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: Trump vs Bloomberg could be the nastiest heavyweight clash of all time
If Mike Bloomberg becomes the Democratic nominee then this year’s battle for the White House promises to the nastiest election in American history: two billionaire titans in a social-media death match. Bloomberg still has not formally entered the primary race, but he’s already spent $400 million on his campaign and he’s said he’s willing to spend up to $2 billion, ‘the cash equivalent of a nuclear bomb on the American democratic process’. Investment doesn’t always equate to success in politics (Hillary Clinton spent $768 million of other people’s money in 2016, and look where that got her) but ‘the Bloomberg blitz will be unlike any political process seen before’. As well as billions to spend, Bloomberg also has masses of data at his fingertips, thanks to his global financial-media empire. ‘More than Trump, perhaps, he fits the traditional left-wing caricature of a right-wing villain: a plutocratic media-finance baron with terrifying levels of access to private information.’ But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. To take on Trump, Bloomberg must first knock out the other so-called ‘moderate’ candidates – Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden. But, thanks in part to the fear that Bernie Sanders might get the nomination, Democrat party bigwigs are coming around to Mike and his billions. They believe that because Trump only respects money, Bloomberg is the only candidate rich enough to intimidate him. Fight fight fight!
2. Julian Smith: How I knew Boris would bin me
‘A doctor will tell you heart attacks may appear to come out of the blue, but if you look carefully, you can spot the telltale signs,’ says former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith in his diary column. ‘The same is true of my prospects at last week’s cabinet reshuffle.’ His suspicions were raised by Tuesday: ‘my close protection apologised about the swap to a Skoda because the main car was in the garage; I received a fumbled brief about what would happen ‘should things go badly’ for me in the reshuffle; and finally, I could no longer reach the team on the normal phone due to a ‘battery problem.’ If he still hadn’t got the message, the ‘clumsy briefing of a government adviser to his favoured journalist spelt it out in black and white’. On Wednesday night it was reported that the reason he was for the chop was because Downing Street had been unaware of key details of the deal to restore Stormont. ‘I was grateful for the opportunity to confirm to the journalist that a PM does not sign off a key government deal without reading it first, alongside a phalanx of talented PJ Masks aides.’
3. James Forsyth: Brexit is the only way to make sense of the reshuffle
The purpose of last week’s cabinet reshuffle was to ‘create an all-powerful centre,’ says James Forsyth. The three greatest parts of government – No.10, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office – have now been joined together. The hope is that this new structure will prevent anyone from attempting to delay or obstruct preparations for the end of the transition period. On 31 December, everyone in No.10 will be ‘waiting anxiously to see what happens when the first lorries roll off the ferries at Calais and Dover’. Even if the government secures the Canada-style deal it wants, there will be friction at the border. How that friction is handled will be crucial to this administration’s prospects. ‘If this country is unprepared and there is serious disruption, the government will be broken-backed.’ The second way in which the reshuffle was shaped by Brexit is that it was designed to ensure that the key government departments are all aligned on the subject. ‘For the first time, every great office of state is now held by someone who campaigned for Leave in 2016.’ The two most important governmental figures in regard to the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol were also changed in the reshuffle: the Northern Ireland Secretary and the Attorney General. If this new central method of governing can get the borders ready for the biggest changes seen in the post-war era, then it will have justified its creation.
4. Douglas Murray: How low can the BBC go?
‘I’ve seen wars more amusing than BBC comedy,’ writes Douglas Murray. ‘As the year went by I realised that I just needed Aunty less and less… starting with the discovery that no one seeking to begin the day happily should listen to Radio 4 before midday.’ As for the Proms, they have become the ‘BBC’s cultural beard’, a disguise to allow the corporation to dumb down everywhere else – and now the Proms have gone that way too, with novelty jazz and pop concerts. Today, almost nobody is willing to make the case that one branch of culture might be capable of greater depth, value or seriousness of purpose than any other. Nowhere is this trend more obvious than at the BBC. ‘Anyone who does so will find themselves dismissed as “elitist” by the demotic cultural down-speak of our time… I know a few people at the BBC. All publicly pretend to be less culturally discerning than they actually are. It’s in the corporation’s furniture now.’
5. Joan Collins: Parasite shouldn’t have won Best Picture
‘I was mildly surprised that the Korean film Parasite was up for both Best International Feature Film and Best Picture,’ says Joan Collins in her Hollywood Notebook. ‘When it won in both categories, I was informed that my mouth actually fell open in astonishment (as I’m sure did everyone’s, including the producers, director and cast of Parasite). That a foreign film — with subtitles which, by the way, are very difficult to read — would trump the great oeuvres of Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Sam Mendes was a tremendous shock. This may just put paid to any future complaints about diversity recognition by the voting committee, which has regularly been accused of being controlled by old white men. I thought that the Academy could not pit a foreign language film against a movie in English, but apparently I’m in the minority... as an older white woman.’
PLUS: Matt Ridley on coronavirus and bats; Sam Leith on quotations; Toby Young on becoming a stand-up comic; Leo McKinstry on the kindness of strangers; Paul Collier on how to level up Britain; Suzi Feay on how Dr Livingstone became a dead weight; Clive Anderson on his bust-up with the Bee Gees; James Delingpole on his soft spot for psychopaths; Deborah Ross on Steve Coogan’s new teeth; and much more.