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2018-04-07 The Week

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So much to do, so much time.
The main stories…
What happened
Labour and anti-Semitism
Jeremy Corbyn stoked Labour’s anti-Semitism
row this week by attending a Passover event
with a far-left Jewish group that had dismissed
the furore as a right-wing smear campaign.
Labour MP John Woodcock said Corbyn’s
decision to attend a ritual meal hosted by Jewdas
was “deliberately baiting the mainstream Jewish
community days after they pleaded with him to
tackle anti-Semitism”. Corbyn denied that
charge and insisted there was no place in his
party for racism of any sort.
What the editorials said
“There are some political acts which allow for only two
interpretations, neither of which are complimentary,” said The
Times. Corbyn’s decision to attend a Passover
event with Jewdas is such an act. Jewdas is a
“perfectly legitimate organisation”, but as the
one Jewish group to have belittled the antiSemitism row, it was an inappropriate host
for a Labour leader supposedly committed to
addressing the problem. Corbyn’s choice was
either “foolish” or “malign”.
Corbyn’s approach to relations with the UK’s
300,000 Jews has fallen short, said the FT.
Anti-Semitism, which has long existed on the
fringes of the hard-left, has become more
Corbyn has been under growing pressure to deal
prominent lately. Yet he has “shied away”
with this issue since it came to light, a fortnight
from tackling the issue. His 2016 inquiry on
ago, that in 2012 he had questioned the decision
anti-Semitism, chaired by Shami Chakrabarti,
by a local London authority to remove an antiCorbyn: “zero tolerance”?
was “a whitewash”, and he is “still reluctant
Semitic mural. This weekend he deleted his
personal Facebook account after reports that he was a member to break with old allies” who dismiss the problem. Some on
the Left have argued that the claims of anti-Semitism are
of groups in which users posted anti-Jewish slurs. Christine
being “weaponised” by people out to get Corbyn, said The
Shawcroft, the chair of Labour’s disputes panel, resigned
Observer. But their motivation is beside the point. The point
from the post after it emerged that she had questioned the
suspension of a council candidate accused of Holocaust denial. is that Labour hasn’t done enough to address anti-Semitism.
Corbyn has promised a “zero tolerance” approach, but
She also stepped down from the party’s national executive
“words without deeds are meaningless”.
committee and was replaced by the comedian Eddie Izzard.
What happened
No parole for Worboys
What the editorials said
If Hardwick’s position was “no longer tenable”, said The
Daily Telegraph, neither is Gauke’s. He not only turned down
the opportunity of holding a judicial review into
the Parole Board’s decision; he told the victims
they’d do better to take on the case themselves.
“How can it possibly be right that they should
have had to use crowdfunding to obtain justice?”
Gauke made Hardwick the scapegoat, said The
Guardian: yet it was the wider system “that let the
victims down”. Hardwick should have been kept
on to enact the reforms to the board demanded by
the High Court in its ruling.
It wasn’t all bad
The British may be known
for their reserve, but they are
unusually friendly to hitchhikers. Juan Villarino, who has
thumbed lifts in 90 countries,
covering 100,000 miles, has
recorded his average wait, and
says that in Britain it is just 18
minutes, the third shortest in
Europe after Romania and the
Netherlands. Known as the
“King of the Ride”, the 40-yearold Argentinian began hitching
in Belfast in 2005, and has been
leading a vagabond life ever
since, living on about $5 a day.
Thanks to a massive,
volunteer-led clear-up
effort, hatchlings from
a vulnerable turtle
species have been
born on Mumbai’s
Versova beach for
the first time in 20
years. Afroz Shah, a
lawyer, launched a
programme in 2015 to
remove 5,000 tonnes
of litter that was lying
in piles up to five feet deep from the two-mile stretch of coast. The
UN called it “the world’s largest beach clean-up project”, and now
olive ridley turtles have returned to nest on the beach. At least
80 hatchlings have so far successfully made their way to the
Arabian Sea, in what Shah called a “historic moment” for Mumbai.
A magnificent Grade I listed
church in Manchester that was
condemned as unsafe last July
was able to reopen its doors to
worshippers on Easter Sunday,
after a story in The Sunday
Times prompted a flood of
donations and offers of
skilled help. St Augustine’s
in Pendlebury is known as the
“Miners’ Cathedral”, and was
drawn and painted by L.S.
Lowry. “I’ve been praying for
help and it has worked,” said
Father Michael Fish, whose
congregation has had to
worship in his dining room
since the church closed.
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
The Parole Board’s decision to release the
“black-cab rapist” John Worboys was quashed
by the High Court days before he was due to
go free. The three judges, ruling on a legal
challenge brought by two of Worboys’s victims,
pointed to a series of blunders by the board and
the Ministry of Justice. The dossier compiled
by the ministry had failed to include key
information from his trial in 2009 that would
have revealed the “full gravity” of his offences,
including the judge’s comments about the
threat he posed to the public and details of a
This case shames the entire criminal justice system,
“rape kit” found at his home. And the board
said the Daily Mail. Worboys’s victims were failed
had failed to challenge Worboys’s account of
by the police, who should have arrested him
his crimes – not just those for which he was
Worboys: phoney remorse sooner; by the Crown Prosecution Service, which
convicted, but the many others he is suspected
charged him with a fraction of the 100-plus crimes
of having committed.
of which he was accused; and by the judge who gave him an
indeterminate sentence with a minimum of only eight years.
Although not involved in the Worboys decision, Parole
But the greatest failings were those of the secretive Parole
Board chief Nick Hardwick resigned after Justice Secretary
Board, which has made “countless” misguided decisions
David Gauke told him that his position was “untenable”.
to release criminals early, often with “catastrophic” results.
…and how they were covered
What the commentators said
What next?
There’s no denying it, said Owen Jones in The Guardian. “The poison of anti-Semitism exists
among a minority on the Left.” But we can, and will, defeat this bigotry. In the meantime, the
Left is not going to take lectures from “a media that deployed anti-Semitic dog whistles against
Ed Miliband, harping on about how weird the ‘north London intellectual’ looked”, or from a
Tory party “that used the EU referendum as an excuse to whip up bile against immigrants and
refugees”, and whose members and councillors “spray Islamophobic bile online”.
Labour’s shadow digital
minister, Liam Byrne, urged
Corbyn this week to speed up
the expulsion of anti-Semites
from the party. He cited the
backlog of more than 70
cases of alleged anti-Semitism
that have yet to be dealt with,
including that of Ken
Livingstone, who remains
suspended for his suggestion
that Hitler had worked with
the Zionist movement.
Until recently, I was inclined to dismiss the anti-Semitism row as a smear campaign against
Corbyn, said Deborah Ross in The Times. He’s my local MP in Islington, where he is “widely
regarded as a mensch”. He’s also a distinguished anti-racist campaigner: he protested against
apartheid when the Thatcher government was still defending white-majority rule. But I’m
struggling to see Corbyn in such a benevolent light today, because that requires me to believe
that he only defended that sickening mural because he didn’t examine the image closely (as if it
could be mistaken for a “kitten playing with a ball of wool”), and that he was “only a member
of various anti-Semitic Facebook groups because he did not look closely at those either”.
The idea that you can overlook Corbyn’s unsavoury associations because his heart is in the
right place is mistaken, said Iain Martin on “He never was Mister Nice Guy.”
It’s scary to think of a Corbyn-led government winning power. For now, though, it’s satisfying
to see “the odious far-left – the vile anti-Semites, the haters of the West, the Communist
apologists, those smug lefty Labour MPs who’ve attached themselves to the bandwagon and
now can’t get off, and the Corbynite hipster muppets – getting found out and confronted”.
Quite how this story will end is anybody’s guess, said Tom Peck in The Independent. Labour
under Corbyn is not so much a party as a leadership “cult” – one run by “a dim clique whose
epistemology begins and ends with blaming America and its allies for all the world’s ills”. It’s
hard to see how such a movement can ever have anything but a “malign influence”.
The Commons is due
to return from its Easter
recess on 16 April. The day
afterwards, says Helen Lewis
in The Observer, the Tories
“have opportunistically called
a Commons debate on antiSemitism”. Unless Labour’s
leaders can show they have
a grip on the problem, some
MPs have threatened to name
and shame foot-draggers.
What the commentators said
What next?
The great failing underlying all aspects of this case is the resort to secrecy, said Rory Geoghegan
in The Daily Telegraph. As a former policeman, I’m all too familiar with it. The public is never
told what happened on their street when a crime is committed; the judiciary is never told what
happens to those they sentence; the Parole Board holds hearings in secret; victims only get to
learn that their attacker’s release is being debated if the media gets wind of it. Yes, the Parole
Board, inadequately supplied with the information it required, and “bafflingly” lacking in
inquisitiveness, made a bad decision in this case, said Matthew Parris in The Times; even so, I
don’t share this new enthusiasm for “open justice”. Indeed, I think the High Court’s direction,
that parole panel deliberations be open to public inspection, is “wrong and dangerous”.
Parliament gave the board “unfettered discretion” to gather and weigh evidence in confidence,
and with good reason. Privacy is a useful lubricant to honest exchanges; it may lead to some
wrong decisions, but there’d be greater injustices if every case were open to media debate. We
must not cater to those who “bay for blood” at the prospect of any prisoner’s early release.
Worboys, who now calls
himself John Radford, will
go before a new parole
panel within the next four
months. However, in order
to be granted parole, he will
have to acknowledge the
other assaults he is believed
to have committed, says
The Daily Telegraph, which
could lead to more charges
being brought against him.
But why should we put up with a system that “kills”, asked Dominic Lawson in The Sunday
Times. In 2004, my wife’s cousin was stabbed to death by a man who’d just been let out of
jail, having served only half of a 12-year sentence for attempted murder. Incredibly, the
Parole Board knew the chance of his reoffending was huge – yet it released him anyway,
putting its faith in the probation service to keep him under control. But the service lacked the
resources to do that. And it still does: a seventh of all murders are committed by men under
its “supervision”. Worboys is not the only dangerous criminal clever enough to dupe a panel
of well-meaning people by expressing phoney remorse. So let’s just abolish this “exercise in
high-risk guesswork” we call parole hearings, and make offenders serve their full term.
To Jean-Paul Sartre, it was other people. To most Catholics, it’s
separation from God. But according to headlines last week, for
Pope Francis, hell is a sort of nothingness, a place where souls
disappear (which prompted some conservatives to ask themselves, not for the first time, is the Pope
a Catholic?). That Francis had effectively denied the existence of hell was itself quickly denied by the
Vatican (see page 21), but at the risk of sounding flippant, isn’t the idea of disappearing as hellish to
some as the prospect of eternal torment is to others? Of course, many atheists say they’re reconciled
to nothingness – absence – but the energy people devote to posting material online – whether it’s
thoughtful below-the-line comments that no one will read, unhelpful product reviews that no one
will thank them for (“I haven’t used it yet”) or hate-filled nonsense most users will try to ignore –
surely reflects a deep need to mark one’s presence. And it seems some of us want that presence
to last longer than we do. According to The Independent, an industry is growing up to “curate”
people’s post-mortal lives online, from ensuring the release of suitably lachrymose posthumous
tributes (or tearleaders, as they are known in celebrity cases) to maintaining Facebook pages. Like
Marlon Brando in the early Superman films, we might even keep popping back as holograms or
avatars. The thought of never disappearing is no doubt reassuring to the dying.
Caroline Law
The impact of their eternal presence on their “loved ones” is rather less clear.
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The Week is a registered trademark of Felix Dennis.
Having previously insisted
he was innocent, Worboys
admitted his guilt in 2015,
but only to the offences for
which he was convicted.
The judges said this was a
“remarkable” coincidence,
because prosecutors had
selected them as a sample
of his alleged crimes.
Editor-in-chief: Jeremy O’Grady
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7 April 2018 THE WEEK
Controversy of the week
The £8 billion raiders
It’s one of Britain’s oldest engineering firms. It made the
cannonballs fired at Waterloo; it produced Spitfires in the
Second World War; today it makes car and aircraft parts,
and employs 59,000 people across the world. Yet few of
us had heard of GKN, said Jeremy Warner in The Daily
Telegraph, until it became the target, a few months ago, of
an £8bn hostile takeover bid by a private company, Melrose,
whose four directors stand to make £285m from the deal. Cue
outrage: overnight, GKN was recast as an “underappreciated
‘jewel in the crown’” of British industry being devoured by a
firm reviled as “asset strippers” by everyone from Jeremy
Corbyn to the Daily Mail. Last week, just as the deal was going
through, Business Secretary Greg Clark stepped in to consider
whether it should be blocked. He secured a few pledges from
Miller: a great advert for capitalism?
Melrose (to maintain R&D spending; to keep its HQ in Britain),
but effectively the battle is over. By a 52% majority, GKN’s shareholders have agreed to sell GKN.
We all know where this is leading, said Will Hutton in The Observer. Melrose executive chairman
Chris Miller is a protégé of that notorious asset stripper of the Thatcher years, Lord Hanson, whose
brutally simple takeover routine was to break up a victim company, run its core business to stringent
financial targets, stow the profits in tax havens and sell off the rump. Melrose will do something
similar with GKN: sell off part of the business to cover the £8bn takeover cost; freeze R&D; raise
prices. But that’s not how it will be reported in much of the business press, said Alex Brummer in
the Daily Mail. The same fan club that before the financial crash hailed the genius of “the masters
of the universe who ran our banks” is now bigging up the skills of Chris Miller and the other
Melrose directors, whose success has likewise been built on cheap money and high gearing.
But this takeover is indeed “a great advert for capitalism”, said Ben Wright in The Daily Telegraph.
A dynamic young firm will invigorate an ageing one in the doldrums. And since GKN was itself
planning to sell off its auto parts section in a bid to thwart the takeover, no one can cry foul if
Melrose does. And don’t forget Melrose is a British company. Maybe so, said Chris Blackhurst in
The Independent, but its pledges to keep key bits of the business in the UK are worthless, and legally
unenforceable. When the US company Kraft took over Cadbury it made similar pledges and trashed
every one. So if the Government wants to limit the freedom of action of a firm like Melrose, or
to block takeovers of this sort, they’re going to have to decide. Do they want the UK to retain its
reputation as a lightly regulated economy that facilitates takeovers, or be like the Netherlands, where
takeover rules are more stringent and take account of considerations other than shareholder value?
(The Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever has relocated to Rotterdam precisely to protect itself from hostile
takeover bids.) If they want us to go Dutch they must say so. They can’t have it both ways.
Spirit of the age
Small children spend
so much time on tablets,
reception-age pupils have
been spotted trying to turn
book pages by “swiping
left”, teachers from the
National Education Union
have said. The news comes
after paediatric occupational
therapist Sally Payne
blamed technology for the
fact that some children are
starting school having never
learnt to hold a pencil.
In an unexpected leap for
gender equality, the NFL
has welcomed American
football’s first male
cheerleaders. While other
teams do have “stuntmen”
who perform acrobatics,
Quinton Peron and
Napoleon Jinnies of the
Los Angeles Rams will
reportedly be the first men
to perform in the line-up
with the female dancers,
pom-poms and all.
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
Good week for:
The war against plastic, after Co-op announced that as from
later this year, it will be selling its own-brand water in bottles
made from 50% recycled plastic. This will reduce the retailer’s
plastic consumption by more than 350 tonnes a year – and will
test its customers’ commitment to sustainability, as bottles will
look greyer and cloudier than those made from non-recycled
plastic. Separately, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary,
announced plans for a deposit scheme to encourage recycling.
Bad week for:
GCSE students, who were warned that they should be revising
for seven hours a day during the Easter holidays. Barnaby Lenon,
a former headmaster of Harrow, suggested teenagers preparing
for GCSEs or A levels should fit in 100 hours of study over the
two-week break. “Public exam results can determine the course
of your life,” he said.
Absent-minded parenting, after a German man drove away
from a service station, en route to a family holiday, leaving his
two daughters behind – and only realised the mistake 90 minutes
later when the police called him. It seems the man, dubbed “dad
of the year”, hadn’t noticed that the girls, ten and 14, had got out
of the car while he was paying for petrol.
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, who was deprived of
his internet connection by his hosts at the Ecuadorian embassy in
London. The plug was pulled after Assange tweeted that Sir Alan
Duncan was a “snake”, in response to the minister calling him a
“miserable little worm” in the Commons.
Spike in violent crime
London’s murder rate
overtook New York’s for the
first time in modern history
in February and March, when
38 murders were recorded in
the UK capital, five more
than in New York. Excluding
victims of terrorism, the
number of murders in
London has risen 38% since
2014, when it was the lowest
since the 1960s. On Monday,
there were two killings within
hours: a 17-year-old girl was
shot in a drive-by attack in
Tottenham, and a boy of 16
was shot in Walthamstow.
Metropolitan Police chief
Cressida Dick warned that
spats that started online were
turning violent, while David
Lammy, MP for Tottenham,
said that turf wars between
rival drug gangs were behind
the rise in knife and gun
crime, and criticised cuts to
police budgets.
Chief prosecutor quits
Alison Saunders, the director
of public prosecutions (DPP),
will stand down in October at
the end of a five-year term
that has been marred by
controversy. Most recently,
Saunders faced criticism for
the collapse of several rape
trials owing to the failure to
properly disclose evidence
to the defence, leading to a
review of every rape case in
the country. Saunders insists
she is not being been pushed
out of her role: recent DPPs
have only served five years.
Poll watch
77% of Labour members
believe the party’s problem
with anti-Semitism is being
exaggerated to undermine
Jeremy Corbyn or stifle
criticism of Israel. Of those
who voted for Corbyn in
2016’s leadership contest,
only 8% see anti-Semitism
in Labour as a “serious and
genuine” issue; that rises
to 46% among those who
voted for Owen Smith.
YouGov/The Times
Almost 90% of teachers feel
that poverty is significantly
affecting their pupils’
learning, while 60% say
child poverty in schools
has worsened since 2015.
NEU/The Guardian
With Brexit only a year
away, 3% of voters think
the UK has the upper hand
in negotiations. 49% think
the EU is running the show.
Europe at a glance
Hate crime
of people
through Paris
and other
French cities
last week in
memory of Mireille Knoll (pictured), an
85-year-old Jewish woman and Holocaust
survivor who was stabbed to death in her
home in what police believe was an
anti-Semitic attack. The murder has
outraged France and raised questions
about the country’s failure to tackle an
upsurge in anti-Jewish hate crimes. Police
have arrested two suspects, one of whom
was reported to be her Muslim neighbour.
The killing took place in the 11th
arrondissement, just a few streets away
from the site of the murder last year of
Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman
who was thrown out of her own window.
Language wars: The Russian parliament
has called for sanctions to be imposed on
Latvia in response to the removal of the
Russian language from Latvian secondary
schools. A new law, approved by Latvia’s
President Raimonds Vejonis this week,
requires schools to teach all older pupils
in Latvian, except in specific Russian
language or literature classes. More than
a quarter of the former Soviet republic’s
2.2 million inhabitants are ethnic Russians,
and nearly 100 state-funded schools
currently offer either bilingual or Russian
teaching. Younger children whose mother
tongue is Russian will still be taught in
Russian or bilingually, but that will be
phased out for 16- to 18-year-olds by
2021. Riga says the move will create a
more “cohesive” state, but it has outraged
MPs in Moscow, who condemned the
“discriminatory” law as a form of
“forced assimilation” that infringed
minority rights.
Expulsions: Russia expelled 150 Western
diplomats and closed the US consulate
in Saint Petersburg in response to last
week’s coordinated expulsions of Russian
diplomats. Twenty-eight countries had
expelled Russian consulate staff, in an
unprecedented show of solidarity with
the UK following the nerve agent attack
in Salisbury. Russia’s foreign minister,
Sergey Lavrov, accused the UK and its
allies of resorting to “open lies”. This
week, British scientists at the Porton
Down military laboratory said that they
could not verify the precise source of the
nerve agent used in the attack on the
Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal
and his daughter, Yulia, but that a “state
actor” was probably behind it.
Vatican City
Message of hope: Tens of thousands of
Catholics flooded St Peter’s Square in
Rome on Sunday to hear Pope Francis
deliver an Easter message urging an end to
the “carnage” in Syria, asking God to heal
the wounds of conflicts including those in
South Sudan and the Democratic Republic
of Congo, and pushing for dialogue in the
Korean peninsula. “This Easter, may the
light of the risen Christ illuminate the
consciences of all political and military
leaders, so that a swift end may be brought
to the carnage in course; that humanitarian
law may be respected; and that provisions
be made to facilitate access to the aid
so urgently needed,” Francis said. His
appeal came after another week of bloody
violence in Syria. On Saturday, it was
reported that at least 12 civilians had been
killed in Russian air strikes in the northern
province of Idlib, though it is supposed to
be a safe “de-escalation zone”.
War leader: Recep
Tayyip Erdogan
adopted full
military fatigues
for the first time
on a visit to rally
Turkey’s troops
on the Syrian
border this week
(left) – part of his
drive, critics say,
to use foreign
conflicts to shore up domestic support.
Erdogan – who came to power 15 years
ago promising to curtail the power of the
military – is scheduled to face elections in
November 2019, but is expected to bring
the vote forward. This week, he also
entered into a war of words with the
Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, over the
shooting of Palestinian protesters in Gaza,
in which he called Israel a “terrorist state”.
Months of rail strikes begin: Three months
of rolling strikes on France’s railways
began this week with a day of protest
dubbed “Black Tuesday” by the media.
Train services were severely disrupted as
77% of drivers at the state-owned SNCF
rail company joined in the industrial
action, leading to long tailbacks on roads.
Rubbish collectors, Air France staff and
some workers in the energy sector also
went on strike over a range of demands
including higher pay. The rolling rail
strikes are the biggest challenge yet to
President Emmanuel Macron’s reform
plans, and have been widely compared to
Margaret Thatcher’s showdown with the
National Union of Mineworkers in 1984.
Macron says his cost-cutting reforms
are essential to preserve the future of the
SNCF, which is highly indebted. However,
the unions claim his overhaul is really
aimed at preparing it for privatisation.
Massive arms deal: Poland has struck the
biggest arms deal in its history, to buy a
$4.75bn Patriot missile defence system
from the US firms Raytheon and Lockheed
Martin. Seen as the linchpin of Nato’s
eastern flank, Poland is one of the few
members of the alliance that abides by
the requirement to spend 2% of GDP
on defence. It has been focused on
modernising its armed forces since Russia
annexed Crimea from Poland’s neighbour,
Ukraine, in 2014. The purchase of the US
Patriot system came after reports that
Moscow had permanently deployed
nuclear-capable missile systems in
Kaliningrad, the strategically crucial
Russian exclave that borders Poland. The
deal includes four radar and four combat
stations, 16 launchers and 208 PAC-3
MSE missiles, and was hailed by Poland’s
President Duda has an “extraordinary,
historic moment”.
Catch up with daily news at
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
The world at a glance
Sacramento, California
Police shooting: A forensic pathologist
has concluded that Stephon Clark,
the unarmed man killed by police in
his grandmother’s backyard in
Sacramento last month, was not
facing officers when he was killed.
Dr Bennet Omalu said that Clark was
shot eight times, including six times
in the back. His findings contradict
parts of the police account of the
killing, which has led to days of protests in Sacramento. The
autopsy also found that Clark (above), 22, a father of two small
boys, did not die instantly, but was alive for between three and
ten minutes while police failed to provide medical aid. The officers
say that they mistook an iPhone that Clark was holding for a gun.
New York
Facebook’s “ugly” memo: As technology stocks fell heavily on
Wall Street this week (see page 44), Facebook – already reeling
from the scandal over its users’ data being harvested by the
political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica – faced further
embarrassment when it emerged that one of its vice presidents
had insisted that the firm’s growth was justified, even if it led to
people dying. In an internal memo written in 2016 but leaked last
week, Andrew Bosworth wrote: “Maybe it costs a life by exposing
someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack
coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The
ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that
anything that allows us to connect more people more often is
*de facto* good.” Mark Zuckerberg sought to distance himself
from the memo, saying he’d never agreed with the sentiment,
while Bosworth insisted he’d only been trying to start a debate.
Los Angeles, California
Cancer warnings on coffee: A judge in Los Angeles has
ruled that coffee – whether sold in packets or cups –
should carry cancer warnings, owing to the presence
of acrylamide, a chemical compound produced
during the roasting process that is classed as a “probable human
carcinogen”. A non-profit group called the Council for Education
and Research on Toxics had sued 91 firms, including Starbucks,
for failing to warn consumers about the risk of acrylamide, which
is also found in crisps, toast and other foods. The defendants do
not dispute the presence of acrylamide in coffee, but say it is at
such a “minuscule” level, it poses no risk to human health (a view
widely shared by scientists). They are now considering an appeal.
Washington DC
Social media vetting: The Trump administration has announced
plans to ask most people who apply for a visa to travel to the US
– an estimated 14.7 million a year – to provide details of all their
social media accounts. The “extreme vetting” measure, which has
been requested by the State Department and is being evaluated by
the Office of Management and Budget, would not affect tourists
from some European countries (and certain other US allies), who
can apply for a visa waiver for stays of less than 90 days.
However, travellers from most of the rest of the world will be
obliged to hand over information about their use of 20 named
social media platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn, as well
as their phone numbers and international travel history.
Parkland, Florida
Gun donations triple: Donations to America’s biggest pro-gun
lobby group, the National Rifle Association, surged in the weeks
after the Parkland school shooting in Florida on 14 February, in
which 17 people were killed. The shooting has prompted a mass
movement in support of more gun controls. However, data
published last week showed that since the shooting, people have
also rallied to the NRA’s cause, sending donations to its “Political
Victory Fund” soaring from $248,000 in January to $779,000
in February. Separate data showed that the NRA increased its
advertising spend more than fourfold in the weeks following
the mass shooting, to an average of $47,300 a day.
San José
Novelist wins presidency: Carlos
Alvarado Quesada, a centre-left
politician, novelist and erstwhile
rock singer, has been elected
president of Costa Rica following
a campaign dominated by the issue
of gay marriage. In the first-round
result, Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz –
another singer and a former preacher – stunned Latin America
by surging to victory on a platform of trenchant opposition to
gay marriage, in defiance of a January ruling by the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights that all its signatories should
recognise same-sex marriage. In the second-round run-off,
however, Alvarado Quesada (pictured), won by 61% to 39%.
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
Valencia, Venezuela
Police station fire kills 68:
Venezuelan authorities have
arrested five police officials they
suspect of being responsible for a fire in police station cells in
Valencia last week, in which at least 68 people died. Women
visiting the cells at the time of the fire were among those who
lost their lives. There are conflicting reports of how the fire
started, but it has been reported that it began following a riot
between inmates and officers, with the flames spreading to
mattresses in the cells. Human rights groups say that conditions
in the country’s prisons have worsened in recent years, as a result
of Venezuela’s economic crisis, and that many prisoners are going
hungry in overcrowded prisons largely run by gangs.
The world at a glance
Sisi wins big: According to official results
published this week, President Sisi won
97% of the votes in Egypt’s election
last month, on a turnout of 41%, down
from 47% in 2014. Sisi’s landslide has
intensified fears in Egypt and abroad that
the former military leader will now deepen
his brutal crackdown on dissent, and may
even seek to abolish term limits. The head
of the (notionally independent) election
authority hailed his triumph as a
“momentous” time for the nation as he
declared that the vote had been free and
fair. The only other candidate, a Sisi
supporter who stepped in at the last
minute to spare Sisi the embarrassment
of standing unchallenged, won 656,534
votes, or 2.92% of those cast, meaning
that more people spoilt their ballot paper
(1.76 million) than voted for him.
Addis Ababa
New PM raises
hopes: Ethiopia
has this week
sworn in a new
prime minister,
its first from the
Oromo ethnic group
– a move that observers hope will
pave the way for greater stability in the
country. The Oromo make up about a
third of Ethiopia’s population (of about
100 million), but have long suffered
political and economic repression, and
have been behind many of the violent antigovernment protests that have rocked the
country on and off since 2015. The new
PM, Abiy Ahmed, is the leader of one of
the four parties that comprise the country’s
powerful ruling coalition, and was elected
PM by that coalition (and not through a
general election). Seen as a reformist, he
has expressed sympathy for the protesters’
demands for greater democracy.
Gaza Strip
Palestinians killed: Israeli soldiers shot dead
18 Palestinian demonstrators last week, and
injured 1,400 more, in the worst outbreak
of violence in the Gaza Strip since 2014. The
shootings took place as tens of thousands of
Gazans – men, women and children – gathered
at camps a few hundred metres from the border
on the first day of a planned six-week protest.
Groups of men approached the border at several points, hurling stones and burning
tyres; Israeli snipers responded with lethal force. The UN and the EU called for an
independent investigation into Israel’s alleged use of excessive force. Israel said it
would not cooperate with any inquiry, and claimed that the protesters had been paid
by Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls Gaza.
Organisers intended the Great Return March as a peaceful protest to draw attention
to the 11-year blockade of Gaza, and assert the right of Palestinians expelled in 1948
and their descendants to return to their homes. Palestinians plan to mark the 70th
anniversary of the Nakba (the “Catastrophe” in which 700,000 people fled or were
forced from their homes) on 15 May, one day after Israel marks its 70th anniversary.
Pop diplomacy: Kim Jong
Un attended a pop concert
given by South Korean
performers in Pyongyang
on Sunday, the first such
event in over a decade.
In the past, North Korea
has responded to South
Korean K-pop being
broadcast over the border
with threats of war. But at
the concert, Kim was seen
clapping along to the
music. It took place
shortly after his return
from a surprise visit to
Beijing – and ahead of
a meeting with South
Korea’s President
Moon Jae-in
for 27
Kobane, Syria
Isis “Beatles”
speak out:
Two British
suspected of
being members
of the notorious
Islamic State
cell known as
the “Beatles”
have given their first press interview since
their capture Syria in January. Talking to
journalists in Kobane, Alexanda Kotey
(pictured, left) and El Shafee Elsheikh,
both from London, refused to address
allegations that they were part of the cell,
but said that beheading hostages may
have been a mistake, if only tactically.
They also complained that Britain had
stripped them of their citizenship and
said they may not get a fair trial.
Mingora, Pakistan
Malala’s visit: Malala Yousafzai, the
campaigner and youngest ever Nobel Peace
laureate, returned to Pakistan last week for
the first time since being shot in the head
by the Taliban in 2012. Malala, now 20,
was critically injured in the attack and was
flown to the UK for surgery on her skull.
She has lived here since and is now a
student at the University of Oxford.
During a sometimes emotional four-day
trip, she gave a televised speech, visited her
hometown of Mingora in the Swat valley,
amid tight security, and said she hoped one
day to return to Pakistan permanently.
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
“I am becoming invisible”
She was the darling of the
Primrose Hill set in the 1990s,
when she was married to Jude
Law and partied with Kate
Moss – but Sadie Frost has
found that fame tends to
favour the young. At 52,
she says, “you do start to
feel invisible and irrelevant
as well, because there is a
new generation of people
that are becoming more
visible and relevant”. And
though she would be quite
happy to “become like an
old hippy and disappear –
living in a house with no
mirrors”, social media makes
the process of being forgotten
quite painful. “I try not to
judge or compare myself, and
do all the good things like yoga
and meditation, but by nine
o’clock in the morning I feel
like someone has thrown 25
darts at me, because there’s
that anxiety of, ‘Oh my God,
I didn’t get invited to that’...
It’s not a good thing.” The
solution, she said on a podcast
called Get It Off Your Breasts,
is to look for validation closer
to home. “You realise your
family is the most important
thing… what you really need
and what you really love, and
what loves you.”
Alan Carr on being camp
Alan Carr spent a while
figuring out his sexuality, says
Rosie Kinchen in The Sunday
Times. He grew up in a
football-mad family. His father
was a former player and he
hoped Alan would follow
suit. Carr (below) did his best,
traipsing around muddy
pitches with a ball, but he was
“always, always,
s, always
camp... I remember
mber my
mum shouting att me to
‘stop dancing’ because
I’d put on these flares
and the swish of
the bell-bottoms
was causing an
El Niño effect in
the lounge.” Yet
he was unaware
of it until he
watched a
video of
himself in
a school play
aged nine:
“I had never
seen myself
before and I
was basically
voguing my
way through
Macbeth. It was like a punch in
the stomach. I thought: that’s
why people are calling me
‘bender’.” After a period of
introspection, he emerged as
a funnier, spikier version of
himself. “When you look like
this and have this voice, you
have to turn a negative into a
positive; you sort of make the
jokes before anyone else does.”
Now, he is everyone’s gay best
friend and a huge TV star. But
he thinks his complete inability
to play it straight has hurt his
career, denying him the chance
to front serious programmes,
such as documentaries. “British
people do love camp,” he says,
“but when it is incorporated
into a male persona, they are
like, ‘Oh have a day off.’”
Nick Drake’s inspiration
It’s a sad but well-known
fact that Nick Drake did
not live long enough to see
his music appreciated, says
Neil McCormick in The
Daily Telegraph. The singersongwriter died of an overdose
in 1974 aged 26. His albums
had been loved by the critics,
but had made no mark on
the public. His mother, Molly,
lived long enough to see him
gain a cult following, from the
late 1970s, but not to see his
popularity explode in the late
1990s. Now, 25 years after her
death, she is getting recognition
of her own. Molly Drake wrote
poetry and composed songs,
gently sorrowful vignettes that
she sang at home, and that
were a clear influence on her
son. Some have been covered;
now all her work has been
brought together for a
two-CD collection, The Tide’s
Magnificence. “I specialise
in a family that becomes
famous years after
death,” says her
daughter, the actress
Gabrielle Drake. “I
think her songs have
an extraordinary
truth and
simplicity about
them. If you’ve
got something
to say and you
can distil it to
the essence, it
has a greater
impact. So I’m
not surprised
that other
recognise her
talent. But I
am gratified.”
It’s not hard to see why Andria Zafirakou won this year’s Global
Teacher Prize. She teaches art, but that is just the start of what she
does for the pupils at Alperton Community School in Brent – one of
London’s most deprived, ethnically diverse boroughs. She suspects
most of us don’t “have a clue” about the kind of poverty many of
her pupils are growing up in. “This is what deprivation looks like,”
she told Decca Aitkenhead in The Guardian. “Six or seven separate
families living in one house, sleeping one family to a room, sharing
one bathroom and rotating the use of the kitchen.” So while she
has “no problem” with the idea that children should be pushed
academically, for her, just getting a child to come to school can be
a success story. Early on, she realised a lot of children were arriving
hungry because they were not being fed at home, so she set up a
breakfast club; at the end of the day she escorts them on to buses,
to make sure they’re safe from gang violence. She has also learnt
basic phrases in an array of languages. If you want immigrants to
engage with the school, you must make them feel welcome and
appreciated, she explains. It is for similar reasons that she teaches
her pupils the art of their own culture, before European art. “Kids
won’t engage with that,” she says. “So first of all, connect them
with their own history, their own culture. Show them what it’s
about and how you can celebrate it. Then you have a sense of
pride. Once you have that pride, then you can say: ‘This is what
happened in the Renaissance’; ‘This is impressionism.’”
Tech billionaire
“Melinda Gates’s children don’t have
smartphones and only use a computer in
the kitchen. Her husband Bill spends hours
in his office reading
books while everyone
else is refreshing their homepage. The most
sought-after private
priva school in Silicon Valley,
the Waldorf School
Scho of the Peninsula, bans
electronic devices for the under-11s and
teaches the children
childr of eBay, Apple, Uber
and Google staff to make go-karts, knit and
cook. Mark Zuckerberg
wants his daughters
to read Dr Seuss and play outside rather
than use Messenger
Messeng Kids. Steve Jobs strictly
limited his children’s
use of technology at
home. It’s astonishing
if you think about it:
the more money you make out of the tech
industry, the more
mo you appear to shield
your family from its effects.”
Alice Thomson in The Times
Stéphane Audran,
star of Babette’s
Feast, died 27
March, aged 85.
campaigner, died
2 April, aged 81.
Bill Maynard, actor
and comedian,
died 30 March,
aged 89.
Vice-Admiral Sir
James Weatherall,
commander in the
Falklands War,
died 18 March,
aged 82.
Desert Island Discs is on a short break
The next Korean war
Trump’s White House often talks about its “military options” in confronting North Korea. How might a conflict unfold?
biological weapons, among the largest in
Why is there talk of war?
the world. Military historian Reid Kirby
In the wake of North Korea’s successful
concludes that a sustained attack using
test launch in July 2017 of an intersarin gas could kill 2.5 million people
continental ballistic missile, it was
in Seoul. The Pentagon assumes that its
reported that the White House was “very
bases in South Korea (it has some 28,500
seriously” considering military options
troops there) would also be among the
against North Korea. Although President
first targets, as well as those in Japan
Trump is committed to diplomacy for
and the US Pacific territory of Guam.
now, and has offered to meet Kim
Jong Un (see box), his White House
How would the US react in turn?
is becoming increasingly hawkish. Last
As Seoul’s residents raced to the city’s
month, Rex Tillerson, a firm proponent
3,200 bomb shelters, the full might
of the diplomatic approach to North
of the US-South Korean war machine
Korea, was replaced by former CIA
would swing into action. Cruise missiles
director Mike Pompeo, who has warned
and jets would be used to hit Kim’s
that Pyongyang is within “a handful
command and control infrastructure,
of months” of being able to deliver
as well as nuclear facilities, military
nuclear warheads to the US mainland,
bases, radar systems and artillery. The
and has suggested that the US ought to
A military parade in Pyongyang last month
initial campaign would dwarf the “shock
confront Kim militarily. And Trump’s
and awe” unleashed on Iraq. The US would at this point almost
new national security adviser, John Bolton, recently published an
certainly wish to effect regime change, so a ground war would
article arguing for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.
follow, with 650,000 South Koreans and upwards of 200,000 US
servicemen ranged against Kim’s army – which is poorly equipped
What sort of military options are being considered?
but 1.2 million strong, including 200,000 special operations troops
US and South Korean forces have rehearsed plans for a
trained to infiltrate the South via tunnels and mini-submarines.
“decapitation strike” on the North Korean leadership in the
By most estimates, the allies would prevail in a matter of weeks
event of a crisis. Assassinating the hermit kingdom’s paranoid
– assuming that neither China nor Russia intervened. But it would
dictator would, though, be extremely difficult. Kim reportedly
be, as James Mattis, the US defence secretary, put it, “the worst
has 30 residences, each with its own bunker, and takes elaborate
kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes”. Pentagon war games
precautions to hide his location, moving around only at night.
estimate about 20,000 deaths per day in South Korea.
Alternatively, former US officials have briefed that the White
House is considering a “bloody nose” attack: a strike to “punch
Would Kim use nuclear weapons?
the North Koreans in the nose, get their attention and show that
Very likely. In fact, North Korea would probably use nuclear
we’re serious”. A broader assault designed to destroy or retard its
weapons at the beginning of a war – not at the end according
nuclear programme has also supposedly been mooted.
to experts, because of the risk of having them knocked out by
the enemy. Military strategists call this the “use them or lose
How would North Korea respond to a limited strike?
them” dilemma. The South Korean port of Busan, which the
It’s hard to say. Experts have long thought that the primary goal
US would use to ship in its forces, is a likely target. North Korea
of the North Korean regime is to survive, and it knows that it is
has some 60 nuclear warheads, enough to kill tens of millions;
heavily outgunned by the combined forces of the US and South
the US would in theory respond in kind.
Korea. So arguably a limited strike, along with a threat that any
retaliation would result in the destruction of the regime, might be
How likely is any of this to happen?
effective and prevent further escalation. “Will a rational dictator
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and
then sort of sit still?” asks Victor
Barack Obama all considered preCha, former White House director of
The Trump-Kim summit
emptive strikes, and rejected them
Asian affairs. “Possibly. But that’s a
On 9 March, Donald Trump shocked the world by
because of the likely consequences.
big risk to take.” The difficulty is that
announcing – after a long war of words with the man
it would be hard for Kim to judge
he dubbed “Little Rocket Man” – that he had agreed to Last year, the US director of
a face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong Un. The summit
national intelligence Dan Coats
whether or not the attack was indeed
is tentatively scheduled for May. And last week, on his
said that Pyongyang had built up
limited. If he feared his survival was
first visit to China, Kim said that the Korean peninsula
its nuclear weapons “for deterrence,
at stake, he would hit back hard.
could be “denuclearised”, if South Korea and the US
international prestige and coercive
were prepared to “create an atmosphere of peace and
rather than for offensive
How could Kim counter-attack?
stability while taking progressive and synchronous
reasons. And most analysts still think
He could devastate Seoul, a city
measures for the realisation of peace”. He recently
that diplomacy and deterrence are
of 25 million people, with his vast
made similar claims to South Korean diplomats.
the best policies for the US too. Some
arsenal of conventional weapons dug
Trump commented that there was a “good chance”
US analysts, however – including
into the mountains just north of the
Kim would “do what is right” for humanity.The
dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear programme
influential figures in the White House
border, a mere 35 miles away. The
is America’s aim, but what Pyongyang means by
such as Bolton – believe that the risk
US Congressional Research Service
denuclearisation has historically been very different.
of allowing North Korea to acquire
has estimated that North Korea could
The first step would be the US withdrawing from
nuclear weapons capable of targeting
hammer South Korea’s capital with
South Korea and removing its nuclear umbrella – the
American cities is even greater than
10,000 rounds per minute, and that
threat to defend its ally with nuclear force. Meanwhile,
the risks associated with the outbreak
such a barrage would kill 30,000a new nuclear reactor has come online in North
of war on the Korean peninsula. And
300,000 people in the opening days
Korea’s Yongbyon complex. John Bolton, Trump’s
amid the current sabre-rattling, there
of any conflict. The consensus among
national security adviser, is likely to be unimpressed.
military planners is that Kim would
As he recently put it: “We’ve tried for 25 years, through is a clear risk of one side misreading
pressure and diplomacy, and it’s failed.”
the other’s belligerent rhetoric,
also try to level the playing field by
leading to a catastrophic escalation.
using his stock of chemical and
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
The urge to feel
that someone’s
in control
Juliet Samuel
The Daily Telegraph
The army that
is crippling
the NHS
Clare Foges
The Times
How the war
in Iraq came
home to roost
Gary Younge
The Guardian
It’s Mr Xi you
should fear, not
Mr Zuckerberg
Anne McElvoy
The Sunday Telegraph
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
Best articles: Britain
Did you know that there’s a secret plan to privatise the NHS;
that Muslim immigrants are plotting to take over Britain; that the
Brexit vote was stolen by a far-right Facebook cabal? The appetite
for conspiracy theories never dies, says Juliet Samuel, because it’s
far more comforting to believe some specific agency is responsible
for the world’s nastiness than to put it down “to a chaotic mix
of historical trends, incompetence, unintended consequences
and special interests”. We need to feel someone or something
is running the show, be it a pantheon of gods, one almighty God,
or... the Jews. That’s why anti-Semitism, as Jean-Paul Sartre noted,
isn’t so much an opinion as “a passion”: a passion to dispel the
malign force orchestrating events. Is a sinister group making hay
out of anti-Semitism to bring down Jeremy Corbyn? Is Corbyn,
in turn, orchestrating a far-left hate mob? No. No single force
controls the clamour of opinions any more than one controls the
bond markets. But rather than accept the world is in perpetual
ferment, it’s easier to “believe that the Rothschilds are in charge”.
The crisis facing the NHS is a crisis of personal responsibility,
says Clare Foges: “an army of fat, boozing, snacking, smoking,
sedentary patients” refusing to take responsibility for its choices.
Illnesses caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices cost about £11bn
a year; being overweight is the second-biggest cause of cancer;
tackling type 2 diabetes accounts for 9% of the NHS budget. So
if the NHS is to survive, it’s going to have to penalise such people,
either by making them pay for treatment or moving them down
waiting lists. Hertfordshire hospitals are already breathalysing
smokers to ensure they’ve quit before being referred for surgery;
the NHS must go further and charge people who arrive at A&E
drunk or on drugs, or who don’t turn up for appointments. More
resources could then be given to those who’ve done nothing to
cause their own problems, like couples seeking IVF – a service
that’s been tragically slashed in the past five years. The Victorians
distinguished between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor:
it may sound harsh, but applying similar labels to patients would
make miscreants shape up for “the long-term good of the nation”.
I read it in the tabloids
A German man walked
into his local police station
last week to ask for help
in breaking up with his
girlfriend. When the 34-yearold explained that he wanted
to end the relationship but
didn’t know how to do it,
a female officer took him
aside and suggested several
options. The police force,
in the city of Ludwigshafen,
refused to disclose what had
been discussed – but insisted
the man would have to talk to
his girlfriend himself. “We are
willing to advise,” it said in
a statement, “but we cannot
close the deal.”
“It was 15 years last month since Britain and the US invaded
Iraq,” says Gary Younge. The most important consequences
of that war are, of course, in the place where it was fought: it
destabilised an entire region and left an estimated one million
people dead. But it also bequeathed a “deep and enduring” legacy
to Britain’s political culture. Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to the
war played a “significant” part in his rise to the Labour leadership: most of his opponents were tainted by their support for the
invasion. The ramifications, however, go well beyond Labour,
“to a broader matter of trust between the public and the establishment”. As the situation in Iraq deteriorated and no weapons of
mass destruction were found – when it emerged the Government
had distorted the evidence with “dossiers full of lies” – it “contributed to a general sense of cynicism”. Other factors were involved
in this loss of trust: the MPs’ expenses scandal; the financial crisis;
austerity. But when the political class wonders why confidence in
leaders and experts is so low today, “they could do worse than
start with the war that most of them supported”.
Snoop Dogg has surprised
both his fans and his critics
by releasing a gospel album.
Bible of Love came out three
weeks ago and is top of
the Billboard gospel chart.
“I did my share of bringing
dark moments,” said the hiphop artist, known for his
gangsta rap lyrics. “Now it’s
time to bring the light.” It’s
not the first time Snoop has
embraced religion: in 2012,
after a trip to Jamaica, he
declared that he’d converted
to Rastafarianism, changed
his name to Snoop Lion and
released a reggae album.
People rightly fear the “data-gobbling” habits of Facebook and its
disregard for our privacy. But at least it’s being made to change its
ways, says Anne McElvoy. Far more terrifying is the speed of the
advance in data gathering via artificial intelligence (AI) by authoritarian states like China, where there’s no accountability at all.
China’s micro-messaging service WeChat has around a billion users:
it’s a “vast info-harvest” the state can use to control its citizens.
China’s leading “smart city”, Hangzhou, can track the movements and purchases of every resident. In Suining County, a pilot
scheme logs “good” and “bad” actions – everything from traffic
fines to political activity – and awards points to measure each
person’s “usefulness” as a citizen. State representatives now sit
on the boards of most of China’s major tech firms. And since data
collection, search engines and bots are impervious to state borders,
we’re all potentially in thrall to this power. Indeed, Russia sees AI
as “key” to supplanting US dominance. The “true behemoth” of
information technology lurks in countries beyond our control.
Newspapers have always
liked to feature an April Fool
to entertain their readers.
Now, brands are realising
that in the social media age,
the jokes have commercial
value, too. This year, CocaCola claimed to be releasing
three new Coke flavours –
avocado, charcoal and
sourdough – to appeal to
millennials, Heinz unveiled
a new chocolate mayonnaise
for Easter, while Argos
claimed to have created
“Eau de Catalogue”, a scent
diffuser that smells exactly
like an Argos catalogue.
Best articles: Europe
Madrid’s hunt for “traitors”: a threat to the EU?
some German leftists are of the
First Belgium. Now Germany and
view that Berlin gave the green
Scotland. Much to their annoyance,
light for his arrest as a belated
other EU nations are being dragged
“thank you” for Spain’s loyalty
into the row caused by Catalonia’s
during the euro crisis. Madrid
bid for independence, said El País
should not count its chickens
(Madrid). Belgium became involved
just yet, said Alasdair Sandford,
in October when the separatist
Marta Rodriguez Martinez and
leader Carles Puigdemont, having
Alexandra Leistner in Euronews
flouted the law by declaring
(Lyons). German courts don’t
independence, fled there to avoid
have to comply with the
arrest. The pressure this put on
warrant if there are no offences
Brussels eased a little when Madrid
in Germany equivalent to the
dropped the European Arrest
ones Puigdemont is charged with
Warrant it had put out for him, but
in Spain. True, “rebellion” is a
it was unexpectedly reinstated last
recognised offence in German law,
month when a Spanish supreme
Clara Ponsatí: will she be forcibly repatriated to Spain?
but it must be shown to involve
court judge arraigned Puigdemont
violence, which will be hard to prove in Puigdemont’s case. He
and 12 other Catalan leaders on charges of sedition, rebellion
could still be extradited on the lesser charge of misuse of public
and misuse of public funds. In Catalonia, thousands took to
funds, but then Spain’s court could try him only for that crime.
the streets, denouncing the “persecution of political prisoners”.
What they fail to accept is that Puigdemont and his colleagues
Germany’s Angela Merkel and Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon
aren’t under arrest for their ideas, but for their illegal actions.
both insist this is a purely legal issue, said Kenny MacAskill
in The Herald (Glasgow). And in theory it is. But in practice it
Puigdemont himself is now in a German jail, said Joaquim Coll
in El Periódico de Catalunya (Barcelona). German police picked leaves the courts in a most invidious position. Spain meets the
expected criteria for being a liberal nation, yet it is demanding
him up in his car as he crossed the Danish border on his return
that an EU citizen like Ponsatí – who looks more like a “kindly
from a speaking engagement in Finland. By contrast, the former
grandmother” than a violent rebel – be forcibly repatriated to
Catalan education minister Clara Ponsatí (who fled Catalonia
face a possible jail sentence. At root, this is a political issue,
with Puigdemont), having previously held a post at the
and the EU can’t stand idly by while democratic politicians are
University of St Andrews, surrendered herself to an Edinburgh
jailed, saying it’s simply a matter of due process of law. It has
police station and successfully applied for bail. That Germany
and Scotland should now be embroiled in this mess shows what acted before now to quash what it has regarded as irresponsible
requests for extradition (notably warrants issued by Poland’s
a “fiasco” Catalonia’s drive for independence has been. Yet the
government). Yet it stays silent on this. “What’s at issue here
hotheads still persist in stirring up passions. Roger Torrent, the
isn’t due process, but the behaviour of a supposedly democratic
president of the Catalan parliament, as good as argued that no
nation and the failure of the EU as an institution to address it.”
Spanish judge had a right to arrest Puigdemont, because the
The EU “has the rare gift of pursuing policies that fly in the
head of the Catalan government is “above the rule of law”.
face of its proclaimed ideals”, said Lutz Herden in Der Freitag
It’s incendiary language of that sort that fuelled the outbreaks
(Berlin). It wholeheartedly supported other movements for
of violence we saw in last week’s protests.
political self-determination – for the Baltic states from Russia,
for Kosovo from Serbia. Why then should other EU nations feel
It may now prove easier to get Puigdemont extradited, said
bound to join Madrid’s hunt for “traitors”. If independence is
Nadine Lindner in Deutschlandfunk (Cologne), and German
such a high ideal for the EU, why deny it to the Catalans?
prosecutors have this week requested the courts do so. Indeed,
A sinister
move by
the far-right
Der Standard
The aubergine
that gummed
up a court
Corriere della Sera
The far-right has been in government in Austria for a mere three months, but it has already caused a
major scandal, says Eric Frey. The Freedom Party – founded by former Nazis after the Second World
War – is the junior member in the coalition led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s centre-right People’s
Party and has been given control of the interior ministry. One of the first things that “power-mad”
interior minister Herbert Kickl has done is fire the respected chief of our main domestic intelligence
agency, Peter Gridling, and send a police squad to raid his home and confiscate computers. Over
the past decade, Gridling has had responsibility for investigating the activities of far-right extremist
groups, so his abrupt removal by a far-right party is highly suspect. The Freedom Party now holds
all the intelligence related to its extremist allies, possibly including the names of informants who’ve
been helping the authorities. And what has Kurz done about this attack on a guardian of our nation?
Nothing. Apparently, he doesn’t want to “shame his coalition partner”. That just leaves Kurz – at 31,
our youngest-ever chancellor, looking weak – and the Freedom Party “power-hungry and perfidious”.
Italy’s legal system is creaking at the seams, says Gian Antonio Stella, and largely because it’s clogged
up with absurdly trivial cases. A man from Puglia has just been acquitted of stealing an aubergine
from a field – after nine years and legal fees totalling as much as s8,000 of taxpayers’ money.
The jobless culprit had been caught by police in 2009 with the offending vegetable in a bucket.
He claimed he’d taken it only to feed his starving family, and the farmer didn’t press charges. Yet
he was still prosecuted, sentenced to five months in jail and given a s500 fine (reduced on appeal). His
lawyer, incensed at the unfairness, lodged the case at the supreme court in Rome, where it languished
for nine years until judges finally threw it out. The court has a backlog of more than 100,000
similarly crazy cases. Most are domestic spats, like the man who sued his daughter-in-law for serving
him shop-bought rather than home-made pasta, or disputes over such things as wet laundry dripping
onto the balcony below. No one wants arbitrary limits on court time. But is it really so hard to
distinguish between important cases of principle and those that just waste time and money?
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
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Best of the American columnists
Stormy Daniels, the porn star who could “save the republic”
Can President Trump’s critics please
allegations too. She claimed Trump’s
“give it a rest already”, asked Julie
minions not only paid her $130,000
Kelly on American Greatness. Ever
in hush money before the 2016
since the news surfaced that Trump
election, but that they also physically
may have had a fling with the porn
threatened her to secure her silence.
actress Stormy Daniels 12 years ago,
liberal pundits have had a “juvenile, if
Trump is in a fix, said David Frum in
not downright creepy” obsession with
The Atlantic. Throughout his career,
this tale. From all the attention given
he has used the law “as a weapon”,
to last week’s 60 Minutes interview
exploiting his deep pockets to scare
with Daniels (real name: Stephanie
off rivals. He has fought some 3,500
Clifford) on CBS, you’d think it
lawsuits in his time. But those tactics
was a groundbreaking political event,
aren’t working with Daniels. Just after
rather than one person’s account of a
her interview, Trump’s lawyer sent
Daniels: a spanking tale
sexual encounter that may or may not
her a “heavy-breathing” letter full
have occurred in a hotel room during
of legal threats. She promptly released
George W. Bush’s second term, when Trump was still a
it to The New York Times, generating still more bad press for
private citizen. It’s time the press stopped dwelling on “the
Trump. She’s daring him to sue her. Daniels’s lawyer claims
opportunistic machinations” of someone “whose 15 minutes
to be sitting on some killer evidence, said Michelle Goldberg
of sex with a 60-year-old man in 2006 has earned her way more in The New York Times. He recently tweeted: “If ‘a picture
than the 15 minutes of fame she deserves”.
is worth a thousand words’, how many words is this worth?”
next to a photo of a CD or DVD. If he’s not bluffing, there’s
We already knew most of the details about the alleged tryst, said
a chance this affair “could provide a crucial window into
Willa Paskin on Slate, including the claim that, at Daniels’s own Trump’s thuggish way of doing business”, perhaps even lead to
suggestion, she spanked him with a magazine with his face on
the unravelling of his presidency. “I don’t want to get my hopes
the cover. But Daniels, who came across as “non-partisan” and
up about a porn star saving the republic. But I can scarcely
“remarkably self-possessed” in the interview, made some new
think of a more satisfying way for this terrible era to end.”
Hillary – the
secret weapon
Josh Voorhees
The debt that
feminists owe
Donald Trump
Kathleen Parker
The Washington Post
Wasn’t Britain
meant to be a
tolerant land?
Kyle Smith
National Review
Worrying times for the Republicans, says Josh Voorhees. They lost a US Senate seat in the
stronghold of Alabama in December, and last month they lost another safe House seat in heavily
conservative Pennsylvania. It seems the “usual rhetoric about abortion and immigration”, and even
a recent tax cut, are failing to “close the enthusiasm gap with Democrats”. But now the GOP is
deploying a weapon they hope will turn things around: Hillary Clinton. The party has just unveiled
a new ad campaign that focuses on the former presidential candidate and her disparaging remarks
about Trump voters. “She’s called you ‘deplorable’,” say the ads. “Now she’s called you ‘backwards’,” a reference to recent remarks by Clinton during her book tour in India, in which she talked
of the Trump campaign playing on the feelings of people in “middle” America who “didn’t like
black people getting rights” or women getting jobs. The ad campaign is a desperate measure, but it
just might work given that Clinton, unlike pretty much every recent losing presidential candidate, has
“somehow become even more unpopular since the campaign ended”. The GOP trails the Democrats
by about five points in the polls. But “partisan gerrymandering”, the advantage of incumbency and
the Clinton factor may yet enable them to keep full control of Congress in November’s midterms.
Women in America are slowly reaching parity with men in the workplace, says Kathleen Parker.
Yet there’s one area where they remain under-represented: in state legislatures, governor’s offices and
Congress. Politics, in short. However, there are signs that this, too, is about to change. At least 431
women – 339 Democrats, 92 Republicans – are running or are likely to run for the House in this
year’s midterm elections, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Two years ago,
the number at this point was 212. And “an astonishing 54 women are running or likely to run” for
the Senate, twice as many as in 2016. More staggering still, Emily’s List, a Democratic group that
backs pro-choice women, “has received 34,000 requests this year for information about running
for public office”. In 2016, it received just 920 such queries. And there’s one person above all whom
we should thank for this extraordinary blossoming of female political ambition: Donald Trump. It’s
hard to overestimate just how much offence he has caused to female voters with his boorish, sexist
comments and his stance on various issues. Truly, he has been an inspiration to women everywhere.
“How rare and vanishing a liberty is the American notion of free speech,” says Kyle Smith. Just look
at how our ally Britain, supposedly the most tolerant of nations, is restricting free expression. In 2016,
its police arrested more than 3,300 people for what amounts to internet trolling, a rise of almost
50% in two years. About half led to prosecutions under section 127 of the Communications Act
2003, which makes it a crime to send a threatening, offensive or indecent online post with the intent
to cause “annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another”. And the pace of such arrests is
set to rise even faster now that a new police unit has been launched, tasked with pursuing internet
trolls. Inevitably this will lead to more troubling cases like that of the “Nazi” dog – the hate crime
for which Scottish prankster Count Dankula (real name: Mark Meechan) has just been convicted
by a judge. Meechan had felt it would be hilarious to teach his girlfriend’s cute pug to perform
Nazi salutes to phrases like “gas the Jews” and to post a video of it on YouTube. Meechan seems
annoying and his prank wasn’t funny. But it’s not the job of a “liberal government to parse the humour
value of intended jokes”. You’d have thought “George Orwell’s homeland” would know that.
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
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Health & Science
What the scientists are saying…
Antibiotic consumption soaring
“Spray-on umbrella” for coral
An ultra-thin, biodegradable “sun shield”
that rests on the ocean’s surface could be
used to preserve Australia’s Great Barrier
Reef, scientists believe. One of the biggest
threats to coral reefs is bleaching, which
occurs when corals, under stress from
rising sea temperatures, expel the algae
that live in their tissues. This has been a
particular problem on the Great Barrier
Reef, where two bleaching “events”, in
2016 and 2017, led to as many as half
of the reef’s corals dying. Now, a team at
the Australian Institute of Marine Science
has proposed a solution: a white “liquid
umbrella” that reflects and scatters the
light, and so keeps the water cooler. In the
laboratory, they tested a floating film that
was made from calcium carbonate – the
substance from which coral skeleton is
made; this coating was 50,000 times
thinner than a human hair, yet it blocked
20% of sunlight and reduced bleaching in
most coral species. It would be impractical
to attempt to cover the whole of the
348,000 sq km reef, the scientists said, but
when hot weather is forecast, the calcium
carbonate foam could be sprayed onto
“high-risk or high-value” areas.
Rubber ducks: a bath-time danger
Bath time would hardly be complete
without a rubber duck – but according
to a new study, the toys are not as benign
as they look. As many parents will have
observed, water trapped inside squeezable
bath toys turns over time into a worryinglooking sludge. Now researchers have
analysed this substance – and found that
it’s riddled with bacteria. Having dissected
some well-used bath toys, they found that
the “dense and slimy biofilms” on their
inner surfaces contained anything from
five million to 75 million bacteria cells per
Not as benign as it looks?
square centimetre. In addition, 80%
of the toys were harbouring potentially
harmful bacteria, including Legionella
(responsible for Legionnaires’ disease)
and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (which
is often implicated in hospital-acquired
infections). The researchers say that the
problem is exacerbated by the “lowquality polymeric materials” that are
used to make bath toys: these release
organic carbon compounds, which help
fuel the growth of microbes. In their
report, published in the journal Biofilms
and Microbiomes, the Swiss and
American team speculates that if children
squeeze the toys so that the sludge hits
their faces, it could lead to infections
– but there is no hard evidence for this.
Moreover, some level of exposure to
bacteria is good for children. In short,
parents should definitely squeeze the toys
out after each bath, but they probably
don’t need to dump ducky altogether.
Despite all the concerns about antibioticresistant superbugs, global consumption of
antibiotics is soaring. According to a new
study based on data from 76 countries, the
number of “defined daily doses” consumed
rose by 65% between 2000 and 2015,
from 21.1 billion to 34.8 billion. While
richer countries remain the biggest users of
antibiotics, most of the increase took place
in low- and middle-income nations. In
India, consumption more than doubled in
those 16 years, while in China, it was up
79%. By contrast, in the US, France and
Italy – the countries with the highest
consumption rates – the increase was
marginal. “With antibiotic consumption
increasing worldwide, the challenge posed
by antibiotic resistance is likely to get
worse,” said the authors of the study,
which was led by a team at Johns
Hopkins University and published in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences. “As with climate change, there
may be an unknown tipping point, and
this could herald a future without effective
antibiotics.” Separately, health officials say
that a British man has been diagnosed with
a form of gonorrhoea that has proved
resistant to all the most commonly used
antibiotics. Contracted after a sexual
encounter with a woman in southeast
Asia, it is believed to be the worst “super
gonorrhoea” ever seen. There is one last
antibiotic that doctors hope will work.
Medical file
A host of treatments for minor ailments
will no longer be routinely prescribed
by GPs in England. Cough mixture, eye
drops, dandruff shampoo, laxatives, travel
sickness pills and sunscreens are among
the remedies being dropped to save the
NHS as much as £100m a year.
Tragic truth behind the “alien” foetus
Pregnancy rate declines
Back in 2003, the discovery of a
tiny mummified skeleton in a deserted
mining town in Chile’s Atacama Desert
made headlines worldwide. The
skeleton (pictured), which was named
Ata, was only six inches long, yet its
bones were as mature as those of a sixyear-old. Moreover, it had a conical
head and only ten (instead of 12) pairs
of ribs, leading to wild speculation that
it could be extraterrestrial in origin.
Five years ago, scientists at Stanford
University in California put paid to
that notion. Their analysis of the skeleton’s bone marrow confirmed that the remains
were of a human infant, a girl who had probably been stillborn only decades ago.
Now, further studies have revealed that Ata suffered from seven key mutations in
genes responsible for skeletal development, which helps explain her atypical features.
The story is a tragically human one, said the researchers: 40 years ago, someone gave
birth to a malformed baby and buried her. Now, Chilean officials are investigating
whether the remains were exported illegally, while others have suggested they should
have been returned to Chile for burial in 2013, when they were confirmed as human.
Pregnancy rates in England and Wales
have fallen to an 11-year low in all age
groups, except one: only women in their
40s are bucking the tend. According
to the Office for National Statistics,
the conception rate among over-40s
rose from 15.1 per 1,000 women in
2015 to 15.4 in 2016, owing to more
women deciding to delay motherhood.
Since 1990, the number of pregnancies
recorded among women over 40 has
more than doubled, from 12,032 to
28,744. Meanwhile, at the other end of
the spectrum, pregnancy rates among
teenagers, in decline for some time,
fell even further in 2016: there were
18.9 conceptions per 1,000 women aged
15-17, the lowest since such records
began in 1969. There were 45,495 under18 pregnancies in 1969, but only 18,076
in 2016. Among under-16s, the number
has fallen from 8,139 in 1990 to 2,821 in
2016 – a decrease of 65%.
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
Pick of the week’s
Sean Penn’s literary career
has not got off to a good
start. The film star has just
published his debut novel
and it is getting a drubbing.
Bob Honey Who Just Do
Stuff is apparently an
unsubtle satire on
contemporary America.
Reviewers have described
it as “repellent”, “stupid”
and “crazy”. One sentence,
selected as an example by
The New York Times, reads:
“There is pride to be had
where the prejudicial is
practised with precision
in the trenchant triage of
tactile terminations.”
Kim Kardashian will always
look flawless – even if she
is “out of it” in her dotage.
The reality TV star (pictured)
has made a living will,
which specifies that
beauticians must attend to
her, even when she is dying.
“I made a section that... [if]
I can’t even communicate...
I need my hair, my nails and
my make-up done,” she told
Elle. “I want to look as good
as possible.”
Paul Bremer was vilified for
plunging Iraq into turmoil
after the fall of Saddam
Hussein. But now, George
W. Bush’s “viceroy” has a
new career: aged 76, he is
working as a ski instructor
in Vermont. He applied for
the job through the normal
channels, and the ski school’s
owner noted that he “skied
well and had a friendly,
patient demeanour”. It
was only when the owner
saw that Bremer had listed
Donald Rumsfeld and Henry
Kissinger as his former
employers that he realised
that this candidate was a bit
unusual. Bremer says he
is “very rarely” recognised
on the slopes and that he
“loves” his new job. “It’s
a lot of fun.”
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
Talking points
The “rugby rape trial”: no winners
Nothing attracts attention like
questions. One is about the
celebrity, so when two rugby
treatment of complainants:
internationals were accused
watching this young woman
of raping and assaulting a
being cross-examined by four
19-year-old student, after
lawyers for eight days, you
a night out in Belfast in June
could forget that she was only
2016, it was likely to make
a witness, and not the suspect.
the front pages, said Susan
Another is about the meaning
McKay in The Irish Times.
of consent in a “lad culture” in
And so it proved: for weeks
which women seem to be seen
the “rugby rape trial” was all
as no more than objects to be
anyone seemed to be talking
used. At the same time as the
about in Belfast. And as the
woman, who’d gone home
accused – Paddy Jackson, 26,
crying and bleeding, was
and Stuart Olding, 25 – had
sending distressed messages to
played for Ireland as well as
one of her friends about what
Ulster, this was true in Dublin
had happened to her that
too. Last week, following a
night, the rugby players were
Paddy Jackson after his acquittal
42-day trial that had contained
boasting to their mates about
many sordid moments, including a discussion
being “top shaggers” and “legends”. “Any sluts
of what precisely constitutes “spit-roasting”,
get f***ed?” enquired one of their friends.
the pair were finally acquitted on all charges.
“There was a lot of spit roast last night,” said
But the legal saga carries on: Jackson’s lawyers
Jackson. “A merry-go-round at the carnival,”
have launched proceedings against an Irish
said Olding. “Pumped a bird with Jacko,”
senator for comments he made about the verdict
wrote a third defendant. “Roasted her.”
on social media and, following mass protests in
support of the complainant, they have also
There are no winners in this case, said Melanie
warned that they’ll sue anyone who uses the
Reid in The Times. Jackson and Olding were
hashtag #IBelieveHer, or in any other way
acquitted, but their careers may be over: they are
implies that Jackson was guilty, for defamation.
being investigated by the Irish rugby union for
bringing the game into disrepute. Meanwhile,
Let’s be clear, said Sian Norris in the New
the complainant – who’d worried the day after
Statesman: Jackson and Olding (and two others
the incident that if she reported it, her version
charged with lesser offences) are not guilty. The
of events would not be believed – has been
jury heard all the evidence, and that was its
humiliated in court, and identified and vilified
decision. Nevertheless, the case raises troubling
on social media. “I feel sorry for everyone.”
Remainers: running out of time
On 29 March 2019 – exactly a year from last
Thursday – Britain will leave the European
Union, said The Times. A transition deal has
already been agreed, but much of the heavy
lifting will have to be done in the coming
months. Ahead of the European summit in
October, the Government will need to have
negotiated a broad agreement on the shape of
the country’s future relationship with Europe
and solved the riddle of the Irish border. Four
huge pieces of Brexit legislation will have to
be put before Parliament: the withdrawal bill,
and separate bills on trade, customs and
immigration. In the meantime, “lorries will have
to keep rolling, aircraft will have to keep flying
and Britain’s financial services industry will
need to preserve access to the European single
market”. All in all, this “is a task that compares
to anything undertaken by a civilian government
since the Second World War”.
Effectively, we Remainers have just six months
to foil Brexit, said Timothy Garton Ash in The
Guardian. The promised “meaningful vote” in
Parliament on whatever deal that Britain and
the EU have cobbled together will come in the
autumn. If it is approved, we will have passed
the “point of no return”: we will have been
defeated, “amid a fog of confusion and deceit”.
So if you want to avoid Brexit, get hold of your
MP, or indeed any MPs you can find. “Corner
them in the street, accost them on the beaches,
hail them in the hills, energise them by email,
Facebook or Twitter.” Tell them to vote on their
honest assessment of the national interest. “Tell
them to refuse the populist lie that democracy
means one people, one vote, once.” Tell them
that their grandchildren will ask: “What did you
do in the great Brexit vote?” Tell them to push
for a second referendum.
“Remainers need to get over it,” said Simon
Heffer in The Sunday Telegraph. “They lost.”
The pro-Europeans are in denial and are
clutching at straws. The latest pathetic Remainer
claim is that voters had their minds turned by
dubious propaganda on social media during the
campaign. They seem to have forgotten the huge
sums of taxpayers’ money that were spent on
scaremongering for Remain. MPs need to
accept the result. “A second referendum
would have the same effect on the health of
our democracy as tanks in front of the Palace of
Westminster.” We shall see, said Peter Foster in
The Daily Telegraph. The most difficult part of
the negotiations is still to come. The outcome of
talks over the future trade deal and over Ireland
is genuinely uncertain. “As any mountaineer
knows, the hardest part of reaching the summit
is the final ascent.”
Talking points
Winnie Mandela: a chequered legacy
You’re not meant to speak
define the anti-apartheid cause.
ill of the dead, said Andrew
Winnie was unquestionably
Malone in the Daily Mail,
one of those who helped “turn
but I’m going to make an
the tide” against apartheid
exception for Winnie
while her husband was locked
Mandela, who died this week
away, agreed Zubeida Jaffer
at the age of 81. The woman
on the Independent Online
was a monster. At her state
(Cape Town) – and she did
funeral, scheduled to take
so at a terrible personal cost.
place in South Africa next
She was arrested herself in
weekend, the self-styled
1969 and imprisoned for
“mother of the nation” will
18 months, 13 of them in
be hailed for her part in the
solitary confinement. She
fight against apartheid. Yet
was beaten and constantly
the reality is that she was a
hounded by the police, and,
“toxic” individual who spent
following another five-month
decades preaching hatred and
jail term in 1976, she was
“Hardened” by years of injustice?
seeking to cash in on the name
banished for eight years
of her estranged husband,
to live in the remote white
Nelson Mandela. Her most infamous period was town of Brandfort. As a journalist critical of
in the 1980s, when she formed Mandela United
the apartheid regime, I endured a small fraction
Football Club. Supposedly an amateur football
of this harassment myself for a decade, and
team, it comprised a bunch of thugs who, from
witnessed “how my personality and whole being
her home in Soweto, dispensed vigilante justice
changed”. No wonder Winnie “hardened”.
at her capricious, often drunken, behest. The
group was linked to numerous atrocities,
That Nelson Mandela, by contrast, remained
including the abduction and murder of a
gracious in the face of terrible racial injustice
14-year-old boy, Stompie Moeketsi, in 1989.
shows what an “extraordinary human being” he
was, said The Scotsman. Although he described
Winnie can justly be criticised for her “rogue
it as “a great tragedy to spend the best years of
later life”, said Peter Hain in The Guardian,
your life in prison”, he also said: “Forgiveness
but we should not overlook the “courage”
liberates the soul, it removes fear. That’s why
she showed as a young activist. After marrying
it’s such a powerful weapon.” When he died
Nelson Mandela in 1958, and during his years
in 2013, black and white South Africans alike
of imprisonment from 1962, she campaigned
mourned his passing. “Far fewer will mourn the
fearlessly against apartheid and did much to
passing of Ms Madikizela-Mandela.”
Pope Francis: in hot water over hell
the Pope before. In fact, Francis
On Maundy Thursday, the Vatican
is on record confirming hell’s
began, quite literally, to fall apart,
existence (he once warned the
said Joe Roberts in Metro. Easter
Mafia that they could be heading
worshippers had to duck for cover
there), said Christopher Lamb in
as bits of plaster rained down on
The Tablet. And yet, that he might
the floor of St Peter’s Basilica. No
have referred to something along
one was hurt, but some may have
those lines is not impossible. As
taken it as a sign, coming as it
pope, Francis has long sought to
did hours after Pope Francis was
present God as more merciful than
reported – on the front page of
judgemental. He wants to attract
an Italian newspaper – to have
people to the Church – but in so
denied a central tenet of Catholic
doing, he must not alienate the
doctrine: the existence of hell.
conservative faithful. His solution
In a conversation with his friend
is to hint at progressive reforms
Eugenio Scalfari – the 93-year-old
in an easily deniable context.
co-founder of La Repubblica –
The pontiff: going rogue?
Outsiders get the impression that
Francis supposedly said that rather
the Church is opening up but, officially, nothing
than being condemned to spending eternity in
is changing, and so his internal critics, although
an “unquenchable fire”, separated from God,
the souls of the unrepentant simply “disappear”. irritated, have no grounds for complaint.
Did the Pope really say that hell does not exist?
The Vatican has warned that Scalfari’s report is
not a “faithful transcription of the words of the
Holy Father”, and the veteran journalist – an
avowed atheist – is known for not taking notes,
said Jason Horowitz in The New York Times.
Instead, he likes to “reconstruct” conversations
from memory; he has admitted that he makes
mistakes, and has been accused of misquoting
Francis’s willingness to “go rogue” has at times
been effective, said Tara Isabella Burton on Vox.
For instance, by responding to questions about
gay Catholics by asking, “Who am I to judge?”,
he managed “to offer comfort to people in need
without challenging Church doctrine”. But he
must be careful. Each time he uses Scalfari as a
“potential mouthpiece for heterodox thought”
it renders the Vatican’s denials less plausible.
Wit &
“Ah yes, divorce: from
the Latin word meaning
to rip out a man’s genitals
through his wallet.”
Robin Williams, quoted in
The Daily Telegraph
“So convenient a thing to be
a reasonable creature, since
it enables one to find or
make a reason for every
thing one has a mind to do.”
Benjamin Franklin,
quoted in the
San Francisco Chronicle
“TV sex is rarely realistic:
I mean, who really knocks
all the breakfast crockery
off the kitchen table?”
Carol Midgley in The Times
“You can cut all the
flowers, but you cannot
keep spring from coming.”
Pablo Neruda, quoted in
The Paris Review
“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the
good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
William Shakespeare,
quoted in
The Washington Post
“Somebody should tell us,
right at the start of our lives,
that we are dying. Then we
might live life to the limit,
every minute of every day.”
Pope Paul VI, quoted in the
Montreal Gazette
“A leader takes people
where they want to go.
A great leader takes
people where they don’t
necessarily want to go,
but ought to be.”
Rosalynn Carter, quoted
“Every creator painfully
experiences the chasm
between his inner vision
and its ultimate expression.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer,
quoted in the I newspaper
Statistic of the week
Passengers on British flights
were responsible for
417 serious air rage incidents
last year. Almost threequarters of the incidents
involved alcohol.
The Times/Civil
Aviation Authority
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
Boxing: Joshua’s “most mature win”
Anthony Joshua’s “ascent to the summit” of
heavyweight boxing continues, said Gareth A.
Davies in The Sunday Telegraph. Last Saturday,
the 28-year-old from Watford defeated Joseph
Parker on points to claim the World Boxing
Organisation heavyweight title. Little separated
the two boxers at the halfway mark, but in the
later rounds it was Joshua’s jab – as well as his
superior fitness and stamina – that “proved the
difference”. Just 21 fights into his career, Joshua
now holds three of the four major heavyweight
titles, leaving him one short of unifying them.
he “controlled the action with his left hand”.
The boxer intends to rule the heavyweight
division for the next decade – and “you
don’t do that by being punched in the head
too often”. It’s not as if Parker was “an easy
opponent”, said Oliver Holt in The Mail on
Sunday. The 26-year-old New Zealander had
won all 24 of his previous fights. But Joshua
always finds a way to beat his opponents
– whether it is “a hulking lump, or a lithe,
quick, elusive fighter like Parker”. He is
moving “closer and closer to greatness”.
For Joshua to be considered a great, he needs
Truth be told, this wasn’t a “classic” bout, said
Sean Ingle in The Observer. It lacked intensity
Anthony Joshua: “closer to greatness” to unify the titles, said Ron Lewis. And to
do that, he must defeat Deontay Wilder, the
and drama. But that’s because every time it
American who holds the World Boxing Council heavyweight
“threatened to ignite”, it was broken up by Giuseppe
crown. Negotiations for a fight between the men are due to start
Quartarone, the incompetent referee, said Matthew Syed in
soon, but don’t hold your breath: a clash between Lennox Lewis
The Times. He couldn’t see the two men come to blows without
and Mike Tyson “came too late for it to be competitive”; Floyd
“feeling an itch to dive into the middle of the action” in one of
Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao only met “four years after
the worst refereeing performances in years. This might not have
they were at their peak”. Unlike the Parker contest, Joshua vs.
been Joshua’s most thrilling performance, said Ron Lewis in the
Wilder could be a fight for the ages, said Paul Hayward in The
same paper. Yet it was, in many ways, his “most mature win”.
Sunday Telegraph. The two “leading giants” of their sport, they
True, he was cautious – but there was simply “no need” for him
are both unbeaten. For years, heavyweight boxing was written
to take risks. Parker tried to set traps with his head movement,
off as “a dead attraction”. But now, with Joshua, Wilder and
making it difficult for Joshua to throw the right hand “without
Parker, it has “revived itself”.
over-committing”. But Joshua didn’t fall for that; instead,
Cricket: Australia in the dock
what they were doing – even Bancroft, the youngest
“No one died, no one doped, no one fixed,” said
of the trio. And it’s hard to stomach the “hysteria”
Andy Bull in The Guardian. The only thing the
in Australia, said Vic Marks in The Observer. The
Australian cricket team tried to do was cheat, and
country is in a state of shock. But did Australians
they didn’t even manage that – Cameron Bancroft’s
never countenance “the possibility that their side
attempt to scuff the ball, in the third Test against
might cheat by tampering with the ball”? It’s not
South Africa, was so ineffective that the umpires
as if this scandal came out of nowhere: the team
didn’t “feel the need” to change it. Yet you wouldn’t
had been suspected of tampering during the Ashes.
know that from the extraordinary fallout of this
scandal. Australia’s coach, Darren Lehmann, has
We still haven’t got to the bottom of the tampering,
quit. The trio blamed for the ball-tampering have
said Nick Hoult in The Sunday Telegraph. Cricket
all been banned – ex-captain Steve Smith and
Australia, the Australian governing body, wants
ex-vice-captain David Warner for a year, Bancroft
for nine months. Most shocking of all has been the
Steve Smith: “a broken man” us to believe this was “a one-off”. It insists the three
men acted alone – even though they “cooked up the
sight of these macho Australians breaking down in
tears at press conferences: Smith appeared “almost overcome with plot” at lunch, with “support staff, other players and officials
milling around”. Warner, the ringleader, has offered few clues
suffering”. He is “a broken man”. It was a “heart-wrenching”
about how the plan was hatched. This scandal will be “the subject
sight all right, said Paul Newman in the Daily Mail. But we
of conspiracy theories and speculation” for years to come.
shouldn’t “shed any tears” for these players. They knew exactly
How Ireland dominates European rugby
Sporting headlines
Ireland are “going places”, said
and lock James Ryan, were
Robert Kitson in The Guardian.
“again the stars”.
Last month, their rugby team
Remarkably, three of the four
sealed a Six Nations Grand
teams in the semi-finals play in
Slam with a thumping win over
the Pro14, a domestic league
England. And in the Champions
that features clubs from Ireland,
Cup, Europe’s elite club
Wales and other countries, said
competition, they are “mirrorPaul Rees in The Guardian. The
ing” that success. On Sunday,
two Irish sides will be joined by
Leinster defeated Saracens
the Welsh club Scarlets, as well
30-19 to secure a place in the
as French side Racing 92. The
Dan Leavy (left): a “star”
semi-finals, alongside the Irish
league was once thought to
club Munster; their win ensured that for the first
“contain more froth than substance” – but it
time in six years, there are no English teams in
is now putting English teams to shame. That’s
the last four. Saracens had won the last two
because, apart from a few elite teams, standards
Champions Cups, said Owen Slot in The Times.
in the Pro14 are so low, said Stephen Jones in
Yet, on this occasion, they were mastered by a
The Sunday Times. In many matches, top clubs
side playing “powerful, smart, accurate rugby”.
can afford to rest their best players, keeping
Two of Leinster’s Irish “young gems” who
them fresh for European ties. In the Premiership,
impressed in the Six Nations, flanker Dan Leavy
by contrast, “teams dare not relax”.
Cricket England lost their
series against New Zealand
1-0, following a draw in the
second Test.
Football West Brom
manager Alan Pardew left
the club, following an eighth
successive defeat in the
Premier League. Tottenham
beat Chelsea 3-1. Manchester
City beat Everton 3-1.
Tennis At the age of 32,
American player John Isner
won the Miami Open to
claim his first Masters
1000 title. In the women’s
competition, American
Sloane Stephens beat
Jelena Ostapenko from
Latvia in straight sets.
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
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I’ve had a soft spot for Haynes Hanson and
Clark (HHC) since founder Anthony Hanson
introduced me to the delights of Burgundy’s
Morey St Denis. Long considered the least
glamorous of the major red Cotes de Nuits
Burgundy regions, it has been overlooked by
the more renowned places such as Vosne-Romanee, ChambolleMusigny, Nuits-St-Georges and Gevrey-Chambertin.
HHC also have some brilliant exclusive agencies, such as
for Raveneau, the greatest maker of Chablis. It is all very well
to seek out the greatest examples of specific wine regions, but
Ch. La Rocaille Graves,
Bordeaux 2015 Pomerol, along
with Graves, are my favourite
wine regions of Bordeaux.
When fully mature, Graves
possesses as a unique burnt
smoke flavour – akin to what I
call tarbacco. Château La
Rocaille has been in the
Lamaison family for four
generations, who have made
their name both with wine-making and
training racehorses. There is a liveliness
and uplifting freshness, helped no doubt
by the glorious nature of the 2015
vintage. This wine will last for a few
more years but begs to be drunk now
with any red or white meats.
Chianti Colli Senesi 2015 Chianti
remains my favourite Italian
wine, thanks to its uninhibited
fruitiness and ability to enhance
virtually any dining experience.
The Sangiovese grape may reach
greater heights when used in
Brunello di Montalcino, but I
don’t want to wait more than a
decade before touching it. This
estate is a few miles south of
Siena and only produces couple of
hundred cases annually. With its bright
ruby colour, attractive floral and red
cherry aromas and a fresh palate, this
2015 wine is superb and ready to drink
now. It boasts real depth, a silky texture
and smooth, well-balanced tannins
– extraordinarily good value.
most of the time we must satisfy ourselves with lesser-known
great examples for a fraction of the price. The Daniel Dampt
Premier Cru Chablis is a case in point, which delivers amazing
quality at a bargain price. All of the wines I’ve chosen for
April are excellent examples of their type, for prices that
make them desirable on a regular basis, rather
than trophy wines that only pass our lips on
special occasions.
per bottle
Bruce Palling
Wine Editor — The Week Wines
unctuous, it’s perfect with light fish
Chateau Valflaunes,
dishes or simply by itself.
Esperance Pic Saint Loup
2015 Interestingly, Proprietor
Riesling Steinterrassen 2016
Fabien Reboul spent a
Riesling is an extraordinarily
decade making wine in
versatile grape, much maligned
Burgundy, the Rhône,
because it’s wrongly assumed
Oregon and New Zealand
to be inevitably sweet. This
before establishing himself
Austrian estate has been
in France’s Languedoc. I
around for approximately 500
suspect his experience with
years and falls very much into
the Pinot Noir grape has
the crisp and dry spectrum. It is
helped him create a lighter balanced
actually owned by the
wine rather than in the usually heavier
municipality of Krems and its
Rhone style. It would be easy to
35 hectares of vines fall within the city
mistake this as a well-made Crozeslimits. There is a delightful lemon and
Hermitage from the northern
grapefruit edge to it, which enhances
Rhone, with its excellent floral
its stony freshness on the palate. The
overtones. Yet again, an excellent
perfect Riesling to convert any sceptics.
wine enhanced by being from the
exceptional 2015 vintage.
Chablis Premier Cru Dampt
2016 Good Chablis is one of
Basa Blanco, Rueda, Telmo
the most life-enhancing wines
Rodriguez 2016 I admit to
available anywhere in
having quite a lot to learn
Burgundy. This is pure, classic
Premier Cru Chablis with no
haven’t been exposed to many
oak barrels used, which
of them, making it all the
means there’s more
more pleasurable when I
opportunity for the fruit to be
realize how intriguing they
unvarnished. Daniel Dampt
can be. Telmo Rodriguez
and his sons are renowned for
made quite a name for
the purity of their wines, which have
himself by focusing on local
the minerally zinginess defining all
grape varieties in the Navarra region
great Chablis. The 2016 vintage was hit
before heading south to Rueda. This
hard by hail and frost and production
fresh lively wine is a blend of 90%
levels were way down. This is
Verdejo and the rest from Viura. It has
remarkable value for one of the better
a clean citrusy backbone with peach
premier cru Chablis of the vintage.
like flavours. The opposite of
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Forget trophy wines - these are superb examples of regular priced wines!
Pick of the week’s correspondence
Gambling with children
To The Times
As Alice Thomson points out,
children are being groomed
to gamble online, but they
are also being bombarded by
gambling advertising on TV.
The UK gambling industry
spent £312m on advertising
in 2016 – a 63% increase since
2012. Gambling advertising
on TV in the UK has increased
by 43% since 2012, and a
great deal is shown in the
commercial breaks of live
sporting events. Some 95%
of TV advert breaks during live
UK football matches feature at
least one gambling advert.
Perhaps we should follow
Australia and ban gambling
advertising during televised
live sport as well as for a
period before and after the
event is shown. The inevitable
consequences of allowing this
normalisation of gambling
to go unchecked will be an
increase in problem gamblers,
mental health issues, financial
distress and family breakdown.
Lord Chadlington, House of
Lords, London
We must be avenged
To The Daily Telegraph
Nick Timothy is correct in
saying that our whole criminal
justice system is flawed, but
he misses one vital point: the
need for retribution.
Today, retribution is
regarded as unacceptable,
with rehabilitation the sine
qua non, but any justice system
that ignores this requirement
loses public support.
Our primitive ancestors
understood this. Crime
hurts, and the hurt is
doubled if victims see the
guilty free and laughing
while their pain persists. But
personal vengeance destroys
communities. Our ancestors
therefore took from the
individual the right to pursue
their own justice in return for
a contract from the community
that it would avenge their hurt.
For decades now, society
has reneged on its side of
the contract. Crimes are
left uninvestigated and the
criminals let off lightly, while
the victims’ suffering persists.
The desire for retribution
may be ignoble, but it is
human and must be humanely
accommodated. As with John
Worboys, our justice system
Exchange of the week
The legacy of the slave trade
To The Guardian
Kris Manjapra’s excellent article on the slave trade reminds us
of some uncomfortable contemporary truths. One is that many
political and business “leaders” are where they are in part
because their families benefited from the slave trade; millionaire
and ex-PM David Cameron is only one such beneficiary.
Another truth is that business has always been able to exert
pressure to ensure its interests are put before those of slaves.
Professor Gary Craig, York
To The Guardian
It would be no exaggeration to say that the entire Atlantic
economy of former times, from which Britain profited more
than most, was based on slave labour. Far from representing
the new birth of freedom, what the discovery of the Americas
brought about was a new birth of slavery. In the settlement
of the New World prior to 1820, Africans outnumbered
Europeans by roughly five to one. So the typical American
settler was neither a swaggering entrepreneur nor a Biblewielding puritan, but a terrified African captive.
Where Manjapra errs is in applying today’s moral
assumptions to the past. What was truly extraordinary about
abolition was not that Parliament paid £20m to slave owners,
but that it put paid to a system that had served Britain well
in the past, and would doubtless have continued doing so.
Parliament’s ex gratia payment was the least of the sacrifices
involved. By withdrawing, first from the slave trade and
then by freeing its slaves, Britain was effectively handing
over lucrative markets to its continental rivals.
The result, clearly seen at the time, was the economic
ruin of the British West Indies, the rise of Cuba as the world’s
principal slave importer and sugar producer, and higher costs
to British consumers.
Howard Temperley, Norwich
must go back to asking: has the
criminal’s punishment matched
and outlasted their victim’s
pain? If not, why not?
Victor Launert, Matlock Bath,
Depending on migrants
To The Times
Philip Collins is right that
trust in immigration policy
needs confidence about
individual identity and
entitlement, but all his
arguments assume that Britain
will remain permanently
dependent on large-scale
migration. Immigration can be
beneficial if selective, but need
never be massive. The present
dependency is pathological
and unnecessary. The NHS is
unique in Europe in depending
on foreign staff since its
inception, as a badly planned
and poorly funded nationalised
industry. We can and should
train most of our own.
Dependency on EU
migration is new since the late
1990s. It arises from a sudden
huge expansion of labour
willing to take on low-paid,
low-skill jobs, to the detriment
of productivity, investment and
the interests of the poorer
sections of the population.
This expansion, substantially
subsidised by the taxpayer,
gave employers little incentive
to invest in the modern highproductivity activities needed
for the future. Easy access to
labour allowed the same old
things to be done in the same
old way. For future prosperity,
that cannot be allowed to
David Coleman,
emeritus professor
of demography,
University of Oxford
South divide” in secondary
school educational attainment.
The only significant divide
in England is the one between
London and the rest of the
country. And for the few
people still left interested
in basing national policy
on facts, there is an emphatic
answer to the question,
“Why are London schools
so successful?” The research
conducted by Professor
Simon Burgess for the
University of Bristol into the
“London effect” showed that
the difference in pupil progress,
from the end of primary school
to the completion of GCSEs,
“is entirely accounted for
by ethnic composition” and
has been so for at least the
past decade.
White British pupils have the
lowest progress measure, both
in London and in the rest of
England. But whereas white
British pupils account for
about 85% of all pupils in
the rest of the country, they
account for only 35% in
London. Or, to put it more
bluntly, London schools have
on average almost two-and-ahalf times fewer of the lowestperforming pupils as schools in
the rest of England.
Teachers and head teachers
in London have worked very
hard over the years to raise
standards, but so have their
colleagues elsewhere in the
country. It doesn’t help them,
or their pupils and parents, to
have journalists and politicians,
and now the children’s
commissioner, ignoring the
most blatantly clear evidence
that the main reason why
London’s schools have been
so effective is a factor entirely
beyond their control.
Chris Dunne, retired London
head teacher
The real divide
To The Guardian
It is very dispiriting
to see the children’s
commissioner joining
the ranks of politicians,
journalists and other
commentators in
pointing the finger
at “poor” schools
to explain the “North-
“I ask you, are these the salmon
trousers of a sane man?”
● Letters have been edited
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
Review of reviews: Books
Book of the week
and cities, they created a new class
– the proletariat – whose struggles
would “dominate politics”. They
revolutionised work, acted as engines
by Joshua B. Freeman
of national advancement and enabled
“exclusive luxuries to be made widely
W.W. Norton & Co 448pp £22
Today, we tell ourselves we
The Week Bookshop £20
live in a “post-industrial” age, but the
truth is we’re as dependent on factories
For Thomas Carlyle, they were
as ever, said Jonathan Rose in The
emblems of “progress”; for William
Wall Street Journal. With the possible
Blake, they were “dark satanic mills”.
exception of artisanal cheese, nearly
As Joshua B. Freeman reminds us in
everything we consume is made in one,
Behemoth: A History of the Factory
and the proportion of the world’s
and the Making of the Modern World,
workforce in manufacturing jobs –
factories have always inspired mixed
Factories along Manchester Ship Canal in 1955 roughly 30% – is “as high as it has ever
feelings, prompting wonder and
been”. What has happened is simply
excitement, as well as anger and foreboding. Freeman opens
what always occurs when “labour costs rise and transportation
his account in 1721, when the Lombe brothers established what
costs fall”: the factories have relocated to “low-wage regions”.
was probably the world’s first factory – a silk mill in Derby.
And unlike the publicly celebrated “behemoths” of 20th century
From there, he moves to 19th century America and Soviet Russia,
America, the mega-factories of China and Vietnam keep their
before finishing in contemporary China. Overall, this is a “superb
work well hidden, said Jennifer Szalai in The New York Times.
account”, said Ian Jack in The Guardian. “Almost every page
Foxconn City, in Shenzhen, China, might well be the largest
contains a memorable fact or an intriguing thought.” Freeman’s
factory ever – employing an estimated 400,000 workers – but
global perspective enables him to avoid the “clichés of the
its operations are kept away from prying eyes. At the end of
purely national narrative” – which in Britain often means
this “rich and ambitious” book, Freeman laments the contrast
a disproportionate focus on the spinning jenny.
between today’s boring, “grimly functional” factories, and the
Our fascination with factories reflects the fact that they
more flamboyant styles of the past. They no longer represent – as
genuinely transformed the world, said Alex Colville in The
they often did, for all their faults – an “enlargement of the human
Spectator. By cramming “unprecedented multitudes” into towns
spirit”. Instead, he writes, they “symbolise its diminishment”.
The Prodigal Tongue
Novel of the week
by Lynne Murphy
Oneworld 368pp £16.99
The Week Bookshop £14.99
by Leo Benedictus
Faber 240pp £12.99
As a US-born linguistics professor who has spent
most of her adult life in Britain, Lynne Murphy is
often on the receiving end of complaints from Brits
about “Americans ruining the language”, said
Michael Skapinker in the Financial Times. In The
Prodigal Tongue, she puts this experience to good
use, offering a “witty and erudite account of the
relationship between these two anglophone tribes”.
On the whole, Murphy is sceptical of the claim that
American English is, as Prince Charles once said,
“very corrupting”. She points out that most Brits who complain about phrases
such as “singing from the same hymn sheet”, “360-degree thinking” and “flag
it up” are unaware that they originated in Britain. American English, she says,
often “hugs tradition more closely” than the British version does: Americans,
for instance, still use the past participle “gotten” (long since abandoned here)
and often “employ the subjunctive” (ditto). Murphy’s “deep learning”, which
is always “lightly worn”, ensures that her book is more than just another
addition to the groaning library of “British-American moans and quirks”.
The Prodigal Tongue is full of detail and colour, and its discussion of food
is especially illuminating, said Rose Wild in The Times. Soup, in America, is
apparently “broth”; a sandwich can mean “something savoury shoved between
all sorts of bready-type things”; while “burger” only ever refers to the chopped
meat between a bun, not the “meat and bun combined”. Yet entertaining as her
book is, Murphy faces a problem: it’s fair to assume that most of her potential
readers “fondly” subscribe to the myth that she sets out to debunk. She attacks
the myth quite hard, exposing it as a tissue of “snobbery and prejudice” – and
thus runs the risk of leaving her readers feeling “battered and abused”.
The Week Bookshop £11.99
“Creepy, obsessive, insidiously persistent:
stalkers deserve a prominent place in any
catalogue of contemporary social evils,” said
Barry Forshaw in the Financial Times. Leo
Benedictus “expertly taps” into the unease that
they inspire in his second novel, a “queasily
compelling” thriller about a man who, having
been made a multimillionaire by an unexpected
legacy, undertakes elaborate campaigns of
surveillance against unsuspecting women.
While the premise may seem familiar – from
John Fowles’s The Collector, among other
novels – Consent is distinguished by its
“horribly chummy” narrative voice and
Benedictus’s ingeniously constructed story.
Like his “excellent” debut The Afterparty,
a postmodern satire on celebrity culture, this
is a novel that plays with the conventions of
the form, said Alex Preston in The Observer.
With great subtlety and wit, Benedictus shows
us how close our own “relentless curiosity”
about his characters is to the “deranged
obsessions” of his narrator. The result is
“unusual and enormously compelling”.
To order these titles or any other book in print, visit or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835
Opening times: Mon to Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-5.30pm and Sun 10am-2pm
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
Theatre: The Inheritance
Young Vic, The Cut, London SE1 (020-7922 2922). Until 19 May Running time: part 1, 3hrs 20mins; part 2, 3hrs 35mins
To watch Matthew Lopez’s
with tremendous warmth and
dazzling two-part, seven-hour
generosity. Andrew Burnap as
play, is to “pass from engaged
his “fabulously vain” writer
but detached interest into a
lover is also superb. And
realm of total absorption before
Vanessa Redgrave, in a late
arriving at a state of emotionally
cameo, turns what might have
shattered but elated awe”, said
seemed a “glib intertextual
Dominic Cavendish in The Daily
reference” to the film of
Telegraph. The Inheritance –
Howards End into something
given its world premiere in
“strangely, sadly luminous”.
this immaculate production by
Comparisons with Tony
Stephen Daldry – is an American
Kushner’s modern epic Angels
epic of gay men’s lives past and
in America are inevitable – and
present, inspired (explicitly) by
justified, said Henry Hitchings
E.M. Forster’s Howards End.
in the London Evening
It’s an engrossing “theatrical
Standard. But The Inheritance
Kyle Soller (left) shines in an immaculate production
marathon” that instantly
has a “bruising seriousness and
emerges as a modern classic;
salty charisma that are very
“perhaps the most important American play of the century so
much its own”. It’s not flawless, said Andrzej Lukowski in Time
far”. All the more stunning is that a dramatic work so unabashed
Out. At times you feel Lopez is papering over a few cracks with
in its political commitments always “makes you feel you’re living
“good jokes” and speedy pacing. Yet he does “pull something
and breathing the issues”, but never being lectured on them.
transcendent out of the bag – a vision of a long, sad tragedy, of
Although basing his play around an interlocking group of
an inheritance lost”. This is a “monumental achievement”.
six gay men, Lopez sticks closely to the plotting and themes of
The week’s other opening
Forster’s masterpiece, said Holly Williams on What’s On Stage.
Ruthless! The Musical Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street,
This is a grand saga (with all the “soapy addictiveness” of a
London WC2 (020-7836 8463). Until 23 June
“Netflix binge”) about the battle between liberal idealism and
Making its West End premiere, Ruthless! is a “pantomimic,
the individual; about what it means to live a purposeful life; and
over-the-top, garishly coloured“ takedown of show business that
– in Lopez’s “super-smart” telling – the historic silencing of gay
is both “gruesome and delightful”. The plot may be “shonky”,
voices and gay art. The piece “sweeps you up completely” and the
but the performances are “sublime” (What’s On Stage).
whole cast shine – above all Kyle Soller, who plays the hero, Eric,
Courtney Marie
Andrews: May
Your Kindness
Loose Music
Kim Wilde: Here
Come the Aliens
Records £9.99
Brahms: The
Orchestra, cond.
Robin Ticciati
Linn Records
This 27-year-old Arizona native released
a handful of albums that “went mostly
unheard” before breaking through with
Honest Life in 2016, said Will Hodgkinson
in The Times. That excellent record
“pitched her as a modern Linda Ronstadt,
evoking vulnerability, romance and some
well-timed cracks in her warbling vibrato”.
On this new album, mixing “rollicking
country-rock” and “country-soul”,
Andrews more than confirms her promise.
It’s a “brilliant record, proof that old
forms can still be timeless”, agreed Michael
Hann in The Guardian. Andrews has an
“unusual intensity”, as if forever on “the
brink of eruption”. There’s a wonderful
moment a few minutes into the title track,
when a stately ballad “suddenly explodes”
into a simple but “massively reverbed”
guitar solo. This rumbling guitar sound – as
if Phil Spector had decided to create a “wall
of country” – echoes through Andrews’s
album, giving it an extra “oomph” and
identity in an already “excellent” period
for country music.
Pop Don’t Stop, the single from Kim
Wilde’s comeback album, has the 1980s
star describing the joy that making music
has brought her. “It’s a sweet sentiment,”
said Lisa Verrico in The Sunday Times,
but entirely unnecessary, given that every
song on the record “fizzes with fun”. Much
of the music – new wave, power-rock riffs,
twinkly synths and boisterous backing
vocals – hark back to the 1980s. Yet it is
Kim Wilde’s “infectious effervescence”
that really captures the spirit of that
decade’s pop scene. Here Come the Aliens
is packed with “silly lyrics, sound effects”
and, crucially, bags of personality.
The album is Wilde’s first “proper crack at
the UK market” in a couple of decades, said
Thomas H. Green on The Arts Desk. It’s an
“ebullient outing, exploding with sugary
kicks from the off”, packed with “glittery,
catchy, unabashed pop songs”. Wilde
– still one of the most unambiguously
likeable women in pop – is out on tour,
and the songs here no doubt “make a zippy
addition to her performance armoury”.
I wouldn’t normally recommend listening
to all four of Brahms’s symphonies back to
back, said Erica Jeal in The Guardian. “Too
much of a good thing”, and, in the hands of
most conductors, too much that sounds the
same. In the case of this thrilling new feast
of a recording from Robin Ticciati and the
Scottish Chamber Orchestra, however,
I would advise listeners to “gorge away”.
The conducting is meticulously thought
through and yet beautifully light; the
playing is “unfailingly vivid”; and the sheer
“range of sound” is utterly phenomenal.
Ticciati has cannily used a range of period
techniques and instruments, including
small-bore horns, said Geoff Brown in The
Times. And as we have come to expect from
the Linn label, the quality of the recording
“enhances the musical splendours”.
Ticciati’s team spent two weeks in the
Usher Hall in Edinburgh working in studio
conditions – “time and care very well spent,
for this is a set that sweeps aside recent
rivals, brilliantly illuminating Brahms’s
textures and making the familiar new”.
Stars reflect the overall quality of reviews and our own independent assessment (4 stars=don’t miss; 1 star=don’t bother)
THE WEEK 7April 2018
CDs of the week: three new releases
Isle of Dogs
Dir: Wes Anderson
1hr 41mins (PG)
Wes Anderson’s
soulful labour of love
Player One
Dir: Steven Spielberg
2hrs 20mins (12A)
A virtual-reality
adrenaline rush
Dir: Kay Cannon
1hr 42mins (15)
Silly, bawdy, highly
entertaining comedy
The Bachelors
Dir: Kurt Voelker
1hr 37mins (15)
Drama of loss and love
with J.K. Simmons
Wes Anderson’s “entrancing” new stop-motion
animation is a “joyous and visually splendid” tribute
to man’s best friend, said Nick de Semlyen in Empire.
It is largely set on Trash Island, a desolate Japanese
prison colony, where hordes of dogs have been exiled
by the villainous Mayor Kobayashi. The dogs are
voiced by a slew of well-known stars, including Bryan
Cranston (as the aggressive Chief), Edward Norton,
Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
When the mayor’s feisty nephew crash-lands on the
island in search of his missing pet, Spots, he becomes
the focus for a canine mission that develops into a
rebellion. For once, Anderson has “exited his comfort zone”, said Tim Robey in The Daily
Telegraph. His latest offering is far darker than the whimsical fare familiar to fans of The Grand
Budapest Hotel – and all the better for it. Like much of Anderson’s oeuvre, Isle of Dogs offers
“a feast for the eyes”, but “little for the heart”, said Deborah Ross in The Spectator. The potpourri
of influences, pairing scenes of sumo wrestling and kabuki theatre with Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé
suite, is “startling” at times, said Tom Shone in The Sunday Times. But this “dippy, soulful labour
of love” grows on you, like a “shelter mutt” who “ends up being the one you take home”.
He still has “the old magic”, said Tom Shone in
The Sunday Times. Steven Spielberg’s new film is
an energetic adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel – a
book so full of references to 1980s culture, not least
to Spielberg movies, there was a risk this could have
been a festival of self-love. And at times you do feel
you’re engaged in a “pop culture study session”.
Tye Sheridan plays Wade Watts, a plucky kid
who escapes the dystopian reality of life in 2045 by
spending time in the virtual-reality world of Oasis
– involving 1980s-themed planets and glamorous
alternative identities. If he can find three magical keys
hidden by Oasis’s late co-creator (Mark Rylance) and evade the attempts of the villainous Sorrento
(Ben Mendelsohn) to stop him, he will earn immense riches and control of Oasis. The film will
delight nerds nostalgic for that decade, said Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent. Coming so soon
after Spielberg’s weighty The Post, it’s a reminder of the great man’s “versatility”. Well, it may work
as a “machine for administering adrenaline”, said Nigel Andrews in the FT. But that’s no substitute
for a drama with characters you care about. I’m afraid I found the whole thing spectacularly dull.
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t expected to find this film
quite so enjoyable, said Brian Viner in the Daily Mail.
Blockers is a silly, bawdy, highly entertaining comedy
in which three parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena and
Ike Barinholtz) discover that their teenage daughters
have made a pact to lose their virginities on prom
night. The horrified grown-ups vow to block this
cataclysm – by whatever means necessary. The added
twist of parental intervention makes for an enjoyable
“updating” of the “teen raunch-comedy formula”,
said Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph. This “multiplex-filler” blends belly laughs – notably when the
muscular Cena finds himself agreeing to a “butt-chugging” contest – with some “surprisingly tender
acting and writing”. The standout performance comes from Barinholtz, whose impeccable comic
timing repeatedly elevates his dialogue. To its credit, Blockers avoids the more obvious plot twists,
and there is “zero moral finger-wagging”, said Olly Richards in Empire. Most impressively of all,
this is a comedy in which every character is “both amusing and sympathetic”. That’s “quite a feat”.
The main reason to see this likeable if “thoroughly
predictable” comedy-drama is another nuanced
performance from J.K. Simmons, “one of the best
character actors in contemporary American cinema”,
said Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent. Simmons
plays Bill, an ageing maths teacher suffering from
chronic depression following the death of his wife.
But when he moves to Los Angeles with Wes, his
teenage son (Josh Wiggins), to take up a teaching
job, he starts to have feelings for the eccentric French
teacher (Julie Delpy), while Wes falls for troubled
classmate Lacy (Odeya Rush). But are they ready for
romance? What follows is “hugely syrupy and contrived, with some borderline ridiculous cathartic
confrontations”, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. Wes’s progress as a runner makes for a
“corny” metaphor about fighting through the pain of loss, said Simran Hans in The Observer.
But thanks to “strong performances” from the ensemble cast, The Bachelors is “still moving stuff”.
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
Exhibition of the week Damien Hirst
Houghton Hall, Houghton, Norfolk (01485-528569, Until 15 July
With his sculptures of dead
they consist of dots
sharks and dissected cows,
of colour scattered
Damien Hirst “turned art
haphazardly across white
on its head” in the 1990s,
backgrounds – a contrast
said Mark Hudson in The
to the mechanical precision
Daily Telegraph. He has
of Hirst’s earlier spot
since made a fortune, but
paintings. Their “jolly
his critical reputation has
colours” certainly “jazz
nosedived: every successive
up” the place, but taken
show he has mounted of
individually they seem
late has attracted worse
little more than “banal
reviews than the last,
sheets of splotchy dots”,
culminating in an exhibition
impressive only for their
in Venice last year that was
“perceived monetary
“so lame it actually made
value”. That’s putting
me feel sorry for the world’s
it mildly, said Michael
richest artist”. Given this
Glover in The Independent.
fall from grace, you may
No amount of “ancestral
reasonably write him off
clutter” can disguise
as an irrelevance. But as
quite how “awful” these
a new exhibition, Colour
pictures are. Hirst’s ideas
Space Paintings and
“are not good enough”,
Outdoor Sculptures, at the
and these paintings are
stately home Houghton
“utterly uninteresting as
Hall confirms, “the great
works of art”.
Hirst’s colourful canvases fall “beautifully into place” in Houghton Hall
trickster” of British art is
still capable of surprising us. Hirst has dotted the house’s
Indeed, the paintings here “have no life, no poetry, no holding
“Arcadian landscape” with vast bronze sculptures and filled its
power”, said Jonathan Jones in The Guardian. As a sculptor,
baroque interiors with a series of 46 colourful canvases that hark
though, Hirst is “entertaining even when he’s utterly kitsch”,
back to his signature spot paintings. These new works have a
and, true to form, the statues here are “a laugh”. In the course
“pulsing, organic energy”, often falling “beautifully into place”
of a visit, you’ll encounter a giant skull with ping-pong ball eyes
amid Houghton’s luxurious furnishings; as a style statement, the
floating with the aid of an air pump; a “flayed unicorn”; and
combination “couldn’t work better”. Unexpectedly, Hirst has
several colossal figures based on anatomical sets, including an
created an atmosphere of “effortless English good taste”.
angel with “half its skin cut away to reveal its organs”. It’s all
“good fun”, and Hirst is fully capable of providing decent
The paintings are “pleasant” enough when seen en masse, said
“entertainment”. Whether he can still make great art, however,
Hettie Judah in the I newspaper. Part of a much larger series,
is a rather different question.
Where to buy…
Source and Stimulus
at Lévy Gorvy Gallery
This intriguing historical show brings
together the work of three artists best
known for their achievements in the
1960s: the American pop art titan
Roy Lichtenstein; the German
experimentalist Sigmar Polke; and
their markedly less celebrated British
contemporary Gerald Laing. The
binding theme is that all three shared
a fascination with mimicking industrial
printing processes. Lichtenstein
famously painted scenes from comic
books, imitating the Ben-Day dots
used to produce tone and colour.
Inspired by him, Polke took a similar
approach to cheaply printed newspaper
photography, adding a dose of sarcastic
commentary on consumer culture.
Laing fell somewhere in between the
two, making pictures that mixed the
former’s joie de vivre with the latter’s
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
Polke’s Freundinnen (detail), 1965-66
palette. He never came close to
equalling either but, uneven though
his work is, it is not without merit.
Throw in the best of it with the firstrate Lichtensteins and Polkes here,
and you have something resembling a
micro-blockbuster. Prices on request.
22 Old Bond Street, London W1
(020-3696 5910). Until 21 April.
For 2,700 years it had
stood at the entrance
to the ancient city of
Nineveh (on the outskirts of modern day
Mosul) – until Islamic
State destroyed it in
2015. The statue of a
lamassu (an Assyrian
deity: a winged bull
with a human face)
was a great relic of a
lost civilisation, said
Mark Hudson in The
Daily Telegraph. But now a life-size replica,
albeit built of dramatically different material,
is in place on the fourth plinth in London’s
Trafalgar Square.
The Chicago-based artist Michael Rakowitz,
whose mother is an Iraqi-Jew, has clad his
reconstruction of the lamassu in 10,500 brightly
coloured date-syrup cans – dates having been
Iraq’s second biggest export until the conflict
destroyed millions of date palms. He has called
his sculpture The Invisible Enemy Should Not
Exist, referring to words written on the original
sculpture. As a piece of art it is undeniably
garish to behold – even “tacky”, some might say
– but as a tribute to Iraq’s distant and recent
pasts, it is deeply moving.
An Assyrian god joins Nelson
The Week reviews an
exhibition in a private gallery
View Fine Furniture & Works of Art Auction Highlights
including Old Master to 19th Century paintings
Wed 11th to Fri 20th April | 10.30am to 5pm weekdays
Select Jewellery & Watches Auction Viewing Weekdays
10.30am to 5pm | Sat 12 noon to 5pm | closed Sun
07814 757742
To advertise here please email or call
Henry Pickford on 020 3890 3901 or Rebecca Seetanah 020 3890 3770
Weekdays 10.30-5pm • 22 Connaught Street W2 2AF
0207 930 9115 • More auctions at
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
We believe
in a different
We see an oak bench. They see a rope bridge.
Our Arundel dining table and bench. Made from nothing but
North American oak. Designed to last a lifetime.
The List
Best books… David Mamet
David Mamet, the US playwright and screenwriter, lists the novels he loves for
their dialogue. His own novel Chicago – a tale of mobsters and newspapermen
set in the 1920s – has just been published by Custom House at £20.
Outlaws by George V.
Higgins, 1987 (Orion £9.99).
Great dialogue – in novels, in
drama or on the street corner –
adheres to our consciousness
and shapes our understanding
of the world. If you appreciate
great dialogue, read some of
George Higgins’ novels. He
was a 1970s state and federal
prosecutor before he became
a Homeric chronicler-inventor
of the language of the cops,
crooks and shysters of Boston.
True Grit by Charles Portis,
1968 (Bloomsbury £9.99).
The dialogue in True Grit is
exquisite. Portis was inspired,
I believe, by the work of Andy
Adams (1859–1935), an actual
cowpuncher, who wrote the
best fiction of the frontier.
Wolfville by Alfred Henry
Lewis, 1897 (CreateSpace
£7.96). Lewis’s Wolfville series
must have also inspired Mr
Portis. Wolfville is a fictional
trail town, peopled by gamblers, gunfighters, cowmen and
whores. If you like to laugh,
you will love these books.
Post Captain by Patrick
O’Brian, 1972 (HarperCollins
£8.99) and Gates of Fire
by Steven Pressfield, 1998
(Transworld £7.99). For
dialogue (or anything else), one
cannot top O’Brian’s AubreyMaturin books and the military
romances of Pressfield, which
are just flat-out delightful.
Consider the character of the
Assyrian sutler who attaches
himself to the Spartans en
route to Thermopylae in
Gates of Fire. He prefaces
his utterances with an Ionianaccented, “Weck up to thees!”,
the literary equivalent of a
chocolate truffle. I asked
Mr Pressfield how he knew so
much about the dialogue of the
armies of antiquity, and he said
that he just made it up.
The Complete Works of
Ernest Bramah (out of print).
Bramah’s Kai Lung series
is a Victorian treasure.
Bramah invented the sagescoundrel storyteller Kai
Lung, whose method of
circumlocution spawned the
phenomenon of Kai Lung
Clubs. There, folks would
speak in Bramah’s pseudoChinese patter.
Titles in print are available from The Week Bookshop on 020-3176 3835. For out-of-print books visit
The Week’s guide to what’s worth seeing and reading
Last chance
Charles I: King and Collector, Royal
Academy, London W1 (020-7300 8090).
A “majestic... engrossing” show of paintings
from Charles I’s collection (FT). Ends 15 April.
Book now
Office politics and racism are explored in
Rasheeda Speaking, Joel Drake Johnson’s
dark comedy set in a Chicago hospital. With
two great leads – Elizabeth Berrington and
Tanya Moodie. 18 April-12 May, Trafalgar
Studios, London SW1 (0844-871 7632).
Tickets are selling fast for Translations, Brian
Friel’s tender, funny play about troops from the
Britain’s Most Historic
Towns In this six-part series,
Alice Roberts studies key
moments in British history
through the stories of single
towns. In this first episode, she
looks at life in Roman Chester.
Sat 7 April, C4 20:00 (60mins).
Jesus’ Female Disciples:
The New Evidence The story
of the birth of Christianity is
dominated by men. Professors
Helen Bond and Joan Taylor
present proof of the pivotal
role played by women in the
religion’s foundation. Sun
8 April, C4 20:00 (60 mins).
Britain’s Diesel Scandal
Dispatches shows how British
hauliers are using high-tech
“cheat” devices to disable
their vehicles’ emission
controls and so save money.
Mon 9 April, C4 20:00 (30mins).
Secret Agent Selection:
WW2 How would people
today cope with the training
required to be an agent of the
Special Operations Executive
in the 1940s? This programme
aims to find out. Mon 9 April,
BBC2 21:00 (60mins).
Repeat of the recent
documentary about the
great artist’s last decade. Sat
14 April, BBC2 2:00 (60mins).
Spirited Away (2001)
Enchanting animation about
a family trapped in a fantasy
world. Thur 12 April, Film4
12:35 (145mins).
Van Dyck’s Charles I (1635-36) at the RA
Royal Engineers arriving in 1830s Donegal to
map the area and Anglicise the place names.
With Ciarán Hinds. 22 May-7 July, Olivier
Theatre at the National, London SE1
(020-7452 3000).
A Bigger Splash (2015)
Thriller starring a magnificent
Ralph Fiennes as a prize-prat
music promoter and Tilda
Swinton as a recuperating
rock star. Thur 12 April, Film4
21:00 (150mins).
Just out in paperback
House of Names by Colm Tóibín (Penguin
£8.99). Tóibín turns his attention to the
women of Aeschylus’s Oresteia, in a novel
that is “elegant, spare and subtle” (Times).
The Archers: what happened last week
The BL board is thinking of reviewing the estate contract and Brian is convinced that if it comes to a
vote, Home Farm will lose. He calls a partnership meeting and Jennifer tells him it’s time to tell Ruth
the truth. He admits to Ruth that he knew the Brantfords dumped the waste, but only remembered
when it was dredged up. He begs Ruth not to tell his family, saying that his going to prison won’t
help Ruairi. Alistair tells Philip that he doesn’t know how he’s going to live without Shula. At the
meeting, Brian informs his family and Ruth of the threat to the contract, and suggests he resign as
BL chair. Alice and Adam don’t think he should. Ruth takes Brian aside and tells him to come clean,
which he does. Ed gets Will to admit that Nic hit Matt with her car. She knew she’d hit something,
but had no phone signal so went home. When Will returned to the scene he saw police, panicked
and told Nic to keep quiet. Nic said that if anyone was charged she’d confess. Brian’s family vote
on whether he should retire from the farm. Adam, Debbie and Ruth agree he should; Alice and Kate
vote for Brian to stay. Jennifer casts the deciding vote and, to Brian’s horror, sides with Adam.
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
Picasso’s Last Stand
Showing now
Charles Rennie Mackintosh: Making the
Glasgow Style at Kelvingrove Art Gallery,
Glasgow ( One of
many events marking the 150th anniversary of
the birth of the architect and artist. Mackintosh
was at the forefront of the Glasgow Style – a
Scottish take on art nouveau. This show charts
the evolution of the movement. Ends 14 August.
French drama on Netflix
Call My Agent! Stylish,
witty comedy set in
a Parisian talent agency.
With cameos from Isabelle
Adjani and Juliette
Binoche. Seasons one
and two streaming now.
La Mante Thriller with
Carole Bouquet as a jailed
serial killer who agrees to
help police catch a copycat,
but only if she can work
with her estranged son
– a cop. Streaming now.
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
Best properties
Houses on the south coast
Sand Castles,
Greatstone. Set
in a great position
with views across
St Mary’s Bay
towards Dungeness
in the south and
Hythe in the east,
this modern beach
house has been
finished to a high
spec. Master suite
and guest suite
with sea views
and access to the
garden, 2 further
beds, family bath,
open-plan kitchen/
double recep
opening onto a
large balcony,
utility/wet room,
detached garage,
gardens. £1.1m;
Phillips & Stubbs
▲ Isle of Wight: Swains House, Bembridge. A fine house in a commanding
position with direct private access to the beach and far-reaching sea views.
Master suite, 7 further beds, 2 further baths, kitchen, breakfast room, 3 further
receps, hall, pantry, study, utility, WCs, mature gardens with bowling green,
garaging, outbuildings, 2 acres. £2.75m; Strutt & Parker (01962-869999).
Spinnakers, Wheal-anWens, Marazion,
Penzance. An iconic
contemporary art decostyle detached house,
completed in 2004, in
a fine position with
panoramic views of
Mount’s Bay. Master
suite, 2 further beds,
family bath, breakfast/
kitchen, 3 receps, study/
bed 4, cloakroom/
WC, hall, roof terrace
with rotating garden
pod, 1-bed selfcontained lower ground
floor apartment,
garage, Mediterranean
garden, patio, vegetable
garden. £1.25m;
Lillicrap Chilcott
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
on the market
Cornwall: St Anthony,
Feock, near Truro. This
exceptional contemporary
house sits in an elevated
southwest-facing position
with fantastic views over
Pill Creek, Carrick Roads
and the surrounding
countryside. Ground
floor: master suite, guest
suite, 2 further beds,
family bath, study/bed 5,
media room, lobby,
utility, shower/WC, inner
hall. First floor: vast openplan, partially divided
dining/sitting room with
wood-burning stove and
sliding doors onto the
balcony, plus kitchen with
floor-to-ceiling windows
and Juliet balcony;
landing with part-galleried
reading area, side access,
WC. Garage, parking;
mature, terraced gardens
with pedestrian access to
Lower Pill Road, detached
studio, 0.4 acres. £1.45m;
Lillicrap Chilcott (01872273473).
Dove Rock, Plaidy.
A refurbished
waterfront home
with sea views,
landscaped gardens
and direct access to
the beach. 5 suites,
open-plan kitchen/
dining room, sun
room, library,
games room and
bar, utility, patio,
boot room, hall,
terrace, garage,
parking, 1.6 acres
of garden. Total
area, inc. beach up
to high-water mark,
approx. 21 acres.
£2.95m; Knight
Frank (01392423111).
Devon: The Old
Bakehouse & Start Bay
Stores, Slapton Ley,
Torcross. A Victorian
town house with views
over the lake, plus
two shops and a barn,
with potential for
development, subject
to planning. The
accommodation is
arranged over three
floors with the Start
Bay Stores on either
side of the ground
floor. 4 beds, family
bath, WC, breakfast/
kitchen, 2 receps,
attached 2-storey barn,
separate garage.
£500,000; Strutt &
Parker (01392215631).
Kynance Bay
House, The Lizard.
A remarkable
Victorian house
dating from 1888,
with period features
and panoramic
views to the south
and west – across
National Trust land,
– of the Atlantic.
Master suite, guest
suite, 2/3 further
beds, family bath,
WC, kitchen,
3 receps, porch,
utility, cloakroom,
3 loft rooms; 1-bed
annex; 2-bed
cottage; parking,
sheltered gardens,
1 acre. £1m; Savills
▲ Devon: The Nest, Frogmore, Kingsbridge. A charming extended midterrace cottage in this quiet village at the head of Frogmore Creek. 1 double
bed, 1 bath, kitchen, double recep with wood-burning stove, sheltered rear
garden, timber-decked seating area, parking, ideal holiday let. £199,000;
Marchand Petit (01548-857588).
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
Home & Interiors
To advertise here please email or call
Henry Pickford on 020 3890 3901 or Rebecca Seetanah 020 3890 3770
Food & Drink
What the experts recommend
United Chip 5 Clerkenwell Road,
London EC1 (020-7490 0069)
Everyone’s an expert when it comes to
fish and chips, says Jay Rayner in The
Observer. Open up something niche, like
a ceviche joint or an izakaya, and a few
people will have an opinion. Open a
new chippy and everyone will pile in. But
happily for United Chip, it was clear, on
the roaring lunchtime that I visited, that
Clerkenwell has made up its mind: this
place is a belter, “attending to practically
every modern bell and whistle it can find,
while still caring about the essentials”. In
the “modern” category are: line-caught
fish only; fully recyclable packaging; a
fantastic spiced prawn burger; and a
needlessly brilliant homemade curry
sauce. In the “essentials” camp: cod,
pollock or haddock “steamed to thick,
pearly, shiny flakes” inside an unimprovable golden, glassy batter; excellent
“proper” chips; and very good pickled
onions on the counter. “They also have
a short wine list, if you really wanted to,
you outrageous bourgeois fop.” From
£6.50 for a small pollock & chips to
£13.50 for a truly vast cod & chips.
Romy’s Kitchen 2 Castle Street,
Thornbury, Bristol (01454-416728)
I’m loath to use the word “quaint” to
describe Thornbury, the market town
north of Bristol that’s home to the
splendid Romy’s Kitchen, says Grace
and carrots fried in mustard seed, cumin
and plentiful onion. “Silky butternut
squash sabzi is possibly even better.”
About £25 a head for a large meal.
Porto: the place for sandwiches and seafood
Dent in The Guardian. But on a Friday
night pre-dinner, after I’d bought a round
of drinks in The Swan on the main street
for £4.85, massaged the ears of the
resident German shepherd and watched
a Gary Numan covers band tune up, this
town “felt oddly perfect”. In any event,
Thornbury is blessed to have in its midst
Romy Gill, whose bold blend of modern
Punjabi and Bengali cooking has wowed
London foodies at various pop-up residencies in recent years. The highlights on
my pilgrimage to her home turf included
ginger-marinated paneer with fragrant
caramelised melted onion and coriander
chutney, and a sabzi of cauliflower, peas
Recipe of the week
This San Francisco fish stew was traditionally made by Italian fishermen using
the leftover fish from the catch that they couldn’t or wouldn’t sell at the city’s
piers. As such, says James Martin, it can be made with any fish or shellfish
you have, and tomatoes are great for giving it flavour.
Cioppino fish stew
Serves 4-6 100ml white wine 2 x 500g cartons of passata classica 4 tbsps olive oil
3 or 4 star anise 4 garlic cloves, chopped 1 cooked crab 5 scallops, cleaned
5 raw large prawns, shell on 250g clams, cleaned 250g mussels, cleaned
500g halibut, cut into 4 even-sized pieces 500g salmon cut into 3 even-sized pieces
1 tsp caster sugar sea salt and freshly ground black pepper small bunch of
flat-leaf parsley, chopped 1 sourdough loaf, sliced
• Pour the wine into a
large saucepan and place
over a medium heat.
Bring the wine to the
boil and as soon as it’s
bubbling, pour in the
passata and half the olive
oil. Add the star anise and
garlic to the pan too, and
stir everything together.
Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
• Carefully add all the fish to the
pan and sprinkle the
sugar over. Stir everything
together gently and season
with salt and pepper.
• Pop the lid on the pan
and gently bubble over
a low heat for 10 minutes.
• Scatter with parsley
and drizzle with the
remaining olive oil.
Serve immediately with the
sourdough bread.
Taken from James Martin’s American Adventure, published by Quadrille
at £25. To buy from The Week Bookshop for £23, call 020-3176 3835 or
Where to eat in Porto
As well as giving its name to port wine,
Portugal’s second city – a buzzing web
of cobbled streets, baroque churches
and azulejo-tiled buildings – is famed
for its sandwiches and seafood, says
Max Graham in the FT. Walking
through Praça dos Poveiros, I often head
for Casa Guedes, a tasca known for its
sandes de pernil (roast pork sandwiches)
served with a creamy Serra cheese. For
a francesinha – a traditional Porto
sandwich with layers of meats topped
with a fried egg, smothered in melted
cheese and covered with a spicy beer
sauce – I recommend Capa Negra II.
A favourite lunch spot is Salta o Muro,
a no-frills seafood restaurant right by
the Matosinhos docks across the road.
Or there’s the Esplanada Marisqueira
Antiga, an upmarket place that serves
some of the best seafood in the city.
It’s a great place to try percebes
(goose barnacle). For dinner, try
Cafeína, which offers modern European
cooking with a Portuguese focus and
great wines. Or for a more experimental
approach, two relative newcomers –
Euskalduna Studio and Mito – are
also outstanding options.
Wines from Chile
Chile’s wines are surging in popularity
with us Brits – and no wonder, says
Jane MacQuitty in The Times.
They’ve improved so much,
even cheap and cheerful fruitfirst bottles are fresh and
elegant: try the “leafy, gamey,
spiced plum” of a 2016 Cono
Sur Reserva Pinot Noir (£7;
Morrisons). The consistently
good, budget Chilean white to buy is the
light, lemongrass-scented 2017 Casillero
del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc (£5.99; Co-op).
Trade up just a bit and you’ll be richly
rewarded with the “bold, blackcurrant and
plum jam-lush” 2014 Montes Single
Vineyard Merlot (£11.99; Majestic Wine), or
the “bold, lime juice and petrol pizzazz” that
is Matetic’s 2016 Corralillo San Antonio
Riesling (£8.95; Wine Society).
If you can, go even further and try the
“awesome” 2014 Acrux (£19.95, currently
out of stock; Tanners, 01743-234455), all
“spicy, cassis, leather and red fruit charm”,
or the 2014 Matetic EQ Syrah (£18.75;
WineDirect), a “brilliant, cool-climate,
organic French oak-aged syrah, bursting
with brooding, cracked black-pepper fruit”.
For our latest offers, visit
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
New cars: what the critics say
Citroën C4 Cactus
from £17,265
Auto Express
With its Airbump side
panels, the original Cactus
made a splash on its
launch in 2014. The new
version of the hatchback
is slightly less quirky, but
just as “customisable”,
with 31 colour combinations. It emphasises
comfort – using Citroën’s
new Progressive Hydraulic
Cushions technology to
deal with potholes –
and quietness, thanks to
additional sound insulation
and thicker windows.
The Daily Telegraph
The Cactus’s new
suspension produces an
excellent low-speed ride
and the restyling gives
it a more “upmarket”
appearance. It has light
steering but decent grip
levels, with a “perky”
engine pulling strongly
and smoothly. It’s a
likeable “oddity”, if small
for its class: the boot is just
358 litres and the optional
panoramic glass roof
leaves limited headroom
for rear passengers.
Top Gear
This is a car that accepts
a bit of “keener” driving
– it’s agile and corners
well. But smoothness is
what it’s really all about:
with “a tangibly French
floatiness on a flowing
road”, and seats with
extra padding and lumbar
support, it’s possibly the
most comfortable
hatchback on the market.
It’s also notably quieter
than its rivals, with “an
impressively hushed”
interior at speed.
The best… trail bikes
Calibre Bossnut V2
Mountain Bike An alloyframed model that
strikes a great
balance between
speed and turning
ability, the 20-speed
Bossnut has 27.5inch wheels and is
very impressive downhill
Tips of the week…
ek… how to
deal with noisy neighbours
i hb
● Try to get to know your neighbours.
Rows can quickly escalate if there’s been
no prior contact between you.
● Bear in mind that the problem may
be less your neighbours’ habits than
inadequate sound insulation, particularly
in modern houses built with lightweight
blocks and plasterboard.
● If you’re in a block of flats, check the
lease: it might include an obligation to
carpet floors or not use hardboard flooring.
● Walls and ceilings can be effectively
soundproofed using acoustic mineral
wool in a “floating frame”.
● Your council has a duty to deal with noise
problems – but bear in mind that if you
make a complaint, you will have to disclose
it when you sell the property. If the noise is
aggressively targeted, it counts as antisocial
behaviour, which is a police matter.
● If all else fails, consider mediation before
resorting to the law. It’s cheaper for a start.
Look on
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
▲ Nukeproof Mega
275 Comp Bike This
11-speed full-suspension
bike was developed for
mountain racing in
the Alps. It’s fitted
with downhill
tyres and has
an alloy frame
(£2,399; www.
Trek Fuel EX 7 2018
Mountain Bike With an
aluminium frame, a
single chainring and
11 gears, this is an
extra-light bike built
to thrill. Its ability
to turn on 29-inch
tyres is astonishing
and the brakes have
formidable stopping
power (£2,250;
And for thos
se who
If you find opening bottles of champagne
in the normal way too fiddly, you can take
a more direct approach by slicing the neck
off with a walnut-handled Laguiole
champagne sabre.
▲ Surly Ice Cream
Truck Mountain
Bike 2017 The Truck’s
emphasis is more on
toughness than on
speed, but it’s great
downhill, comfortable
and fun. The frame
is steel and its “fat”
26-inch front and
back wheels have
different treads,
giving extra
traction (£2,300;
Where to find… spri
exhibitions in Europe
International masters Amsterdam’s
Rijksmuseum has assembled more
than 35 full-length portraits by artists
ranging from Cranach to Velázquez and
Rembrandt for its High Society exhibition.
Until 3 June (
Albrecht Dürer Palazzo Reale in Milan
is showing 130 of his paintings, drawings
and prints alongside contrasting works
by other German and Italian masters. Until
24 June (
Eugène Delacroix The Louvre’s
blockbuster exhibition is the artist’s first
Paris retrospective for half a century. The
180 works range from his famous early
paintings to his later religious studies.
Until 23 July (
Paul Klee The Swiss-German artist’s
response to an increasingly mechanised
world, adding a geometric edge to his
mysticism, is the theme of the Pinakothek
der Moderne’s show in Munich. Until
10 June (
Canyon Neuron AL 7.0
Full-Suspension Trail
Bike This super-light
aluminiumframed bike
has 22 gears,
and its seat
can be
adjusted on the
move, at the touch
of a button (from £1,799;
This week’s dream: a tiny unspoilt gem in the Balearics
of fish species, and makes for fabulous
It’s only a 30-minute ferry ride from
snorkelling. Other natural wonders on
Ibiza, but Formentera is a “far cry”
the island include the caves around La
from most people’s idea of the Balearics,
Mola. It’s a “steep climb” through pine
says Wanderlust magazine. At just
forests along the Camí Romà (Roman
19km long, it’s tiny, free of large-scale
road), so “rent a good mountain bike”,
development and fringed with deserted,
stopping on the way to see the ruins of
“sugary white” beaches. Most visitors
a Roman fort. As the Sun dips over
simply turn up, “find a sandy spot,
the horizon, you can take Walking
strip buck naked and let the Sun do its
Formentera’s 3.5-hour “Seven Caves”
work”. But they’re missing out: this
tour – don a helmet and “clamber
island has a wealth of geological and
through 4,000-year-old burial caves”,
historical riches to explore, from
festooned with stalactites.
megalithic cave systems, to “rose-pink
At Can Marroig on the east coast
salt pans etched with flamingoes”, and
there’s a 17th century farmhouse that
18th century towers built along the
doubled as a “secret synagogue” during
coast as lookouts to ward off the pirates
the fascist 1940s. Surrounded by “wild
that “once ravaged this region”. All you
Formentera: a wealth of geological wonders
wetlands” and “cicada-rattling pines”,
need is a bicycle and a map, or a
it’s a top birding spot and a good picnic spot. From here, pedal
walking guide, to explore the trails that “web” the island.
south to Cap de Barbaria lighthouse and gaze out towards Africa,
Just off the coast of Es Pujols in the north is one of the world’s
only 68 miles across the sea. Illes Balears (
“oldest living organisms” – Posidonia oceanica, an ancient
has information on places to stay and guided tours. BA flies to
Mediterranean seagrass thought to be up to 200,000 years old.
Ibiza, where there are ferry connections to Formentera.
This Unesco-listed “meadow” acts like coral, supporting a variety
Hotel of the week
Getting the flavour of…
Ireland’s prison island
Kettner’s Townhouse,
Soho, London
In the “heart of Soho”, Kettner’s
first opened as a restaurant in
1867, says Tom Chesshyre in
The Times. Now, it’s part of the
Soho House group, which has
painstakingly restored its fabulous
champagne bar and dining room,
and given it 33 “super-smart, art
nouveau-style rooms”. These are
“lavishly decorated” in marble and
velvet, and have minibars stocked
with fine wines, while windows are
soundproofed to muffle hubbub
from the streets. The cheapest
“Tiny” rooms are “decent value”
for the middle of theatreland; the
biggest, the oak-panelled Jacobean
Suite, is massive.
Doubles range from £225 to
£800, room only, 020-7734 5650,
In the mid-19th century, Spike Island was
known as “Hell on Earth”, says Philip
Watson in The Guardian. This “star-shaped”
fort in Cork harbour was a notorious prison,
where convicts bound by ball and chain
were put to hard labour as they awaited
transportation. Political prisoners and violent
criminals were held in punishment blocks in
appalling conditions. Now open to visitors,
it was named Europe’s leading tourist
attraction at last year’s World Travel
Awards, beating (“somewhat remarkably”)
the Acropolis, among others. There is much
here to explore, including “striking rampart
outlooks” and deep tunnels, but chiefly, it
provides a “fascinating microcosm” of Irish
history, at times “difficult and disturbing”,
from the Cromwellian period to the Easter
Rising and beyond. Open all week from
30 April-30 September. Adults s18, children
s10. Visit
Morocco on horseback
A 956km journey riding a horse across the
deserts of Morocco is an “epic” test of
endurance, says Saskia Burgess in the FT.
This guided ride from Erg Chebbi in the east,
across the Sahara to Plage Blanche on the
Atlantic coast, takes a month, riding Arab
and Barb horses, all of which are “phenomenal athletes”. The set-up is “neither
glamping nor wild camping”. Tents are pop-
up, mattresses are “thin but do the job”, and
the “shower” is a bowl of water. Days are
hot, dusty and hypnotic, the sepia desert
“endlessly metaphorical: valleys of death,
plains, ravines”, while night skies are
“clotted with stars”. At the end, you emerge
as if from a dream: “nothing can prepare you
for the first glimpse” of the bright blue sea.
From s2,750 (excluding flights) for a monthlong trip (
Summertime in Innsbruck
To think of Innsbruck as a purely winter
destination is a “massive underestimation”
of a rather appealing city, says Tom Owen
in The Daily Telegraph. High in the
Austrian Tyrol, it has lovely medieval and
baroque architecture, and there’s plenty
to do year-round. Thrill-seekers should head
to Area 47 for rope swings, wakeboarding
and “something marvellously odd called
‘blobbing’”, which involves being “launched
into the water from a giant inflatable bag”.
For some history, visit the Hofkirche, where
28 life-size bronze statues guard the empty
tomb of Emperor Maximilian I (he’s interred
near Vienna). And for something a bit more
modern, there’s the Nordkette cable car, with
stations designed by Zaha Hadid. The view
from the top, stretching across the entire Inn
valley, is “stunning”. For the cable car, visit For Area 47, visit
Last-minute offers from top travel companies
Northern Europe cruise
Spend 10 nights aboard the
MSC Magnifica, with stops in
France, the Netherlands and
Germany. From £807pp full
board. 020-3553 9552, www. Depart 4 June
from Southampton.
Enchanting Turkey break
The Marmara Bodrum hotel
offers panoramic views of the
deep blue Aegean Sea. 5 nights
half board cost from £699pp,
including Bristol flights. 0871943 1300, www.holidaygems. Depart 28 June.
Seven nights in Miami
Located in the heart of South
Beach, Royal Palm, the
enticing oceanfront retreat,
costs from £1,278pp roomonly, including flights.
0344-739 5896, Depart 6 July.
5-star Rajasthan resort
Enjoy a relaxing 6-night stay
at the Tree of Life Resort &
Spa in Jaipur, from £1,250pp
half board, including
Manchester flights. 020-8974
uk. Depart 7 June.
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
The magician known as the Conjuror on the River Kwai
At the age of 18, Fergus
Anckorn became the
youngest member of the
Magic Circle; years later,
he’d be known as the Conjuror on the River
Kwai. As a Japanese POW for three years from
1942, he survived starvation, enslavement and
the notorious Alexandra Hospital massacre.
Sometimes it was luck that saved his life, but
quick wits – and magic – also played their part.
River Kwai. Conditions were so barbarous
16,000 POWs died from dysentery, cholera
or exhaustion. One afternoon, he was ordered
to carry creosote up a 100ft wooden viaduct;
at the top he was paralysed by vertigo – at
which point a guard poured the bucket of
creosote over him. This almost certainly saved
his life: with his skin blistering, he was sent to
the hospital camp at Chungkai; every other
member of his working party died. Once he got
his strength back, he began performing simple
Born in Kent in 1918, Anckorn, who has died
magic tricks at the camp to entertain his fellow
aged 99, grew up in a happy, loving household.
inmates – which brought him to the attention
He was given his first magic set when he was
of its commander. Osato Yoshio was a
four and, calling himself Wizardus, was elected
notorious sadist, but he loved magic and asked
to the Magic Circle in 1936. When war broke
Anckorn to perform for him. Anckorn made a
out he joined the Royal Artillery, and in
coin vanish and then plucked it out of a tin of
February 1942 he was posted to Singapore,
fish on Osato’s desk. He was then given the
with the 118th Field Regiment. Two days
fish (as “vermin” had touched it, Osato no
after arriving, while working on the docks,
longer wanted it). At that point, it dawned on
he and his comrades were dive-bombed by the
him that if he used food as his props, he could
Fergus Anckorn: the “luckiest man”
Japanese, said The Daily Telegraph. With no
get vital extra rations. Once, he was asked to
time to run for shelter, Anckorn jumped into the sea; on
perform for a visiting general. His trick required only one egg, but
resurfacing, he found that five of his comrades had been blown
he brazenly asked the kitchen for 50 – and made a huge omelette
to pieces. Days later, he was almost killed when a shell he was
that he shared with his fellow PoWs. The next day, Osato
transporting blew up during an air raid. With one of his hands
summoned him to demand to know what had happened to the
hanging from his arm by a piece of skin, he was taken to the
other 49 eggs. Wary of strict punishment, Anckorn replied: “Your
Alexandra military hospital. There, a surgeon saved his hand, but
show was so important, I was rehearsing all day.”
24 hours later, the hospital was overrun by enemy troops, who
shot the staff and then turned on the patients. Anckorn recalled
After being liberated, he spent three months being “fattened up”
that there was no screaming; just a terrible thumping as they
in Rangoon, yet when he finally got home, he still weighed only
went from bed to bed, bayoneting their occupants. Still only semisix stone and had nightmares for years. In 1946, he married his
conscious, he murmured “poor Mum” and put his head under his
sweetheart, Lucille, and returned to Kent. They had two children
pillow to await death. Yet the Japanese passed him by: it seems he and, when not performing, he worked as a teacher. Aged 97, he
was so covered in blood they thought he was already dead.
was invited to appear on Britain’s Got Talent alongside Richard
Jones, a fellow magician and a serving soldier who’d cited him as
Singapore fell the next day. Anckorn was taken prisoner and sent
his inspiration. “I am probably the luckiest man alive,” Anckorn
to Changi jail, where maggots “disinfected” his gangrenous flesh,
said. “I’ve been blown up, I’ve been shot. I’ve survived a massacre
and thence to Burma, to work on the railway on the banks of the
and I got away with that egg trick. Every day is a wonder to me.”
Civil rights activist at the heart of Brown v. the Board
Linda Brown, who has died
Linda Brown aged 75, was the little girl at
1943-2018 the centre of one of the most
significant battles in US legal
history. Brown v. Board of Education was the
landmark Supreme Court case that declared
racial segregation in America’s public school
system unconstitutional. The name attached
to the case is that of her father, Oliver Brown,
but she was the child having to travel miles from
her home each day, because her local elementary
school was for white children only. “I didn’t
comprehend colour of skin,” she said, years later.
“I only knew that I wanted to go to Sumner.”
her friends went. “It was a bright, sunny day
and we walked briskly,” she recalled, “and I
remember getting to these great big steps.” When
her father emerged from the school, “I could tell
something was wrong... We walked even more
briskly and I could feel the tension being
transferred from his hand to mine.” After that,
Brown and 12 other black families in Topeka
filed a class action suit. Similar suits, in other
states, were added. In 1954, a year before Rosa
Parks challenged segregated seating on buses in
Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously
that the Topeka Board’s segregated system made
it inherently unequal, in violation of the 14th
Amendment of the Constitution, and overruled
Linda Brown was born 1943 in Topeka, Kansas,
the “separate but equal” doctrine established in
Linda Brown in 1964
and grew up in an integrated neighbourhood; as
1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson. Thus, the slow and
a child, she played with Spanish-American children, black
sometimes violent process of desegregating US schools began.
children and white children. Her parents were not unhappy with
the school she attended, said The New York Times. What troubled Linda Brown was amazed by the press interest in her following
them was the journey it involved – a long walk that crossed a
the ruling. Indeed, not until she was in her teens did she realise
railway yard and a busy road, then a bus ride. “When I first
the significance of the case. By that time, she was at an integrated
started the walk it was very frightening to me,” she said, “and
school in Missouri, where she’d moved with her family. Later,
then when wintertime came, it was a very cold walk.” In 1951,
having trained as a teacher, she returned to Topeka, and in 1979
her father, a welder and Episcopalian pastor, was encouraged by
she joined the American Civil Liberties Union in re-opening
the black rights group the NAACP to try to enrol her at Sumner,
Brown v. the Board, arguing that segregation in Topeka schools
which was only four blocks from her home, and where many of
was ongoing, a battle that went on until the 1990s.
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
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Companies in the news
...and how they were assessed
NEX: Chicago alley cat
News that City tycoon Michael Spencer has sold his NEX financial technology business
to Chicago-based CME Group for £3.9bn could be seen as “another example of an
American giant bagging an interesting piece of City infrastructure”, said Nils Pratley
in The Guardian. By some measures, NEX is “the UK’s biggest fintech”. But at least
CME plans to keep NEX’s European HQ in Britain. If Spencer, who personally pockets
£670m, “made that a condition of the deal, well played”. It’s a boost for the post-Brexit
City. “CME is the world’s largest exchange: if it had serious worries about London’s
status as the European home for trading in fixed-income securities, it would not be doing
this deal.” There had been talk of rivals, such as the Intercontinental Exchange, entering
the fray, said Jim Armitage in the London Evening Standard. But the high price – 49%
above NEX’s value before word of the sale leaked – is probably “a knockout”. This is
“the biggest deal” yet for the nimble Spencer, a former Conservative Party chairman who
built NEX’s predecessor, ICAP, into a “voice-broking” force before selling all but a rump
to rival Tullett Prebon in 2016, said Philip Stafford in the FT. Given Spencer’s form on
timing, “a cynic would say he has called a market top for electronic trading assets”.
Conviviality: some hangover
It seems Pizza Express was in danger of running out of its top-selling lager, Peroni Nastro
Azzurro, last weekend, said Dominic Walsh in The Times. Why? Blame it on the collapse
of Conviviality, once Britain’s biggest alcohol wholesaler and owner of the Bargain Booze
and Wine Rack chains, which is filing for administration. There were fears that the shock
announcement, the latest in a wave on the high street, could see the pumps run dry. As
The Guardian noted: “more than 20,000 of Britain’s pubs are supplied by the company’s
Matthew Clark division”. Once a stock market darling, Conviviality was the baby of
ex-Waitrose executive Diana Hunter, who floated the renamed Bargain Booze on AIM
in 2013 and went on an acquisition spree. Had Conviviality “stuck to corner shops”, all
might have been well, said Naomi Rovnick in the FT. But it doubled its size when it paid
£200m for Matthew Clark in 2015, and leapt from being a cheap off-licence chain “to
a business serving Pimm’s at Henley Regatta”. It only began issuing profit warnings in
March. The rapid fall of a company valued at close to £750m in November has raised
questions about who on the board knew what, and when, said Dominic Walsh. As
buyers “circle the ruins of Conviviality’s empire”, some investors are considering legal
action “amid claims they were misled over the health of the business’s finances”.
De La Rue: true blue
The passport saga continues, said James Booth in City AM. The British printing firm
De La Rue is to appeal against the Government’s decision to award the £490m contract
for the UK’s new blue passports to the Franco-Dutch company Gemalto from 2019.
“Based on our knowledge of the market, it’s our view that ours was the highest quality
and technically most secure bid,” said the company, which holds the current contract.
The Home Office argues that the switch to Gemalto will save taxpayers £120m, but the
decision has met with uproar in some quarters, not least among De La Rue investors,
who have had to stand by and watch the printer’s own paper value plummet.
Seven days in the
Square Mile
Markets globally tumbled again as the
US and China continued their tit for
tat over tariffs. After China imposed
retaliatory 15% tariffs on 120 US goods
including pork and wine, President
Trump struck back with a list of about
1,300 Chinese products he plans to
hit with a 25% tariff. The Dow Jones
dropped 2% in early trading on
Wednesday as the spectre of a trade
war intensified. The price of soya beans,
which account for almost 60% of US
agricultural exports to China, fell by 4%.
There is still hope that neither side will
actually follow through on the measures.
Bad Easter weather added to the gloom
on the British high street. Footfall was
down by 9.6% on Good Friday compared
with last year, and continued to fall for
most of the long weekend. Theresa May
vowed to fight the “burning injustice” of
the gender pay gap as the deadline for
companies to file their figures loomed.
Of those that had filed, 78% pay men
more than women.
Barclays became the first UK bank to
ring-fence its investment bank from its
retail bank in a move billed as the most
significant restructuring in its history.
The bank agreed to pay $2bn to settle
a lawsuit with the US Department of
Justice over mortgage-backed securities:
the amount had been expected to be
much larger. Rupert Murdoch’s 21st
Century Fox said it would either ringfence Sky News or sell it to Disney in its
attempt to take full control of Sky.
Amazon: counting the cost of the president’s wrath
“Capitol Hill wants Facebook’s blood, but
“strictly policy-related”, said Kathryn Watson
President Trump isn’t interested,” says
on CBS News. Yet Trump has himself
Jonathan Swan on Axios. “The tech behemoth
claimed, “without any evidence”, that
Trump wants to go after is Amazon.” Sources
Amazon is using The Washington Post as a
say he’s obsessed with it. That news wiped 5%
“lobbyist”. The company has no stake in the
off Jeff Bezos’s online retail giant last week,
newspaper and its editor claims that Bezos
said Cristiano Lima on Politico. And on
has never influenced its coverage. It’s also a
Monday Amazon took another hit, dropping
moot point whether the US Postal Service is
6.21% after Trump took to Twitter accusing it
losing money to Amazon. True, the company
of exploiting the US Postal Service, dodging
qualifies for “a bulk rate”. However, Amazon’s
taxes and putting thousands of retailers out
parcel business has been a boon at a time of
of business. Some have suggested that
plummeting mail volumes.
Trump is waging “a proxy war” against the
Bezos-owned Washington Post, which has
The president reportedly “wants the post office
Is Jeff Bezos party to a proxy war?
been critical in its coverage. If so, he has
to increase Amazon’s shipping costs”, said
drawn blood. The sell-off cost Amazon more than $35bn in stock
Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair – but there’s more. It seems he’s
value, “suggesting Trump’s war with the media has the potential
also open to the idea of cancelling “Amazon’s pending multito hit media companies in their pocket books”.
billion contract with the Pentagon to provide cloud computing
services” and of encouraging individual states to open investigaThe White House insists Trump’s criticisms of Amazon are
tions into its business practices. This feud could get a lot nastier.
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
Talking points
Issue of the week: the trouble with tech
Spotify has defied the jitters with a successful float. Can it help revive a crumbling tech market?
It has a been a wild two weeks for
that annoyingly self-righteous nephew in
tech stocks, but Spotify has avoided the
ripped black jeans you hate talking to at
jinx, said James Titcomb in The Daily
family gatherings. Yes, Spotify is “a lossTelegraph. The Swedish music streaming
making company that might not report
giant floated in New York this week,
a profit” for some years, said Peter Eavis
and landed a $30bn valuation – “the
in The New York Times. But its “paying
third-biggest for a technology company
customer base is enormous and expected
on record”. The flotation attracted
to keep growing” – and it has “so far
particular attention because of its
held its own in the face of competition
unusual “direct listing” approach:
from Apple, Amazon and Google”. Most
Spotify didn’t sell any new shares – and
significantly, it has won over the music
thus avoided the expense and hassle of
industry and is “negotiating increasingly
having to hire investment banks. There
advantageous deals with record
were fears that shares might “whipsaw”
companies”. Give it a few years and it
in early trading without the stabilising
could be making gross margins of 35%.
“book-building process” offered by
banks. That didn’t happen, which
But the sector as a whole is looking
Spotify’s flotation: “the first millennial IPO”
could well tempt other big tech start-ups,
decidedly shakier, said the FT. In the
notably Airbnb and Uber, to follow a similar path. The listing
past fortnight, “the five most valuable tech stocks have lost about
valued the stake of CEO Daniel Ek, who co-founded Spotify in
$280bn” in market capitalisation, owing to investor concerns that
2006, at $2bn. He wasn’t on the NYSE floor when trading began, political anger over their activities will lead to a wave of new
explaining that “our focus isn’t on the initial splash”.
“regulation or taxes”. The tech bosses are clearly feeling the
pressure, said Richard Waters in the FT. How else to explain the
This was truly “the first authentically millennial IPO”, said
war of words that broke out last week between Apple’s Tim Cook
Thornton McEnery on Dealbreaker. By neglecting to hire
and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, after Cook accused Facebook
Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley to parade its “unprofitable
of invading its users’ privacy? To allow the cracks to show in
business model”, Spotify has cocked a hipster-ish snook at
public was dangerous: it makes the tech firms look weak, and if
“lame old Uncle Wall Street”. If you’re planning to take a punt,
they want to resist regulation, they need to present a strong united
be aware that you’ll be “paying through the nose” for shares in
front. Cook vs. Zuck shows we’re in unusual times.
Making money: what the experts say
Services like Plum and
● Fake news
Cleo, which run on
in finance
Facebook Messenger,
The spread of
are useful for
misinformation online
monitoring spending
“has fuelled fears that
habits, but they do so
democracy could be
by connecting to your
undermined” – and it
bank account. Both
could “damage trust
firms insist that they,
in markets”, too, said
and not Facebook, are
Tim Wallace in The
for storing
Sunday Telegraph.
and controlling data –
How much do bots affect the markets?
According to a new
and that all details are
study presented to the
encrypted. But even so, you should treat
Royal Economic Society, the proliferation
apps and chatbots as stringently as you
of “manipulative robots” spreading fake
would your online banking, said Eyal
news risks “exacerbating volatility”. The
of security software developer
study, which analysed the impact of tens
Ironscales. The “golden rules” are to
of millions of tweets over two years on
read the user agreement, make sure your
FTSE 100 companies, found that a 1%
password is strong, “and if possible always
rise in tweets sent by automated accounts
use two-factor authentication”.
– equivalent to about 20 messages on
Twitter – typically pushed up volatility by
● Cyberinsurance
0.38%. That might not sound much, but
If your bank account is hacked, the bank
it is “significant in the context of trading
is liable for the loss. But if you fall for a
stocks”. It also found that “tweets sent
“phishing” email (an attempt to get you to
by humans typically had a positive impact
disclose your security details), there is no
on stock prices while those sent by robots
requirement to cover your losses. Cyberwere more often negative”, and urged
insurance could bridge that gap, said Anna
policymakers to develop “social bots”
Temkin. This is still an emerging field, but
to safeguard “small investors’ interests”.
one pioneer, UK General Insurance, offers
a product with a policy limit of £2,500
● Chatbot warning
per claim for cyberbullying or defamation,
The Facebook data privacy scandal
should certainly be a wake-up call to “take recovery of insured data and online
shopping fraud – rising to £10,000 for
care what you share with your financial
chatbot”, said Anna Temkin in The Times. the online theft of personal funds.
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
Slurping profits
When a 12-bottle case of 1988
Romanée-Conti Burgundy went under
the hammer at Bonhams in February it
sold for £179,250, says Simon Lambert
on That’s about
“£400 a sip”. But don’t let that put
you off dabbling. Wine merchants
“will happily help those with £1,000
to invest”. Here are some pointers.
The long-term returns on wine are
fairly “decent”, but be prepared for
a “somewhat rollercoaster ride”.
The Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index, which
tracks the most sought-after, has more
than trebled since its launch in 2003,
but is still 15% off the high-octane peak
achieved in June 2011, before it went
into steep decline. That’s why five-year
returns from the Liv-ex (up 21.5%,
compared with 35% for the FTSE AllShare) look less “sparkling”.
Wine is also tax-friendly. If you
keep your cases “in bond” in a proper
warehouse (it is also important to
keep it at its best temperature and to
maintain provenance) it will be free
of duty and VAT, and you won’t pay
capital gains tax on profits.
For the best chance of investing
returns, buy in cases and don’t break
them up, says Simon Staples of Berry
Bros & Rudd. Take advice, but beware
sharks – the market is full of them.
The Bunch, a group of established
independent merchants, is a good
place to start.
A spur to close
the gender
pay gap
Financial Times
The vultures
in professional
Alex Brummer
Daily Mail
Calling for a
tech giant to
go into guns
Rob Cox
Reuters Breakingviews
Lectures from
kids? I’ll pass
Sathnam Sanghera
The Times
It is nearly 50 years since men and women gained the legal right
to equal pay for equal work, says the Financial Times. “But there
remains a stubborn gap.” Thanks to new reporting requirements,
“we now know more about the nature of the problem”. The
figures “give an incomplete picture”, but what is clear is that
“a large majority of employers pay men more on average than
they do women; and the main reason for this is that men occupy
a higher proportion of senior positions”. That finding is hardly
surprising, but the process itself has been valuable, prompting
employers “to think harder” about the reasons for this imbalance.
Encouragingly, “some of those with the biggest gaps – such as
EasyJet, which has the usual preponderance of male pilots – have
the most concrete plans to address them”. Looking ahead, it is
critical that companies make serious efforts to bring about real
change and don’t just find ways of massaging the statistics. The
disparities within companies have been laid bare: “the next year
will test the resolve of companies and Government” to fix them.
“One of the features of modern takeovers and stock market
floats” is the sight of cartels of advisers swooping in “like
carrion birds”, says Alex Brummer. The Melrose assault on
GKN is a prime example. Melrose’s bankers – Rothschild, RBC
and Investec – will share a tasty £50m in fees, and could rake in
up to £69m more for raising debt to finance the deal. For its part,
GKN shelled out £60m to bankers and millions more on an array
of “communications advisers” to handle its defence. In the heat
of takeover battles or, for that matter, insolvencies, the vast fees
paid to advisers, lawyers and auditors – “for often light and
unimpressive work” – largely passes under the radar. That might
not matter, “if the public felt that professional firms were doing
a brilliant job”. But the examples of Carillion, BHS, Toys R Us
et al “suggest deep flaws”. Much has changed in the City since
the financial crisis, but the “grasping fees” of bankers, lawyers,
accountants and PR advisers continue to “escape proper
scrutiny”. It’s a real failure of free market capitalism.
Finding a traditional buyer for the bankrupt US gunmaker
Remington won’t be easy, given “the parlous state of the
industry”, says Rob Cox. Remington has struggled “to find
banks willing to take part in the restructuring”, and the sector
as a whole has been under fire from large investment groups such
as BlackRock. So why not seek out a “beneficent billionaire”?
Tech entrepreneurs like Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates or Jeff
Bezos “could turn Remington into a force for sensible gun policies
– with their pocket change”. The new, reformed Remington
might, for instance, focus on developing “smart-gun technology”,
using biometrics to prevent unlawful use and accidental
discharges. It could also “work more aggressively to identify and
shun distributors who supply weapons to criminals”, and team up
with legislators to support “common-sense gun legislation”. Gun
lobbyists would be furious and would likely call for boycotts of
Remington products. “But they are an increasingly marginalised
and small segment of American society.” A revised Remington,
under enlightened stewardship, “wouldn’t need them”.
In a recent article on a business website, the 24-year-old daughter
of tech billionaire Michael Dell outlined what “growing up Dell”
had taught her about life and business. Apparently, the answer
is to take exercise, work hard and cultivate lots of interests,
says Sathnam Sanghera. Who knew? I mention this “not to bully
Alexa Dell”, but because it illustrates the “bizarre” way in which
advice doled out by the children of billionaires is automatically
deemed worthy of dissemination. What’s driving this trend?
“Partly it is just the result of bad parenting among super-rich
entrepreneurs.” Although self-made themselves, they’ve allowed
their wealth “to turn their children into narcissists who believe
that they are intrinsically interesting”. But it’s mainly a symptom
of our “fetishisation of rich entrepreneurs”. This new focus on
their offspring – “a hideous meeting of Forbes and Tatler” – is
a “sick-making extension” of an existing malaise. The public
has finally begun to question the influence of tech moguls and the
trust placed in them. Let’s hope that extends to a “zero-tolerance
attitude to unsolicited, vapid advice from their children”.
City profile
Sir Martin Sorrell
Sir Martin Sorrell’s position
at the top of WPP, the
advertising group that “he
turned into a powerhouse
over more than three
decades”, is under threat
following allegations of
“personal misconduct”,
said the FT. The group
has hired an outside law
firm to investigate
allegations of “financial
impropriety” relating to
the use of company funds.
Sir Martin, who earned
£70m in 2015, in “the
largest ever payout made
to a FTSE 100 boss”, has
said that he “unreservedly”
rejects the allegations. But
insiders describe WPP as
“a company in shock”.
Sorrell is “one of the more
recognisable and outspoken
figures in the advertising
business,” said Mike Shields
and Tanya Dua on Business
Insider. But WPP – the owner
of such big-name agencies
as J. Walter Thompson and
Ogilvy & Mather – has been
“under tremendous pressure
of late as the power in the
industry has shifted to
technology giants like
Facebook and Google”. Even
before this startling news
broke, shares had fallen 27%
in a year owing to lower
spending by big advertisers.
Sorrell himself recently took
a personal pay cut, to an
estimated £15m, noting that
2017 was “not a pretty year”:
the company had suffered
its worst year of growth
since 2009. According to
the group’s board, “the
allegations do not involve
amounts which are material
to WPP”. But the question
mark hanging over Sorrell
is bound to rattle investors,
says the FT. Shares tumbled
in after-hours trading in the
US and are set to fall further.
As one person briefed on
the situation notes, this
investigation “could mean
succession… I don’t know
how he survives this”.
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
Who’s tipping what
The week’s best buys
Fulcrum Utility Services
The Sunday Times
Fulcrum designs and installs
efficient gas pipes and power
cables – and has tie-ups with
several housebuilders. A new
licence from Ofgem could
be transformative in the
electric car infrastructure
market. Buy. 61p.
The Times
This products and services
supplier, which sells seals and
controls to hospitals, aerospace
and defence industries, is
well-run and cash generative.
Growth prospects are strong
and a ramp-up of acquisitions
seems likely. Buy. £11.68.
Investors Chronicle
The emergency insurance
and repair services firm is
expanding, with a focus on its
boiler division. The acquisition
of Checkatrade and a Spanish
peer will boost its global
on-demand Home Experts
platform. Buy. 717p.
The Times
This software provider, whose
clients include 20 of the top 25
pharmas, has designed an IT
platform to help medical
researchers meet data recording
regulations. Demand is
increasing rapidly. Buy. 226p.
Primary Health Properties
The Mail on Sunday
PHP’s purpose-built
healthcare sites have helped
improve the NHS and,
having identified a pipeline
of opportunities, it is now
raising £100m through a share
placing. Strong governmentbacked income growth; yields
5%. Buy. 110.25p.
buys 2m
Investors Chronicle
The Pfizer cloud has lifted,
but the costs of the consumer
healthcare arm are distracting
from the group’s high-margin
pharma business. There
are concerns that the
near-6% yield is vulnerable.
Sell. £13.69.
CEO Ayman Asfari has bought
£10m in shares in the oilfield
services group – offering some
reassurance to investors after
the SFO probe into the Unaoil
corruption scandal. Yet recent
results hint at “thinning”
orders and revenue visibility.
…and some to hold, avoid or sell
Cello Group
Investors Chronicle
This pharmaceutical and
consumer marketing firm has
good US exposure, a growing
social media analytics platform
and a robust client base. But
its slow acquisition progress is
halting growth. Take profits.
Sell. 113p.
Form guide
Hotel Chocolat Group
The Mail on Sunday
The chocolate specialist,
which now has 100 stores,
continues to deliver strong
sales and profits. A quarter of
sales are online thanks to deals
with Amazon and Ocado. Its
two enthusiastic founders still
own two-thirds of shares.
Hold. 345p.
The Daily Telegraph
The retailer’s profits are
down 8.1%. But Next has
renegotiated leases, cutting
its rent bill by 25%. Shore
Capital admires a “wellmanaged” outfit, with “tight
cost and stock control, and
a focus on full-cost sales”.
Hold. £47.59.
Shares tipped 12 weeks ago
The Daily Telegraph
The hugely challenged support
services firm has suffered thin
margins, problematic contracts
and lofty debts. Lenders have
postponed a debt covenant
test, but refinancing may be
unavoidable. Avoid. 92.45p.
Royal Mail
Investors Chronicle
An agreement over pay and
pensions has quelled the threat
of strikes. But letter-sending is
on the decline and comparatives for parcels are set to
toughen. The outlook for
growth is poor. Sell. 532p.
“It may or may not be true
that trade wars are easy to
win. It is certainly the case that
they are easier to start than
they are to end. Over to you,
Mr President.”
Larry Elliott in The Guardian
on the re-escalation of
trade tensions
Best tip
The Times
up 33.01% to 835p
Worst tip
Investors Chronicle
down 15.4% to £14.65
Market view
Market summary
Key numbers
numbers for investors
FTSE 100
FTSE All-share UK
Dow Jones
Nikkei 225
Hang Seng
Brent Crude Oil
UK 10-year gilts yield
US 10-year Treasuries
Latest CPI (yoy)
Latest RPI (yoy)
Halifax house price (yoy)
3 Apr 2018
2.7% (Feb)
3.6% (Feb)
+1.8% (Feb)
$1.408 E1.145 ¥149.351
Best and
and worst performing shares
Week before
3.0% (Jan)
4.0% (Jan)
+2.2% (Jan)
Change (%)
% change
Micro Focus Intl.
United Utilities Grp.
Brit. American Tobacco 4150.00
Coca-Cola HBC
Scottish Mortgage
Ictl. Htls. Grp.
C4X Discovery Hldgs
South African Pr. Opps
Source: Datastream (not adjusted for dividends). Prices on 3 Apr (pm)
Following the Footsie
6-month movement in the FTSE 100 index
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
AG Barr
The Times
The Irn-Bru maker’s revenues
are up 8%, and it has reformulated recipes ahead of the
sugar tax. There are promising
soft drink distribution deals
for Australia’s Bundaberg
and Italy’s San Benedetto.
Buy. 626p.
Directors’ dealings
The last word
How right-on is the
National Trust?
Spring is here and the National Trust is preparing for a bumper year. But behind the calm facades, rows over
political correctness, hunting and “Disneyfication” are raging. Katie Glass investigates
Ghosh, introduced
a programme
of “decluttering”
houses and installing
interactive exhibitions.
Far fiercer battles are
now afoot, reflecting
the culture wars raging
in society at large. Last
year, trust members
including Sir Ranulph
Fiennes campaigned for
a vote to stop National
Trust land being used
for trail hunting –
where an artificial scent
is laid and no animal is
supposed to be captured
or killed. This has long
been viewed by animal
rights campaigners as
Croome Court “at the forefront of rethinking the role of the historic mansion”
a way of circumventing
the hunting ban. The traditionalists won out; the trust voted
against a ban last October.
In the gift shop of the oldest residence in Hackney, east London,
beside the National Trust tea towels and jam, are posters for
The charity’s attempts to modernise are regularly met with
the Gay Liberation Front. Next to the lemon curd, two men in
derision by those who accuse them of “pursuing an obsessively
matching leather jackets chug Prosecco and snog. Somewhere in
politically correct social agenda”. The focus on LGBT issues last
the Tudor drawing room where courtiers once dined, the author
year had “outraged” volunteers at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk forced
Alan Hollinghurst bops amid the throng. This party, inspired
to wear rainbow lanyards, or be relegated to back-room jobs. As
by his Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Line of Beauty,
part of a drive to introduce “queer stories” to properties, Felbrigg
explores the period of 1980s British history when Margaret
Hall’s last lord of the manor, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer,
Thatcher introduced Section 28, banning schools and local
was outed, angering his family. The former squire, who was
authorities from “intentionally promoting” homosexuality.
described as “intensely private”, died aged 63 in 1969, just two
It forms part of the National Trust’s Queer Stories in Britain
years after homosexuality was decriminalised. At Kingston Lacy
series, marking half a century since the decriminalisation of
in Dorset, an installation
male homosexuality. It also
featuring 51 ropes suspended
represents something else: the
“As part of a drive for ‘queer stories’, Felbrigg from the ceiling recalls men who
controversial new face of the
National Trust.
Hall’s last lord of the manor, Robert Wyndham were hanged because of their
sexuality. It was labelled “totally
Ketton-Cremer, was outed, angering his family” inappropriate”
by the Tory MP
You cannot be British and not
Andrew Bridgen.
have a soft spot for the National
Trust. Spending a day being dragged around one of its properties
This year, the trust’s Women and Power initiative is proving
should be part of the citizenship test – it’s as British as a Sunday
similarly divisive. In an article for the trust’s magazine, Laura
roast. I hear its name and am transported to a childhood in
Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, described being
Wales spent sitting in rainy car parks of castles. It holds a
groped on a bus, infuriating some commentators who questioned
place in the British psyche no other charity does. “For ever, for
whether this was “what trust members really want to read”. Ann
everyone” is its motto, and with it a commitment that began in
Widdecombe has declared that “the National Trust has lost its
1895, later underpinned by acts of Parliament, to preserve lands
way completely”. Sir Roy Strong believes it is beginning “to
and buildings of beauty or historic interest for “the benefit of the
alienate its own public”. Sir Max Hastings has cancelled his
nation”. With more than 500 properties and 247,000 hectares of
membership. Even Ghosh, who has departed for a post at Oxford,
land, it is one of the UK’s biggest landowners. Last year, it played
said “some of our more traditional visitors have felt they are not
host to 24.5 million visitors. We love the National Trust – but we
being catered for as they once felt they were”.
also love to be angry with it.
In recent years, rows have erupted like pimples on the trust’s
beautifully preserved visage. Stirrings began in 2010, when
visitors interested in English Renaissance architecture arrived
at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire to be greeted by staff
wearing period fancy dress. Accusations of “Disneyfication”
were revived in 2015, when the director general, Dame Helen
THE WEEK 7 April 2018
“I couldn’t disagree more with those sentiments,” Tim Parker,
the trust’s chairman, tells me, shaking his head. “Whenever we
do anything that shifts slightly away from what people perceive
as the ‘day job’, it immediately raises some kind of reaction.”
Although he concedes: “Perhaps, with hindsight, it wasn’t the
right thing to ask people to wear [rainbow] lanyards.” He agrees
In the oak-panelled
Great Chamber at
Sutton House, beside
a rare example of
an original carved Tudor
fireplace, a party has
exploded. A drag queen
dressed as Margaret
Thatcher wearing red
stripper heels and giant
fake pearls is grinding
against a young man
in a leather jacket
to Frankie Goes to
Hollywood’s Relax.
As the crowd throws
shapes under disco
lights, Sir Ralph Sadleir,
a prominent courtier of
Henry VIII who built
Sutton House in 1535,
looks down from his gilt
frame, unamused.
The last word
Bates’s article “was quite a challenging
piece”, which “many people may feel is not
relevant to them”, but he also believes that
if it made “people sit up and think, I’m not
sure that’s such a bad thing”. “What we’re
trying to do is be more inclusive,” he says.
“We understand we have a core audience,
but we also have an obligation to be part
of society as a whole. We took a look at
ourselves and said it’s worth displaying
some alternatives. I don’t want people to
feel that if you’re not white and 60, you’re
not welcome.”
expectation that the wider trust membership
wouldn’t think the back-to-backs worth
saving, that they wouldn’t realise their
significance or why so much time and energy
had been spent saving them – but that was
proved wrong.” Original estimates suggested
the site would attract 17,000 visitors a year.
They now average 33,000, and 80% of
those return to see more.
The Palladian mansion of Croome
Court stands in the rolling meadows of
Worcestershire, 30 miles away. Outside,
it is still the 18th-century vision the 6th Earl
of Coventry intended, set in a landscape
The new director general, Hilary McGrady,
created by Capability Brown. Inside, it has
who started last month, insists that “debate
been gutted. The original collection was sold
is good. It’s what keeps us contemporary
off in 1948, and the National Trust has been
and relevant, and goes to the heart of the
forced to reimagine the house since it took
many paradoxes that exist in the trust.” And
The Library Club at Sutton House
over its lease ten years ago. Now Michael
so I set out to investigate those paradoxes
Forster-Smith, Croome’s general manager, believes Croome is “at
– and find out if the National Trust is losing the national trust.
the forefront of rethinking the role of the historic mansion in the
21st century”. Salons are dominated by giant pieces of abstract
Bang in the centre of Birmingham’s gay village stands a quaint
art. In one room, Croome’s original mahogany chairs have been
row of red back-to-back houses. These are the last surviving
stacked in a precarious pile. In another, the earl’s collection of
examples of the city’s shared-courtyard dwellings from the 19th
porcelain plates are suspended from a gold ceiling. “That was a
century, and were home to working-class families. Now the block
scary moment for us,” says Tom Coombe, 24, Croome’s senior
has been renovated to tell the stories of the people who lived
house steward. “They’re priceless.”
here over the years: the Jewish watchmakers in the 1840s; the
Oldfields, who lived here in the 1870s with eight children in one
Exquisite Georgian cornices painted gaudy colours turn out to
house; the Mitchells in the 1930s at No. 3. I spend a day dressed
be the work of Hare Krishna devotees who lived at Croome in the
as a guide, in a Victorian cloth cap and apron, eavesdropping on
1980s. “Twenty years ago, the trust might have said, ‘Let’s paint
visitors. I watch groups of schoolchildren, enchanted as they are
over this’,” Forster-Smith says. “Now there’s more understanding
taught how to light fires and encouraged to get into the beds. If
that these buildings were never frozen in time. What they
you want an answer to the charge of Disneyfication, it is their
meant, the ways they were used, lived in, changed.” This year,
enthusiasm. Ubu Syddek, 23, the back-to-backs’ youngest
to celebrate the Women and
volunteer, tells me: “History was
Power theme, Croome is erecting
probably my worst subject at
a series of mannequins in the
school. But then I came here
“We no longer accept that grand country houses Long
Gallery – life-size portraits
on a tour and saw that you
fully encompass the history of this country”
of the women who work there.
can bring history to life.”
Ellie Cossey, Croome’s 23-yearold conservation assistant, says
The trust runs two back-tothe stereotype of stuffy members infuriated by change doesn’t
backs as holiday lets. I get to stay at No. 54, a thoughtful
ring true. “I’ve never met anyone who reflects that profile –
recreation of a modest 1930s family home. I spend the evening
I don’t think they exist. The visitors I’ve met find it engaging to
drinking tea from an art deco set and listening to the clatter of
see another view. They are excited about our LGBT and women’s
footsteps through thin walls. At night, an elderly woman turns
stuff.” Suggesting otherwise, she believes, “implies that traditional
up at my door. Mrs Kirby grew up in a back-to-back. “I came
members of the National Trust are anti-LGBT, which is quite
to show my grandson,” she says as I invite her in. “This is how
insulting”. Visitor numbers have grown from 11,000 in 2003 to
it used to be when we were little,” she says, recalling how people
300,000 last year.
gathered in the yard on wash days to gossip under lines of linen;
how they made rag rugs by stitching together old clothes. “You’ve
Back in Hackney, Sutton House is thronged with a young
got to keep the history,” she says. “Children today would never
crowd. Some revellers tell me that this is their first visit to a
understand how we lived.”
trust property. Some even say they might sign up as members.
“This wasn’t what I joined the National Trust for 45 years ago,”
The back-to-backs recognise working-class history, as well as
Hollinghurst confesses – the author joined because he’s crazy
black history. Part of the block tells the story of George Saunders,
about old buildings. “I wasn’t exactly sure what I was coming
a tailor from St Kitts who ran his shop here from the 1970s until
to this evening, but it’s been wonderful. It’s exactly the sort of
2001, and bequeathed his collection to the trust. Having escaped
thing the National Trust should be doing.” “We as a country are
the slum clearance of the 1960s, many of the remaining back-tochanging,” says Ralph Bogard, tonight’s performance director,
backs fell into disrepair, but were granted Grade II listed status in
gesturing around us. “This is what makes us British.”
1988, in part due to a change in identity politics as class privilege
began to be acknowledged. The houses were restored by the
When Octavia Hill co-founded the National Trust in 1895,
Birmingham Conservation Trust, with money from the Heritage
she wasn’t just preserving England; she wanted to open it up to
Lottery Fund, and then handed over to the National Trust.
everyone. She was pioneering social change. It feels like that is
what’s happening tonight. Travelling around the properties, I
“Britain’s social history has shifted,” the trust’s literature on the
have heard members talking again and again about how “PC”
back-to-backs explains. “We no longer accept that grand country
the National Trust has become. But with membership at its
houses fully encompass the history of this country, or reflect the
highest-ever level, it seems to be sending a strong message to
reality of life for the great majority of its citizens.” Mukith Miah,
its detractors that it must be doing something right.
the site’s senior visitor experience officer, believes the site’s rescue
was “the start of a change within the National Trust. It began to
A longer version of this article first appeared in The Sunday
think about how to engage with different aspects of history that
Times. © The Sunday Times/News Syndication.
would attract a new audience,” he says. “Initially, there was an
7 April 2018 THE WEEK
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1 Son begs for bunches of
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Solution: COLD FISH (L = large inside CODFISH)
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