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. Fredrik Erixon: The death of the centre in European politics
The success of Sinn Fein in the Irish elections, ending the country’s two-party system, fits a trend for Europe as a whole, says Fredrik Erixon. ‘Voters have been rebelling against old, established “centre-ground” politics, and all around Europe, established politicians have responded by attacking voters. They’ve called their own electorate extremists. Is it any wonder that this tactic has backfired?’ From France to Germany, Sweden to Spain, the old centre ground is crumbling away as voters are driven into the arms of upstarts and fringe parties. ‘This is no longer a story about the rise of populists, it’s a story of change. Either the old parties must adapt or populists will – transforming into the new ruling norm.’
2. James Forsyth: Boris and the ticking clocks
Typically for a journalist, Boris Johnson believes in deadline pressure. But the ticking clock he worries about isn’t the one set by Michel Barnier for EU negotiations, but the electoral one, says James Forsyth. The government is keen to crack on with planning reform not just because it is best to get unpopular decisions out of the way as quickly as possible, so that they have receded by the next election, but also because such changes take years to have an effect. The government’s reform of Whitehall structures will be focused on making it much clearer who is responsible for delivering a policy. ‘The view in Downing Street is that they have to hold departments accountable on these matters because the voters will hold them accountable at the next election.’ Delivering on the projects promised by the Tories’ manifesto matters a lot because although the Labour party is in a mess, it is not as devastated as the Tories were in 1997. It might plausibly be ready to take power by the next election. This means it is particularly important for the government to show a cynical electorate that it will deliver on what it promises. The Brexit debate saved the Tories in the last election, but if living standards fail to improve the voters are unlikely to be as forgiving next time.
3. Rana Mitter: How South Korea became a cultural superpower
The success of Parasite at the Oscars is the latest example of the Hallyu, or ‘Korean wave’, a cultural phenomenon that has been emerging over the past quarter century in South Korea’s cinema, pop music and literature, says Rana Mitter. No one would have predicted this a couple of generations ago, when the country was under the dictatorial rule of President Park Chung-hee. The country’s sprint from poverty to riches and dictatorship to democracy in a generation has left a messy culture. The scars left by that era are visible in the work of the novelist Han Kang, who won the Man Booker International prize in 2016, and in Parasite, in which the film’s dystopian view of class is part of a much longer debate about what it means to be a rich yet increasingly unequal country. Yet South Korea’s democratisation process should not be underestimated. The daring and sexually charged imagery of K-pop couldn’t have developed under the former dictatorship. When the music industry was hit by illegal downloads in 2009, the government gave K-pop a $91 million bailout, saying it wanted to ‘globalise’ its pop industry. Today, Korea’s BTS are the highest-paid boyband in the world – last year their album Map of the Soul reached No. 1 in the UK, and their first six stadium sets in the US grossed $44 million.
4. Freddy Gray: Is Trump scared of Crazy Bernie Sanders?
New Hampshirites are famously independent: they know their minds, at least that’s what everyone says. But in the Democratic primary this week they all seemed indecisive, says Freddy Gray, who reports from Manchester, New Hampshire. ‘Outside one polling booth, a woman admitted she had decided to vote for Amy Klobuchar using the “eeny, meany, miny, moe” method.’ The results reflected this ambivalence. Bernie Sanders won, but only by just over 1 per cent; in 2016 he destroyed Hillary Clinton in the same state with 60 per cent of the vote. Yet if Sanders fights off the other primary hopefuls to become the Democratic candidate would Trump be worried? In a recently leaked tape of Trump in conversation with donors at a private dinner, he conceded that, in 2016, he was worried Hillary Clinton would pick Sanders as her running mate. He appreciates that the key to his electoral success has been his appeal to workers who are angry about globalisation. However, while his politics still have a retro appeal, the Bernie of 2020 has lost some of the populist edge he had four years ago. He also looks tired – although what else can be expected from a 78-year-old man who recently had a heart attack? ‘Watching him speak to volunteers behind a supermarket in Hudson, rural New Hampshire, I thought he might pass out.’
5. How prepared is the UK for a pandemic?
With UK cases of coronavirus rising from four to eight this week, there is a faint chance that the civil contingency plans for a pandemic may finally get their day in the sun. What this scenario look like? asks Ross Clark. We have a good idea, thanks to documents published revealing government planning for a possible influenza pandemic. Government planning works on the assumption of a worst-case scenario, where 50 per cent of the UK population catch the disease and 2.5 per cent of those people go on to die from it. That would give a UK death toll of 750,000. But if we succeed in treating people’s symptoms (without having a vaccine or without using antibiotics for secondary infections), the worse-case scenario falls to between 45,000 and 341,000 deaths. With antibiotics but no vaccine, the worst-case scenario drops to between 33,000 and 220,000. With a vaccine it falls to between 14,000 and 94,000. This assumes a death rate of 2.5 per cent; so far, it appears that coronavirus may have a lower death rate of around 1 per cent. The figures need to be set in the context of ordinary seasonal flu, which typically causes 12,000 excess deaths a year. Spectator readers, meanwhile, have other coronavirus concerns. In this week’s Dear Mary one correspondent asks ‘What is the etiquette about kissing during the coronavirus scare?’ Her answer: ‘Air-kissing and hugging are preferable during the current scare. Make your verbal greeting more enthusiastic to compensate.’