to live with a couple of hipsters with green hair, he got hit in the eye by a tennis ball while playing at my local tennis club. That night he came home with a black eye, still slightly dazed, and told me about his day. After the accident, the coach took him to my local GP surgery where there is a walk-in minor injuries clinic. ‘Dear God, how long did you wait?’ I asked, having never been seen there for any injury myself, despite various attempts. ‘Presumably you didn’t get seen and you’ve no idea what to do now?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘It was fine. They saw me

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


quite quickly. About an hour. And they weren’t sure about my eye so they sent me to Moorfields Eye Hospital. That was a very nice place. And the eye surgeon checked me over and made sure it was all right.’ ‘What now?’ I said, sitting bolt upright on the sofa and putting the TV on mute. ‘You’re saying you’ve been seen, today, by my local doctor, who I can’t get an appointment with for love nor money, and you’ve also been to Moorfields? And been seen by a specialist? What did they charge you?’ ‘Charge?’ ‘Yes, the bill.’ ‘No bill.’ Of course, I’m very happy for my new Israeli friend to have gained access to free healthcare in Britain so promptly, without anyone asking him any bothersome questions, but there is a point of principle here. Not least the fact that he doesn’t seem to be short of cash, and was only injured in the first place because he’s joined a tennis club that I can’t afford to play at. So I said to him: ‘Can I ask you what would have happened if I had got hit in the eye by a tennis ball in Tel Aviv and gone to see your doctor?’ He laughed. ‘Well, you’d have to pay of course.’ ‘And the best eye clinic in Israel? Do you think they would have seen me for free?’ ‘Oh no. They would have charged you a lot of money.’ At least we all know where we stand.

Long life Alexander Chancellor

I started watching The Crown, the £100-million television series on the early years of the Queen’s reign, on Netflix but turned it off during the second episode because I couldn’t bear the endless coughing by her father, George VI, as he died of lung cancer. The coughing, performed with eager realism by the actor Jared Harris, who played the king, was made harder to bear by the fact that he kept on smoking at the same time. The link between cancer and smoking may not then have been established, but it is well known now; and exposure to both at the same time is not for the squeamish. For me, however, there was another reason for discomfort — the memory of George VI’s death in 1952 when I was 12 years old, a boarder at a prep school in Berkshire. One day the headmaster summoned the whole

school to assembly to hear an important announcement. With the utmost gravity, he told us that there was terrible news: the king had died. And all of us children, myself included, promptly burst into tears. We were sobbing away like the people of Thailand when their king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, died last month aged 88, ceding to our Queen the record of being the world’s longest-reigning monarch. I don’t think that even then we were quite as hysterical as the Thais are in their devotion to their inherited head of state, but those were still nevertheless deferential times. The national anthem was played in cinemas, where film-goers would stand up for it, and I can remember people even standing up in their homes when the national anthem preceded the King’s (and then the Queen’s) radio broadcast on Christmas Day.

It would be like replacing the Queen with Nigel Farage Those days are long gone. Many people now won’t interrupt their Christmas feasting to watch the Queen on television. But the monarchy remains popular all the same, and the republican cause, briefly promoted by the Guardian, arouses little enthusiasm. Even Jeremy Corbyn now feels it prudent to sing the words of the national anthem (or at least to give the impression of doing so) as he did at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph. And when the Queen led the commemoration by laying the first wreath of poppies at Edwin Lutyens’s splendid war memorial in Whitehall, a majority of us must have felt how lucky we were to have her to do it. There is much to be said for having a non-political, unelected national figurehead to perform such a duty. In the next four years the United States will have in that role President Donald Trump, whose unsuitability to personify national unity has been well illustrated by the protests of thousands of demonstrators all over the country shouting, ‘He’s not my president.’ Imagine: here it would be like replacing the Queen with Nigel Farage. Was it perhaps fear of a president as divisive as Trump that persuaded the New York Times to publish, three days before the presidential election, an article by Nikolai Tolstoy

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

in praise of the monarchical system? The Anglo-Russian historian Tolstoy is a committed monarchist, the chancellor of the International Monarchist League, and a Brexiteer who has more than once stood for Parliament as a Ukip candidate, but he wasn’t wrong when he wrote that constitutional monarchy had shown itself to be perfectly compatible with democracy and to be a force for stability in other countries. As an example, he cited ‘contented Canada’, America’s northern neighbour. ‘At this unquiet hour,’ he wrote, ‘they [the American people] might well wonder whether — for all the wisdom of the founding fathers — their republican system of government is actually leading them toward that promised “more perfect union”.’ It seems to me that the monarchy has never been more useful to us than it is today, when the country has been split by the EU referendum. If we had a head of state that had taken one or other side in this battle we would be in a sorrier state. But one thing wrong with the monarchy is that we pay too much attention to members of the royal family. Apart from the Queen herself, most of them have become victims of the celebrity culture, and this demeans the institution itself. The less I hear or read about them, the happier I feel; and the less wobbly in my loyalty.

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71


Wild life Aidan Hartley

Aero Club of East Africa The world looked so clean and untroubled during the flight in Bob’s light aircraft to George’s memorial at the Aero Club of East Africa. It was a relief to get away from the farm for a few hours. On 27 October a mob of 300 Samburu warriors armed with spears and knives cut down our boundary fences and invaded with 10,000 cattle. Since then they’ve hurled javelins and rocks at us, flattened pastures to dust, destroyed 15 kilometres of fencing, smashed windows, demolished huts, robbed what they could, cut water pipes, broken machinery and threatened our staff with murder until half of them ran for their lives. For days before the invasion we received calls from friends saying that politicians were urging the mob to hit us. I hoped the warnings were not true given that we had good relations with many of our neighbours. Those trespassers who would talk to us revealed that they were attacking precisely in order to smash up whatever plans we had to help our neighbours with grazing and their cattle. George died of burns after his air crash and his memorial was outside the Aero Club bar. The reading from Ecclesiastes and speeches by the family were intermittently drowned out by the noise of machines taxiing and throttling up at take-off. George had been a Royal Marine and Conrad, his fellow Bootneck and a mountain of a Kenyan, recited Tennyson’s ‘Crossing the Bar’. Giles talked about George’s Boran cattle. George’s best friend Alastair told a funny story from their days at Rannoch, when at the age of 17 they managed to get an invitation from a couple of young Australian teachers who had previously been at the school to spend half-term with them in Paris. When it was time to return to Perthshire, they claimed to have food poisoning and skived off for ten days more. ‘All innocent, you understand,’ said Alastair, whose girlfriend Diane in Paris later became his wife — and there she was in the crowd, laughing. Afterwards scores of farmers and pilots descended on the bar, smacking their lips for Tusker. I saw Hugh, the vet who had been called out to save some of George’s cattle that people like our own invaders have been shooting at through the farm fences. Thieves rustled George’s prize bull, which won junior champion at the show

in July. Luckily it was recovered, much to the relief of George’s surviving family, now doing their best to carry on ranching. Mark had a beer in one hand and a phone in the other, calling back to his farm where shootouts can happen day or night. If you think this is like Zimbabwe, think again. There are all types here. An African farmer spun past me in his wheelchair, to which he’s been confined since he was shot twice while driving home in July. We drifted in and out of talking about the invasions, hoping to avoid the subject by finding a city person, but we all seemed to be from up country. One hopes that ways of life might change at a pace that is manageable, but it’s morbidly gripping to consider that ours might be vanishing fast. Leaning over his Tusker, John tells a funny, sad story about how last week a butcher called up asking to buy fat cull cows. Two cheques were deposited in the bank, which advised that the money had been paid — so John allowed 32 cows to be loaded on to the buyer’s lorries. Hours after they drove away, the bank called to say the cheques had bounced. The ‘butcher’

300 Samburu warriors cut down our boundary fences and invaded with 10,000 cattle has vanished. John’s daughter, chatting to friends nearby, is a picture of radiant beauty and her old man says proudly, ‘Ugly bulls produce the finest heifers.’ On the flight back up to the north we pass over tea gardens and hillsides of coffee, wellorganised villages with schools and clinics on red soil ridges. Then the thick, mist-swathed forests of the Aberdares, clean waters flowing in big rivers, with Mount Kenya in cloud to the north-east, and we bank down across the ochre plains of Laikipia bathed in a ghostly evening light and descend until we see them again: thousands of cattle advancing south. Tens of thousands. In the first week of the invasion the police visited a total of nine times. They drove up, disembarked and wandered about. ‘Hmm,’ they said, announced they could do nothing, and drove away. I asked, ‘What should we do?’ One officer advised sagely, ‘Resolve this with the elders. . . ’ Another said, ‘Wait for the rains.’ They promised to file reports. They recorded our police statements. That was after one of my staff had been clubbed with knobkerries and was bleeding from the head. Another day the cops stole a sheep from the trespassers and later they fired three shots in the air. After they left, the trespassers came and threw rocks at us. Every day now for three weeks, I have listened to thousands of cowbells passing the house, hour after hour. Once for me the happy sound of remote wells in arid country, cowbells have now become the soundtrack of my bad dreams, clonking relentlessly.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

Bridge Susanna Gross Have you ever felt that none of your partners are on the same wavelength as you? Despite regularly partnering the world’s top players, Zia Mahmood often jokingly moans (well, semi-jokingly) that he’s made a subtle or clever bid which has fallen on deaf ears. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone: whether he’s bidding or playing, you can always rely on Zia to do something imaginative and unexpected. Zia was on the winning Lavazza team at the recent HCL International Bridge Championship held in New Delhi last month (India’s biggest bridge tournament, with a $200,000 prize pot). His partner faced the following lead problem and Zia gave it to various players, including me. It came with the warning: ‘So far no one has got it right. If I can find the person who does, I will either propose to them (if it’s a woman) or partner them!’ You are South, and at favourable vulnerability (green v. red), you pick up zAKJ10976 yJ XK3 wA54. The bidding goes: West

5y pass

North

East

South

Pass Dble

1y pass

4z pass

So what do you lead? My answer was a top spade, which I felt must be wrong (too obvious). But it was a trick question — very unfair! The ‘right’ answer was that you shouldn’t be on lead at all. Zia, your partner, had made a striped-tailed-ape double. This is about my favourite term in bridge: it’s when you double at the 5-level knowing the opponents can make slam — the doubled overtrick will cost you less than a slam, but if they redouble you intend to run like a stripedtailed-ape to your partner’s suit. Zia held zQ8754 y53 X872 w632. East held z– yAKQ942 X109 wKQ1097. West held z6 y10876 XAQJ654 wJ8. Zia was hoping to be redoubled and end up in 5z doubled. But he also felt his partner should have pulled the double. His reasoning: ‘How can I have enough to double, especially when you have the biggest 4z non-vul bid ever? Your righthand opponent has an opening hand, you have 16 points, your other opponent has about 10. I have 0-2 points. I can’t have a double! I knew they had six or seven hearts on and was hoping to bluff them. If you work that out, you need to protect my bluff and bid 5z.’ 5z doubled would have gone for -500, instead of -1050 for 5y doubled+1. That was better than -1430 for 6y, but Lavazza lost imps because in the other room EW bid to 6y and NS sacrificed in 6z for -800. Still, you’re in good company if you didn’t think South’s pass was odd: after all, South was Giorgio Duboin, ranked fourth in the world ...and he could justifiably argue that no one ever knows exactly what Zia is up to! 73


LIFE

Chess Chigorin revived Raymond Keene The early games of the World Championship in New York between Magnus Carlsen and Sergei Karjakin did little to contribute to the gaiety of nations. In the first two games both contestants seemed more anxious to display their ability to avoid loss than to strive heroically for a win. If the two were ‘willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike’, their willingness was of a most muted variety. Fortunately, there was no lack of entertainment from the parallel Champions Showdown in St Louis, which pits Veselin Topalov, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand against each other in multifarious formats. Meanwhile, the European Club Cup, from which this week’s extraordinary game is taken, also showed a plethora of exciting clashes. Aronian-Rapport: European Club Cup, Novi

Sad 2016; Chigorin Defence 1 d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 I first encountered

this move when the Dutch grandmaster Donner played it against me in the annual Anglo-Dutch match at London 1971. At that time I tried to continue in true Chigorin fashion with 3 ... dxc4 4 Nf3 (4 d5 Ne5 5 Bf4 and now 5 ... Ng6 was satisfactory for Black in Gligoric-Smyslov, Amsterdam 1971) 4 ... Bg4 5 d5 Bxf3 6 exf3 Ne5. Sadly after 7 Bf4 Black is almost lost since 7 ... Ng6 fails to 8 Bxc4 with the deadly threat of Bb5+. 3 ... Nf6 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Nf3 e5 This gambit revives Black’s chances in the Chigorin. 6 dxe5 Bb4 7 Bd2 Nxc3 8 bxc3 Ba5 9 e3 0-0 10 Qa4 Bb6 11 Qf4 Qe7 12 h4 New, but eccentric. Natural and good is 12 Bc4. 12 ... f6 13 exf6 Rxf6 14 Qc4+ Kh8 15 Bd3 Bf5 16 Bxf5 Rxf5 (see diagram 1) Largely because of

White’s irrelevant 12 h4 Black enjoys sufficient compensation for his sacrificed pawn. 17 Ng5 An overoptimistic thrust. White should simply play 17 0-0. After White’s mistaken sortie with his knight Black succeeds in concentrating his forces against the white king. 17 ... Ne5 18 Qe4 Qd7 19 0-0 Re8 20 Qc2 h6 21 Ne4 Rh5 22 Ng3 Rxh4 23 Rad1 Rf8 24 Bc1 Qg4 25 Rd5 Qg5

PUZZLE NO. 435 White to play. This is a position from TopalovCaruana, St Louis 2016. Can you spot White’s crushing blow? Answers to me at The Spectator by Tuesday 22 November or via email to victoria@ spectator.co.uk. There is a prize of £20 for the first correct answer out of a hat. Please include a postal address and allow six weeks for prize delivery. Last week’s solution 1 Rxd8+ Last week’s winner Alan Ward, Burgess Hill, West Sussex

74

Competition I quit Lucy Vickery In Competition No. 2974 you were invited to submit a resignation letter from God. Despite mankind’s attempts to kill Him off, God has continued to bounce back. ‘The Almighty,’ as Terry Eagleton puts it in his book Culture and the Death of God, ‘has proved remarkably difficult to dispose of.’ But what if He decided one day that He’d had just about enough of us all (Gexit, as Ken Stevens termed it)? Now seems as likely a time as any, so it’s over to you. The winners take £25 each.

Diagram 1

rDWDWDWi 0p0W1W0p WgnDWDWD DWDWDrDW WDQDWDW) DW)W)NDW PDWGW)PD $WDWIWDR

Over the years, the human race has been taking part in a momentous democratic process. It is right that we trust the people with these big decisions. As you know, I have always been absolutely clear about my belief that humanity is stronger, safer and better off inside the Kingdom of Heaven. However, the human race has made a very clear decision to take a different path. Faced with the choice of God or Mammon, it has chosen the latter. This choice must be respected. I will do everything I can, as creator and sustainer of the universe, to steady the ship over the coming weeks, but it would not be right for me to be the captain steering humanity to its next destination. I love this universe, I feel honoured to have served it, and I wish it luck under its new leadership. Thank you for your time. David Silverman

Diagram 2

WDWDW4Wi 0pDWDW0W WgpDWDW0 DWDWhW1W WDW$WDW4 DW)W)WHW PDWDQ)PD DWGWDRIW 26 Qe2 c6 27 Rd4 (see diagram 2) A clever idea which meets with an even more astounding riposte. If now 27 ... Bxd4 28 exd4 when Black must lose material. However, White is in for a shock. 27 ... Rh1+ If now 28 Nxh1 Nf3+ wins the queen, so White’s hand is forced. 28 Kxh1 Bxd4 29 f3 Or 29 exd4 Qh4+ 30 Kg1 Ng4 31 Re1 Qh2+ 32 Kf1 Qxg3 33 Be3 Rf6 when White has virtually run out of sensible moves. 29 ... Bb6 30 Ne4 Qh5+ 31 Kg1 Bc7 32 Kf2 Qh2 33 Ke1 Rd8 34 Bd2 Nd3+ 35 Kd1 Qe5 With White’s king in the firing line, resistance is futile. 36 g4 Qb5 37 Qg2 Nb2+ 38 Kc2 Nc4 39 Bc1 Rd5 40 g5 Na5 41 Bd2 Qd3+ White resigns

WDWDW4Wi 0p0WDW$p WhWDW)bD DWDWDW!p WDW$WDWD DW)WDWDW WDWDW1PI DWDWDWDW

Being omniscient, I should have known: Creation is one thing, its administration quite another. I might apologise for my somewhat simplistic approach to management in earlier millennia — the autocratic Commandments, the pernickety dietary laws, the ten frankly melodramatic Plagues — were it not for the failure of my later, more people-centric managerial approach. My son’s unfortunate workexperience placement in Palestine particularly discouraged me — nepotism was never my intention and your reaction, even today, seems disproportionate. I think it is to my credit that I have remained, albeit in a privately consultative capacity, until now. Nevertheless, I resign. Lucifer, who has been rather literally shadowing me for some time, and who seems to possess a surer understanding of human motivation than I, has already suggested himself as successor. I am off to one of those other Universes, whose existence convinces your physicists in a way my own never could. Adrian Fry Let me admit that when I started this project it was in a vein of hope and belief but also of sobriety. I reasonably concluded that my power and knowledge, being limitless, would ensure a transcendent outcome. Even when I was obliged to drown nearly everyone I dismissed the issue as a glitch. Something went badly wrong, however. I chose natural selection as the instrument of my vision of a biodiverse world, but also to build in a sense of advancement, from lower to higher forms, rather than a static perfection. Homo sapiens would move beyond animal instincts to refined emotions, art and the practice of reason. The pattern would work out. My plan would be accomplished.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


LIFE Unfortunately you seem to be a rabble of blind, mutually destructive fucking maniacs. I can accept no further responsibility and hereby resign. Basil Ransome-Davies To whom ... although increasingly I doubt if there is anyone concerned at my resignation. Doubt, incidentally, is something new to me. I would not wish to accuse you of constructive dismissal: your lack of faith in me, however, has made my position untenable and Eden beckons. Perhaps I appointed the wrong departmental managers, perhaps I should have encouraged profits rather than prophets. The thought of another damp Sunday with its ragbag of ill-assorted hymns and tambourines is too much for One accustomed to choirs of the angelic host. While I am tempted to enact sections of the Book of the Revelation at my farewell ‘do’, I realise this would be tame compared to your recent activities and that I should leave you to your own devious devices: that you can outdo me gives me no pleasure. Fortunately your perfunctory explorations of the glories of the universe failed to locate Eden. D.A. Prince 13.8 billion years without a decent holiday, 100 billion galaxies to supervise, a ridiculous amount of commuting, and — the last straw — that bastard Mephistopheles has hacked into my server again. It’s been a nightmare arranging workable yet convenient laws of physics: you need gravity to stop things floating off and then blame me when other things fall down. (Einstein glimpsed my space-time difficulties but most of you have the insights of a dog chewing a remote control.) I don’t like earthquakes, tempests and plagues any more than you do (I watch your painfully slow, stumbling ascent wishing I knew a better route) but how am I expected to fix probability, meteorology, molecular biology etc so they permit your evolution but preclude ‘natural disaster’ and disease? Trolls have been very nasty to me about all this. I’m benevolent but I’m not a bloody miracle worker. I need a break. Hugh King Despite my secondment remaining intra-contract, I hereby tender my immediate resignation in order to forestall the headhunting by competitors of my successor. In post I have driven the brand, maximised market penetration and pursued profitability. But my technological innovations, successful these past two millennia in cementing consumer loyalty across diverse cultural and socioeconomic sectors, have unfortunately fostered outbreaks of critical thought, threatening project ethos. In battling to perpetually weave the intricate web of fable vital to the role, it is now my view that brand viability demands fresh Chief Executive input. Only a radical overhaul, under the eternal direction of a more virile and charismatic entity with a proven delivery record, can bolster the project’s flagging facade. I humbly commend to the committee, with the proviso He won’t come cheap, The Lord Our Blair. Albert Black

Crossword 2287: Quarry by Columba

1

2

3

4

Across 1 Quiet exercises by expert (5) 9 Locusts, very large, after jelly and syrup (10) 11 Free to return without a souvenir (5) 14 Sound during festival identified (5) 15 Varied like marks in rug (5) 16 Going out east, slow, short of oxygen (6) 21 Pacific island with prison mostly in concrete (8) 22 Excluded, king and earl sulk (7, two words) 24 Bird’s utterance initially covered by music (4) 25 Weight left in reserve (4) 27 Resented Greek condemned without justice (7) 28 Worked out aim to contain constant poison (8) 33 Uncle in charge around a boat (6) 34 Knight tucked into cheese and pickle? (5) 35 Sole lecturer with department retired (5) 37 Hated bias about article (7) 38 Support very old villain (5) 40 Goddess to greet, dressed in silk (9) 41 Explain away grand defeat (5)

6

7

8

9

10

11

12 13

14

15

16

In eight clues, cryptic indications omit reference to parts of answers; these parts must be highlighted, to reveal a word that defines each of the unclued lights. Two unclued lights consist of two words each.

5

17 20

22

18

19

21

23

24 25

26

27

28

29 32

34

30

31

33 35

36

37

38 39

40

41

3 Cloudy regions (6) 4 Hood active in opposition (6) 5 Vocal artist in middle of solo (4) 6 Pasta in new bags (7) 7 Take one to wander round university city (5) 8 Make hygienic order about cuckoo (8) 10 Costly aid from assorted general practitioners (6,7) 13 Element in pony trek sadly lacking energy (7) 17 Intermittent appeal to stop lifting edge of sail (6) 18 Master in barge injured part of skull (6) 23 Salad plant in cereal so out of order (8) 26 Runner perhaps worried about hard obstruction (7) 29 Calm, therefore remaining without resistance (6) 30 Unprincipled monk climbing to grab gold (6) 31 Preserve tube in tent (6) 32 Inscribe part of Bible with hesitation (5) 36 Rising temperature, problem for new wine (4)

A first prize of £30 for the first correct solution opened on 1 December. There are two runners-up prizes of £20. (UK solvers can choose to receive the latest edition of the Chambers dictionary instead of cash — ring the word ‘dictionary’.) Entries to: Crossword 2287, The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP. Please note that the closing date for entries is earlier than usual.

Name Address

Email

Down 2 Issue raised for example relating to me (6)

NO. 2977: LET’S TWIST

You are invited to submit a Christmas carol with a topical twist. Email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 25 November. The earlier than usual deadline is because of the Christmas production schedule. the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

SOLUTION TO 2284: SHOCKING! In PYGMALION (21D), ELIZA (32) said NOT BLOODY LIKELY! (7A/9/12). Synonyms were NEGATIVE (24), RARE (35), ODDS-ON (20). GB SHAW (in the second row) had to be shaded. First prize Vincent Clark, Frant, East Sussex Runners-up Julie Sanders, Bishops Waltham, Hants; Kenneth Robb, Linlithgow, West Lothian

75


LIFE

Status Anxiety A new path to the top of the teaching tree Toby Young

A

few months ago I joined forces with Sir Anthony Seldon, the vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, to run an idea up the flagpole. Why not make it possible for senior managers from outside the teaching profession to retrain as heads? Anthony, who was a successful head himself, is in the process of setting up the Buckingham Institute of School Leadership to train the heads of the future. He proposed creating a mid-career and late-career entry track into this programme so successful managers in their thirties, forties and fifties can retrain as school leaders. This idea was met with some scepticism by teachers and I can’t say I blame them. It rankles for the same reason that allowing people from outside the profession to set up free schools rankles, as well as encouraging people to teach who don’t have QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). It implies there’s nothing particularly valuable about the training or experience that goes into the making of a good teacher — any Tom, Dick or Harry could waltz in off the street and do what they do. It’s symptomatic of a failure to take the profession of teaching seriously, which is an continuing source of resentment. If I were a teacher it would certainly annoy me. For what it’s worth, my experience of helping to set up free schools left

My experience of helping to set up free schools left me with a huge respect for the teaching profession

me with a huge respect for the profession. None of the schools would have got off the ground without the involvement of experienced teachers as co-founders, and that’s true of most free schools — more than 70 per cent have been set up by teacher-led groups. In addition, the eagerness of free schools and academies to employ non-qualified teachers has been exaggerated. At our schools we take on non-QTS teaching staff only if they’re willing to become qualified in due course. That, too, is fairly standard. Anthony and I are not saying business people with no teaching experience should get jobs as school leaders, which is how it has been interpreted by some. For instance, Dr Bernard Trafford, the headteacher of Newcastle and Tyne Royal Grammar School, wrote a piece for the TES last week attacking this straw man. ‘I take issue with the suggestion that leaders who have mastered the pressures and drives of commerce can similarly seize the reins of education and drive the chariot to success,’ he said. No, our idea is that people with a strong record of managing organisations a bit like schools, such as publicly funded arts organisations, should have an opportunity to retrain as heads over two to four years. Much of the process would consist of shadowing school leaders, and trainees would graduate with QTS. This would give them credibility in their staffrooms, although they’d need to prove themselves on the job. We believe they would. This idea has won support from two unexpected sources. One is the Harvard Business Review, which published an article last month entitled ‘The One Type of Leader Who

Can Turn Around a Failing School’. Written by four academics, it analysed the impact of 411 English heads and concluded that the most effective ones are ‘Architects’ — leaders who take the time to work out how to improve a school, do it without alienating the staff and then stick around long enough to see those changes through. ‘Architects’ have a number of interesting characteristics — they tend to have studied history or economics at university, for instance — but the most interesting is that most have spent between ten and 15 years working in another profession before retraining as teachers. But the most unexpected endorsement comes from a group of teachers. Last weekend, a research paper called ‘The School Leadership Challenge: 2022’ was jointly published by Future Leaders, Teach First and Teaching Leaders and warned that by 2022 England may face a shortfall of between 14,000 and 19,000 school leaders. This is due to a lack of heads and deputy heads in the present system, the need for more leaders as more schools open to keep pace with a growing population, and the fact that many existing heads are approaching retirement age. Of the various solutions it suggested, one jumped out: ‘Expand the pool of leaders, including welcoming executives from outside the profession.’ At present, Anthony is on track to open the Seldon School of Headcraft and Wizardry in 2017. I hope some Spectator readers will think about becoming mature students. Your country needs you. Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.

MICHAEL HEATH

76

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


The Wiki Man How the left wastes its energy Rory Sutherland

People left, right, and centre — but especially on the right — are justifiably sick and tired of being called bigots and having almost everything in social politics reduced to smear campaigns about bigotry. The overapplication of terms of bigotry as a means of silencing disagreement with a left-bending social orthodoxy has become, shall we say, ‘problematic’. As a result, words like racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobe and the rest have become conservative dog-whistles that mean ‘honest and brave’, and ‘willing to speak his mind (without fear)’. Like the inappropriate application of an antibiotic, the incessant misuse of these terms has created a superbug.

T

here are only three infallible rules in advertising. Be distinctive. Make a lot of noise. And try to feature a cute animal somewhere. Had Donald Trump followed my advice and bought a springer spaniel he would have won California. For a man with such tiny hands to be elected to the world’s highest office, I think we can all agree, is a tragic loss to proctology. But it is also a remarkable lesson in how to play the media. Hillary had $2 billion to spend; what Trump miraculously found was that with each outburst of political Tourette’s, he got more airtime than her, and for free. So eager were the mainstream and social media to express their horrified disdain for his latest outrage that they were effectively donating to his campaign. By exploiting the media’s virtue-signalling reflex, Trump had found the thermal exhaust port on the liberal Death Star. The more he was attacked, the stronger he grew. As James Lindsay wrote back in June, ‘Liberals, want Trump to win? Keep calling him racist’:

Proclaiming your openness to all change is a way of showing how unthreatened is your place in the social hierarchy

The commentariat were right in one way: Trump’s support was fuelled by hate. But it was mostly hatred by one class of white people for another class of white people. A large part of his appeal lay in the pursed-lipped horror he aroused in some of the world’s most annoying whites. (Yet intriguingly the Latin vote, where Trump fared better than Romney, seemed unperturbed by his outbursts, maybe because when translated into a language where coño and puta madre are used like punctuation marks, the Donald didn’t seem all that rude.) But honestly, lefties, how clueless do you have to be not to realise that people living in a rust-belt town might not empathise too much with Yale students protesting about the cultural sensitivity of Halloween

costumes? Do you think no one suspects that virtue signalling is mostly an unconscious and oblique form of status signalling? Just as tattoos and piercings might prove the strength of your immune system, proclaiming your openness to all change is a way of advertising how unthreatened is your place in the social hierarchy. This reflex causes the left to waste energy on causes with mostly symbolic value; energy which could be spent on campaigns that matter far more, such as protesting the US’s appallingly high rate of — especially black — incarceration. But campaigning for the removal of flags and statues just feels better somehow. Virtue signalling, in short, is rather like wetting the bed; in the short term you get a nice warm feeling, but soon afterwards everything starts to stink. There is one thing I recommend which we can all do to help. It’s a simple rule I invented last weekend, and it seems to work. Before you respond to anyone online, check their last ten posts. If eight or more are related to the same issue, do not respond or engage, positively or negatively. I recently came across one person whose last 44 posts were all rants about Brexit. Please ignore them. It will be better for you and it’s much better for them. Rory Sutherland is vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK.

DEAR MARY YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED

I resent my friends being subject to character assassinations. How can I reprehend the scribe? — Name withheld, London W2

Q. Following a lavish house party I received a flood of effusive thank-you letters, the bulk of which praised the impeccable service, the luxurious treats laid on nightly, and my attentiveness to my guests’ every whim. One letter, however, commenced in a fairly complimentary vein but soon devolved into a letter of complaint about a fellow guest. So vehemently did the author express his antipathy that he covered two sides of paper. I concede that the young woman in question is an acquired taste, but

A. Bear in mind that this letter is something of a compliment. The author defies convention to put your welfare above his own. In speaking his mind, he risks his own exclusion from future house parties. If you still wish to punish, invite him to an ‘acquired taste’ restaurant such as Quo Vadis on Dean Street, not mentioning you have also invited the subject of his scathing diatribe. On arrival he will have to appear delighted at the surprise, as per social niceties. This unenjoyable evening will be made worse by your studious failure to bring it to an end by asking for the bill. Eventually your guest will be forced to do so himself and to ‘insist’ on paying.

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk

Q. A peripheral friend is under the impression that I still hold a grudge against him due to a minor transgression that occurred at an after-party I gave a year and a half ago. (I discovered this peripheral friend dancing in his dirty shoes on one of my newly upholstered sofas.) I was furious at the time, but had forgotten the incident. However, every time I encounter the perpetrator socially, he manages to corner me and launches into earnest and lengthy offerings of remorse, repeating ‘I do feel we got off to a bad start and I would sincerely like to make amends.’ How can I politely but firmly put an end to his gushing apologies? — F.W., London W11 A. You have misinterpreted the gushing apologies: they are merely a means for him to make an

overture towards you. You may not yet have seen his point but this reformed oaf has one thing to recommend him — consistency. It’s a quality in short supply among young men of today. Why not allow him to make amends by agreeing to a dinner date where you can consider him in a less hectic context? Q. Further to your recommending the Grosvenor Hotel, may I help avert confusion by pointing out that ‘the Grosvenor’ is often used to refer to the larger and more pretentious Grosvenor House off Park Lane. The Grosvenor you refer to was for a few years called the ‘Thistle Victoria’ but has now reverted to its traditional name. — O.B.,London SW19 A. Thank you for clearing up this matter. 77


LIFE

Drink Autumn riches Bruce Anderson

A

few days ago, on the Dorset/ Somerset marches, autumn was still in orderly retreat. Although a pear tree’s leaves had turned sere and yellow, the last fruit was still peeping through. Across the lawn, a horse chestnut was undressing, festooning the lawn with bronze. Out of a cloudless sky, a mild seasonal sun blessed the scene with a gentle glow, as if it were pouring Sauternes. Along the Ladies’ Walk, the yellows and greens were reinforced by bushes in russet mantles and by the triumphant redness of acers and liquidambar. We could have almost been in the New England fall, at least for a few yards. Autumn, fall: the two have profound resonances from different histories. As one might expect from its French name, autumn is full of good eating. This does not always take forms which the French would recognise, for it includes Brussels sprouts. Curious as it may seem, my friend Eyzie has an elective affinity with that vegetable. She is the Brillat-Savarin of the sprout. More generally, autumn is redolent of full barns, of well-stocked

If counties have a patron sin, Dorset’s is gluttony

log sheds, of well-fattened pigs scoffing the last windfalls, heedless of their doom. Slaughtering day approaches. With the defences against winter well-prepared, wise households can approach the great feast of Christmas in a complacent spirit. There would have been little of that in nascent New England. The fall of man: the fall of the year. It may be that the embattled colonists had lost the easy English assumption that spring would return. Across the Atlantic, the fall meant an impending exposure to the furious winter’s rages. Splendid red trees, certainly, but how many red men were lurking among them? Admittedly the Puritans arrived with a harsh religion, but at least in the first era, there would have been nothing to mitigate the bleakness. If those early Americans had been minded to gloss over original sin, there would have been plenty to remind them of it. In Dorset, religion has a much more Rosicrucian hue. If counties have a patron sin, Dorset’s is gluttony. My friend Ro, a redoubtable forager, returned with a cornucopia of fungi: pied du mouton, chanterelles, orange birch boletus, cepes and parasols. What followed was transcendent simplicity, as he transformed them into

‘Like him or loathe him, he’s promised to make Germany great again — I say we give him a chance and see what happens.’

bruschetta. Cook the fungi in oil, rub the toasted country bread with garlic, pile on the riches, add a further drizzle of oil — eat to repletion and reach for superlatives. Yet that was only the approach to the summit. Our next meal was based on an early-season white truffle. There is only one way to describe such sensations. Imagine what Hillary Clinton must be feeling now, move 180 degrees opposite, double that, redouble it — and you are within hailing distance. Yet Hillary had her revenge. To accompany fungi and tubers, we decided against cabernet sauvignon. Although left-bank claret works for almost everything except shellfish, it is not quite right for mushrooms. Chateauneuf du Pape Clos des Papes ’02 should have been ideal, but the first two bottles we opened were pure vinegar: Château Clinton 2016. So we fell back on a Malescot St Exupéry 2000: a thoroughly acceptable line of retreat. For the truffle, returning to the original strategy (as opposed to the original sin) with trepidation, we tried a Bourgueil ’76. Would it have lasted 40 years? There was an initial and deeply unpromising mustiness. It then began to open out in the glass, without achieving harmony. But after five minutes — could it have smelt the truffle? — it awakened to deliciousness. So it is time to make an early New Year resolution; one I have made before, but always broken. Drink more Loire reds. There is lots of interest — including anything made by Jacky Blot — even if it will rarely match that Bourgueil, and even if one will rarely drink it with truffle.

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE

Cortana At the Queen’s Coronation, the Duke of Northumberland carried the Sword of Mercy called Cortana. I mention this for three reasons: by way of a holiday, since it is as far from the American elections as we can get; because I am worried that the sword might not be carried at the next Coronation; and because I was surprised to find the word cortana in the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary. The OED does not include proper names, so in 1893, when it reached the letter C, it pretended that cortana was a common noun. It notes that the sword has no point and that its name 78

comes simply from Latin curtus, short, which in Old French was extended to cortain and in AngloLatin cortana (feminine, agreeing with spatha, ‘sword’). It is not easily connected with curtain, itself of uncertain origin. Cortana is also called the sword of King Edward the Confessor. The OED calls it the sword of Roland, the hero of the French national epic. But according to Gaston Paris, the historian the dictionary cites, Charlemagne

tried out three swords forged by Wayland (‘Galant d’Angleterre’) by thrusting each into a block of steel. Cortain bit in, but broke at the tip, and was given to Ogier. The two other swords, Almace and Durendal, were given to Turpin and Roland. In the Chanson de Roland, Durendal is an important character, addressed in a speech by Roland covering two laisses or stanzas. That epic swords have names is also seen in the Spanish national poem, the Cantar de Mio Cid, about a more recent hero, the 11th-century Rodrigo Diaz. Like Roland he fights the Moors or Saracens.

Cortana is mentioned by Matthew Paris in the 13th century, and the present sword is a rare bit of regalia predating the Restoration in 1660. The English Coronation service does not claim that Cortana is the sword that Charlemagne wielded. In fact the service doesn’t explain much: neither the colobium sindonis, nor the armills, nor the pall held over the monarch at the anointing. It is all the more important that Cortana, as a symbol not contrived for the moment but, like any ancient word in the language, inherited, should not be dumped now. — Dot Wordsworth

the spectator | 19 november 2016 | www.spectator.co.uk


ISSUE 9 / 26 NOVEMBER 2016

T BENEY ND MO S FU I S T H I m TS H OU 15 PU S M £1SMITHRE HI MTYERRY WHE

HIGH PERFORMANCE The best classic cars offer investment value as well as motoring thrills, says Henry Jeffreys

SECURITY LESSONS FROM KIM KARDASHIAN

DESIGN FOR T RETIREMEN

BUILD HOW TO SIPP YOUR

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ROBIN ANDREWS PICKS BIOSCIENCE WINNERS .ROSS CLARK AT OLD OAK COMMON . FREDDY GRAY ON GAMBLING WITH BIG DATA

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