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: in the surreal world of Coronomics ordinary remedies won’t be enough
If we were in a normal recession, the remedy would be simple: encourage people to go out, spend money and boost the economy, says Kate Andrews. But to tackle the virus, the economy must hibernate. None of the old rules make sense. Welcome to the world of Coronomics. ‘Economic forecasts look more like blind hope or open guesswork. New attempts to turn around forecasts are relevant for hours, maybe days, before a new infection outbreak or multi-billion-pound stimulus package turns the most up-to-date calculations on their head.’ But the economic story of Covid-19 isn’t simply about shutdowns, lockdowns and downturns. People who were dubbed ‘low skilled’ a mere three months ago in the immigration reforms set out by the Home Office — shop workers, shelf-stackers, delivery drivers and cleaners — have joined the ranks of ‘key workers’ along with doctors and nurses, risking their safety to get us through the crisis. At the end of all this, what will we have? The answer, alas, is mass unemployment. Some say Coronomics is socialism. This is not so. ‘In Britain, the government’s strategy is designed to ensure that there will be a market economy to come back to once this is over. The policies are lifeboats for private-sector businesses and employees, who are suffering from a mandatory shutdown of all normal activity.’ But it is now inevitable that debt will skyrocket, possibly taking the UK up to a national debt peak of more than 100 per cent of GDP. This is precisely the outcome Britain spent an agonising ten years trying to avoid.
2. Lionel Barber: what will the world look like after coronavirus?
The Great Crash and economic depressions of the past completely re-shaped the world’s economies and societies and coronavirus will be no different, writes Lionel Barber. He believes that Covid-19 means the ‘age of ultra-mobility’ is over. Just as 9/11 changed our thinking about security, coronavirus will change our perspective on state control, surveillance, technology, closed borders and the ‘cheapest is best’ approach to trade. Even in this acute stage of the crisis we are already seeing national self-reliance trump mutual influence, as globalisation weakens. In the UK, the jury’s still out. As well as completely chancing our attitude to technology and work, March 2020 could end up being compared with the Great Crash of 1929 or the end of the second world war in 1945.
3. James Forsyth: the challenges and unexpected advantages facing Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer is widely expected to become the new Labour leader on Saturday. Yet through no fault of his own he faces the prospect of having to keep his distance from the electorate for the bulk of his first 100 days, says James Forsyth. Given how important first impressions are in politics, this will be a huge challenge for him. Yet, in some ways, he will be in a ‘more propitious position than he could have hoped for at the start of this contest’. The level of state activism in the past few weeks has, to an extent, normalised a far greater role for the government in the economy. Despite the Tories’ current high poll ratings, many Conservatives privately think that they are now at greater risk of losing the election in 2024. There are three ways this could happen. Firstly, the government could be blamed if the Covid crisis overwhelms the NHS. Secondly, if the economy is pushed into a prolonged recession by the virus and the reduced tax base means the Tories cannot deliver on their manifesto promises. Thirdly, if the crisis means that the UK is not prepared for the end of the Brexit transition period in December.
4. David Rose: Extinction Rebellion’s climate of fear
Most of us are struggling to see the silver linings at the moment of a disease that threatens to kill thousands and cause immeasurable economic damage to the UK. Not, though, the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion. David Rose has revealed leaked internal documents which show that XR are preparing to ‘not let this crisis go to waste’. Instead they hope that ‘corona might lead indirectly to partial or complete collapses, especially in more vulnerable countries’, and test the ‘vulnerable, just-in-time systems’ of trade. David reveals that the group is also planning to step up its ‘scare’ tactics and is even discussing one of its members committing suicide in a public place, such as the London Stock Exchange.
5. Stephen Cottrell: Isolation has always been part of the Holy Week story
In order to slow the spread of Covid-19, our buildings are closed for public worship and even for private prayer. ‘Nothing like this has happened since 1208,’ writes Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford and Archbishop of York designate. ‘We are looking for spiritual help, but where, in our enforced seclusion, is it to be found?’ Paradoxically, throughout Christian history when people sought to deepen their relationship with God they pursued isolation. Abba Moses, one of the founders of that movement in Christian monasticism known as the Desert Fathers, used to say to his novices: ‘Go to your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.’ We are about to find out what that means. As we enter Holy Week, ‘we are going to have to learn how to be on our own, and that includes sustaining our spiritual life on our own.’ When Jesus was arrested and hauled up on the cross, his disciples fled. ‘This Holy Week we are going to have to follow Jesus in his isolation. All that pious talk about walking the way of the cross is going to become real. We will find out what being a Christian looks like when the trappings of church are removed for a while.’