2 July 2005
The Spectator was established in 1828, and is the oldest continuously published magazine in the
English language. The Spectator’s taste for controversy, however, remains undiminished. There is no
party line to which The Spectator’s writers are bound - originality of thought and elegance of expression are the
sole editorial constraints.
The trial issue contains a “Thought Crime Special” with articles from Melanie Phillips,
“I think, therefore I’m guilty”; Christopher Booker writes about
“Scientists in hiding; the demonisation of academics who question the consensus”; Alan Rusbridger explores
“How to stifle the press” and how England’s libel laws make it easy.
UK politics come under scrutiny from
James Forsyth, Brendan O’Neill ponders if teenagers could ever be
“Drunk and orderly”; while
Tom Hollander writes his diary and
James Delingpole says
eat local organic food if you like, but don’t kid yourself that it’s ‘green’.
The Spectator’s regular arts coverage includes
1. Kate Andrews: are we heading towards Boris vs. the Bank?
The sums of money being printed by the Bank of England to keep the UK afloat are vast, writes Kate Andrews: a deficit of £300 billion this year, made possible by £200 billion of quantitative easing. ‘To put that in perspective, another £5 million will have been borrowed by the time you finish reading this article.’ The Bank is facilitating a money circle for the government: printing the money it wants to spend, then mopping up the debt it leaves behind. This creates an artificial market, keeping borrowing rates deceptively low. But how long will it last? ‘We fought the last election saying there was no money tree,’ says one senior Tory MP. ‘Now we say there is one, and it’s in the garden of the Bank of England.’ But there is a problem with the gardener. Andrew Bailey, the new governor, does not see it as his job to prop up the Tories’ ‘levelling up’ agenda or the net-zero target, which have so far been framed by the government as essential to economic recovery. What happens if the Bank cuts off the credit when Downing Street wants it to continue? A decision made by the Bank could bring Boris’s spending spree to a close, which the governor is ‘bluntly’ saying he’d be quite prepared to do. ‘If that happens, I think it’s 50/50 that No. 10 tries to renationalise the Bank of England,’ says one senior Tory. A radical idea, and one that would terrify the Treasury, which believes that ending the Bank’s independence would risk bringing the whole system crashing down. Liam Halligan, meanwhile, says that quantitative easing, once a justifiable emergency measure after the 2008 financial crisis, is now ‘the economic equivalent of crack cocaine’. What’s needed is a retreat from this dependency, cooling financial markets in a bid to restore normality and balance as the post-Covid global economy reboots.
2. James Forsyth: the kids aren’t alright
Coronavirus is economically devastating for the young, writes James Forsyth. A third of working 18- to 24-year-olds have lost work because of the Covid crisis. Those about to enter the workforce face the prospect of higher unemployment than we saw in the 1980s. Rishi Sunak has announced that the state will, essentially, pay for employers to hire young people for six-month placements - and it is revealing that the government is spending £2 billion on these jobs. If it thought that the recovery was going to be a reassuring V-shape, it would hardly regard such an intervention as necessary. But these government-funded jobs can only be a short-term fix, and any medium-term solution is going to require tackling post-16 education. The expansion of higher education has not worked out as intended – too many students are doing courses that don’t represent value for money. Gavin Williamson’s response to this problem is to drop the 50 per cent target and instead focus on further education. This autumn, he will publish a white paper on how to set up a German-style system of technical education. Perhaps the greatest generational issue in Britain, though, is housing. In the next few weeks, the government will publish planning reforms designed to simplify the system and free up more land for development. The test of the government’s extraordinary measures to keep the economy going are not just whether they shorten the length of the recession, but whether they succeed in stopping today’s school leavers and graduates from being scarred for life by this virus.
3. Dr Alessio Patalano: the clock is ticking for Taiwan
The fate of Hong Kong should make us worried about Taiwan, writes Dr Alessio Patalano. Is it the CCP’s next target? In the past few months, as the world battled to control the Covid-19 pandemic, Beijing has indulged in increased military activity across the Taiwan Strait. The purpose was to remind the newly re-elected Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, that the party considers Taiwan an inherent part of China and sees no alternative to reunification with the mainland by 2049. Chinese diplomats have also been working hard to ensure that this is achieved, redoubling efforts to isolate Taiwan from the world stage. Yet Beijing’s pressure on Taiwan is, indirectly, a recognition of its self-imposed timetable. After the Tiananmen Square massacre, it took a little less than 20 years for Beijing’s reputation to recover from the international outrage. Some analysts go as far as to suggest that, using the past as a guide, the party’s cadres believe they have until 2030 to contemplate some form of military action to force Taipei to capitulate to their will, leaving enough time for the 2049 celebration to mark the centenary of the People’s Republic of China to be welcomed internationally. Despite the messaging from Beijing, this is a story that does not yet have a forgone conclusion. It might be too late to save Hong Kong, but it is not too late for Taiwan. The key is to understand the timing.
4. Lionel Shriver: we’re making a spectacle of shame
The idea of collective ‘white guilt’ has seen quite the resurgence in the wake of the George Floyd protests. But the concept is deeply flawed, says Lionel Shriver. For starters, those declaring their moral dereliction do not really feel guilt. Their apologies have ‘the texture of preening’ and ‘are a form of showing off’, Lionel writes. They are a way to bid for elevated status and hope that the mob looks the other way. Real shame is soul-destroying, not the sort of thing you parade in public. The second issue is that we’re in danger of installing heritable guilt as morally valid. But the human race has inflicted terrible horrors since the dawn of time, and if guilt is inherited, every last one of us is heading for Dante’s nine circles of hell.
5. Douglas Murray: can Trump’s sermon on the mount bring him more disciples?
Donald Trump’s speech in front of Mount Rushmore this weekend was significant, says Douglas Murray. In recent months, statues of past presidents have been pulled down and vandalised, liberals have voiced support for rewriting the constitution and national anthem, and even CNN this weekend described Trump’s speech as taking place ‘in front of a monument of two slave owners and on land wrestled away from Native Americans’. In response, the President did something remarkable: he told the story of the four presidents carved into the stone behind him. He talked of Martin Luther King, Jesse Owens, Louis Armstrong and a diverse list of other American heroes. In doing so, he did something important for the survival of the Republic. ‘For if Mount Rushmore is stolen, then what of the rest of the country? And if all the land is stolen… then what exactly holds this grand, quarter-millennium project together?’ Trump has a better answer to this than his opponents – and that might count for something in this election.