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.
Is Nato ready? In a pine forest two hours from Estonia’s border with Russia, Max Jeffery watches British, French, American and Estonian soldiers rehearse what Nato would do in the event of a Russian invasion. If Vladimir Putin strikes, Nato’s response has already been planned by Chris Cavoli, the alliance’s military general. Known by insiders as the ‘theory of victory’, the classified plans reportedly apply new military tactics that the West has honed in Ukraine. This year’s Nato exercises are all about getting to grips with Cavoli’s plans. Jeffery asks one British soldier participating if the army is ready for war with Russia. ‘We’re already fighting a war against migration. We can’t even stop a dinghy,’ comes the response. Then there’s the concern that, even if Nato’s strategy and tactics work, the alliance’s members don’t have the kit to fight the Russians, while the US could withhold giving weapons to Europe over concerns about a conflict in Asia.
The British Army is unfit for combat. The British Army has become unfit for combat, writes Eliot Wilson. It’s accepted that by next year there will only be 72,500 soldiers; the real figure could be even lower. Britain might currently be taking part in Nato’s Operation Steadfast Defender, but our army is too small and too badly equipped to deliver everything we’ve promised it can do. Then there are the issues of defence procurement: the MoD has spent decades mismanaging billions of pounds worth of major programmes. Consider the Ajax family of armoured vehicles. They won’t be in service until 2028, almost 30 years after the plan for them began. In the event of a global conflict in the coming years, Britain will be found sorely wanting.
Rishi’s roadshow. Tory MPs are questioning how the Prime Minister will fare on the doorstep, writes James Heale, yet Sunak remains undaunted. From now until the general election, he will spend Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays out on the road, meeting voters across the country, fuelled by a diet of Haribos. ‘The more people we meet, the more people are convinced by him,’ insists one aide. Could Boris Johnson play a major role in the general election campaign? It seems unlikely. The sole contact between the two men in the past year is believed to have been a brief ‘hello’ at the Cenotaph.
When Humphries met Lennon. Harry Mount, in this week’s Diary, writes about an extraordinary dinner party, held at Peter Cook’s house in 1964 when Barry Humphries met John Lennon. ‘They started to play a game where they were all excessively polite to each other. “Oh, I understand you’re a famous singer in a very popular group?” Barry said to Lennon. “Oh, and I understand you’re an extremely funny Australian?” Lennon responded. And then, suddenly, the game turned nasty as their latent competitiveness emerged – and they started trading insults at lightning speed. “I thought one of them might hit somebody,” said Nick [Garland]. “We had our baby, Emily, there, in a bassinet. I instinctively moved between her and the three men.” Just as it was getting out of hand, Cynthia Lennon shouted, “Stop it, John!” They immediately switched back to polite chitchat, as if nothing had happened.’
The Bishop of Oxford: why I support gay marriage. In the Church of England’s muddle over blessings for same-sex couples, Theo Hobson speaks to the only senior bishop who has articulated a clear reformist vision. Steven Croft, the Bishop of Oxford, broke ranks and argued that gay blessings were not enough – the Church should allow openly gay clergy and conduct gay weddings too. On changing his mind on homosexuality: ‘My mind on this issue changed gradually during my seven years as bishop of Sheffield, through talking with LGBT clergy. But at that time I was seeking to be a focus of unity by not saying what I thought.’ On marriage: ‘What I am wanting to argue for is not a complete abolition of the doctrine of marriage, it’s an extension of it, to see the goods of marriage, or many of those goods, in same-sex relationships.’ On the speed of change: ‘I feel that [Synod’s] decision to commend the Prayers of Love and Faith, which led to the first blessings taking place in December, was a very important moment: I think it will normalise, and give permission for, and make more visible, same-sex relationships in the Church.’