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. Freddy Gray: what should the world expect from a President Biden?
There’s now fewer than 100 days until the presidential election, says Freddy Gray, America’s cities are still burning, and Joe Biden can say pretty much anything, or nothing at all, and his lead in the polls just grows and grows. Biden’s low-visibility campaign means he can represent different things to different Americans. His famous reflective shades are a good metaphor for his candidacy: you see what you want. His legislative priorities are similarly elusive. His campaign is adept at sounding radical without committing to anything controversial. What is certain is that Biden is willing to spend vast amounts of federal money. The Trump administration has already thrown $6 trillion at the Covid-19 crisis. Biden wants much more. He also proposes to increase government healthcare spending dramatically. A President Biden would be more internationalist in outlook than Trump has been. Biden has supported just about every foreign intervention America has embarked upon in the past 30 years. ‘The only hope that Biden will do better is, curiously, the lack of hope he brings. He is in no way burdened by the great expectations that accompanied the arrival of the first African-American president in 2009. Biden offers, at best, a dim memory of the optimism that Obama inspired — as well as the prospect of relative calm after four turbulent years of Trump. His election will be the democratic equivalent of a giant sigh.’
2. Kelvin MacKenzie: there will never be another Rupert Murdoch
The BBC’s new three-part documentary on Rupert Murdoch is pure one-sided bile, writes Kelvin MacKenzie. ‘All journalists should be thankful Murdoch invested here. He has kept literally thousands in work for decades. And in the case of the Times, he has lost more than a billion in his 40-plus years of ownership.’ Throughout the decades they have worked together, MacKenzie has been in awe of Murdoch’s energy and ruthlessness. ‘I was once in his Aspen home where there was a photo of Murdoch holding a sharklike fish. “That’s me,” he beamed. Pointing at the shark. Good gag. Close to the truth.’ Even in his 90th year, Murdoch is doing precisely what he wants. Despite his age, he took a 6,000-mile plane trip from his home in a Beverly Hills vineyard to his Cotswolds mansion, where he is spending the summer with his wife, Jerry Hall. ‘Eat your heart out, Dominic Cummings. All you did was go by car to Durham.’ Murdoch is very happy with his fourth wife, Jerry Hall, although ‘I was NFIed to their wedding because I had written a column saying Bill Wyman should be arrested for underage sex with Mandy Smith, not knowing that Bill’s wife was best friends with Jerry and also that Bill had prostate cancer. Agree it would have been a little difficult at the reception.’
3. Katy Balls: is the government ready for a second wave?
Is Boris Johnson this week warned that ‘the signs of a second wave of the pandemic’ are there. But it’s not the prospect of having to extend the Spanish travel quarantine to other tourist hotspots that is giving the government great cause for concern, writes Katy Balls – it’s the fear that the second wave could soon hit these shores. The PM began the summer with optimism – we could be back to normal by Christmas, he said. But ministers report that in recent weeks his concern has grown over the prospect of a second spike. The timing of a second wave is a huge concern for Whitehall. ‘A winter crisis and a second wave together is almost unthinkable,’ a government adviser says. Discussions are under way as to how best to respond to any surge in cases. The aim is to do all it takes to avoid a second national lockdown, which is viewed as ‘economic Armageddon’ by the government. While polls suggest that the public broadly support Johnson’s whack-a-mole strategy of local lockdowns, MPs are sceptical about its long-term popularity. ‘It’s like public support for tax rises,’ says one Tory MP. ‘People say they back them because they don’t think they’ll be the ones paying. People support local lockdowns until they are the ones in it.’
4. Juliet Samuel: how Beijing bought Britain
It is China’s influence operation, not Russian Twitter bots, that ought to concern British policymakers, says Juliet Samuel. Large chunks of our political, academic and business establishment have fallen under the sway of Chinese influence, meaning Britain has a ‘blind spot’ to the threat China poses. The telecommunications giant Huawei, to give just one such example, has a UK board of directors stuffed with former government officials, and it has at least a dozen UK universities and think tanks on its payroll. Other groups, such as the 48 Group Club run similar influencing campaigns among British MPs. This has meant the British response to the Chinese strategy of ‘military-civil fusion’ has been remarkably slow. While we may be taking seven years to remove their kit from our 5G network, we have not replicated investigations conducted in the US which have uncovered undisclosed Chinese government funding for US scientific research. We have not replicated legislation in the US that protects sensitive early-stage technology from Chinese purchase, and we have not tightened up our lobbying laws as the Australians did in 2018. It is a war, Samuel argues, but it is one ‘we have barely realised we are fighting’.
5. Charles Moore: China’s come-to-Jesus moment
Charles Moore has written to Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, Sonita Alleyne, the Master of Jesus, and Professor Peter Nolan, a fellow of Jesus and a long-term admirer of Xi’s ‘national rejuvenation’, to inquire about the Yidan Prize. Jesus has thrice been host to the Yidan Prize Conference: Europe. The prize, for which each recipient gets the stupendous sum of $3.9 million, half in cash, seems to have oddly amorphous educational aims, with projects like Heart of Purity and Heart of Maple Leaf. How much money does Jesus get for staging the show? The prize money comes from Charles Chen Yidan, a founder of Tencent, a vast company controlled by China but incorporated in the Cayman Islands. President Xi sometimes attends its meetings. Tencent dominates the global games market. In 2017, it produced a mobile game called ‘Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech’. The winner was whoever could generate the most claps for Comrade Xi’s magnificent address to the 19th party congress. Professor Toope spoke warmly at the conference at Jesus in March. He says Cambridge and Yidan should ‘collaborate even more closely’. But Professor Toope did not respond to Charles’s questions about Yidan, and neither did the other two reticent academics.
6. Rachel Johnson: OK boomers, time to retire
The irony that the generation raised on a Thatcherite work ethic is being accelerated into an early retirement is not lost on Rachel Johnson. If you work in the media, coronavirus has ‘crunched about ten years of gentle decline into a dizzying four months’. While many contemporaries of Johnson at Oxford, such as her elder brother, are too busy running the country, those ‘lower down the batting order’ are left struggling to compete for new work against ‘bushier-tailed millennial jobseekers’. When David Cameron was forced into an early retirement aged 49, Johnson worried ‘what he would do all day’. But as it turns out, Cameron’s fate was a precursor for many born in the 1960s who now ‘have deserts of vast eternity to fill’ before they ‘reach pensionable age and death’. But all is not despair! This generation of premature retirees will find new creative outlets, from DIY to gardening, and they will have more time to travel and learn new languages once restrictions ease. ‘Roll on the next 30 years,’ says Johnson.