The Spectator

10 October 2015

How Putin outwitted the West

His cynical statecraft in Syria has run rings around Britain and America





Sorry, America, but it looks like Joe Biden is your next president

I have a sinking feeling that Joe Biden might be the next president of the pper nited States. In a…



One in ten British babies will soon be born via IVF. So why is it taboo?

Pretty soon, one in ten British babies will begin life in a Petri dish. So why is it still such a taboo subject?



Why Carly Fiorina (probably) can’t save the Republicans

Is Carly Fiorina the woman to see off Donald Trump – and Hillary Clinton?



I invented ‘virtue signalling’. Now it’s taking over the world

I invented the term ‘virtue signalling’ in The Spectator. Now it seems to be taking over the world

Look out below: one of The Hague’s gargoyles


Look beyond ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ in The Hague

What a fate it is to be hung next to the most famous painting in a gallery. To be overlooked,…

Pope Francis gives his weekly general audience at St Peter's square on October 7, 2015 at the Vatican.  AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE        (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)


This year, Catholic conservatives are ready for Pope Francis

Where will Francis's Synod on the Family take the Church?



How Putin outwitted the West

His cynical statecraft in Syria has run rings around Britain and America

The Week



Letters: Spain vs Catalonia, hedgehogs vs badgers, Palmer vs Moore

Spanish practices Sir: In your leading article last week you wrote: ‘Yes, Catalonia and Scotland were independent in the 16th…

Bulgarian troops on the Doiran front (Photo: Getty)

From The Archives

Bulgarian tragedy

From ‘Bulgaria and Greece’, The Spectator, 9 October 1915: The fact that the British people will in all probability soon be…




The death of Diesel The Volkswagen scandal has brought into question the future of the diesel engine. A century ago…



Edmund de Waal’s diary: Selling nothing, and why writers need ping-pong

On the top landing of the Royal Academy is the Sackler Sculpture Corridor, a long stony shelf of torsos of…


Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week

Home David Cameron, the Prime Minister, told  the Conservative party conference in Manchester: ‘We need a national crusade to get…

(Photo: Getty)

Leading article

It's not Tory vs Labour; it's the party of government v the party of protest

Political party conferences have, in recent years, felt like an empty ritual. They used to be convened in seaside towns,…


Ancient and modern

John McDonnell’s true economic guru: the emperor Nero

John McDonnell, shadow chancellor in the Corbynite splinter-group, has announced that £120 billion is waiting to be reclaimed from tax…



Any other business

Finally, a business rates reform! If only I knew what it meant

This column has repeatedly cried that something must be done about business rates. Yes, it’s fair to ask businesses, as…

James Delingpole

James Delingpole

A Supreme Court justice and the scary plan to outlaw climate change

How do you make an imaginary problem so painfully real that everyone suffers? It’s an odd question to ask, you…

Rod Liddle

Rod Liddle

Spittle is the only thing Labour has left

I have started salivating excessively at night. I wake each morning in a pillowed swamp of my own effluvium, a…


Mary Wakefield

Isis takes its British schoolgirl jihadis seriously. Why don’t we?

When the first schoolgirls ran away to Isis I had some sympathy for them — at least, I could see…

Spectators notes

The Spectator's Notes

Charles Moore’s notes: Boris’s brilliance; Labour’s Joe McCarthy

Maybe it was because of the contrast with Theresa May’s chilly, disingenuous monotone minutes before, but I really think Boris…



The Tories are still anxious to reach out. And that’s a very good sign

Post-election party conferences usually follow a standard pattern. The winning party slaps itself on the back while the losers fret…


Wayne Rooney with his wife Coleen (Photo: BBC)


Was BBC1’s Rooney show more scripted reality than documentary?

Close to the Edge (BBC4, Tuesday) feels very much like an idea conceived during a particularly good night in the…

John Lennon (Photo: Getty)


I’ve never thought much of John Lennon’s music – until now

It’s probably blasphemous to admit that I’ve never thought very much of John Lennon’s music. Common sense tells me it…

Like observing a child absorbed in a solitary game: Mark Rylance as Philippe V in 'Farinelli and the King'


It may have a meagre script and no plot but Farinelli and the King is still a major work of art

Philippe V was a Bourbon prince who secured the throne of Spain using his family connections. Claire van Kampen is…

Kiss Me Kate


Please let's have more musicals like this Kiss Me, Kate at Opera North

Opera North’s new production of Cole Porter’s masterwork Kiss Me, Kate has been so widely and justly praised that I…

Her face is one of those faces you can't stop watching: Carey Mulligan in 'Suffragette'


They do more than just ninny about in elaborate hats, thank Christ: Suffragette reviewed

Suffragette is one of those films in which the parts are greater than the sum. Or, in this instance, the…

A novel in paint: Goya's 'The Family of the Infante Don Luís' (1783-4)


Why did Goya’s sitters put up with his brutal honesty?

Sometimes, contrary to a widespread suspicion, critics do get it right. On 17 August, 1798 an anonymous contributor to the…

The Shepperton surrealist: J.G. Ballard outside his house


Cats, whisky and modernity: the J.G. Ballard I knew

That cinema is having another Ballardian moment will surprise few fans. J.G. Ballard, who died of cancer in 2009 at…

Long player: 33 years on ABC's 'The Lexicon of Love' sounds only slightly less than current

Arts feature

Why I’m stepping down as The Spectator’s pop critic after 27 years

Pop's place in culture has changed drastically. Marcus Berkmann explains why, after 27 years, it is time to step down as The Spectator's pop critic


1972: Park Hill Estate, Sheffield. Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images

Books feature

A crushing case for brutalism — with the people left out

Elain Harwood’s flawed but impressive study of modernist architecture manages perfectly to reflect its subject, says David Kynaston

John Buchan, 1935 (Photo: Getty)


The many lives of John Buchan

Ursula Buchan casts further light on her grandfather’s famous novel

The Winter Palace, St Petersburg, 1840, by Ferdinand Victor Perrot (Pushkin Museum)


Mikhail Piotrovsky knows all the Hermitage's secrets. He’s keeping them

The front cover of this book describes the Hermitage as ‘the Greatest Museum in the World’. That sobriquet must go…

beauty girl cry


Proof that the British hardly ever had a stiff upper lip

The last time I cried was September 1989. That was my first week at public school. The reason I cried…

German troops marching along the Champs Elysees (Photo: Getty)


Allan Massie’s Bordeaux Quartet: truer to Occupied France than any history

In a recent book review, the historian Norman Stone wrote: ‘Maybe the second world war can now be left to…

W.G. Grace, by W.T. Wilson, 1887: Grace is beginning to show signs of the gluttony that marked his late career


Sport’s first celebrity: W.G. Grace

Should you wish to have a good copy of the 1916 edition of Wisden, cricket’s annual bible, you should be…

The scene in Hitchcock's film in which Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) removes her stocking while handcuffed to Hannay (Robert Donat) gives off an erotic spark to this day

Books feature

Retracing The Thirty-Nine Steps in Buchan’s beloved Borders

To celebrate the centenary of the publication of The Thirty-Nine Steps William Cook travelled to Tweeddale, where John Buchan spent his youthful summers

A life at sea


A Mile Down: David Vann’s memoir of a disastrous career at sea

When the novelist David Vann was 13, his father — a difficult, unhappy dreamer in his thirties, constantly in dread,…


High life

High life

Blood, sand and tragedy in Papa Hemingway and Ava Gardner country

Let’s take it from the top: Seville is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The capital of Andalusia,…

Low life

Low life

Happiness is a chainsaw and a maul in the rain and the mud

It rained all day long last Friday in Provence, and it rained all night, and on Saturday morning it was…

Real life

Real life

I rode my own racehorse and was changed for ever

‘The last owner who tried to ride his own horse got tanked,’ said the trainer, looking up at me as…

Long life

Long life

Oh, how I will miss the plastic bag!

It has taken years, but finally England has joined the rest of the United Kingdom and other countries around the…




There’s no doubt about it: I’m an addict. A BBO addict. Since the Bermuda Bowl began, nearly a fortnight ago,…



Black death

Joseph Henry Blackburne was the leading British tournament player towards the end of the 19th century. It could be said…


Chess puzzle

Puzzle no. 382

White to play. This is from Blackburne-Schwarz, Berlin 1881. What is the best way to deal with the knight check?…




In Competition No. 2918 you were invited to submit a poem composed entirely of three-letter words. ‘This is the most…



2232: Ups and downs

The unclued lights, in one case paired, are all suggested by a thematic phrase (two words), which is set out…


Crossword solution

To 2229: Gnome

The PROVERB (35) (in ODQ), associated with the KENNEDY (19) FAMILY (31), was ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’. EDIT…

Mind Your Language

Mind your language

The weird truth about the word ‘normal’

‘Is Nicky Morgan too “normal” to be the next prime minister?’ asked someone in the Daily Telegraph. That would make…



Manchester has marvellous wines, and it’s not finished yet

It will seem an ungrateful comment after the lunch which I am about to describe, but Manchester has some way…

Dear Mary

Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can girls avoid freezing in cold marquees?

Q. What do you do when you are so cold at a party that you cannot enjoy it? At a…


The Wiki Man

We let programmers run our lives. So how’s their moral code?

A few years ago, in the week before Christmas when supermarket sales are at their highest, staff at one branch…

Toby Young

Status anxiety

What I learnt trying to buy lunch for an anti-Tory protestor

The mood at the Conservative party conference this week was a little subdued, and no wonder. As those who watched…