Knife crime: Boris vs Theresa James Forsyth Fat-shaming could save your life Tanya Gold 24 march 2018 [ £4.50 www.spectator.co.uk [ est. 1828 Overdosed EVENSONG IS BACK JAMIE BARTLETT JONATHAN ARNOLD BAHRAIN BD3.20. CANADA C$7.50. EURO ZONE €6.95 SOUTH AFRICA ZAR79.90 UAE AED34.00. USA US$7.20. Ra FACEBOOK VS DEMOCRACY ch el dia John ry son ’s Angela Patmore and Isabel Hardman on the relentless rise of antidepressants established 1828 Losing control I f Brexit was going to be as easy as some of its advocates had believed, we would not have had weeks such as this one. It’s hard to interpret the recent agreement over the transition period as anything other than a capitulation to EU demands. Theresa May has quietly scrubbed out her ‘red line’ on the rights of EU citizens and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Nationals of other EU countries will be free to move to Britain, seek work here and have their rights protected by the court until 31 December 2020. Moreover, she has agreed to UK waters being open to EU trawlers until that date. Indeed, to the chagrin of our own fishing industry, fishing quotas will be set for our waters in 2020 — without the UK even having a say as to what they should be. Perhaps most worryingly, the idea that Northern Ireland could remain permanently in the customs union — which Theresa May once said ‘no British prime minister could ever concede’ — remains on the table. This brings about the prospect of an internal border within the UK in the Irish Sea — a situation which ministers know will prove unacceptable to a very large proportion of Northern Irish residents, not least among them the DUP, on whose votes the government relies for support. If the government does fall on a confidence vote before the projected date of the next election, in 2022, its demise may well be traceable to this week. The government has found itself in this position thanks to a woeful lack of preparation for the Brexit negotiations. In her Lancaster House speech of January last year, Mrs May appeared to have a viable plan for Brexit: to withdraw from the single market and the customs union, to negotiate in their place a free trade agreement, and to opt back into EU programmes where the government saw fit. But since Article 50 was triggered it has become increasingly and painfully clear that the government has no negotiating strategy to get to this point. Instead, ministers have allowed themselves to be buffeted around by an EU negotiating team that has seemed to have more purpose and direction than its counterpart. Michel Barnier has been criticised for his obstinacy and his lack of imagination in solving issues such as the Irish border. It is The EU can get away with this because the government is in no position to walk away true that his constant stonewalling of suggestions put forward by Britain shows the EU in bad light and is a reminder of the freedoms we might enjoy outside the bloc. His tone has been needlessly caustic, and he has seemed to take the Brexit talks as an audition for succeeding Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission. But his stubbornness is working: putting Britain on the back foot, forever struggling to defend itself. The government’s failure to come up with proposals has left a vacuum in which the EU is suggesting them for us. The EU can get away with this because the government is in no position to walk away from the negotiating table, or even to threaten to do so. EU negotiators can see this, and have been able to behave as if a trade deal were a one-way concession to Britain, rather than an agreement of mutual interest. There are commercial interests across the EU who have grown impatient at times with Barnier, the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk but the UK government has failed to make common cause with them. Also, the member states’ power over the European Commission is waning. In Britain, the EU is often thought about as a single entity — and one that in the end will do whatever Germany says. But Angela Merkel is struggling to exert control over her own government, let alone the continent. Juncker and Barnier see an EU that does not take its orders from member states, but draws (or claims to draw) its own democratic legitimacy from the European Parliament. The EU member states have an interest in a good deal with Britain. But the European Commission — the apparatus in Brussels — has an interest in Britain being seen to be worse off after leaving the EU. The Commission would also receive 80 per cent of the tariff revenue from UK exports to the EU, making ‘no deal’ more appealing to Brussels than to member states. It will come as no surprise if the £37 billion leaving bill is jacked up. Nor can we rule out having to stay in the customs union — thus being unable to cut our own trade deals with the outside world. But even this relationship would be better than remaining in the EU: the main aim of Brexit was to make government more answerable to the people, to restore democratic control over laws, taxes and borders. That’s why, after all of these setbacks, Brexit remains as popular as ever. If there is one thing to be said about this week’s transitional deal, it is that the Prime Minister has won herself a little breathing room. But she will have to use it very wisely if she is to stop Britain from falling into a Brexit which will not deliver the benefits that it could or should. 3 Death of a rhino, p20 The art of video games, p42 BOOKS & ARTS THE WEEK 3 Leading article 6 Portrait of the Week 7 Diary My Newsnight triumph Rachel Johnson 8 Politics The Tories’ crime record James Forsyth 9 The Spectator’s Notes Who the real head-bangers are Charles Moore 17 Rod Liddle An act of self-harm 20 Barometer Political photoshopping; thriving and declining birds 23 Lara Prendergast The vlogging dream From the archive The League of Nations 25 James Delingpole Why I wish I’d kept my Brummie accent 26 Ancient and modern Octavian’s fake news 29 Letters NI and the NHS; a rounded education; protecting children 30 Any other business We were never going to control our waters Martin Vander Weyer 10 Overdosed Britain’s dangerous dependence on antidepressants Angela Patmore BOOKS 32 Frances Wilson Joseph Gray’s Camouflage, by Mary Horlock 11 Robert Selby ‘When That Which Is Perfect Is Come’: a poem 34 James Bradley The Book of Chocolate Saints, by Jeet Thayil 12 My drug trials Treating depression is hit and miss Isabel Hardman 14 Big Data is watching you The Cambridge Analytica row Jamie Bartlett 20 Witness to an extinction The death of the last male white rhino Aidan Hartley 22 The Russian wives club Meet the lost ladies of Knightsbridge Tom Ball 26 The big fat truth Fat-shaming can be life-saving Tanya Gold Andrew Lycett Left Bank, by Agnès Poirier Philip Hancock ‘Loft’: a poem 35 Zenga Longmore Gimson’s Prime Ministers, by Andrew Gimson 36 Caroline Moore The Friendly Ones, by Philip Hensher 37 Alex Burghart Glory and Dishonour, by Brian Izzard 38 Peter Carty From a Low and Quiet Sea, by Donal Ryan Piers Paul Read Paul, by N.T. Wright Connie Bensley ‘In the Butterfly House’: a poem 39 Andrew Taylor Money in the Morgue, by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy Cover by Morten Morland. Drawings by Michael Heath, Castro, K.J. Lamb, Robert Thompson, RGJ, Grizelda, Nick Newman, Adam Singleton, Kipper Williams, Wilbur, Bernie, Percival www.spectator.co.uk Editorial and advertising The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP, Tel: 020 7961 0200, Fax: 020 7681 3773, Email: email@example.com (editorial); firstname.lastname@example.org (for publication); email@example.com (advertising); Advertising enquiries: 020 7961 0222 Subscription and delivery queries Spectator Subscriptions Dept., 17 Perrymount Rd, Haywards Heath RH16 3DH; Tel: 0330 3330 050; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Rates for a basic annual subscription in the UK: £111; Europe: £185; Australia: A$279; New Zealand: A$349; and £195 in all other countries. 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ISSN 0038-6952 The Spectator is published weekly by The Spectator (1828) Ltd at 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP Editor: Fraser Nelson 4 the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk The most human of birds, p40 Data wars, p14 Floreat Etona! p25 LIFE 40 John McEwen A Shadow Above, by Joe Shute Alex Clark The Western Wind, by Samantha Harvey LIFE 55 High life Taki Low life Jeremy Clarke 56 Samantha Roden ‘Shove Your Tissues’: a poem 41 Suzi Feay I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara 57 Real life Melissa Kite Bridge Susanna Gross ARTS 42 Interview Ian Cheng, creator of sentient digital life forms Sam Leith AND FINALLY . . . 52 Notes on… Evensong Revd Dr Jonathan Arnold 44 Theatre Summer and Smoke; Great Apes Lloyd Evans Cinema Unsane Deborah Ross 45 Rock The making of Moody Blues Michael Hann Governments are never more vulnerable to committing acts of stupidity than when they are hellbent on showing the electorate and the world that they are determined to do something Rod Liddle, p17 58 Chess Raymond Keene Competition Lucy Vickery 59 Crossword Fieldfare 60 No sacred cows Toby Young Battle for Britain Michael Heath 61 Sport Roger Alton 46 Exhibitions Tacita Dean Martin Gayford 47 Opera Rinaldo; La traviata Michael Tanner Hunting people are tremendous fun and smell of nothing worse than horses and sloe gin Charles Moore, p9 Now that I am middle-aged I realise I am simply greedy and lazy and I would rather eat too much than approve of my reflection Tanya Gold, p26 Your problems solved Mary Killen 62 Food Tanya Gold 48 Television The Durrells James Walton Mind your language Dot Wordsworth 50 The listener Vince Staples Rod Liddle Radio Blind blues musicians Kate Chisholm CONTRIBUTORS Isabel Hardman, who writes about her recovery from depression on p12, is The Spectator’s assistant editor and a presenter of Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster. Jamie Bartlett is the author of The Dark Net and Radicals. On p14, he explains how Facebook harvests our data and why. the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Andrew Taylor, who reviews Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy’s Money In The Morgue on p39, is himself a crime writer. His new book, The Fire Court, is out next month from HarperCollins. James Bradley is a novelist and critic who has received multiple awards in his native Australia. His most recent novel is Clade. He reviews Jeet Thayil’s new novel on p34. Alex Clark is a former editor of Granta and artistic director of the Bath Literary Festival. She reviews Samantha Harvey on p40. 5 Home B ritain and the European Union agreed on a transitional period after Brexit on 29 March 2019 until the end of 2020 in which Britain can make trade deals and EU citizens will be able to claim UK residency. The Irish border question was unresolved. British fisherfolk were sold down the river, despite an undertaking a week earlier by Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. In a joint statement, the two politicians had promised: ‘Britain will leave the CFP [Common Fisheries Policy] as of March 2019.’ In fact, Britain will merely be ‘consulted’ on fishing quotas during the transitional period. A statement by the leaders of the United States, Germany, France and Britain castigated Russia over the murder attempt against Sergei Skripal, a Russian defector, and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on 4 March: ‘The United Kingdom thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack,’ it said. ‘We share the UK assessment.’ Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary said: ‘Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up,’; in reply the Russian defence ministry called him ‘a vulgar old harpy’ or ‘bazaar khabalka’. Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said: ‘We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purpose of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok.’ The Russians expelled 23 diplomats in response to 6 Britain’s expulsion of 23 of theirs, will close the British consulate in St Petersburg and will bar the British Council. Police investigated the death of Nikolai Glushkov, a friend of Putin critic Boris Berezovsky; he was found dead from compression of the neck at New Malden, Surrey, on 12 March. Owen Jones, a left-wing journalist, claimed that Newsnight, on a backdrop, had photoshopped Jeremy Corbyn’s hat ‘to look more Russian’; the BBC denied it. N sent his ‘congratulations’ and said: ‘Our common objective should be to re-establish a cooperative pan-European security order.’ Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, was held in custody over claims, strongly denied, that he received campaign funding from the late Colonel Gaddafi. A ational Health Service staff, apart from doctors, were offered a 6.5 per cent rise over three years. Sir Richard Body, a long-time opponent of the European Community, died aged 90. Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, Brenda Dean, the leader of Sogat during the Times lockout in 1986, died aged 74. Garech Browne, the bohemian Irish landed gent, died aged 78. Katie Boyle, the television presenter, died aged 91. The bearded half of Ant and Dec, Ant McPartlin, arrested after a roadside breath test following a collision, took time off for treatment. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have an organic lemon and elderflower cake at their wedding. Abroad V ladimir Putin was elected for another six years as President of Russia, with 76 per cent of the vote in a turnout of 67 per cent. Alexei Navalny, the most popular opposition politician, had been barred from standing, and Boris Nemtsov, another opponent, had been shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, ndrew McCabe, its deputy director until January, was sacked from the FBI by the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, two days before his 50th birthday, when he’d have qualified for a federal pension; President Donald Trump tweeted that it was ‘A great day for Democracy’. Uber suspended tests of self-driving cars in North American cities after a woman was killed as she crossed the street in Tempe, Arizona. Facebook was criticised for letting Cambridge Analytica harvest information from millions of users for use in Donald Trump’s election campaign; both companies denied any wrongdoing. In Washington, Councilman Trayon White Sr apologised for blaming Jews for the snowy weather, after speaking on a Facebook video of the ‘Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters’. T urkish-backed Syrian rebels took Afrin in northern Syria from a Kurdish militia after 200,000 had fled the city. More than 12,000 people fled the town of Hamouria in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, as government forces advanced. In the face of a 6,000 per cent inflation rate, the town of Elorza in western Venezuela issued its own paper currency. Ireland won a grand slam in the Six Nations. CSH the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Rachel Johnson went to a dinner for Toby Young, who has had some troubles of late, at this magazine’s gracious HQ, hosted by the editor. I was slightly dreading being beasted by a reptilian gathering of hard Brexiters, but it was in the diary. So I tipped up last Friday in a somewhat plunging jumpsuit and accepted only water as aperitif, wittering about not having done my column yet and having to do Newsnight later. Half an hour later I was knocking back claret and competing to tell embarrassing stories about Toby and it was still only 7.15 p.m. (the evening started at the ungodly hour of 6.30 p.m.). Over the beef I asked who the greybeard on my left was, across from Douglas Murray and James Delingpole. ‘He was the treasurer of Vote Leave,’ Tobes whispered back. And he seemed so nice! I read aloud rare extracts from Young’s juvenilia that had escaped the rabid attention of the Twitchfork mob, and reminded the guest of honour that he had repaid me for taking him and his wife Caroline on holiday to Marrakech last October by publishing his thank-you letter headlined, ‘My holiday hell with angry Remoaners’. I hope all goes well for my old mate. I can’t think of anyone more committed to the noble cause of improving state education who makes me laugh so much. Even though guests were split between libtards and the altright, we were all united by our love of Toby, whom I’ve known since I was a teenager. You can’t make old friends. I his Lenin cap into a Russian fur hat and putting him in Red Square. On it went. I was bewildered. Why were we talking about Corbyn’s hat, not the national security crisis? I had no idea. I hadn’t seen the previous night’s edition, so when Evan came to me I thought I’d move away from Corbyn’s hat, and said I didn’t think the leader of the opposition should be called a traitor for failing to say that Putin had n the green room at the BBC, I stood worrying in front of the long mirror that my jumpsuit really was too much, even for post-watershed telly. Edward Lucas of the Economist grimaced in agreement. Then he fished for a safety pin he said he always kept in his wallet. Lucas did his turn at the top. Twenty minutes later Jenni Russell of the Times, Owen Jones of the Grauniad and I took our seats against a lurid backdrop of the Kremlin. The presenter Evan Davis turned to Owen first, but instead of answering the question, Jones went into a mystifying rant he’d prepared earlier about how the BBC was framing Corbyn as a commie stooge, by photoshopping y husband was away but such was the impact of Friday’s Newsnight (inside the Beltway, anyway) that he called me from Barcelona to tell me I was a nutter. ‘Who else do you think did it, you fool?’ he raved. That’s not the point. I’m not saying that the Russians didn’t do it, but in plot terms, the most obvious perp — i.e. the actor who had the means, motive, etc — is the least interesting. The novelist in me wants more mysterious dark forces to be in the toxic mix simply for the sake of the narrative arc. My husband and I like to say that Brexit — the only thing we’ve agreed on for 25 years — saved our marriage. Ironic if Putin is going to destroy it after all. M aturday morning. Still hadn’t written my column for the Mail on Sunday. But then — boom! At 9 a.m. I was scrambled. Tom Bower had dropped his latest payload of revelations, this time about the eyewatering extravagance of the ‘pampered prince’ in the Daily Mail (which had splashed £125,000 on the serialisation rights). Some of it would have made a Saudi prince blush. But one old friend of Charles and Camilla told me they were ‘quite happy to hunker down in Devon’ like the rest for hunting and shooting weekends. The only extra trouble the hostess ever went to for the duchess was to ‘put out more ashtrays’. S I OAD the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk gone in person to Zizzi in Salisbury to spike the Skripals’ risotto with novichok. Not without some proof anyway. Or words to that effect. Many people on Twitter — with names like @JC4PM accessorised by red rose emojis — approved. The clip of me saying this was retweeted hundreds of times, but that is not usually a good sign in my experience. Meanwhile, fake hatgate went viral (two million social media hits). I staggered out to rehydrate with sauvignon blanc, and found the green room empty apart from Edward Lucas. ‘Why are you still here?’ I asked. ‘I’m waiting to get my safety pin back,’ he replied, as if surprised at the question. ‘It’s my Scottish blood.’ Tagliatelle: Diamond, gold and silver rings Cassandra Goad, 147 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9BZ Telephone: 020 7730 2202 cassandragoad.com Rachel Johnson is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday. 7 POLITICS|JAMES FORSYTH The Tories are risking their reputation as the party of law and order T heresa May’s Home Office record is normally off limits at cabinet. But when ministers discussed the government’s strategy for reducing violent crime on Tuesday, Boris Johnson took issue with what the Prime Minister regards as one of her key legacies: the dramatic reduction in stop and search. He argued that more stop and search was needed to deal with a spike in crime. What went unsaid — but what everyone around the cabinet table was acutely aware of — was that this was the opposite of Mrs May’s approach as Home Secretary. The exchange was pointed. ‘They irritate each other,’ one cabinet minister observed to me afterwards. They also have form on these matters. They clashed on law and order when May was home secretary and Johnson was mayor of London and in charge of the capital’s policing. One secretary of state halfjokingly described the cabinet as a ‘water cannons retrospective’, a reference to Johnson’s irritation when May barred the Metropolitan police from using the ones he had bought after the 2011 London riots. But this wasn’t just a clash of egos. Rather, it was a profound disagreement on how best to prevent crime. As one of those present put it to me: ‘Boris thinks stop and search is the answer; she thinks she stopped a national scandal.’ Johnson’s argument was that as London mayor he had found stop and search to be a hugely effective tool. He argued that it was one of the main reasons why London had had a falling knife crime and murders rate at a time when the capital’s population was growing. May, though, is more sceptical. As Home Secretary, she toughened up the rules around the police’s use of stop and search, declaring in 2014 that the system was ‘unfair, especially for young black men’. She warned that about a quarter of all stops that had been carried out the previous year were ‘probably illegal’, and threatened the police with legislation if they weren’t more restrained. At last year’s Tory conference, May claimed success. She said that following her changes, ‘the number of black people being stopped and searched has fallen by over two-thirds’. She is right that there has been a dramatic drop in the number of all stops in recent years. It has gone from roughly 1.2 million in 2009 to around 300,000 last year. But it is less clear that this is something to be celebrated. 8 First of all, there is a question mark over whether it’s right that stop and search disproportionately affected black people. Alasdair Palmer, who worked for May at the Home Office, claims that the department’s own research showed this not to be the case, once you adjusted for who was present on the streets when the police were stopping and searching. But he says that May’s political team deliberately ignored this point. Secondly, there is the fact that the dramatic fall in stop and search has coincided with a rise in crime. Figures out in January show a 14 per cent increase in police-recorded crime. Knife crime is up by even more, 21 Both Labour and Tory campaigners report that crime is being raised by voters more than it has been in years per cent, as is gun crime, 20 per cent. In London alone, seven people have been killed in stabbings or shootings since last Wednesday. This debate over stop and search is politically significant because crime, which had almost dropped off the political agenda, is back. In March 2016, the pollsters IpsosMori found concern about it at a 25-year low. But with crime appearing to be rising again, the public are becoming more worried. Both Labour and Tory campaigners report that it is now being raised by voters on the doorstep in a way that it hasn’t been in years. One wouldn’t have imagined Jeremy Corbyn to be the kind of Labour leader who would embrace crime as an issue — a bit too Blairite for him, you’d have thought. But he is actually keen to push it up the agenda. Labour were struck by how potent their attacks on the Tories for cutting police numbers were during the election campaign, and see an opportunity to argue that ‘austerity’ has made us all less safe. Also, by claiming that falling police numbers have led to a rise in crime, they can take aim at the Prime Minister’s record at the Home Office. It was telling that May, normally so comfortable talking about Home Office matters, tried to change the subject to the economy when Corbyn asked about crime at Prime Minister’s Questions last month. Downing Street does privately acknowledge that it needs a defensive strategy on crime; it was the current Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, briefing the cabinet on a new strategy for reducing violent offences, which led to the exchange on stop and search. In fact, technology might provide an answer to the stop and search question that both May and Johnson can live with. The rollout of body cameras for the police makes it easier for them to demonstrate that they are using their powers in an appropriate manner. But the Tories do need to do something on crime. The statistics are complex, making it hard to say with confidence what is happening. But the big increases in burglary and car crime, as well as the increase in violent crime, suggest that things are getting worse, not better. It is hard to see how the spike in knife crime, which is claiming so many young lives and leading to a sense that the streets aren’t safe, can be addressed without an increase in stop and search. The tactic mustn’t be used in a heavy-handed manner. But the fall in its use, by three-quarters in under a decade, has clearly been excessive. Theresa May told the cabinet on Tuesday that the police have all the powers they need when it comes to stop and search, and that the problem had been that it was being used illegally. But the recent spate of stabbings suggests that the police are now overly reluctant to use these methods. The Tories are, traditionally, the party of law and order. But if they can’t halt the rise in crime, they risk losing that tag along with their reputation for competence. SPECTATOR.CO.UK/COFFEEHOUSE Hourly updates from Parliament and beyond. the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Charles Moore or almost as long as I can remember, Eurosceptic Tory MPs have been defined by the media as ‘head-bangers’. As a result, few notice that they scarcely bang their heads at all these days. The European Research Group (ERG), now led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, is surprisingly united, and makes most of its arguments blande suaviterque. The noise of craniums bashing themselves against Pugin panelling is much louder on the other side — Anna Soubry in the Commons, Andrew Adonis in the Lords. The Eurosceptic head-bangers are being particularly cautious about this week’s transition deal. Although they dislike most of it, they broadly accept the whips’ arguments that if the party can agree the transitional arrangements, Brexit is assured, and if not, not. In the short term, they want to make it impossible for any Lords attempt to scupper the Withdrawal Bill to prevail in the Commons. Of course, RT lets you say what you think: they would be ludicrously ineffective propagandists if they didn’t. The point is that by appearing, you legitimise their platform. You help create the utter confusion about what is true and who is right which is the Russian government’s aim. To reverse the usual expression, your honest opinions allow lies to be surrounded by a bodyguard of truth. F would not be so bold as to say the ERG tactics are wrong. The fact of Brexit does matter more than its details, so the most important thing is to achieve that fact. But since we journalists don’t have to worry about whips, here are a few sobering considerations. First, Michael Gove’s promise to British fishermen is being completely disregarded, with particularly bad effects in his native Scotland. They will now have two more years of misery, and will be further persecuted in the process when unrealistic quotas which they cannot affect are imposed upon them, along with the full discard ban. Second, the terms of the transition are a victory for the producer interests — the CBI, the NFU, the European managers of big car companies. This is distressing when the ultimate effect of Brexit ought to be a consumer revolution like the repeal of the Corn Laws. It means consumers will have felt little Brexit benefit by the next election. Third, the more the negotiations edge forward, the less the government will contemplate ‘no deal’; yet the more one looks at the likely deal, the better ‘no deal’ looks. I verything is so hard to read. Take the situation on Ireland. The ‘backstop’ position of a customs union between the Republic and the North would actually E be a ‘back-down’ position for the British government if it happened. It would in effect break up the United Kingdom. On the other hand, Brexiteers should be encouraged that the EU has quietly contradicted itself — and squashed the government of the Irish Republic — by pushing forward with trade negotiations without settling the Irish question first. So, on balance, the ‘parking’ of the Irish border is a good thing, though no doubt Churchill’s ‘dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone’ will soon re-emerge. n Tuesday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies unveiled ‘research’ which shows only a 0.2 per cent GDP gain for Britain if we abolished all trade tariffs. On the Today programme, Paul Johnson, the IFS director, was duly permitted to air these ‘findings’ as if they were objective truth. Yet we know — because he himself has said so [see last week’s Notes] — that Mr Johnson believes there is ‘no economic case for Brexit’. It is therefore certain that no IFS report will make one. If you look at the pie chart of the IFS’s funding, you will see that nearly half of its money comes from the Economic and Social Research Council, plus 10 per cent from government departments, 10 per cent from the EU and 18.4 per cent from ‘international organisations’. Again, this huge publicsector/governmental bias makes its research conclusions almost inevitable. For all I know, the IFS does valuable work; but whether it does so or not, it trades under false colours. In items relating to Brexit, it should always be introduced on air as the ‘pro-Remain think tank’. O ome people I respect are content to go on the Russian TV channel RT, on the grounds that ‘they let me say what I think’. I’m afraid this is a form of vanity. S the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk he eternal child abuse inquiry (IICSA) is currently hearing from the Church of England. Last week, evidence was given by Colin Perkins, safeguarding officer for Chichester diocese in 2015 when it declared that the late Bishop George Bell had committed child abuse and quickly paid money to the complainant, ‘Carol’. Mr Perkins said the Church was uninsured. The ‘backdrop’ to the decision to settle with ‘Carol’, he went on, was that the Church was highly nervous that ‘a potentially large number’ of victims of Bishop Peter Ball (who actually did commit sex crimes) might also make claims for which the Church was uninsured once the report on Bell had been published. He seemed to be saying that the core group set up to investigate the truth of Carol’s allegation was hurrying to settle before the Ball report appeared. If it was motivated by saving the Church money rather than establishing truth, isn’t that rather an amazing admission? T n the 1990s, it emerges, undercover police officers infiltrating animal liberation/environmentalist extremist groups were advised to confine themselves to ‘fleeting and disastrous’ affairs with their victims, known in police parlance as ‘wearies’: ‘One cannot be involved with a weary for any period of time without risking serious consequences.’ Now that the police are compelled to investigate breaches of the Hunting Act, I wonder what advice is given to their undercover officers. Unlike wearies, hunting people (hereby known as ‘foxies’) are tremendous fun and smell of nothing worse than horses and sloe gin. If the police enter into relationships with foxies, they will find them so enduring and thrilling that they will quite forget the purpose for which they arrived on the scene in the first place. I 9 Overdosed Our dangerous dependency on antidepressants ANGELA PATMORE W e have become a nation of sad pill-poppers. The British, once Churchill’s ‘lion-hearted nation’, are now among the most depressed people in the developed world. The UK ranks joint seventh out of 25 countries, with double the rates of Poland, Estonia and the Slovak Republic. According to the Children’s Society, English children are more miserable than those in 13 other countries such as Ethiopia and Algeria — despite the widespread introduction of ‘wellbeing’ lessons. One in six workers in England experiences ‘symptoms’ of mental illness, and around 300,000 people leave their jobs every year because of them. The cost to the economy is put at up to £99 billion. And the lower we plummet, the more antidepressants we take. Doctors, at a loss for other solutions, dish them out like candy. Last month a study was splashed over the front pages suggesting that we should take more. A million extra NHS patients should be dosed up with them, said the report’s lead author, Oxford psychiatrist Professor Andrea Cipriani. He claims this metaanalysis provides ‘the final answer’ to the controversy over happy pills. Can that be right? Is the science now complete, all questions answered? Or might Cipriani’s advice, and our cavalier attitudes to dosing ourselves with brain chemicals, be seriously misguided? As he says, the answer can be found in the study — although not in the way he thinks. Its findings do not support the hype at all. In fact, the difference between antidepressants and placebos was so marginal that scientific critics who have analysed the results (such as Professor Peter Gotzsche of the Nordic Cochrane Centre) call it clinically negligible. For a start, the study — hailed by newspaper headlines like ‘The drugs do work’ — looks only at adults ‘with unipolar major depressive disorder’. Depressed young people are excluded. Many depressed adults are also excluded, partly because they are routinely excluded from trials in the first place. People with a medical condition or judged to have ‘treatment-resistant depres- 10 sion’ were debarred. ‘Minor depression’, which prompts so many to consult GPs, was deemed not relevant to the review either, so it would be clinically unsound for doctors to treat these patients with antidepressants on the basis of it. Needless to say, the vast majority of the trials under analysis (78 per cent) were funded by the drug manufacturers. Of the 522 trials included, only 96 (18 per cent) were considered at ‘low risk’ of bias. Even the authors admitted that the certainty of evidence was ‘moderate to very low’. This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the clinical evidence they were examining — where the cutoff point for analysis was after only eight weeks of treatment. What about false positives? The study says, for example: ‘Depressive symptoms tend to spontaneously improve over time’ and that this is why placebos appear to work. What it does not say is that this may also explain why antidepressants appear to work. Professor Cipriani disputes some reactions to the study and says its focus was intentionally narrow to provide a clearcut result. The heart of the problem — one that won’t appeal to the drugs companies that have managed to acquire a striking amount of influence over our understanding of depression — is this: if depression ‘spontaneously improves over time’, why are doctors so keen to administer quick-fix chemical solutions? Edition after edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the western diagnostic textbook, has expanded the number of mental illnesses, driven not by new research but by other considerations. It is an invitation to over-diagnose. Originally there were 16 vague disorders. The latest edition has 374 conditions, doubtless including a ‘depression’ to fit you. Little wonder that the number of antidepressant items prescribed has more than doubled in the past decade. The so-called worried well visit the doc with a case of everyday blues, and instead of being told gently that time will heal, or listened to carefully, they’re dosed up. GPs have eight to ten minutes per patient. This may not even be enough time for the person to get control of their emotions to speak, let alone explain their troubling circumstances. Chances are the GP will fetch out a questionnaire. The one for depression is called PHQ-9. The one for anxiety is called GAD-7. Both were devised by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which happens to market drugs for depression and anxiety. GPs claim not to be overly reliant on these forms but they are pressed for time and the patient’s distressing problems may be complicated. There’s not enough time to work out if drugs are the right answer; or, for that matter, which drugs are best. For all of the ubiquity of the drugs, there is still no proof behind the biological theory of depression as a ‘chemical imbalance’ of the brain that can be corrected by drugs. Combine this with a ‘stress’ ideology medicalising people’s emotions and you end up with a very serious problem. Distressed patients who might benefit from wise advice instead get an unnecessary chemical coshing. Some of the world’s leading experts are now demanding a review of the whole approach to ‘chemical cures’ and biological explanations for mental illness. The Brit- the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ish Division of Clinical Psychology, part of the British Psychological Society, has called for a paradigm shift away from the ‘disease model’ of mental health. The Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry is pushing for radical change. Its eviscerating exposé The Sedated Society presents detailed evidence of flaws and fraud in the ‘chemical imbalance’ research; of rigged and corrupted data, of psychiatry’s huge financial indebtedness to the pharmaceutical giants, and of unsuspecting patients being dosed with drugs that they did not need and that have gravely harmed them. This, then, is the really dark side of sunshine pills: they may actually induce the very symptoms they’re taken to alleviate, or worse. Antidepressants and benzodiazepines or ‘minor’ tranquillisers may cause both disturbing side-effects and terrifying withdrawal symptoms. When a patient experiences bad reactions to the drugs, his or her GP, instead of tailing off the medication, tends to prescribe additional ‘countering’ drugs. This happened to my father, who ended up incurably addicted to two dangerous brain drugs, rather than just the one that apparently caused him to beat my mother, hold a breadknife to my throat and smash up everything breakable in our home. All the drugs work by depressing the There is still no proof that depression is a ‘chemical imbalance’ of the brain that can be corrected by drugs brain’s central nervous system, and the brain counters this interference with chemicals of its own before it finally succumbs to organic damage. Patients may initially think they are getting better. But while some may find these pharmaceutical fixes help them through crises (rightly or wrongly attributing their emotional healing to the pills rather than themselves), others have seen their lives disintegrate. Two years ago, the BMJ published an analysis of 70 trials involving 18,526 people (the biggest review of its kind) on antidepressants, suicide and violence. Its findings were alarming. In under-18s the risk of such adverse events was doubled. The review states prominently: ‘In the summary trial reports on Eli Lilly’s website, almost all deaths were noted, but all suicidal ideation events [moments when patients form the idea of killing themselves] were missing.’ A review of 142 trials of three antipsychotics, two antidepressants and the ADHD drug atomoxetine showed that most deaths (62 per cent) and suicides (53 per cent) reported in summaries did not appear in crucial articles about the trials. A lot of patients on antidepressants experience a potentially dangerous sideeffect called akathisia, or violent mental agitation. Symptoms include ‘severe anxiety When That Which Is Perfect Is Come He married Doll in Orford. Lea, her real name, was shed like the mixed tears and confetti on the waving platform. They sat back hand-in-hand and wove away from the ness, crossing the Orwell to Kent, the terrace house she was born in, grew up in. There they lived together seven decades, until death took them within a tell-tale short time of each other. Her maiden name, the name of the most famous Kentish beer hop, was gone; so too, eventually, were the hops, the green rows blackening with Verticulum Wilt, one-by-one, until the kells cooled. — Robert Selby and restlessness’, floor-pacing, sleeplessness and violent jerking of extremities. Says the reforming psychiatrist Professor Peter Breggin: ‘Akathisia can become the equivalent of biochemical torture and could possibly tip someone over the edge into selfdestructive or violent behaviour.’ In June 2012, James Holmes walked into a cinema in Colorado armed with an assault rifle, handguns and a canister of tear gas and shot 12 people dead, wounding 70 others. In March 2015, German airline pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew his plane into the French Alps, killing all 150 on board. In May 2016, investment banker Sanjay Nijhawan killed his wife Sonita in a frenzied axe and knife attack at their Weybridge home, inflicting 124 wounds. In June 2016, jobless gardener Thomas Mair of Birstall, West Yorkshire, a reader of far-right literature but ‘mild-mannered’ and ‘kind’ according to neighbours, walked into the Wellbeing Centre in Birstall run by Rebecca Walker and asked for help. He said his medication for depression wasn’t working and ‘seemed agitated and treading from side to side’. He was asked to come back the the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk next day when the centre reopened. Instead he shot and stabbed to death the MP Jo Cox. In October last year, Stephen Paddock opened fire on a Las Vegas music festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 59 and injuring 489. In November, Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 26 at a church in Texas. All of these killers had been taking prescription medication for depression. You’d think it might have helped. I asked the Office for National Statistics about antidepressants involved in suicides registered in England and Wales. It said: ‘The main issue we have in monitoring suicides relating to specific drugs is that the information we require is not always on the death certificate… I’m sorry that we can’t be of more help.’ A recent statistic report was bad enough. It reported 3,346 registered drug-poisoning deaths (involving both legal and illegal drugs) in England and Wales in one year and added: ‘There were 517 deaths involving antidepressants, the highest number since 1999.’ And all trends are up. Deaths involving antidepressants between 2012 and 2016 numbered 2,358. The obvious question is: would these people have committed suicide anyway, or did they do so because of the effects of the drug — or in despair at the failure of the drug to help them; a sense that there was no way out? The pharmaceutical manufacturers have always argued the former. Scientific and medical critics argue the latter. If you are about to swallow antidepressants, you are the line-judge. SPECTATOR.CO.UK/PODCAST Angela Patmore and Professor Simon Wessely on antidepressants. 11 My drug trials Treating my depression has proved a hit-or-miss affair ISABEL HARDMAN A ntidepressants saved my life, I am sure of that. But I am also certain they made my mental illness much worse too. It has taken just under two years from my first very dark thoughts to me feeling sane and — largely — back in control of my mind. That’s not merely because it takes time to heal, but because it took at least six months for the doctors to work out what pills to give me. My symptoms of anxiety and depression started in the spring of 2016, and the first few drugs I was prescribed didn’t work. In fact, they really did just make things worse. The GP listened to me describing my symptoms, and handed me a course of Citalopram, a very common antidepressant. Counselling would be essential too, she said, but the local NHS was so overstretched that it could take a year before I’d get any. I started having private counselling and waited for the drugs to work. They didn’t. In fact, I realised that I was becoming more paranoid and agitated. I grew convinced that I was going to be sacked from work, that my friends hated me, and that my new partner was on the brink of leaving me. The constant feeling of panic was exhausting, and to top this off, I couldn’t sleep. The doctor doubled my dose and told me to keep going: sometimes these things took a while to work. By the early autumn, I was struggling to make it through a couple of days — let alone a whole week — of work, and spent most evenings in a blind panic about my personal life. I still couldn’t sleep. The doctor suggested adding another drug, Mirtazapine, which would calm me down. This medicine did what it promised, but it calmed me down so much that not only did it take me an hour before I could even crawl to the bathroom in the morning, it also slowed down my metabolism and I gained a stone and a half in a month. I had been the same size and weight since I was 21, but now I was swelling like a marrow. And still I wasn’t improving. In fact, by this point I had become too ill to work, breaking down totally at the Conservative party conference and needing emergency sedation. I went back to the doctor again. ‘I’ve never worried all that much about how I look,’ I said. ‘But if I keep on taking this 12 drug I might start. Plus I’m now off work and I’m frightened that I’m never going to be able to go back.’ The doctor weaned me off Citalopram and Mirtazapine, and tried another common drug, Sertraline. I was referred to a psychiatrist (privately, as the NHS waiting list was unbearably long), who considered diagnoses other than the common (and rather vaguely defined) anxiety and depression. Over the following months, the symptoms of what now appeared to be post-traumatic stress disorder started to improve a little. But it was only after the doctors tripled my dose of Sertraline and prescribed yet another pill to take in the evenings; a sleeping pill with an antidepressant effect called Trazodone, that I regained my sanity. Those pills have their side-effects, too, but I was never forewarned about the weight gain, There is so little research into mental illness that much of the treatment is pure trial and error night sweats or other unpleasant problems antidepressants can cause. I just learned about them when they turned up uninvited. I’m not even sure the medication would have worked without my therapy and the Olympic-style regime I’ve set up to keep my mind as fit as possible. I ran so much last year that my foot packed in. Now I cycle obsessively and go for a daily short walk to calm my mind. I try to redirect my paranoia into obsessing about nature, enrolling on a distance-learning botany course as well as taking up birdwatching. When I told an MP about my new obsession with kingfishers, he told me: ‘Isabel, I never thought I’d say this to anyone in Westminster. But you really need to get out less.’ Does it really have to take so long to recover? My experience is typical: Citalopram and Sertraline are ‘first-line’ drugs that doctors try out on patients with depressive symptoms. When those don’t work after a few months they move on to others. But no one knows which drugs work best for which patient. There is so little research that much treatment is pure trial and error. But the time, and health, lost during those months of trial and error comes at a huge cost to the patient and to wider society. A recent government report on mental health and the workplace estimated that the economy loses between £74 billion and £99 billion a year as a result of mental illness, with employers losing up to £42 billion from staff ill-health. Nothing like those sums is spent on improving the treatment of depression. In fact, mental health represents only 5.8 per cent of the total UK health research spend: £8 per person affected by mental illness. That figure is 22 times higher for cancer. No wonder cancer treatment has made such thrilling advances in recent years. The prognosis for many cancers is dramatically better as a result of the vast sums of money that have rightly been spent researching treatments for this killer illness. But mental health needs to catch up. Many of its treatments are from another era and the basic design of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication and antipsychotics has barely changed since the 1950s. The newest antidepressants are no more effective than the first modern one, which was called Imipramine. Science has moved on in so many areas, but not when it comes to mental illness. The charity MQ is funding work on how to predict which pills will work best for which patient. Led by Dr Claire Gillan at Trinity College Dublin, this will develop an algorithm to estimate how well someone with certain symptoms will respond to a particular medicine. It could mean that trial and error is replaced by something more akin to cancer treatment, where drugs are developed to work well for specific groups of patients. Herceptin, for instance, is only given to patients who have tested positive for HER2 cancer. Currently, we don’t know enough about what lies behind the many different types of depression to tell which drugs will help. I’ve recently started reducing my dose of Sertraline. I could, if I needed to, live with the side-effects for life, but I’d rather not. I do, though, look back over the past two years and feel a pang of sadness, not so much for how hard everything has been, but for how unnecessarily long it took to start the right treatment, let alone recover. the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk More little luxuries, more treasured moments Receive extra money to spend on board and take more memories home Discover an endlessly diverse region on a holiday ﬁlled with pleasant surprises. Sail through the mountain-ﬂanked, sparkling blue fjords of Khasab, Oman. Spot roaming exotic wildlife on Sir Bani Yas Island. Learn the rich history of Bahrain and kayak through Abu Dhabi’s tranquil mangroves. With its spectacular man-made wonders and enchanting desert setting, it’s no wonder 1.1m Brits visited Dubai in 2017^. 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That’s not how it felt inside the ‘Project Alamo’ offices in San Antonio, Texas where Trump’s digital division — led by Brad Parscale, who’d worked previously with Trump’s estate division setting up websites — was running one of the most sophisticated dataled election campaigns ever. Once Trump’s nomination was secured, the Republican Party heavyweights moved in, and so did seconded staff from Facebook and Google, there to help their well-paying clients best use their platforms to reach voters. Joining them were 13 employees from the UK-based data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica, who were led by chief product officer Matt ‘Oz’ Oczkowski, who had enormous biceps and walked around the office carrying a golf club. Brad, and his boss Jared Kushner, had bet the house on running a data-led campaign, figuring that was their best chance against the formidable Clinton machine. Cambridge were the data guys brought in to help him do it. Their main job was to build what they called ‘universes’ of voters, grouping people into categories, like American moms worried about childcare who hadn’t voted before. Cambridge had a database of around 5,000 data points on 200 million Americans and combined it with the Republican Party’s own voter data to build dozens of these highly focused universes and model how ‘persuadable’ its members were. (For example, analysts discovered during the race that a preference for cars made in the US was a solid indication of a potential Trump voter). Creative types then designed specialised ads for these universes, based on the specific things they were thought to care about. Everything was tested, retested, redesigned. They sent out thousands of versions of fund14 raising emails or Facebook ads, working out what performed best. They tried donate pages with red buttons, green buttons, yellow buttons. They even tested which unflattering picture of Hillary worked best. It wasn’t just about the online ads, either. Cambridge Analytica’s universes also showed where Trump should hold rallies. A few weeks in, for example, Brad shifted budgets to the swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin. Kushner told Trump to start campaigning in Pennsylvania too. Commentators at the time said that was stupid. But it was all data-led. Over the last few days, Cambridge Analytica’s use of these techniques has hit a very big democracy-in-crisis nerve. It feels sinister, manipulative, deceptive. A former employee, Christopher Wylie, claimed Cambridge was using millions of Facebook users’ data without the proper permissions (the company denies this). There followed a Channel 4 documentary which caught Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix bragging about various shady ways in which his company could win elections, including sending in Ukrainian women as honey traps and a litany of other potentially illegal activities. On Tuesday, Cambridge suspended Nix. Lots of the outrage has revolved around Cambridge’s possible use of ‘psychographics’. This is a specific technique of profiling people’s personality types — openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and so on — and using those profiles to inform messaging. Cambridge denies using psychographics during the Trump campaign, but has used this technique in the past, and even claimed it could predict the personality type of every single adult in the US. Important and intriguing as this all is, it’s also a bit of a distraction. It pins the blame on Nix as a silver-tongued Old Etonian villain with megalomaniacal tech gurus. What should be more worrying is that nearly all the digital methods used by Cambridge are both perfectly legal and widespread. Facebook is currently reeling and apologising — it has already lost several billions in market value this week following the Cambridge allegations. It’s easy to see why the company is worried: its entire business model is based on serving up exactly this kind of insanely targeted insight and micro-advertising. Bear in mind that Facebook still boasts how fabulously and precisely it can target voters: ‘Using Facebook’s targeting tools, the [Conservative] party was able to reach 80.65 per cent of Facebook users in the key marginal seats’ reads one ‘Success Story’ on the company’s ‘Business’ page about the Tory 2015 win. ‘The party’s videos were viewed 3.5 million times, while 86.9 per cent of all ads served had social context — the all-important endorsement by a friend.’ Perhaps we’d be less upset by this if Facebook correctly identified itself as primarily the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk an ad firm, rather than a socially spirited connector of humans. Mark Zuckerberg’s dream of joining the world also means connecting Cambridge Analytica’s data guys to Ford-driving American moms worried about childcare who’d never voted before. Nearly, if not all, of Cambridge’s data set was legally acquired: buying up consumer records, credit-card data, telephone surveys, and so on. Lots of companies do this. There’s a whole network of data analytics firms using sophisticated cookies and tracking software to follow consumers around the web, or buying commercially available personal data. Thousands of times a day we are put unwillingly and unknowingly into ‘buckets’ or ‘universes’ by clever data analysts who obsess over ‘click-through rates’ and ‘conversion’. Sometimes that’s to sell us a holiday. But it’s useful for flogging us politicians, too. The modern election is still mostly about having the right candidate. But it’s increasingly important to get the right message to the right people at the right time — tapping into their deepest emotions and fears to figure out what buttons to push. We used to call this sort of thing propaganda. Now we call it ‘a behavioural approach to persuasive communication with quantifiable results’ and give awards to the people who are best at it. A network of private contractors and data analysts who offer their wares to political parties are spreading these techniques all over the world. Dominic Cummings, who as Vote Leave’s campaign director ran a very data-led campaign, wrote after the Brexit vote that ‘if you want to make big improvements in communication, my advice is — hire physicists, not communications people from normal companies’. but effectively, Labour relied on Q uietly these sorts of techniques in 2017, applying data modelling to figure out potential Labour voters, and then A/B testing them with messages. They used an in-house tool called ‘Promote’, which combined Facebook information with Labour voter data, allowing senior activists to send locally based messages to the right (that is, persuadable) people. Everyone’s at it to a greater or lesser degree. In 2008, analysts working for Barack Obama assigned every voter in the country a pair of scores that predicted how likely they were to cast a ballot, and whether they supported him. In 2012, Google chief Eric Schmidt even advised the re-election campaign, and no one batted an eyelid. Hillary Clinton, too, had an extremely sophisticated system of targeting voters online. I don’t recall liberals being up in arms about this. They seemed perfectly comfortable when it was their candidate on the data rip. Every election is a mini arms race between warring tribes, which makes it very difficult to slow down the technological advances. Each year the digital tricks get a little more sinister. They dig a little deeper had gone to Clinton, as widely projected, she would be president. In a close race with two unpopular candidates and a small number of key marginal districts, Cambridge Analytica’s refined universes and Facebook’s targeting wizardry meant Trump could reach enough of the right people in the right districts with the right messages at the right time. So yes, you can argue that Cambridge Analytica did swing it for Trump. ‘Relax – the Novichok will get you before the cyber attack.’ into our skulls and we barely notice. Just imagine what sort of predictive-personality micro-targeting will be possible with the socalled ‘internet of things’. By 2020 there will be around 50 billion devices connected to the net — four times the current figure — and each one will be hoovering up your data: cars, fridges, clothes, road signs, books. Your precious daughter playing with her doll: data point! Your loved one adding some sugar to her tea: data point! Within a decade your fridge will work out what time you eat, your car will know where you’ve been, and your home assistant device will work out your approximate anger levels by your voice tone. This will be gobbled up by hungry political analysts. By cross-referencing fridge data against the number of emotional words in your Facebook posts, Cambridge Analytica or some other strategic communications team will work out that you get angrier when you’re hungry and target you with an emotive message from a law and order candidate just as you’re feeling peckish. Just received a warm message plus donation page link from Caroline Lucas? That’s because your smart bin shows you recycled that morning and a tweet analysis suggests you’re in a good mood. But the big question is: does any of this stuff even work? Or does it just make the people who pay for it feel as if they can Data from your fridge and your Facebook posts will show you get angrier when you’re hungry manipulate public opinion? There’s a strong element of Wizardry of Oz about data and targeted advertising. Because so few people understand the science, people credit it with a dark power that isn’t altogether real. People didn’t vote for Trump simply because Cambridge Analytica (or Russian bots) told them to. Far too many otherwise intelligent people, unable to comprehend Trump’s popularity, are convinced that voters were duped. The data companies are happy to propagate this myth because it’s good for business. Still, in a tight election these sorts of techniques can and do make a difference. Consider this: Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes out of six million cast, Wisconsin by 22,000, and Michigan by 11,000. These are tiny numbers: less than 1 per cent. If they the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ut that’s not what’s most worrying. The shift towards big data elections has profound consequences for the whole of modern politics. If every voter is reduced to a data point who receives not real messages from politicians, but machine- generated adverts finely tuned towards personality and mood, then elections become little more than a software war. And the more politics is a question of smart analysis and nudges rather than argument, the more power shifts away from those with good ideas and toward those with good money or good data skills. (That could be left- or right-wing of course). Worse still is the fragmentation. Microtargeting chips away at the idea of a shared public sphere. Instead of open debate each person has their own prejudices and pet projects echoed back at them. Persuasive adverts have always been used in politics. Remember the ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ poster? But big data points to a very different approach: work out who people are, find the one thing they care about, and zero in on that. There are benefits to receiving messages that appeal to you, but it is important that everyone gets the same message — or at least knows what others are getting — because that’s how we thrash out the issues of the day. If everyone receives personalised messages, there is no public commons — just millions of private ones. In addition to narrowing the scope of political debate (research suggests that candidates are more likely to campaign on polarising ‘wedge’ issues when the forum is not public) this diminishes accountability. How do you hold anyone to account if there is no clear, single set of promises that everyone can see and understand? In the long run, the constant A/B testing and targeting might even encourage a different type of politician. If politics drifts into a behavioural science of triggers and emotional nudges, it’s reasonable to assume this would most benefit candidates with the least consistent principles, the ones who make the flexible campaign promises. Perhaps the politicians of the future will be those with the fewest ideas and greatest talent for vagueness, because that leaves maximum scope for algorithm-based targeted messaging. What’s really terrifying about all this is not how outrageous it is, but how normal it has already become. B Jamie Bartlett’s new book The People Versus Tech is out this April. 15 OUR PERSONAL FINANCIAL ADVICE BEGINS WITH ONE QUESTION: WHAT MATTERS TO YOU? juliusbaer.com Issued by Julius Baer International Limited in the UK. Julius Baer International Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. ROD LIDDLE Our response to the nerve gas attack has been an act of self harm T here was a growling Russian maniac on the BBC’s Today programme last week, an MP from the United Russia party called Vitaly Milonov. Breathing rather heavily, as if he were pleasuring himself, Mr Milonov likened our country to Hitler’s Germany for having accused Russia over the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. At this point he was cut off by the presenter — rather a shame, I thought, at the time. I would have liked to hear Vitaly expand upon some of his other beliefs, such as homosexuals being responsible for the Ebola virus and Jews being Satanists. He also hates cyclists, so not all bad, then. If you wanted to conjure up a post-commie reactionary Russian pantomime villain, Vitaly is what you would end up with. But he is not a chimera; he is real. And Putin is real enough too. It is troubling, then, to find myself on the side of both of those appalling men when it comes to the UK government’s response to the attacks on Mr Skripal and his daughter. Not just the three of us, mind, but Jeremy Corbyn too. And RT, formerly Russia Today. Lovely bedfellows, all of them. The sinister, the devious and the dullards. History tells us that Corbyn will always support any country or organisation which hates Britain and the West. This makes him unfit to lead the Labour party, in my opinion. But it does not mean he is always wrong. It is quite possible he might be right on occasion, if only by accident. I think he is right now, although probably for the wrong reasons. Our response to the Salisbury nerve gas attack has been precipitous, shrill, petulant and an act of self-harm. Governments are never more vulnerable to committing acts of stupidity than when they are hellbent on showing the electorate and the world that they are determined to do something. Something, anything, to prove they are tough and taking action. And so we have a fatuous ultimatum delivered to the Russkies, which of course they had no intention of meeting, and the subsequent expulsion of 23 diplomats from the Russian embassy, followed by the expulsion of 23 of our own from Moscow. Are we better off as a consequence? Do the Russians have a look of chastisement about them? And already our European allies are — rightly — beginning to row back a little from their original stance of unequivocal support for the UK and refusing to attribute the attack directly to the Kremlin. That’s because they don’t know it is attributable to the Kremlin, and frankly nor do we at this stage. And if that’s the case, which it sur ly is, why start throwing ineffectual slings and arrows at the Bear? Why not, you know, wait a little? Gather a bit more evidence? We are told Novichok is five to eight times more lethal than VX – in which case, how come nobody is dead? There are still parts of Salisbury cordoned off. The investigators still do not know how the toxic substance was delivered. Was it on the car door handles, or on the present brought by Yulia? We are told, via Porton Down, that it was definitely Novichok, an organophosphorus nerve agent developed in the 1970s by the Soviet Union. How do they know this? It’s a mystery, because by their own admission they have never seen Novichok before, so it would surely be impossible to tie it directly to the Russian state. But then there are plenty of instructions online regarding how to make it, and the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Iran has reportedly brewed up a batch of its own, so the early and confident assertions that it must de facto have emanated from the Russian state are clearly mistaken. We are told this demonic substance is five to eight times more lethal than VX — in which case, how come nobody is dead? The merest pinhead of VX would kill a human within too short a time for treatment to be effective. Reasonably enough, the UK refused to hand over a sample of this stuff to the Russians. But why has it taken so long to have the specimen independently verified? If we wish to have international backing for whatever action we are planning to take against Putin’s mafioso state, would it not have been sensible to move more quickly? And it is also worth noting that while Novichok was indeed developed by the USSR a long time ago, its manufacture was supposedly centred in Uzbekistan, not Russia. I do not necessarily smell a conspiracy here. It is simply that the urgency with which our government wished to point the finger of blame was a case of jumping the gun, to our own eventual detriment. And perhaps, allied to that, a certain penchant for cherrypicking the available expert evidence in order to support an at least questionable thesis which already existed in the mind of the government and, I daresay, the military. We have been there before, of course, with those ‘dodgy dossiers’ which led us into an illegal and catastrophic war in Iraq. To advance these arguments, though, is to be immediately outed as an apologist for Putin — a sure sign that the capacity for rational consideration has deserted us. I carry no torch for Vlad. He is a brutal, narcissistic authoritarian and I do not like the fact that half of London is owned by his repulsive oligarchic thugs. And it seems to me marginally more likely than not that either Putin or rogue elements of his preening yet incompetent regime may indeed have been guilty of the attempted murder of Mr Skripal, much as they were for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. I would just rather we were a little more sure, a little cannier, and rather less hysterical. 17 Headlines grab attention, but only details inform. For over 28 years, that’s how Orbis has invested. By digging deep into a company’s fundamentals, we find value others miss. And by ignoring short-term market distractions, we’ve remained focused on long-term performance. For more details, ask your financial adviser or visit Orbis.com As with all investing, your capital is at risk. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results. Avoid distracting headlines Orbis Investments (U.K.) Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority Witness to an extinction BAROMETER Spin doctors The BBC has denied it photoshopped a Newsnight backdrop to make Jeremy Corbyn’s hat look more Russian. The art of doctoring photos is, appropriately enough, often credited to the Bolsheviks. One photo of Lenin in 1920 had Trotsky and Kamenev edited out after they fell from favour. — Yet manipulating photos for political purposes really began 50 years earlier. One photo, an attempt to flatter Abraham Lincoln, had his head fixed on the body of a more shapely politician, John Colhoun. — A photo of Ulysses S. Grant inspecting his troops on horseback has been exposed as being made of three different images. Course work Graduate salary data for degree courses is to be released. Which places are the best and worst at getting you a job? The percentage of 2008-09 graduates in further study or sustained work or both, five years on: highest University of Chester 83.0 University of Hull 82.6 Royal Veterinary College 82.4 Edge Hill University 82.1 University of Keele 82.1 lowest (all london-based) School of Oriental and African Studies 61.3 Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Drama 57.2 Royal College of Music 55.2 Guildhall School of Music and Drama 54.4 Conservatoire for Dance and Drama 52.8 Source: Department for Education High flyers The Zoological Society of London warned that uncleaned bird feeders spread deadly avian diseases. Which bird populations have changed most since 1970? losers % change winners % change Turtle dove -98 Greylag goose +3,647 Willow tit -93 Gadwall +1,295 Grey partridge -92 Collared dove +799 Corn bunting -90 Black-tailed godwit+739 Tree sparrow -90 Avocet +703 Source: Defra My visit to the deathbed of the last male northern white rhino AIDAN HARTLEY Laikipia, Kenya B efore vets put him down in Kenya this week, I attended the deathbed of Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhinoceros, to observe up close what extinction looks like. Like a king he lay on his side, all 2,800 kilos of him. For millennia, his species had been one of the largest of land mammals. At the grand old age of 45, his back legs had given out, then he had developed a nasty lesion. Finally his vast grey bulk became covered with what looked like bedsores. I expected Sudan’s hide to be rough and petrified. I thought of Kipling’s rhinoceros, bad-tempered on account of the crumbs hidden inside his skin by the Parsee on the Altogether Uninhabited Island in the Red Sea. To my surprise, Sudan was soft to pat and stroke. Born in the wild, he had been captured as a baby. After a life with humans in zoos, he was as friendly as a pony. With a swish of his piggy tail, he laid his hairy long ears flat against the huge spatula skull and blew out of his square lips with stentorian sighs. He seemed fed up. Sometimes tears ran down his dusty face. Surrounding Sudan in the enclosure stood his weeping Kenyan retainers, Esokon, Jojo, Zachary and James. Here on Ol Pejeta Conservancy in the shadow of Mount Kenya, these men had stayed with him night and day since he arrived from a Czech zoo in 2009. That was when last-ditch human attempts had been ramped up to breed him with the only two surviving northern white rhino females, his daughter Najin, and granddaughter Fatu. Suni, Sudan’s son, was Old money University lecturers continued a pensions dispute — but how much do pensioners get? Median weekly income in 2015-16 was £357 for the newly retired, £342 for under75s, £258 for over-75s. Proportion with the following forms of income in 2015/16: State pension ......................................... 97% Investment income ..............................63% Occupational pension..........................62% Income-related benefits ......................25% Personal pensions ................................ 18% Part-time earnings ............................... 17% 20 ‘As you can see, Gerald here is deeply religious.’ also around for a while — but then he died. The rhinos had not bred well in zoos and scientists believed they would do better in the wild. The 90,000-acre Ol Pejeta, in Laikipia, is among Africa’s best-known private conservation areas in which to protect them against poachers. It had to be Kenya because in the species’ true home — Congo, South Sudan and Uganda — gunmen had exterminated all northern whites to stock China’s apothecaries with their aphrodisiacs. The great auk, the dodo, the quagga, the passenger pigeon and the Tasmanian tiger — in childhood we learn about the extinctions of these creatures as legends of human folly. Extinctions occur all the time, usually of little creatures such as tree frogs — some going the way of the Norwegian blue parrot even Sudan laid his hairy long ears flat against his huge spatula skull and blew out of his square lips before science has a chance to name them. Yet we face a wave of megafauna extinctions. The West African sub-species of black rhino was declared gone only in 2011, while two Asian species of rhino, the Javan and Sumatran, have dwindled into the dozens. For Sudan’s northern whites — cousins of the commoner southern white — it is too late, barring a Jurassic Park-style miracle. Scientists have devised a plan to save the species by selecting healthy rhino sperm — from both Sudan and his son Suni — currently being stored in dry ice, and using it to perform the in vitro fertilisation of an egg known as ‘intracytoplasmic sperm injection’. The people on Ol Pejeta told me that unlike cows or humans, rhinos have peculiar corkscrew-shaped cervixes and this makes obtaining eggs that much more difficult — on top of which, the two females, Fatou and Najin, are infertile and must be chemically stimulated. Even if they do obtain eggs, nobody so far has successfully produced a fertilised item that might grow into a viable foetus. At least the boffins were willing to try. To pursue these complicated procedures would cost around £7 million. To me this the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ‘We want it to make up its own mind.’ died they harvested his testicles. Even now, his frozen sperm and the females’ eggs yet to be extracted might still save the day — and how uplifting that would be for all of us. If we do not even try to invest properly in saving this extraordinary species, we will never know if it can be done. In that case all of us will have failed: the famous conservationists so fond of attending black-tie gala dinners to accept prizes for services to African wildlife; the Africans who allowed the despoliation of their own environments — and the international agencies that hold conferences producing thin air. If the world wishes to protect endangered species like rhinoceroses, of course, it is not just about rescuing individual animals such as Sudan and more about ensuring the conservation of the great landscapes in which such magnificent creatures can thrive without threat. To do that, we must invest more money and ideas in wildlife conservation. There is no reason why Laikipia, with its rhinos, elephants and lions, cannot be as popular as Yosemite and the Lake District, generating similar revenues for locals. Instead this year the UK government, represented in Kenya by a Vogon-like High Commissioner, has shut down millions of pounds worth of vital support for Laikipia’s wildlifefriendly conservancies and ranches. At Sudan’s end, I saw the real heroes as his keepers, who were inconsolable. After I left the enclosure, I was told he miraculously got up, wandered about and took a long, cool mud bath. He munched on his favourite foods, hay and carrots, and at Ol Pejeta people’s spirits were briefly lifted. On the weekend he fell over, and by Monday the vets from the Wildlife Service said it was time to rescue him from further suffering. Heavy rain began to fall. They put a blanket over him. His keepers stood around him. Soon it was all over. Outside the enclosure, Fatou and Najin lay in the mud dozing, the last two of their kind in the world. Readers who want to support Ol Pejeta can donate at www.spectator.co.uk/rhino. Wednesday 18 April 2018 | 7p.m. Emmanuel Centre, Westminster A SP EC TA TO R SP EC IA L EV EN T sounds cheap when it comes to rescuing the second- or third-largest land mammal on the planet. It is a drop in the ocean compared with what British dog owners spend on their pooches — £10.6 billion a year — which includes toys, treats, shampooing, dog massages and ‘pawlates’ (canine pilates). Big conservation organisations, the people you’d think could support this endeavour, simply refused to donate the money needed to save northern whites. They said funds were limited and instead of saving Sudan’s kind, their argument was to fall back into retreat and see if they could rescue the remaining African black rhino (less than 5,500) together with southern whites (21,000). For Sudan’s supporters, focused on events at Ol Pejeta, the situation became desperate. Last year an advertising firm unveiled a campaign promoting the ingenious idea that Sudan was joining Tinder in his bid to breed. It announced, ‘The Most Eligible Bachelor in the World… Swipe right to help him find a match’. That directed browsers to a fundraising website, which received so much traffic it crashed. Instead of the hoped for £7 million, the stunt raised a measly £60,000, which British dog owners would spend in a few hours buying birthday cakes for their pets. Ol Pejeta, with assistance from overseas zoos, has not given up. When Sudan Join Andrew Neil and a special guest panel for an in-depth discussion about Russia’s people, politics, economy and how the West should deal with the newly re-elected Vladimir Putin. TICKETS Subscriber rate: £22.50 Standard rate: £35 BOOK NOW www.spectator.co.uk/russia 020 7961 0044 Claim a FREE TICKET to this event when you subscribe to The Spectator for just £12. Go to www.spectator.co.uk/A273J the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk 21 The Russian wives club They live in Knightsbridge, dislike McMafia, and won’t discuss their husbands TOM BALL T he Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Knightsbridge is nestled in a maze of mews streets and embassy rows somewhere between Harrods and Hyde Park. It’s as much an expat social club as it is a place of worship, and on Sunday mornings it’s packed to the rafters. In what can sometimes look like one big game of Grandmother’s Footsteps, the congregation of headscarved women and men in leather jackets quietly make a dash to circulate every time the priests turn their back, while old women maunder about kissing icons and hushing grandchildren. Tatyana Ivanova was conspicuously aloof from all this. I first saw her one Sunday morning in a ray of stained sunlight, her face angelically upturned. She didn’t mingle like the rest; she stood stock-still facing the altar, careful to cross herself and mutter all the Amens at the appropriate moments; and at the end of the service, when all the prayers were said and done, she climbed into the back of a blacked-out Bentley and was swept away by her chauffeur. For all her apparent reserve, Tatyana turned out to be an open and friendly woman. Both outsiders at the cathedral, we became friends. After a few weeks, we arranged to meet for coffee in a café by South Kensington tube station, where I found her wrapped in furs drinking red wine and accompanied by a man named Kirill, whose exact purpose there I never did quite discover. ‘Thomas,’ she whispered as I sat down, all smiles and handshakes, ‘you mustn’t be so ostentatious.’ Come this spring, Tatyana will have been in London for 20 years. She lives in Knightsbridge, vacations in the Maldives, and has a daughter who studies medicine in the States. Naturally, she is the wife of a very wealthy man. She insists that we speak in English, and likes to pepper her diction with idioms such as ‘Forgive me, I am away at the fairies today.’ It’s hard not to feel sorry for Tatyana. She may look the very image of a Russian wife in London that people now conjure thanks to programmes like McMafia and Meet the 22 Russians, and a handful of high-profile billionaires like Evgeny Lebedev and Roman Abramovich. But she’s quite different. Like many of the super-wealthy from Russia, Tatyana and her husband settled in the UK when they sent their daughter to an English public school. Education is the reason why rich Russians choose Britain over the US as their new nesting place. In London recently, the exiled billionaire and anti-Putin pin-up Mikhail Khodorkovsky said that Britain’s sole surviving claim to any substantial influence over Russia was derived from the fact that so many of its elite’s progeny were educated in British schools. Though the children of the land-grab fortunes of the 1990s have assimilated with ease, their parents find it harder Though the sons and daughters of the land-grab fortunes of the 1990s assimilate with ease, their parents find it much more of a struggle. Tatyana is a case in point. ‘London is such a judging place, don’t you think?’ she said in a low voice. ‘People in London like to say that it is the Parisians who are unkind, but really they are talking about themselves.’ I asked if she has many friends here. ‘A few,’ she sighed, ‘but really not a lot.’ At some point Kirill sloped off to sit at another table, and Tatyana was noticeably relieved by this. ‘He is just someone my husband likes to have around,’ she said with a conspiratorial smile. She talked at length about her daughter, of whom she is immensely proud, but then, sensing perhaps that she had gone on a bit, changed tack and asked me questions about myself. For someone so seemingly sociable, I wondered aloud why it was that I had seen her so detached from the other Russians at the cathedral. She replies sadly: ‘We are all Russians and all grew up in the same situation. I was from a poor family just like them. But I was lucky and they won’t forgive me for that.’ The following weekend, Tatyana introduced me to two of her friends, Alyona and Maria, whom she knows from the hotel they all stay at in the Maldives. They are both younger than Tatyana, and brought with them on our walk around Hyde Park their two young sons, who in typical Russian fashion, had been wrapped up so tightly in their coats and scarves that they could hardly move. Looking after their children (with the aid of several nannies) is what takes up most of their time, and Alyona said she is dreading the day when her son goes off to boarding school, because she will have nothing to do. I asked if they spend much time with their husbands, and they clammed up. ‘My husband is away a lot,’ said Maria after a long pause. The murder investigation into the death of Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov had been announced only days before and it was clearly preying on their minds. They declined to answer whether or not they knew Glushkov, or indeed any others from the back catalogue of Russians who have died suspiciously over the years. ‘Under the circumstances, I think it would be best not to discuss this matter,’ said Maria. We found a bench and sat in the winter sunshine, watching the boys throwing rye bread for the ducks. I pointed out that one of the characters in McMafia, the feckless billionaire-in-chief Dmitri Godman, is often seen feeding the park’s ducks too. ‘I did not like that show,’ Maria responded flatly. ‘The wife does nothing except buy clothes and cry.’ I asked what it is that they do, which must have sounded more accusatory than I’d meant it to, because Alyona angrily shot back at me in Russian: ‘This is what they think — that our lives simply revolve around money. Understand, we came here because we wanted a better life for our family and for our children to have a better upbringing than we did.’ After that, things were pretty frosty, and soon Alyona made her excuses and left. With his friend now gone, Maria’s son came over from the Serpentine and sat between us. She spoke to him in Russian but the boy responded in English. I asked him if the ducks were hungry today and he told me that they ‘gobbled up’ all of the bread, a phrase which Maria didn’t understand. The boy was suddenly delighted that he knew a word his mother did not. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘because you are an English boy and I am a Russian.’ the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk LARA PRENDERGAST The vlogging fantasy M y friend’s ten-year-old daughter has a new hobby. Like many of her school pals, she hopes to become a video blogger — a ‘vlogger’. She has started to record clips of herself for others to watch, share and ‘like’. She showed me a few, then gave me a list of famous vloggers to watch: JoJo Siwa, iJustine, Noodlerella, Zoella. Their names sounded so bizarre. But they are totally familiar to tweenage girls. Like an earnest marketing executive, my friend’s daughter then explained to me that it was all a matter of numbers. If her videos are viewed 40,000 times on YouTube, she can have adverts placed on them; 100,000, and companies would start sending her products to promote. One million and she’d be a bona fide YouTube star. Her most recent video, about a doll she had been given for Christmas, had 11 views. There was still a way to go. This seemed a peculiar phenomenon but my friend’s daughter is not alone. In fact, her dream is perfectly normal for her generation: one in three children between the ages of 11 and 16 have uploaded a video to YouTube. In a survey last year, 75 per cent of the children asked said they wanted to be YouTube stars. The research also revealed that many of the children would rather learn video-editing than history or maths. Who can blame them? Vlogging can now be a well-paid career. Unlike the more traditional dream jobs — pop star, doctor, footballer, astronaut — it doesn’t take much effort. All it requires is a smartphone and gallons of youthful self-confidence. There are plenty of people with that. The 27-year-old British vlogger Zoella and her boyfriend Alfie Deyes have both made millions from their respective channels. Ryan, the six-year-old American host of the YouTube channel RyanToysReview, made £8.5 million last year from reviewing toys and sweets. At the pocket-money end of the scale is Erin Rose, an eight-year-old British girl who reviews stationery on YouTube, and made £200 last year. JoJo Siwa, a hyperactive 14-year-old from Nebraska, has made more of a fortune flogging her colourful ‘JoJo bows’. They are more than ‘just a hair accessory’, she explains to her millions of viewers. They are ‘a symbol of power, confidence, believing-ness.’ They have also caused havoc in playgrounds, and a number of British schools have banned them. Flogging overpriced tat to children is hardly a new phenomenon but the internet has made the process much easier. Now, kids sell stuff directly to other kids, from bedroom to bedroom. The videos have a curious mixture of entrepreneurial spirit, youthful narcissism, and materialism. Most are relentlessly positive and hopeful. The colours are bright and the music is catchy. Fans chat in the comments section. It is as much a social activity as a commercial one. Popular genres on YouTube are the ‘haul video’ — where a vlogger reviews recently Six-year-old Ryan made £8.5 million last year reviewing toys and sweets received items — and the ‘unboxing video’, in which products are opened and then discussed. The message, same as it ever was, is: ‘I’ve got this, and you haven’t.’ And then comes, ‘here’s where to buy it’. What the vloggers seem to have worked out is that, more than anything, the internet is just a giant sales opportunity. Not every girl can be Zoella, so the real winners, as usual, are the tech companies, the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk FROM THE ARCHIVE Non-League goals From ‘The sanctity of international contracts’, 23 March 1918: It is not, we ask our readers to believe, because we are indifferent to peace or insensible to the absolutely appalling horrors of modern war, that we regard with mistrust the complicated machinery for a League of Nations which is being commonly discussed now… Why not try something simpler, something more demonstrably likely to lead to the result which we all desire? … It would be infinitely more simple if only one essential point were agreed upon — namely, that treaties between nations, so long as they exist, must be respected. who are constantly tweaking their systems to extract the maximum revenue from their audiences while sucking up consumer data. The tech companies know parents and children are entering uncharted territory. They are keen to show they want to help protect children from the darker recesses of the internet. ‘YouTube Kids’ is an app which is meant to filter out inappropriate videos, but that is easier said than done. Algorithms haven’t yet developed the moral sense to know what is good for children. Earlier this month, the app started including David Icke conspiracy theory videos about lizards controlling the world among the cutesy dinosaur videos beloved by its young audience. This week there were new headlines when a video showing how to make a crude air rifle appeared. Last year, Amazon launched its Parent Dashboard, to help ‘parents connect with their kids in the world outside the tablet’. It creates a digital profile of your child based on the sites they have visited, as well as ‘discussion cards’ for topics you might want to talk to them about, based on their search history. Young minds, big data. But while these protections might help shelter vulnerable children from older, paedophilic predators, there’s little they can do to protect them from bratty children — and their pushy parents — who are determined to trample their way to the top of the YouTube chart. My friend said she was concerned about her daughter’s vlogging but that it was difficult to intervene, given that most of her yeargroup at school were obsessed with it. One pupil has staked out her position as the ‘arts and crafts’ girl; another is doing ‘the tech stuff’. The girls all hope they might earn millions, travel the world and become famous. In reality, the most they’ll end up with is an embarrassing collection of videos they’ll want to delete later in life. But I suspect these vloggers offer us a glimpse of the near future. A cynical, cut-throat world in which many traditional jobs and skills are replaced by robots — and real people, young and old, are instead forced to compete with each other to sell, sell, sell. If so, these young vloggers are probably well prepared for what’s coming. My friend’s daughter was right: it’s a numbers game. 23 Give a gift subscription to Apollo Treat someone to a year’s subscription to Apollo from just £57 FREE DIGITAL ACCESS 25% OFF THE COVER PRICE One of the world’s oldest and most respected magazines, Apollo covers everything from antiquities to contemporary work – with the latest art news, interviews with leading international artists and collectors, expert insight into the art market and coverage of exhibitions worldwide. www.apollo-magazine.com/M116A +44 (0)330 333 0180 quoting M116A 1-800-567-5835 (USA) quoting M116A JAMES DELINGPOLE I wish I had kept my Brummie accent. I’d be taken more seriously ‘N o one wants to send their son to Eton any more,’ I learned from last week’s Spectator Schools supplement. It explained how parents who’d been privately educated themselves were increasingly reluctant to extend the privilege to their offspring; some because they can’t bear for their darling babies to board, others because the fees are way out of their reach, or because class prejudice is so entrenched these days it means their kids probably won’t get into Oxbridge. Then again, if you don’t send your kids to public school, you’ll be denying them never-to-be-repeated opportunities like the ones that boys at Radley have had this week: the chance to see not one, but two of your favourite Spectator writers — me and Brendan O’Neill, both invited as part of the school’s admirable Provocateur in Residence programme — slugging it out in class after class on vexed political issues from Donald Trump to safe spaces, #MeToo to student snowflakes, Antifa to Islamism. We’ve just emerged, knackered, from a gruelling session on Brexit. Brendan and I are both fervent Leavers. But to a boy, the class was ardently Remain and — I gathered from a mole — had been briefed by their teacher to give us as hard a time as possible. No one was exactly rude but they did glower at us throughout like we’d just throttled their favourite guinea pig, and they didn’t appear swayed by any of our arguments. I couldn’t resist goading them. ‘You know what happened in the French Revolution? I’m not saying it will be tumbril time again, necessarily. Just that it might be in your interests to find out more about why the lower orders voted the way they did, rather than just assuming they were an ignorant mob gulled by a slogan on the side of a bus.’ One thing I’ve noticed about public schoolboys, even at ‘Rah Rah’ Radley, is that they’re generally much less right-wing than you’d hope. Partly it’s the rebel cool thing. Partly it’s that even at the smartest schools a lot of the staff swing left. But mainly I think it’s that teenage state of wanting to be dif- ferent but not too different. It requires huge balls, massive intellectual security and bravura precocity for a teenager to articulate genuinely right-wing positions, because the current of the culture is so against them. That’s where Brendan and I came in. Even though Brendan calls himself a Marxist and I think of myself as classical liberal/ conservatarian, one of our major problems was finding stuff to disagree about. He even approves of fox-hunting (Engels, I suppose). Our only major differences were over Trump and the monarchy. And our disagreement about the latter is only going to last so I sent my offspring to public school to raise a finger to the grisly new world where mediocrity is the new posh long as Queenie is still with us. After that, I’m joining him as a republican. But to sing for our supper we had to pretend we were chalk and cheese. That was the premise on which Stephen Rathbone, the school’s inspirational Academic Director, had invited us. (He’s desperate to get more lefty speakers like Brendan, but most won’t do private schools out of inverse snobbery.) So even though our schtick is raw, outspoken honesty, we had to work up some ersatz tension beforehand. In my case, this involved publicly reminding Brendan that au fond, he is a bearded, uncouth, ignorant, bogtrotting peasant who never even went to university. But really this was just jealousy speaking. One of the things I’ve always envied Brendan — and Rod Liddle, who the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk uses much the same trick — is the way he frequently gets away with saying far more right-wing things than I’d ever dare merely by dint of pretending to be of the left. If I could have my time again, one of the few things I’d change — apart from the bit where I make my first ten million in my mid-thirties and retire to become a master of foxhounds, only this time with one of those coats that inflates when you fall off so you don’t nearly die and get banned by your family — is that I’d ditch the posher accent I confected for university, and instead exaggerate the Brummie one I had when I went to the village school in Alvechurch. ‘Awroit,’ I’d say to Andrew Neil as he greeted me on Daily Politics. Then I’d say exactly the same things I do now. But people would listen more because I would have marked myself as an authentic Midlands horny-handed son of toil. Or maybe not. When I think of the reasons why I sent my own offspring to public school, one was definitely contra mundum. I wanted to raise a middle finger to this grisly new world where mediocrity is the new posh, where upwardly mobile parents actually boast about what a so-so education they’re inflicting on their kids because the main thing is that they’re being exposed to such an amazingly broad social mix. If my children are hated because they went to schools where they learned manners, how to engage with high-achieving adults, how to be charming, how to handle being with kids much richer than them, how to manage their time and crazy workload while packing in all the compulsory sport in between, how to network, how to deal with being away from home, how to get on with people you both like and loathe from whom there’s no escape for weeks on end, how to deal with privilege (perhaps, I’ve been telling the Radleians this week, by recognising that you have a duty to give something back and punch above your weight when it comes to defending western civilisation), then I won’t consider that a failure. It’s a badge of honour. 25 The big fat truth ANCIENT AND MODERN Octavian’s poison legacy I’d rather be fat-shamed than have cancer TANYA GOLD Barely a day passes without yet another Russian explanation for the Salisbury nerve agent attack. What’s new? Such disinformation has a very ancient history. After Caesar’s assassination in 44 bc, his old friend Mark Antony and the 18-year-old Octavian, Caesar’s adopted son and heir, emerged as the two contenders for power. In 32 bc, it had become clear that it war between them was inevitable. At this critical juncture, two allies of Antony deserted to Octavian, and revealed that Antony had a will, which had been lodged with the Vestal Virgins. It was illegal to open the will of a living man, and the Virgins told Octavian that they would not touch it. So Octavian simply seized it, looked over it — alone and unsupervised — marked some incriminating passages and read it out to the senate. It was dynamite: he could have written it himself, though no ancient source said it was forged. Its provisions included: recognising that Caesarion, Cleopatra’s son, was truly the son of Caesar (thus cocking a snook at the merely adopted Octavian); vast legacies to Antony’s children by Cleopatra; and Antony to be buried in Alexandria beside Cleopatra. It was also rumoured that if Antony won, he would locate his seat of power not in Rome but in Alexandria; Cleopatra had Roman soldiers to guard her; she had ambitions to rule Rome; and her favourite oath was ‘May I dispense justice on the Capitol [in Rome]!’ And much more in similar vein. Later historians of Rome — Plutarch, Suetonius and Dio — picked over this juicy bonanza, selecting according to their take on the matter. Plutarch, for example, was keen to emphasise an Antony enslaved by passion for Cleopatra. And that was, of course, the point: Octavian knew that the more accusations he could pump out, the greater the chance of people swallowing some of them. Which is precisely Russia’s purpose. An innocent Vladimir Putin would have expressed outrage and promised help to find the culprits. But his aim was to humiliate: we will murder whomever we want, whenever we want, on your soil, and you can do nothing about it. And we will ridicule you too, with hysterically witty comments about causing the ‘Beast from the East’. — Peter Jones S ofie Hagen is a young Danish comic I admire. I didn’t see her most recent show, Dead Baby Frog, but I saw her win the best newcomer award at Edinburgh in 2015 and I was happy for her. I liked her sweet face and her fury. The audience treated her as a benign oddity. Because Sofie is fat. I say this with no judgment, for I am fat myself, but I am not as upset about it as she is. I make no attempt to spin my fat into a matter for universal sympathy and something to be admired. It is, as the adult self says, what it is. Even so, I used to write about being fat so often that other columnists told me to stop it, for fear I was monetising selfhatred. To which I say — what else are you supposed to do with it? I used to think that my relationship with my fat was complex and confused with sexual and other anxieties (truthfully I wondered if I should blame men or, more specifically, Nazis) but now I am middle-aged I realise that I am simply greedy and lazy and I would rather eat too much than approve of my reflection. I made that choice and I must live with it. Apparently Gwyneth Paltrow used to eat nuts naked in front of a mirror to ensure she didn’t eat too many nuts, but I think that is, well, nuts. I would conclude that my fat is a matter worthy of a brief burst of private shame, but nothing serious. But is it? Cancer Research UK has a new campaign. It is a series of posters that ask: what is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking? The answer is obesity but Cancer UK tactfully block out some of the letters so the answer is OB_S__Y. I would not have been so tactful. It is a public health announcement designed to save lives in a country where the majority are heading for ob_s__y, and children — children — are the worst affected. It follows ‘I enjoy living hand to mouth.’ 26 other successful campaigns against smoking (sm__i_g) and flies. Or rather f__es. Hmm, said I when I saw the warning. I must at some point try to remember to lose a vast amount of weight so I will not become immobile in my fifties and die shortly afterwards of a disgusting disease due to my laziness and greed. Thanks for reminding me, donors to Cancer Research UK! Perhaps I should eat naked in front of a mirror even if I think it is crazy? But won’t it put me off my food? That was not Sofie’s response. Rather, she tweeted this: ‘Right, is anyone currently working on getting this piece of shit Cancer Research UK advert removed from everywhere? Is there something I can sign? How the fucking fuck is this okay?’ Now I am middle-aged I realise that I am simply greedy and lazy and I would rather eat too much Comics have been moving into opinion journalism for some time, and this is what they have come up with. Let’s no-platform science if it wounds us. Whatever happened to proper jokes? Two things then happened. The first was that Sofie got an appalling amount of online abuse in the way in which women who write online do, and this is woeful. The second was that her comrades in the Body Positive movement (they began seeking a healthy weight, but now any weight that’s yours seems fine) joined in and tried to derail Cancer Research UK’s campaign. One woman wrote a column suggesting that fat people die young because the medical profession hates them. And that, for me, is when pity turns to fury and I say: your denial gets to kill you. It shouldn’t kill — or defame — anyone else. I am fat, as I said, and an alcoholic — this is called Broken Top Trumps and I can play it all night — and so I can say with some certainty: no one can shame a woman as effectively as she can shame herself. I think the campaign hurt Sofie not because it isn’t true, but because it is. And no one should have to avoid truth to save themselves from that shame, because it’s selfish. You can’t be fatshamed by your cancer cells, but you can be killed by them. It’s obvious what’s worse. the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Celebrating the launch of Technology Intelligence, a major new journalism initiative from The Telegraph Enter now at telegraph.co.uk/winagolf Terms & conditions apply. The competition closes at 11.59pm on Sunday, April 22, 2018. Entry open to residents of the UK, aged 18 years or over, who are registered or subscribed to The Telegraph. The winner will be selected at random from all entries received. Please note, the winner must hold a full UK driving licence to be able to accept their prize. Enough is enough. Please take action today and donate £25 to help save the Critically Endangered eastern black rhino, before it suffers the same fate. The world is witnessing the extinction of yet another animal – the northern white rhino. This magnificent creature was once abundant across Central Africa, but staggering rates of illegal hunting for their horn wiped them out until just three individuals were left. With the recent death of Sudan, the last male, only two female northern white rhinos remain. This has to be our final wake-up call – we must stop the senseless slaughter of rhinos in the wild. We’re asking Spectator readers to donate £25 to help save another Critically Endangered rhino – the eastern black rhino – today. Because unless we act now, the eastern black rhino could suffer the same fate. It is teetering on the edge of extinction with only 850 left in the wild. Ruthless international gangs will stop at nothing to get rhino horn, and we need your help to protect rhinos on the ground. With the death of ‘Sudan’ - the last male - an entire subspecies has now been lost. It’s time to take a stand and protect the eastern black rhino. You can make a difference – right now. In 2004, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) helped to create Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a safe haven for endangered animals in Kenya. Ol Pejeta is now home to over “If you value the natural world – if you think it should be protected for its own sake as well as humanity’s – then please support Fauna & Flora International.” Sir David Attenborough Fauna & Flora International vice president 100 eastern black rhinos, and with your support today, we can help keep them safe from poachers. By making a donation of £25 by 9 April, you could help us recruit, train and equip rangers to patrol the conservancy and keep these majestic animals safe. Your gift could help to protect the last few eastern black rhinos in the wild. We must not bear witness to another extinction. Please complete the donation form to help save the eastern black rhino now. Photos: Rhino © Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Sir David Attenborough © Gill Shaw YES – I will do something to help save the black rhino, by giving £25 to Fauna & Flora International Here is my gift of: £25 Other £ I enclose a cheque payable to Fauna & Flora International OR I wish to pay by credit/debit card Card type: Visa Amex MasterCard Maestro CAF Card No: Expiry Date: / Security Code: Issue No.: (Maestro Only) Let’s keep in touch! To show how your support is helping, we will keep you informed of the progress on this and other important work by post. We will also send you carefully selected projects where you could help make a vital difference and invite you to events to see what your support has acheived. If you don’t want these updates by post, just tick here Your personal details are kept secure and are never sold, traded or rented. See full details at www.fauna-flora.org/privacy or call for more information. YES! Please also keep in touch via email at: phone on: (Please tick all the boxes that apply) Title Forename Please return to: Freepost FAUNA & FLORA INTERNATIONAL, The David Attenborough Building, Pembroke Street, CAMBRIDGE CB2 3QZ, call 01223 749019 or go to www.SaveARhino.org to donate online. Surname Address Postcode Registered Charity No.1011102. Registered Company No. 2677068. APP01576 LETTERS Reform National Insurance Sir: One objection to an increase in National Insurance contributions to rescue the NHS is that it would once again exempt from contributing those who most heavily use the NHS — the retired — and heap yet more of the burden on the working young who least use it and can least afford it (‘The Tory tax bombshell’, 17 March). As you acknowledge, National Insurance contributions long ago ceased to be purely contributions into a pension and sickness benefit scheme, and became part of general taxation. This means that entirely exempting retirees from contributing when many of them are on incomes larger than the working young is quite impossible to justify. If the Tories are to increase National Insurance contributions again, it is essential that it be combined with a phased reform of its structure, so that the element in it which funds anything other than the state pension is levied on all people of all ages based purely on income. The only possible objection to this is that retirees are predominantly Tory voters. But this is a double-edged sword: a Labour attack on that front will arguably do far more damage to the Tory vote among the working population than it will among the retired. David Cockerham Bearsted, Kent a comprehensive school which satisfies their requirements. However, if they’d prefer a truly rounded education, then (regrettably, I might add) a public school is the only option. James Smith Liverpool Bureaucrat maths Sir: Leslie Buchanan (Letters, 17 March) compares the 1:25 ratio of bureaucrats to populace in Sunderland unfavourably with the 1:20,000 ratio of the EU. However, since the EU has 28 governments also employing bureaucrats to provide the services which Sunderland provides for its inhabitants, this is as misleading a comparison as I have ever seen. As to whether the inhabitants of Sunderland were well-informed when they voted, perhaps they were aware that 2016 was the first year since 1995 when the Court of Auditors did not feel obliged to state that the EU accounts were not free of significant errors — and before 1995 the Court was not required to check this possibility, so 2016 may have been the first year ever. John Duffield Loughton, Essex A rounded education Sir: In her piece in Spectator Schools, Eleanor Doughty overlooks a key benefit of private schools which, alas, can no longer be found in many parts of the state sector: the opportunity to gain many skills which cannot be obtained from the ‘academic’ part of the curriculum (‘Why pay for the privilege?’, 17 March). It is true that many state schools are equal to, and in some cases outperform, their private counterparts by measure of academic results. Yet to judge education purely on this basis is to ignore a core part of schooling which is of paramount importance — the ‘other half’ of the curriculum. Public schools provide a plethora of clubs, societies and teams which state schools simply cannot compete with. Pursuing other interests in a competitive environment is a key facet of forming one’s character, inculcating pupils with skills such as resilience, leadership and adaptability which are seldom fostered in the classroom. If parents are solely concerned with securing the best results for their children, then I am sure they will be able to find the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk In full colour Sir: While I know of and understand Charles Moore’s antipathy towards the BBC, I cannot let his cynical opinion of the ‘actual’ reason for Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation pass without remark (The Spectator’s Notes, 17 March). It had nothing to do with selling television sets. Colour was a terrific addition to the medium. Suddenly it was possible to do some justice to the beauties of European civilisation. My father, Huw Wheldon, thought that television as a medium could bring forth ‘the equivalent of a really important publication by a man who could approach a big subject with authority’. That is because he took the medium seriously. Civilisation was the first such series. The Americans followed suit with Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. We take these kinds of series for granted now; some are good and some not so good, as in any other medium. The invention had the effect, too, of catapulting BBC television into the American public consciousness, and ushered in great dollops of American money for co-productions, including for David Attenborough’s own incomparable contributions. Wynn Wheldon London NW6 How to protect children Sir: As someone who spent most of my working life in the field of child protection, may I congratulate you on the leading article concerning sexual exploitation of young white girls, which correctly identified the factors which can inhibit an appropriate response from police, social work teams and other agencies (‘A dangerous silence’, 24 March). It may be worth pointing out that here in the north-east, no such inhibitions prevented a robust response to a pattern of abuse similar to those identified in Rochdale, Rotherham and, apparently, Telford. ‘Operation Sanctuary’, as it was called, enabled a multidisciplinary team to encourage victims to come forward and to pursue the perpetrators, resulting recently in a number of convictions in Newcastle. All it takes is proper leadership. Ian Gates Cleadon, Sunderland Must try harder Sir: Steve Bannon is ‘a practising Catholic’ who has ‘been married and divorced three times’ (‘Populism, fascism — who cares?’, 17 March). At 64, Mr Bannon needs to start practising a lot harder. Andrew Anderson Edinburgh 29 ANY OTHER BUSINESS|MARTIN VANDER WEYER We were never going to take back control of our fishing waters M y decision to vote Remain was driven in part by an exercise in which I tried to identify anyone close to me in Yorkshire — family, neighbour, business owner, farmer — who was worse off as a result of UK membership of the EU. The only people uncontestably in that category, I concluded, were the east-coast fishermen whose livelihoods have been eroded by 45 years of punitive quotas and unfair competition. So I felt for them on Monday, when their interests were traded away yet again as part of the Brexit ‘transition’. Instead of being released from the Common Fisheries Policy in March 2019, as Environment Secretary Michael Gove proclaimed barely a week ago, our diminished fleet is stuck with the status quo until the end of 2020. Worse, the reversal represented by Monday’s ‘breakthrough’ deal was a blunt reminder that prospects for a happier fishing future look as poor as they ever did. The problem in a cockleshell is that we simply don’t eat what we catch, or catch what we eat. A high proportion of fish and seafood from British boats is exported to the EU, while much of the cod and haddock we like to eat is imported from Nordic countries. So we seriously need tariff-free trade, for which the negotiating price demanded will be — guess what — continuing quota and access agreements that look very like the present regime. If that was always going to be so, what campaign slogan was emptier than ‘taking back control of our waters’? Skiing for a better NHS To Méribel in the Alps for the Coeur Blanc, a biennial charity event that bears no resemblance to the Presidents Club dinner — and for which I edit a souvenir magazine. While I lunched long at the Bistrot de l’Orée (‘More restaurant tips please,’ chorused readers I met during the weekend), fitter skiers completed a challenge that raised more than £250,000 for a medical cause called ‘MyC’. The arduousness of their trek — 70km downhill in falling snow and blank visibil30 ity — offered a metaphor for the obstacles facing a project that could bring new efficiency to the NHS by revolutionising heart-attack diagnosis. In brief, Professor Mike Marber of St Thomas’ Hospital and King’s College London aims to perfect a hand-held device that will immediately indicate whether an A&E patient with chest pain has actually had a heart attack or can be given a ‘rule-out’ diagnosis and sent home. It would do so by testing for Myosin-Binding Protein C (‘MyC’), a ‘biomarker’ present in damaged heart muscle which Marber believes could give more accurate results on the ‘rule-out’ side than currently favoured tests for another protein, troponin. The Coeur Blanc’s money (including match-funding from King’s College) will help perfect the prototype. The big win for the NHS, if the device works, will be the release of millions of hours of A&E resources as a result of swifter ‘rule-out’ decisions. So why — I asked — isn’t the NHS funding MyC to the hilt? The answer is that its budgets can’t possibly meet all the competing research calls, and the most viable path beyond ‘proof of concept’ is via venture capital to commercialisation by a giant diagnostics company such as Siemens of Germany, Roche of Switzerland or Abbott of the US. Marber, boosted by our charitable effort, now has a stronger chance of finding that path. I wonder how many other brilliant pieces of laboratory work are out there waiting to transform the NHS, if only they could see the piste ahead. Disruptors, please If MyC was a company it could be a candidate for The Spectator’s Economic Disruptor of the Year awards, launched last week with the private bank Julius Baer. You can find the entry form on The Spectator’s website, but if you admire an entrepreneurial business that has benefited consumers through radical innovation and is capable of achieving national or international scale, don’t hesitate to send me the name (firstname.lastname@example.org). Retiring titans Even the most enduring, adrenaline-pumped business titans must eventually settle for a comfy chair in the conservatory. Rupert Murdoch, 87 a fortnight ago, has shrunk his media empire by selling most of 21st Century Fox to Disney, leaving his elder son Lachlan as unchallenged heir to the remaining newspaper and Fox News interests. Now Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong’s veteran dealmaker, who will be 90 in July, is handing the reins of his $100 billion Cheung Kong conglomerate to his elder son Victor. K.S. Li was a migrant from mainland China who started out manufacturing plastic flowers, made a fortune in Hong Kong real estate in the last phase of British rule, established powerful connections with Beijing and went on to build a portfolio of utility, retail and telecoms businesses around the world. His UK assets range from Felixstowe port to the Superdrug chain. Last of a generation of Hong Kong oligarchs now being eclipsed by high-rolling mainlanders, he’s still a hero to the Wanchai taxi driver. Hence this week’s South China Morning Post: ‘Superman hangs up his cape.’ Neither Murdoch nor Li would ever have been called ardent Anglophiles, but for both the UK was a natural place to do business. For their elder sons, however — educated respectively at Princeton and Stanford — the US is the obvious destination for future investment, so for better or worse we’ll see less of both dynasties over here. As for Victor Li, by the way, he’s a lucky heir in more ways than one. In 1996 he was kidnapped by a gangster called ‘Big Spender’ Cheung, who presented himself at Li senior’s doorstep and demanded HK$2 billion (£180 million) in ransom. Li calmly paid over the HK$1 billion of cash he had handy and offered to go to the bank for more. But Cheung released Victor — and later rang Li to ask for investment advice. the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk COURTESY OF THE ARTIST, PILAR CORRIAS, GLADSTONE GALLERY, STANDARD (OSLO) Ian Cheng’s ‘Emissary Sunsets The Self’ (2017) live simulation, infinite duration Sam Leith — p42 Alex Burghart tells the sad story of how for some soldiers the VC was easier to win than to wear Zenga Longmore wonders why there are no pubs called after Lord North the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk John McEwen warns that if you keep a pet raven, look out for your car keys Michael Hann meets the Moody Blues, who only became good after they realised they were ‘crap’ Michael Tanner grieves for ENO’s new Traviata James Walton wallows in The Durrells Deborah Ross finds Unsane Unsensitive, Unhumane and Uncredible 31 BOOKS & ARTS BOOKS The man who disappeared Frances Wilson goes in search of Joseph Gray, whose experiments in camouflage changed the landscape of the second world war Joseph Gray’s Camouflage: A Memoir of Art, Love and Deception by Mary Horlock Unbound, £20, pp. 340 On a night in Paris in 1914, Gertrude Stein was walking with Picasso when the first camouflaged trucks passed by. ‘We had heard of camouflage,’ Stein recalled, ‘but we had not seen it, and Picasso, amazed, looked at it and then cried out, yes it is we who made it, that is Cubism.’ The art of blending into the background was indeed discovered by painters, but the roots of camouflage, Mary Horlock argues, lay in Impressionism. French camouflage manuals cited Corot rather than Picasso: ‘It is by variations of light and shadow, often very delicate, that one recognises how an object is solid and detached from its background.’ For Solomon J. Solomon, the Royal Academician who built observation posts disguised as trees in the first world war, camouflage was a form of realism. In a letter to the Times in 1915, he argued that only an artist skilled at modelling could understand the workings of camouflage, and similarly only a writer skilled at looking can understand why a man might also make himself disappear. Horlock is a novelist and former curator at Tate Britain, and her moving and unusual book weaves together the story of camouflage with the story of the search for her great grandfather, Joseph Gray, one of the band of camoufleurs who studied the techniques of Solomon and thus changed the landscape of the second world war. ‘How do I get close to a man who was so good at hiding,’ Horlock asks; ‘a man who had made camouflage the fabric of his life?’ Born in South Shields in 1890, Gray wasn’t always invisible. While Solomon was experimenting with camouflage in his garden at St Albans by dyeing butter mus32 lin and hanging it on tennis nets, Gray was in the trenches with the 4th Black Watch Regiment, where he fought in the battles of Neuve Chapelle, Festubert and Loos. An expert observer — he studied painting at the South Shields school of art — he also made sketches of enemy positions. When he was wounded by sniper fire in 1916, he became war artist for the illustrated weekly, the Graphic, where his trench sketches were turned into published illustrations. Gray’s art for the Graphic, says Horlock, ‘had an immediacy and a naivety which spoke of direct experience’. In 1918 he was commissioned by the newly created Imperial War Museum to paint large oil canvases based on his direct experience. The first of these, ‘A Ration Party of the 4th Black Watch at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, 1915’, showed the wild dash for cover of the soldiers who left the The perfect material for creating an impression of landscape was steel scouring wool, painted green trenches to deliver rations to the company. In the interests of accuracy, Gray used the men themselves as models (he used photographs of those who were killed), and the result is an image of ‘ragged spectres’, as Horlick puts it, ‘half sunk in mud, half lost in shadow’. Gray presented the battalion ‘in a kind of limbo’, caught ‘between light and dark, between life and death’. ‘A Ration Party’ is an unnerving painting, not least because Gray’s painstaking devotion to realism created an effect of supernatural unreality. Since he was also there, Gray included himself in the canvas — but only just. Joseph Gray, as Horlock notes, is ‘the most obscure figure in the corner, a face hooded and hidden in the shadows, almost invisible’. He was already concealing himself. The same uncanny realism was evident in Gray’s second commissioned canvas, ‘After Neuve Chapelle’. In a representation of post-battle dreariness, he included the face and figure of every man who fought that day. Joseph Gray was the thing itself: a nutsand-bolts artist in the age of modernism, and ‘After Neuve Chapelle’ was greeted with acclaim. It was then swiftly forgotten. Five months after returning from No Man’s Land, Gray had married a stenographer called Agnes Dye and they settled in Dundee, where their daughter Maureen — Horlock’s grandmother — was born. Throughout the 1920s he worked on etchings and dry points which sold sufficiently to keep the family afloat. But in 1931 they moved to London where, renting the Tite Street rooms formerly occupied by John Singer Sargent, Gray failed to establish himself as a portrait painter and instead wrote a treatise on Camouflage and Air Defence. Realising that the author had a genius for visual deception (‘there are no actual lines in nature,’ Gray explained, ‘only tones’), the War Office appointed him as a camouflage officer. The manuscript of Camouflage and Air Defence, which to Gray’s disappointment was never published, can be found today in a sealed box in the Imperial War Museum. It is from another document squirreled away in the Imperial War Museum, the ‘ABC of Camouflage’, that Horlock realised the ingenious structure her book should take. Written by a Major D.A.J. Pavitt as an instructional tool to make troops ‘camouflage minded’, the ‘ABC of Camouflage’ is a jaunty verse which begins, ‘A stands for Aeroplane: his is the eye/ That Camouflage tries to defeat; this is why’. Using as chapter headings each of Major Pavitt’s 26 lines, Horlick tells Gray’s story as an ABC. The next challenge Gray set himself was to discover a material that was light, portable and porous enough for construction- the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ©IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM (ART.IWM ART1917) Ragged spectres, half sunk in mud, half lost in shadow: Joseph Gray’s unnerving ‘A Ration Party’ al camouflage purposes. His notebooks of this time (also stored in the Imperial War Museum) are filled with questions such as ‘How to get away from representation. How?’ and ‘One conveys the idea of the true by means of the false’, a line he lifted from Degas. It was the Impressionists who came to his rescue. Degas and Corot ‘responded to natural light’, says Horlock, and built up texture by ‘daubing and dashing their paint. It was easy to recognise features in an Impressionist landscape and yet it looked almost abstract close up’. The perfect material for creating an impression of a landscape, Gray realised, was steel wool, otherwise used for scouring pots. When the tough fibres were knitted together, painted green and laid out like a carpet, they ‘bristled and buckled like something alive’. Close up, the wiry cover appeared abstract, but from a distance it looked just like grass. Steel wool could also be made to look like hills, hedgerows and hayricks, and masses and masses of it could even make a castle invisible. The first use of steel wool as camouflage was in Cobham in 1941. ‘The quarry vanished,’ reported a witness, ‘and in its place appeared undulating grass slopes with bushes and saplings here and there.’ Even at the closest range it was impossible to see where wire ended and nature began. So Joseph Gray turned from a first world war artist who represented reality to a second world war artist who disguised reality. And at the same time that he was experimenting with artificial landscapes, he began to vanish from the surfaces of his own domestic world. Mary Meade, whom he met in 1938, was 15 years younger than Gray. ‘I can’t camouflage what I feel,’ he wrote to her in one of the many love letters reproduced in these pages, ‘and I won’t try to’. Mary worked for a magazine called the Needlewoman, where Gray secured a job for his daughter. Maureen had no idea that her father and Miss Meade were lovers, although she the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk was aware that her parents’ marriage had broken down. During the next five years, Gray disappeared from the life of his wife and child and immersed himself in the more bohemian world of Mary and the Meade family. Gray had a good war. Better than good: he had a fantastic war. ‘I say,’ he wrote to Mary, ‘what a war! Fantastic — what marvellous subjects for drawing.’ ‘The barrage over London made a fantastic sight’, he said of the Blitz. Typically, he liked the blackouts best, when ‘I lead a fantastic life’. It was when the lights came back on that life became difficult. He married Mary Meade in 1943, and saw no more of Agnes or Maureen. When he died in 1963, his grandchildren assumed he had been dead for years. The fame he deserved as a war artist, a writer and a camoufleur eluded him. ‘Art?’ he later said, ‘What has art ever done for us as a family?’ Thanks to this subtle and intelligent book, Gray should now be more visible. 33 BOOKS & ARTS A host of feuding poets James Bradley The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil Faber, £17.99, pp. 479 The Indian poet Jeet Thayil’s first novel, Narcopolis, charted a two-decade-long descent into the underworlds of Mumbai and addiction. One part de Quincey, one part Burroughs, it was distinguished not just by the sustained beauty and brilliance of its prose but by what must surely rank as a strong contender for the funniest scene in a Theosophy Hall ever written. It was also highly autobiographical and, perhaps just as importantly, deliberately subversive, rejecting the questions of national identity and family that preoccupy most Indian novels that find favour in the West. Something similar might be said about Thayil’s new novel, The Book of Chocolate Saints. At once a metafictional history of Mumbai’s literary scene, a furious satire of Western attitudes to Indian writing and an exploration of the complexity of the diasporic experience, it is also a rich and densely realised work of the imagination that simultaneously draws closely on Thayil’s own experience. At the novel’s centre is the poet and painter Francis Newton Xavier. Born in Goa, and displaced first to Mumbai and then to New York, he is modelled in part on Dom Moraes (to whom the book is dedicated). Xavier is famous for his appetite for alcohol and women, tastes that have, as the years have passed, begun to catch up with him. Around Xavier move numerous other characters, perhaps most significantly his lover and carer, the photographer Goody Lol, his manager, Amrik Singh, an American-born Sikh and former bonds trader, and the rather more enigmatic figure of Dismas Bambai, a writer and poet, all based, to a greater or lesser degree, on real-life figures. Presumably this appropriation of real people lends the novel a layer of meaning that is largely lost on non-Indian readers, a fact Thayil anticipates and bends back on itself. ‘Why has no one written about the Bombay poets of the 1970s and 1980s’, wonders one character early on, a question that finds at least part of an answer in a subsequent story about Allen Ginsberg’s celebration of Urdu poetry he could not understand over the poetry of Indian poets writing in English. As the person relating the story declares: ‘Inside the scruffy, lazy, bullshit bohemianism [the Beat poets] were blatant orientalists.’ This interplay between fact and fiction is given added energy by the novel’s polyphonic structure, which interleaves interviews with those who knew Xavier with extended 34 reimaginings of his life and the lives of Dismas, Amrik and Goody. These in turn form part of a book within the book, a biography of Xavier by Dismas, a character whose biography strongly resembles Thayil’s own. With its cast of dissolute, feuding poets and metafictional gameplay, The Book of Chocolate Saints inevitably recalls Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives. Yet there is nothing secondary or derivative about Thayil’s novel. On the contrary, it is dense, dazzling and ferociously intelligent. As in Narcopolis, the author’s command of language is frequently virtuosic in both its range and versatility, able to vault from character to character and shift seamlessly from carefully observed realism to the high-octane rush of words and images that dominate its latter Inside the scruffy, lazy bohemianism, the Beat poets were blatant orientalists half. And while it is not perfect — it sags in the final third, and its critique of the misogyny of Indian society and the myths of male genius is blunted by its focus on the male characters — it is nonetheless a remarkable achievement, bursting with energy, ideas and an appetite for risk-taking that is too rare in contemporary fiction. Loft Where the membrane’s come away from the rafters: nicks of light, and whatever else gets under the tiles. Astray from their nest in the eaves, wasps wheel and crawl, a mower gives up, a shudder of wind brings children making the sounds of children. The scratch of claws overhead, wings whir away. Baked heat. A done sum of beams and joists. The block of the water tank presses steadily on. Cases with rusted catches, boxfuls of albums of who and where’s that, and you now and then poking through, trying to get your head around it. — Philip Hancock Vive la libération! Andrew Lycett Left Bank: Art, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940–1950 by Agnès Poirier Bloomsbury, £25,pp. 377 We all have our favourite period of Parisian history, be it the Revolution, the Belle Époque or the swinging 1960s (the cool French version, with JeanPaul Belmondo and Françoise Hardy). Agnès Poirier, the author of this kaleidoscopic cultural history, certainly has hers: the turbulent 1940s, which saw the French capital endure the hardships of Nazi occupation before throwing off this yoke and embracing freedom in every aspect — sexual, political and intellectual. Leading the way was that maligned couple, Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosopher, political activist and father of existentialism, and Simone de Beauvoir, the brilliant pioneer feminist, who was his life partner, if often errant lover. Poirier lists an impressive cast of over 30 figures who contributed to the Left Bank’s predominance in this entertaining and well-written story. Most of them are French (including Sartre’s sparring partner Albert Camus). But there are also 13 Americans, such as the novelist Nelson Algren, who became Beauvoir’s grand amour, and the artist Ellsworth Kelly; plus a solitary Briton, the flighty Sonia Brownell, who had promoted resistant writing in Horizon magazine during the war and bedded Sartre’s lieutenant, the phenomenologist Maurice MerleauPonty. A symbolic baton-passing occurred in 1946 when Horizon published a French issue which denounced the ‘lassitude, brain fatigue, apathy and humdrummery of English writers’ and artists, and hailed the new ‘intellectual vitality and confidence’ which ‘blazed’ across the Channel. Poirier does not miss a trick in her lively accounts of the intense discussions and adulterous liaisons that centred on the Café de Flore or the nearby nightclub Le Tabou; but her real achievement is to contextualise these politically and culturally. When Hemingway, the first of the returning Americans, rolled into Paris in August 1944, the city had been through four years of humiliating German rule, when, along with feats of bravery, it had witnessed harrowing cases of collaboration and compromise. One example of this was when Gaston Gallimard, the head of France’s leading publishing house, appointed the fascist Pierre Drieu la Rochelle to run his influential magazine the Nouvelle revue francaise, knowing that this would enable its former editor Jean Paulham to work in an adjoining office and develop a cell of resistant writers. But then, after a necessary purge advo- the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk cated by Camus, came the ideological reckoning. As Sartre won Gallimard’s backing for a new journal Les temps modernes (named after the Charlie Chaplin film), a fierce battle developed between communists, who enjoyed the high moral ground for being the most effective resisters, and Gaullists, who had conducted their war from London. Which was better? Faced by the emerging Cold War, Sartre and his associates sought a middle way, emphasising concepts of choice and gratuitous acts of freedom in their new creed of existentialism, which the communists branded ‘a sordid and frivolous philosophy for sick people’. Sartre even started a middle-of-the-road party, the RDR, whose desired third way in politics matched the advocacy of the third sex by polyamorists such as Dominique Aury, who later (as Pauline Réage) wrote the sado-masochistic novel Story of O, and Janet Flanner, the gimlet-eyed American journalist, who adopted the nom de plume Genet, after the homosexual writer. But a strong element of war guilt still bedevilled the collective consciousness; Sartre could not maintain his even-handedness and drifted towards communism, which seemed to command the tide of history. One of Poirier’s anecdotes concerns Arthur Koestler’s return to Paris in October 1946. His anti-communist novel Darkness at Noon had been enjoying phenomenal success in the fevered political atmosphere of the time. One evening he and his English girlfriend, Mamaine Paget, went out with Sartre, Beauvoir and the real Jean Genet. After Mamaine departed, Koestler took Beauvoir back to her hotel, La Louisiane, and made typically violent love. A week later he and Mamaine met Sartre and Beauvoir again in an Arab bistro, taking Camus and his long-suffering wife Francine for company. On this occasion Camus, a serial philanderer, seduced Mamaine. As the party became increasingly drunk, Sartre refused to be deterred by the dim recollection that he was giving a keynote speech to a Unesco conference the following morning. He managed this after two hours’ sleep and a liberal infusion of Orthédrine, one of several amphetamine-type substances that this generation used (with alcohol) to fuel work and play. Shortly afterwards, Koestler found himself the butt of angry denunciations of his anti-communism, which appeared in Les temps modernes under the title ‘Le Yogi et le prolétaire’ (after his latest book The Yogi and the Commissar). To bolster his leftist credentials, Sartre sanctioned these attacks — the kind of weaselly initiative which earned him the contempt of Tony Judt, whose 1992 study Past Imperfect covers this ground more rigorously than Poirier. The magazine’s editor Merleau-Ponty had a personal grudge because he had fallen for Bronwell, who told him that Koestler was a ‘sadist’ who had Juliette Gréco and Miles Davis at the Salle Pleyel, Paris, c. 1949 GETTY IMAGES forced her to abort their child after a brief affair. More integral to the story were the Americans who came looking for stimulus. Poirier covers this influx well, from black writers such as Richard Wright and James Baldwin, who found Paris a refuge from segregation, through to jazz musicians, including Miles Davis, who fell for the hedonistic Juliette Gréco, to more hypocritical authors like Saul Bellow, who parked his family on the bourgeois Right Bank before stealing across the river for illicit romance. The ranks of these Right Bankers were augmented from 1947 by officials and hangers-on from the Marshall Plan, which Poirier presents as a ‘good thing’, along with nascent pan-Europeanism. Apart from occasional repetitions, such as twice referring to Flanner’s reputation for beautiful lovers, Poirier’s only failing is that her story is so star-struck. Perhaps this is inevitable in a book about the Left Bank. But the average Parisian inhabitant hardly gets a look in, and this is wrong when Poirier explores early French feminism without much emphasis on women’s position in wider society. the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Ghosts of No. 10 Zenga Longmore Gimson’s Prime Ministers: Brief Lives from Walpole to May by Andrew Gimson Penguin, £10.99, pp. 300 If you associate Lord Salisbury more with a pub than with politics, here is Andrew Gimson to the rescue, with succinct portraits of every prime minister to have graced — or disgraced — No. 10 to date. You will find no trace of waspish mockery in his book. In a time when heroes are constantly being debunked, its kindly, intelligent tone appears refreshingly old-fashioned. The flamboyant Robert Walpole makes for an ideal scene-setter. In 1721 he invented the office of prime minister and held it for longer than any of his successors — a full 21 years. Plump, affable and crude, with an astute business sense, he managed to amass a fortune by ingratiating himself with the first two Hanoverians and getting out of the South Sea 35 BRIDGEMAN IMAGES BOOKS & ARTS Distant neighbours Caroline Moore Why are there no pubs called after Lord North? Portrait of the prime minister by Batoni The Friendly Ones by Philip Hensher Fourth Estate, £14.99, pp. 579 Readers should skim past the blurb of The Friendly Ones. The novel is about prejudice, of many different kinds; but this description might prejudice one’s reading: The Friendly Ones is about two families. In it, people with very different histories can fit together, and redeem each other… by the decision to know something about people who are not like us. Bubble in the nick of time. Rogue though he was, his shameless love of luxury, hunting and women — his mistress Molly was 25 years his junior — makes him infinitely more likeable than our priggish presentday leaders. Even Lord North appears soft and cuddly. He may have lost the American colonies through bungling mismanagement, but he was so witty that all is forgiven. When asked to identify ‘that plain looking lady’, he replied amiably that she was his wife. His embarrassed companion tried to recover by saying: ‘No, no. I meant the dreadful monster sitting next to her.’ ‘That, sir, is my daughter,’ North replied. ‘We are considered to be three of the ugliest people in London.’ He died in 1792, fearing his reputation would be wrecked by the loss of America. Fortunately for his ghost, history is not taught well in schools these days, so he has no reputation whatever. As far as I know, he doesn’t even have a pub named after him. Gimson, a political journalist and former parliamentary sketchwriter for the Daily Telegraph, has a deep understanding of his subjects and his pithy prose enlivens even the dullest PMs. Well, perhaps Lord Goderich induced a fleeting yawn, but he only takes up three pages before the Duke of Wellington makes his dramatic entrance. The Iron Duke may have been a great military leader, but he was a terrible prime minister. Yes, he defeated Napoleon; but his hatred of the French was matched by his revulsion at the prospect of an exten36 sion of the franchise. He was perpetually fighting duels in which neither he nor his opponent hit their target. And what does Gimson make of the Iron Lady — who inspired more admiration and loathing than any other prime ‘We are considered three of the ugliest people in London,’ said Lord North of himself, his wife and his daughter minister? Margaret Thatcher privatised almost everything, sold off council houses, diminished the trade unions and went to war over the Falklands. Ever chivalrous, Gimson sees her unpopularity stemming not only from being a woman but from her patriotism, which was somehow too obvious, her voice, which sounded highly artificial, her clothes, which to bohemian eyes seemed to consist of a series of dreary blue suits, and her whole air of suburban gentility. For the novelist Ian McEwan, however, ‘it was never enough to dislike her. We liked disliking her’. The qualities which unite our prime ministers, according to Gimson, are courage, luck and a hunger for power. British governments may not be much good, he reasons, but at least we can get rid of them. This spirited blend of politics and anecdote is wonderfully complemented by Martin Rowson’s Georgian-style caricatures. Tony Blair’s tombstone teeth embedded in Iraq are unforgettable. That might suggest a saccharine narrative arc. A Bangladeshi academic and his family move in next door to a retired doctor in Sheffield, and prejudices are overcome, with various members of both families ‘making their different ways towards lives that make sense’ — a trite, Hollywoodstyle epiphany. There is certainly something of this movement in the novel. Philip Hensher does not rule out the importance of human kindness, human gratitude and their ‘solid, banal, universal worth’. But what the novel explores is how difficult it is for friendliness to find expression in a world where universality is profoundly compromised — woven of multiple misunderstandings and multi-layered mutual impatience and ignorance, spun out of the divisions and imbalances of power between not only different races and cultures, but also different classes, genders and generations. In this complex and compromised world, the ‘horror and shame’ of social gatherings loom large — whether it is Nazia, the Bangladeshi mother, trying to negotiate the mores of an English children’s party; or Leo, the Sheffield doctor’s son, trying to find his feet in an Oxford which seems to him dominated by braying toffs; or Josh, a sensitive boy forced to ‘play’ with a tormenting tribe of more privileged cousins. In the middle chapters — easily the most brilliant and gripping part of the book — these merely social terrors are dwarfed by the back-story of the professor from Bangladesh, Mohammed Sharifullah, and his wife Nazia. They lived through the brutal military Operation Searchlight, in which Bengali intellectuals, writers, poets and academics were massacred by the Pakistani authorities in 1971 (the mass rape of Bengali women, designated as ‘spoils of war’, is ignored by Hensher). Collaborators with the Pakistani regime in these evil days called themselves, like the Eumenides, ‘the Friendly Ones’. Sharif and Nazia are lucky. Sharif comes from a family of gentle, liberal but fierce- the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ly, joyously argumentative intellectuals. He had done his doctorate at Sheffield University; and in 1976 the faculty ‘welcomed him back with a morose, abrupt greeting that was how Yorkshire engineers expressed joy’. The middle-class hardships faced in Sheffield by Sharif and his family, moving up the property ladder and learning that ‘some neighbours would be friendly and some would not’ are vividly and subtly evoked; but are rightly set in context when their daughter Aisha, who has garnered a first from Oxford and an MPhil from Cambridge, visits a house full of illegal immigrants in an unfamilar area of Sheffield. The book opens in 1990 with Sharif and Nazia hosting a house-warming garden party: their next door neighbour, Dr Hilary Spinster, is up a ladder, ostensibly pruning his conifers, ‘a marginal and somehow disturbing presence’. Nobody knows whether, or how, to include him in conversation; but when one of Sharif’s twin sons chokes on a fruit stone, Spinster leaps over the fence and performs an emergency tracheotomy. The image is disturbing — a white man with a knife at the throat of a brown boy — and recurs, a trifle heavy-handedly, throughout the novel as an image of racism. But the original episode is more interestingly ambiguous. It rapidly becomes clear that the family life of this ‘white saviour’ is in many ways inferior to that of the Sharifullahs. His four children are scattered; his wife is in hospital with cancer, and he is cruelly preparing to divorce her as she lies dying. Spinster is, says a (white) friend of his wife, ‘very supercilious and angry’. ‘Short men,’ she adds dismissively, ‘... very difficult in my view.’ All the Spinster family are tiny; all are plagued by a sense of their own inadequacies. The eldest son, Leo, drops out of Oxford: he is socially inept in a way that borders on moral and emotional dysfunction. This is a novel spanning many decades, with a large cast of characters. Not all the strands are equally convincing. The more socially privileged classes verge on caricature. Leo’s even more diminutive sister, Blossom, is stunted as a character. She is not interested in university, only in social advancement (Hensher himself is undoubtedly a snob, albeit an intellectual one). A more sympathetic reading might have explored the hurt and damage caused by an awareness of intellectual inadequacy in such a family. Dislike of Blossom warps Hensher’s usually subtle ear for dialogue: ‘You really are the bally limit’ was rarely heard in 2016, even among the upper middle classes. The novel’s portrayal of the changes wrought by time, however, is superb. Blossom apart, Hensher’s characters are properly unfinished, with faces which can ‘change over 15 years in more than physi- cal incidentals’. Toddlers grow to young adults; and even the nicest of them become routinely dismissive of their elders, beating a ‘tactful retreat’ from argument: ‘If you say so’; ‘I expect you’re right’; ‘that’s an interesting point…’ It is Hensher’s superbly subtle awareness of the difficulties in the way of true engagement and true relationships that makes the late-flowering, gloriously argumentative friendship in this novel infinitely touching. A heavy cross to bear Alex Burghart Glory and Dishonour: Victoria Cross Heroes Whose Lives Ended in Tragedy or Disgrace by Brian Izzard Amberley, £20, pp. 287 ‘The Victoria Cross,’ gushed a mid19th-century contributor to the Art Journal, ‘is thoroughly English in every particular. Given alike to the highest and the lowest in rank, but given always with a cautious and discriminating hand... the Victoria Cross is an epic poem’. Like all epic poems, the VC has its tragedies. For some that tragedy lay on the field of battle; for others, as Brian Izzard details in his often depressing new book, it lay in the life that followed. The original Royal Warrant by which Victoria instituted her eponymous medal stipulated that it was to be given only for service ‘in the presence of the enemy’ for some ‘signal act of valour, or devotion to country’. Recipients were to receive a pension of £10 a year (worth £985 in today’s money, rather less than the tax-free £10,000 now offered) and were eligible to win it more than once (only three have won it twice, none more than twice). Most importantly, it was to be awarded without reference to rank, length of service, or wounds — and everyone, from civilians to buglers, drivers and Brigadier Generals, have since won this most distinguished gong. Victoria’s Warrant also ordained that the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ‘if any person on whom such distinction shall be conferred, be convicted of treason, cowardice, felony or of any infamous crime … his name shall forthwith be erased from the registry’. This has been done only eight times, and not since 1908. In 1920, George V took the view that even if a VC were hanged for murder he should be allowed to wear his medal ‘on the scaffold’, and the position appears to have stuck. One wonders whether the King’s views were cemented by the experience of George Ravenhill, to whom he had given the VC in 1901. Private Ravenhill had helped save guns and officers during the disastrous action at Colenso in the Boer war and had later won a Distinguished Conduct Medal at Frederikstad. By 1906, however, he and his wife and children were in the Erdington workhouse, and two years later he was convicted of stealing. He claimed that the Government owed him a pension of £50, and that, had he received it, he would not have needed to resort to theft. He was sentenced to a month in jail and had his VC struck down — the last to be so treated. He re-enlisted to fight and survive the Great War, ending his days penniless once again, and in an unmarked grave. Izzard tells 27 such stories — many of which explain why (in his excellent phrase) some have found it ‘easier to win the medal than to wear it’. Some inclusions, though entertaining, are a bit of a stretch. Field Marshal Evelyn Wood, a major military figure of the 19th century, does not really belong in a book about people ‘whose lives ended in tragedy or disgrace’ — though his involvement in a classic Victorian court scandal involving Charles Stewart Parnell, Gladstone, and a very wealthy aunt makes a fine story. Another minor criticism is the lack of synthesis — the introduction is two short pages, and it would have been valuable to have drawn some common themes together. These themes are often predictable enough: poverty, bad luck in the face of the law, and trauma. An apposite case is that of Lieutenant Edward St John Daniel, the middle-class son of a Bristol lawyer who joined the navy before he was 15. He saw intense action in Rangoon and the Crimea and received the VC in 1855 when only 18. By 1858 he was drinking heavily and two years later was in front of a court martial. Excused because of his record, he was arrested the next year for ‘indecent liberties’ (presumably sodomy) and by 31 he was dead. One hopes he would have received greater support today. For some, public attention brought its own unsolicited troubles. Lieutenant Ian Fraser, a cross-winner himself, put it thus: ‘A man is trained for the task that might win him the VC. He is not trained to cope with what follows.’ One of his comrades, James Magennis, a diver, won a VC in 1945, in the 37 BOOKS & ARTS same action that saw Fraser sowing limpet mines on to a Japanese ship. Magennis was a Northern Irish Catholic who, on returning home, received a publicly funded ‘shilling fund’ of £3,066, which he quickly spent on demob happiness. He got into debt, sold his medal and received hundreds of pieces of hate mail for having so done. Loyalists saw him as a Catholic, nationalists as a collaborator, so he upped and went into exile in Yorkshire. A decade after his death, a memorial was finally built in Belfast to the only man from the province to win a VC in the second world war. It’s a fitting way for Izzard to end his book: an implicit reminder that remembrance should emphasise bravery over error. A sea of troubles Peter Carty From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan Doubleday, £12.99, pp. 183 Donal Ryan is one of the most notable Irish writers to emerge this decade. So far he has produced five volumes of fiction set in postmillennial Ireland. What sets him apart is a striking facility for narrative voice as well as a startling diversity of protagonists. His first novel, The Spinning Heart — about a town’s slump when the Celtic Tiger died — had no fewer than 21 narrators, mostly speaking in effervescent vernacular. His latest work revisits tragedy and loss with just four narrative perspectives. With the first, however, he puts aside Irish provincial life to tackle global tragedy. Farouk is a Syrian doctor who is working in a local hospital after his family drowned during a desperate sea crossing to Europe. Ryan’s treatment is acutely sensitive and horribly inventive. He delivers a masterly portrait of a man who loses touch with himself when grief submerges him. This is the novel’s high point, and the confidence with which Ryan dons the clothing of another culture marks a departure for his writing. His other protagonists are homegrown. Lampy, who works in a care home, nurses a broken heart and a temper problem. His grandfather, meanwhile, is an incorrigible wag who sets pubs roaring with his sallies. Lampy says of him: ‘When he was in form his tongue could slice the world in two.’ John is a businessman riven with remorse for moral and criminal transgressions. He is less well realised than his counterparts, regrettably. Plot is not Ryan’s strength. He ties his narrative threads together clumsily through a series of rapidly alternating episodes, an approach more suited to popular thrillers than literary fiction. Voice is what he is about. It’s easy to imagine some of his monologues delivered on stage. He is cited as a successor to John McGahern, yet he’s not far from the likes of Conor McPherson either. Above all he is an exemplar of a Celtic literary tradition in which a boundless oral vitality lends the tribulations of life a richer texture. It is exciting to see his subject matter move beyond his country’s borders, with the prospect of more of this to come. In the Butterfly House The crowd presses round her, closely. She longs to break off one of the huge leaves and fan herself. Are you all right darling? Gerald asks, winding his arm round her waist. They have already pored over crickets and heaving piles of cocoons. A Red Admiral unwinds its proboscis and hunts over her skin. Gerald moves closer, in his personal aura of moistness. Through the glass she can see cool rain. She plots an exit to the railway station. But how could she face her mother? A honeymoon is an awkward time to bolt. — Connie Bensley 38 The road to Damascus Piers Paul Read Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright SPCK, £19.99, pp. 464 Saint Paul is unique among those who have changed the course of history — responsible not just for one but two critical historical developments 15 centuries apart. First, he persuaded the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth that gentiles as well as Jews could belong to their nascent church. This enabled its spread throughout the Roman empire, until Christianity become the state religion under the Emperor Constantine, and remained the official creed of all European nations until the French revolution. Second, there was his teaching on justification by faith alone —a ticking time bomb detonated by Martin Luther in the 16th century. ‘If we were to do justice to Paul today,’ writes the author of this new biography, ‘we ought to teach him in departments of politics, ancient history, economics and/or philosophy, just as much as divinity schools and departments of religion.’ Such justice has not been done, and it has been largely left to theologians and Biblical scholars such as N.T. (Tom) Wright — once Bishop of Durham, now research professor in New Testament and Early Christianity at the university of St Andrews — to enquire into the nature and motivation of this remarkable man. Writing his life is a tricky task because, while more is known about Paul than most of the other Apostles, through his letters and The Acts of the Apostles, there are gaps and mysteries that can only be filled by conjecture. For example, nothing is known about his final years. He was born as Saul, in Tarsus in Cilicia, about ten years after Jesus. He learned the skills of tent-making — no doubt the family business — but was intellectually precocious and, though a Roman citizen, a zealous Jew. Indeed zeal, Wright believes, is the key to his character. He studied under Gamaliel in Jerusalem and, as a young man, directed his zeal towards the suppression of the followers of the recently crucified Jesus. When one of their number, Stephen, was deemed a blasphemer, Paul guarded the coats of those who stoned him to death. The Temple authorities then sent Paul to bring followers of Jesus back for trial in Jerusalem, but on the way he was struck down by a vision — coming face-to-face with Jesus, who rebuked him for persecuting him. Wright thinks it would be vain to attempt to explain away Paul’s vision in psychological terms. What is clear is that ‘he saw in that instant... the utter denial’ of his understanding of the the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk GETTY IMAGES St Paul by El Greco Torah. It was not, Wright emphasises, that Paul suddenly ceased to be a Jew and became a Christian. Quite the contrary: there was, as yet, no Christian religion. What Paul had come to understand was that Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah, and therefore the fulfilment of the Jewish religion. Paul returned to Tarsus, and there followed ‘a silent decade... labouring, studying and praying, putting together in his mind a larger picture of the One God and his truth that would take on the world and outflank it’. After a journey to Arabia — perhaps, as Wright suggests, to make a pilgrimage to Mount Sinai where God had appeared to Moses — Paul emerged from his seclusion and the narrative of The Acts of the Apostles begins. Wright, who has long been immersed in his studies of Paul, finds him an ‘extraordinary, energetic, bold and yet vulnerable man’ with a ‘brilliant mind yet passionate heart’. His few letters, ‘taking up only 70 or 80 pages in the average Bible’, have had an influence ‘far beyond the other great letter writers of antiquity — the Ciceros, the Senecas — and, for that matter, the great public intellectuals and movement founders of his day and ours’. Paul met with intense enmity, and con- sequent suffering, on h i s m i s s i o n a r y j o u rneys, but left communities of believers whom he sustained and directed through his letters. Wright says little about Paul’s views on domestic matters, but dismisses the idea that he was a misogynist. His inferences and speculations are interesting and convincing — particularly his deduction from the difference between Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians that he was imprisoned and had a nervous breakdown in Ephesus. The style is occasionally marred by a jaunty idiom (‘something Jesus believers could do without’; ‘they struck a deal’; ‘left its adherents in a bad place’), intended perhaps to make the book more accessible to young or American readers. Wright insists that for Paul ‘salvation’ meant no more than the divinisation of the community of believers in the resurrected Jesus; he dismisses the traditional belief in Heaven and Hell as ‘medieval questions’, which is puzzling. The Gospels, including that of Luke, Paul’s friend, travelling companion and the author of the Acts, contain many grim warnings to unrepentant sinners of the torment that awaits them in a world to come. Corpses, clues and Kiwis Andrew Taylor Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy Collins Crime Club, £14.99, pp. 400 Publishing loves a brand. Few authors of fiction create characters who reach this semi-divine status, but when they do, even death cannot part them from their fortunate publishers. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Bertie Wooster and James Bond are among those who have survived their creators’ deaths, thanks to the assistance of living authors. Now Roderick Alleyn, the ineffably posh Scotland Yard detective created by Dame Ngaio Marsh, returns for a posthumous outing with the help of Stella the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Duffy, herself a distinguished crime writer. It’s an inspired pairing — Duffy, like Marsh, is a New Zealander with a professional interest in the theatre. Marsh’s direct contribution to the book was small but significant: she had written three short chapters and made some sketchy notes on how the story might develop before she abandoned the project. The story is set in the remote Canterbury plains of her native New Zealand during the second world war. Alleyn is there on official business, searching for a spy ring sending information to the Japanese. He’s working undercover in an isolated hospital, crowded with civilian and military patients. On a midsummer evening, the cantankerous Mr Glossop arrives with the Government payroll. When his van breaks down and he’s forced to spend the night, he lodges the money in Matron’s safe. During the night, however, a storm breaks; the money is stolen, and murder is done. Alleyn is forced to emerge from his anonymity and sort out the mess. There’s a desperate urgency to his investigation: for reasons to do with the spy ring, he has to solve the case overnight. His job is further complicated by the various intrigues that the staff and patients are carrying on. Alleyn has no resources, and his authority is uncertain. To make matters worse, this is New Zealand, where his gentlemanly bearing is, if anything, rather a drawback. (Ngaio Marsh and her characters are generally very impressed by his resemblance to a Spanish grandee and by the fact that he’s the younger son of a baronet. But Stella Duffy is made of sterner stuff.) Duffy, like Marsh herself, is very good at spare but effective characterisation; she knows the games people play and how they speak to each other. She has a dramatist’s grasp of structure. Best of all, she has the wartime New Zealand setting, which becomes almost a character in its own right. She captures not only the time and place but the unsettling ambiguities of New Zealand’s perspectives on both the war and the ‘Mother Country’. Between them, Marsh and Duffy have created A Midsummer Night’s Dream with corpses, clues and Kiwi accents. There are star-crossed lovers, rude mechanicals, complicated disguises and misunderstandings, and even a play within a play (when Alleyn stages a reconstruction of the crime). Alleyn, who has a tendency to quote Shakespeare at the drop of a hat, is well aware of this himself. Money in the Morgue invites us to relish its artificiality and somehow, at the same time, transcends it. As one character, a traumatised doctor, remarks: ‘There is a great deal in New Zealand that is built on illusion and much of it ingenious indeed.’ Amen to that. 39 GETTY IMAGES BOOKS & ARTS The sinister bird occurs famously in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘The Raven’ Bird of ill omen John McEwen A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven by Joe Shute Bloomsbury £16.99 pp. 272 With bird books the more personal the better. Joe Shute was once a crime correspondent and is today a Telegraph senior staff feature writer. It is his investigative journalism, a series of meetings with people who deal with ravens first-hand, which provides novelty. Historical, mythological and other diversions add ballast. In the prologue he writes: ‘I was born in 1984, making me the flag-bearer of a strange generation.’ Raised comfortably and lovingly in London, his future seemed serene. Then ‘came the financial crash of 2007; and with it the collapse of all the misplaced entitlement of my youth... Rather than better, it was going to get far worse’. At this juncture, he found solace in birds in the Yorkshire countryside. ‘Learning more about birds helped me to become less fearful of my own world, even as it became an increasingly savage place to live in.’ His hopes are pinned to the raven. Recent research has lent scientific authority to the immemorial belief that, alone of its kind, it has foresight. ‘Now this bird of augury is 40 back, I wonder what it sees for our own dark times,’ writes Shute. The book celebrates the increase in numbers and range of British ravens. The 20th century found them confined to the western margins. Latest data (2008–11) showed breeding pairs in every English county, with 700 in North Wales and 6,000 in Scotland. Centuries ago they and red kites kept the streets clean of anything edible; now they are back in cities too, notably in Bristol. In London they have not bred since 1845, but re-colonisation seems imminent. This does not include the Tower of London’s famous captive colony, legendary guardians of our freedom; in fact a Victorian inspired tourist attraction accommodated by Philip Chang, exotic animal providers. Ravens have long been associated with exalted spirituality as well as death and doom. Vikings regarded them as sacred, their Presbyterian descendants as ‘the Devil’s own bairns’. The rich pickings they found on battlefields was one of their more sinister traits. That they were and are killed for good reason is confirmed when Shute visits a New Forest pig farm and, most gruesomely, a Caithness sheep farm. To his journalistic credit he reports the unpalatable facts, such as the lamb unable to suckle because a raven had torn out its tongue. Ravens scavenge but they also kill. They go for eyes and bottoms first, cornering the victims, even full-grown sheep, like dogs. ‘Ravens are really different from other birds... I would say they are evil,’ he was told. They are legally protected, so to kill them requires a special licence. A local petition to have that rule lifted attracted 2,300 signatories; 27,000 global counter-petitioners signed online; meanwhile the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage drag their feet. It hardly needs saying that ravens prey on other birds. Shute’s reporting takes precedence when he admits a former gamekeeper turned prominent raven breeder found ‘no dichotomy between shooting and loving birds’. The distinction of the literary and artistic legacy of our sporting naturalists and countrymen would confirm this truth. In the raven’s defence he tells several stories which reflect the bird’s endearing characteristics: mischievousness, playfulness, mimicry. Truman Capote had a pet raven, Lola, which he suspected of hiding a guest’s false teeth. He placed his gold signet ring on a table and spied developments. When the raven thought the way was clear it grabbed the ring and hid it in the library behind The Complete Jane Austen. Capote listed the cache revealed: among other things, his best cufflinks, long-lost car keys, the first page of a short story, and the teeth. Ravens enjoy sliding down banks, repeating the exercise as determinedly as children, and can mimic human responses as well as any parrot. But perhaps their most human quality is they mourn, and can even die from the loss of a mate. One hopes they lighten the darkness ahead for Shute because he has done them proud, ravenous or not. The priest’s tale Alex Clark The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey Cape, £16.99, pp. 294 Samantha Harvey is much rated by critics and those readers who have discovered her books, but deserving of a far wider audience than she has hitherto gained — so much so that just before Gaby Wood’s appointment as literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, the critic wrote a lengthy exploration of Harvey’s prodigious qualities, describing her as ‘this generation’s Virginia Woolf’. The reasons for her relative neglect are not complex: her work is deeply serious, her novels rarely mining the same seam; she has featured on numerous long- and shortlists but failed to scoop any major awards; and we don’t see her on the telly or at the head of newspaper columns. I’m not sure about the comparison to Woolf, style-wise, but Wood’s judgment is bang on otherwise. And perhaps Harvey’s fourth novel will change that. Leaving aside its structural daring and prose at the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk once precise and suggestive, it is an exhilarating mystery that pitches familiar tropes — a bereaved and fearful community, a melancholy investigator and his unsympathetic superior, a frantic search for deeds and wills — into the heart of late 15th-century rural England. The collision of the early modern and the present-day is startling and energising, and never does it seem stagey. A man has tumbled into the river that cuts Oakham off from the surrounding countryside, and is presumed dead; as the novel opens, his body is spotted, and promptly disappears once again, leaving only his green shirt as evidence. It is Shrovetide, and the villagers are preparing for Lent by giving themselves over to feasting, dancing and other pleasures of the flesh, but it is not the suspension of revelry that hangs over them, but the loss of Thomas Newman, a beacon of charity and morality who has supported efforts to build a bridge and thereby improve their connections to the outside world. That is no small thing: Oakham, in the words of its priest John Reve, is ‘a village of scrags and outcasts’, its crops regularly soaked to uselessness, its inhabitants filled with superstition. Perhaps its sole boast — and this is both unverified and of ambiguous benefit — is that its church contains ‘the only confession box in England’, which Reve has wheedled out of the dean on the grounds that secrecy will prevent the villagers from seeking out travelling friars to protect their anonymity. In fact, it is a poor thing — a cramped botch of screen and curtain with no roof — that disguises nobody. And yet, insists Reve, ‘our souls are handed over best in blindness’, a theory he has a chance to test when the dean insists that all are called to confess their sins in order to flush out the key to Newman’s death. Harvey’s experimental flourish is to tell the story in reverse, with Shrove Tuesday giving way to the three days leading up to it. The effect is not merely disorientating for the reader, creating a constantly reconfigured kaleidoscope of details and impressions, but complicates and intensifies our reaction to every single character: Reve, careering between grief, spiritual meditation and practical exigencies; the dean, with his ‘nose for the nasty’ and his fieldmouse’s heart ‘always pounding in a tiny, courageless chest’; a dying woman, consumed by guilt and prone to baseless confession; a villager plump with ‘buttery boyhood’; a man of diminishing wealth betting his fortunes on doomed enterprises. ‘History’ is largely absent, but underwrites every line: this is a country only a few years after the end of the Wars of the Roses, on the brink of seeing a pretender to the throne, and culturally at odds with the colourful, carnival Catholicism of continental Europe, from which the odd pilgrim — including Newman — returns. At the same time The Western Wind is also timeless in its determination to probe the limits of faith; the extent to which Reve’s commitment to God is tested by the ‘livid little demons’ that lurk in the roiling river. It is a novel to read and then to read again, with a second go revealing an even more expert and carefully controlled patterning and intent and allowing Harvey’s striking topographical and animal metaphors to percolate further. Literary reputations are almost entirely unguessable, and sometimes unfair; but, early in the year though it is, this must surely be in the running for one of its best novels. Getting away with murder Suzi Feay I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara Faber, £12.99, pp. 321 This true-crime narrative ought, by rights, to be broken backed, in two tragic ways. One is that the serial attacker it concerns, a sneaking California rapist who graduated to multiple murder, was never caught. The other is that its author died aged 46 before the book could be completed. That it is nevertheless so gripping and satisfying is thanks to its sensitive editors and compilers, but mainly due to the remarkable skills of Michelle McNamara herself. The subtitle is ‘One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer’. McNamara coined the catchy nickname for the shadowy figure that slaughtered five couples and two women between 1978 and 1986. The investigators knew him as EAR-ONS, after DNA connected the ‘East Area Rapist’ of Sacramento with the ‘Original Night Stalker’, so-called because his attacks began before those of the infamous Richard Ramirez, active 1984–85. The EAR-ONS rapes and murders were not linked to begin with, because the latter took place further south, in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange County. After the killing of Janelle Cruz, they abruptly stopped; conventional wisdom maintains that violent serial killers only give up for two reasons: incarceration, whether in a mental hospital or prison, or death. But so much about EARONS resists conventional explanation. He combined explosive rage and impulsiveness with lengthy planning and surveillance. He liked to steal victims’ clock radios. The sheer scale of offending gives the impression of someone who was able to attack almost at will, fleeing on foot or on stolen bicycles, even on one occasion outpacing a pursuer in a car. Identifying details are frustratingly vague. He usually wore a the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ski-mask. Witnesses’ and survivors’ assessments of his build, hair colour or age vary widely; the only things agreed on are his height, around 5ft 10, and his penis size — unusually small. Similarly diverse are interpretations of his behaviour: breaking off an attack for a bout of heavy breathing could be asthma, ungovernable excitement or theatrical sadism. McNamara explains that an unsolved murder of a young woman in Chicago, close to where she lived as a child, fed an obsession with crime and killers that led ultimately to her widely admired blog, TrueCrimeDiary.com. It’s hard to characterise her role in all this, exactly: informal investigator, data-miner, an information-cruncher who eventually became a virtual colleague to the various investigators on this cold, cold case. McNamara visited crime scenes, rifled phone directories and high-school yearbooks, cross-referencing, intuiting and swapping tips with other amateur sleuths. His DNA never matches any database, so the geographic trail seems the best one to follow: ‘There are only so many white men born between let’s say 1943 and 1959 who lived or worked in Sacramento, Santa Barbara County, and Orange County between 1976 and 1986.’ Enter the investigator McNamara calls ‘The Kid’, who owns the 1977 Sacramento Suburban Directory and has ‘the 1983 Orange County telephone directory digitised on his hard drive’. (The Kid is Paul Haynes, who helped complete the book.) Enthusiasts like he and McNamara are willing to spend thousands of hours meticulously referencing such data. Dealing with successive investigators, she is fascinated by their impassivity: I’m a face-maker. I married a comedian [Patton Oswalt]. Many of my friends are in showbusiness. I’m constantly surrounded by big expressions, which is why I immediately noticed the lack of them in detectives. There’s none of the prurient gloating over ghastliness that mars much crime writing; rather, McNamara spotlights the appalling detail while leaving much to the imagination. A coda by Haynes and the investigative journalist Billy Jensen, who together tied up the loose ends of McNamara’s manuscript, almost functions as a review. ‘She didn’t flinch from evoking key elements of the horror and yet avoided lurid overindulgence in grisly details, as well as side-stepping self-righteous justice crusading or victim hagiography.’ The killer’s evasion of justice is of huge significance in the real world, but the lack of closure doesn’t harm the book. In her introduction, Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl, puts it succinctly: ‘I want him captured; I don’t care who he is.’ The reasoning behind the acts of what Patton Oswalt calls ‘a wounded, destructive insect’ can only be banal; this chilling, empathetic account is anything but. 41 BOOKS & ARTS Games without frontiers: Ian Cheng’s ‘Emissaries Guide – Narrative Agents and Wildlife’ (2017) ARTS The simulation game The artist Ian Cheng creates digital life forms that bite and selfharm. Sam Leith meets him (and them) D igital art is a crowded field. It’s also now older than I am. Yet despite a 50-year courtship, art galleries have been reluctant to allow it more than a toehold in their collections. Things are changing. Take MoMA’s visit to Paris last year. Alongside the Picassos and Pollocks was a very popular final room, made up of a single, beautiful computer-generated animation, in which a huddle of humans tramp across a constantly disintegrating landscape. ‘Emissaries’ (2015–17) is the work of the 33-year-old artist Ian Cheng, who two weeks ago opened his first show in the UK at the Serpentine Gallery. Cheng’s first inspirations were video games like The Sims, and working in special effects on Pirates of the Caribbean. ‘They were trying to simulate a whirlpool that was like several kilometres wide, and they were 42 trying to simulate it water particle for water particle… It was just like mind-boggling — just that they attempt to do that was very beautiful.’ Noticing that a number of his colleagues had artistic ambitions of their own — but had been working on the same short film since Return of the Jedi — Cheng packed in his production job to pursue a career as a fine artist, and made simulation his thing. He started out being interested in rendering, in the idea of making something material-seeming in a digital space. ‘Brats’ (2012) saw a motion-capture Elmer Fudd chasing a motion-capture Bugs Bunny around a digital nowhere; ‘This Papaya Tastes Perfect’ (2011) was the weirdly ethereal simulation of a New York road-rage incident. But his interest gradually shifted from the surfaces to the depths: not to the render- ing of digital objects but the generative algorithms that could determine their behaviour. His last major work was ‘Emissaries’, a virtual world in which, having set things running, the artist would play the deus absconditus and stand back to see what happened. Answer: everyone started fighting and a lot of stuff caught fire. Cheng shrugs cheerfully: ‘Heh, yes. A very uncontrollable environment.’ The Serpentine will screen ‘Emissaries’ in the gallery from 24 April. First up, though, is BOB, the latest development of his digital art. BOB stands for ‘Bag He created a virtual world in which he set things running then stood back to see what happened of Beliefs’. Having created a digital ecosystem of sorts in ‘Emissaries’, Cheng wanted to ‘focus on just one agent’: a single isolated character — in a sense, an internal ecosystem ‘tremendously more complex than “Emissaries” ’. And that’s BOB. It’s basically (as Cheng acknowledges) a sort of next-generation Tamagotchi: an artificial intelligence life form, living in an imaginary space, that looks like the result of a messy accident in an orange twig factory. Two screens — one for each BOB — greet the viewer at the Serpentine Gallery (the main gallery space, behind them, is filled the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk with the computers that run BOB) and show a pair of white spaces, each given the suggestion of depth by a single steepled window high on the right-hand side of the frame. Beneath this window, BOB bobs; or, if you like, BOBs bob, since there are two of them and each is different. Each BOB starts out as a little orange ‘stub’ with a wee face on it, and over time will grow and wiggle about — sometimes becoming like a large bush; sometimes like a jointed worm gone wrong. Greyish dead bits of BOB, disconcertingly, cling to him or litter the digital floor where he has pruned himself. BOB gets fed twice a day (‘the gallery assistants push a button, basically’), learns from his experiences, such as they are, at the rate of 300MB a day, and you can interact with him through an iPhone X. Wiggle the phone about, and BOB’s limb, or branch, or whatever it is, wiggles with you. BOB doesn’t always like that. One recent visitor says that BOB tried to bite him. The hope was originally to have BOB speaking unto BOB. Anyway they ran out of time, so that’s for the next show. As are further ambitions — embedding a BOB in the blockchain so he could make financial transactions; creating BOBs who could breed and inherit memories (Cheng seems to be a bit of a Lamarckian); or selling seed BOBs, like computer games, for users to grow their own. The gallery’s bumf makes rather bold claims about BOB: that when he sees your face he may think you’re a hallucination; that he has feelings and thoughts. Can this be true? ‘The thing we really tried to model within BOB was how… basically, how BOB feels, and to think about feeling not as a discrete label, like an emotion, like sad, happy, angry, Wiggle the phone, and BOB’s limb, or branch, or whatever it is, wiggles with you. BOB doesn’t always like that annoyed, but rather feeling as an N-dimensional space of measuring many many different criteria at many different moments.’ Like Cheng though I do — he has an ingenuous enthusiasm, and talks more like Bill and Ted (‘like totally’; ‘super-surprising’) than most fine artists — I have a strong hunch that philosophers of mind or AI experts would see this as complete bunkum. BOB, at least as Cheng explains him, is an input/output machine: a complex one, a probabilistic one, one with the ability to remember things and behave according to an associative rather than directly causal logic, sure. But that’s a long way from having feelings or a theory of mind or anything like a consciousness. If BOB was capable of ‘thinking’ ‘he’ was ‘hallucinating’ (I distribute the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk these inverted commas freely but without complete confidence), BOB would not only be acing Turing tests, he’d probably already be plotting the assassination of John Connor. Still, I’m not sure that matters all that much. What we project on to the work, and the work’s attempt to live up to that, is where the art happens. As Cheng says, the name for each BOB ‘is completely random on birth. It’s kind of like when a hospital names orphans. But the names afford a sort of projection — they’re for us, really. Like when someone names their Chihuahua ‘Little Thomas’ or ‘Little Sophie’ or something? The Chihuahua doesn’t know and it might not even match its personality. Thomas might be totally the wrong name for that particular Chihuahua!’ And when I ask him about how he chooses the starting conditions for these self-generating simulations, he says: ‘Super-stupid criteria: it’s something I have to fall in love with. It’s super-dumb. Like how the basic Bob face looks, and what colour he starts out… so I could love him. Or love it. I just really wanted to love this creature. I have to love what I’m working on because otherwise it gets super-depressing halfway in and I might not finish.’ For a loving father, then, the behaviour of one trial BOB was disconcerting. ‘The first time we were testing a full-grown BOB — 43 BOOKS & ARTS he was a serpent-/tree-like structure — and he just got into this fit, and just completely pruned for like 50 minutes, every little bit, almost like when you meet someone who’s missing an eyebrow, and they had this fit last night and picked out every hair. That one just chomped himself down to a stub and then he was just a stub for like a day or something.’ He reflects: ‘This was like super-surprising? Kind of sad but also very beautiful in a way.’ Ian Cheng’s BOB is at the Serpentine Gallery until 22 April, after which his Emissaries will be in the same space until 28 May. Theatre What’s the big idea? Lloyd Evans Summer and Smoke Almeida, until 7 April Great Apes Arcola Theatre, until 21 April Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams dates from the late 1940s. He hadn’t quite reached the peaks of sentimental delicacy he found in his golden period but he was getting there. As a lesser-known curiosity, the script deserves a production that explains itself openly and plainly. Rebecca Frecknall has directed a beautiful and sometimes bizarrelooking show which is beset by ‘great ideas’. What a great idea to encircle the stage with upright pianos that the actors can cavort on, and whose exposed innards can twinkle with atmospheric lights at poignant moments. The pianos are an ingenious and handsome solo effort but they serve the designer’s ends and not the play’s. Another great idea was to include a booming soundtrack, often irrelevant, sometimes intrusive. A third great idea was to relax the dress code and let the principal actors slob around in casual daywear and unshod feet. This obscures the play’s central motif, which is the moral confusion of a deeply conservative and highly stratified society where a woman’s ambitions in the world are shackled to her sexual selfrestraint. Williams uses all his charm, guile and human sympathy to examine a contradictory ethical code that requires a girl to remain a virgin before marriage but allows the chaps to bang away like donkeys. But it’s very hard to guess that the show is set in small-town America in the 1940s, or that crucial scenes take place in a doctor’s surgery. A casual viewer would assume that the action is contemporary and that the setting is a piano shop opening on to a veranda. Matthew Needham, as boozy Dr 44 Buchanan, dresses like a beatnik poet in tatty jeans and a ripped-open shirt. He sports the same beach-bum outfit when examining patients. So it’s unclear why prim, nervy Alma is desperate to marry a chap who doesn’t own a suit of clothes, pesters her for sex, calls her ‘frigid’, and has affairs with hookers. Misjudged visuals make the supporting roles difficult to follow as well. Buchanan’s dad is a shouty pastor and his mum is an untethered noodle-head but there are no optical clues about their positions in the play so they seem like dotty vagrants entering the action at random. Perhaps there wasn’t enough cash to fund a proper production. Eight actors have to play a total of 14 characters. Anjana Vasan bravely takes on three entirely different female roles and creates nothing but bafflement each time she appears. A wise producer would have ditched the high-concept pianos in return for two more actors. But anyone who knows and likes this play will find plenty to enjoy here. Relish in particular the twitchy fragile brilliance of Patsy Ferran as Alma. And Matthew Needham gives a performance that’s hard to stop watching. Needham’s face is so sharp, cruel and inscrutable that he’d be an asset to any production, as a hero or a villain. Movies beckon. Will Self’s novel Great Apes, published in 1997, has been skilfully and wittily updated by Patrick Marmion. The book’s debt to A wise producer would have ditched the high-concept pianos in return for two more actors Kafka is obvious from the opening gesture. Yuppie artist Simon Dykes wakes up to find that his girlfriend has turned into a chimpanzee. Terrified, Simon rushes from the house but is captured by paramedics who sedate him and lock him up in a hospital. The paramedics are chimps as well. So is everyone else. Simon learns that he’s the only free human being left on earth. Chimps rule the world. A few leftover humans are held in zoos and they’re occasionally allowed out to make TV adverts for PG Tips. Everyone in history, we learn, was a chimp, including Shakespeare, who wrote the famous line ‘an arse by any other name would smell as sweet.’ To create this upside-down world in a novel is easy but to make it believable on stage represents a huge challenge. The actors, directed by Oscar Pearce, carry it off with subtlety and intelligence. Will Self’s characters tend to be high-achievers, doctors, artists, financiers and journalists, and here they’re required to retain the habits of untamed primates. They tumble about in a semi-squatting position; they make ooh-ah noises on greeting and parting; they groom one another obsessively; they study each other’s posteriors with fanatical curiosity; and they often copulate in public. That’s how it is in monkey world: random fornication between casual acquaintances is regarded as vital to social cohesion. Simon’s mission is to learn to cope with this crazy universe. Early on, he attempts to have sex in public with his girlfriend, who is still a chimpanzee. ‘I’m embarrassed to admit I enjoyed it,’ he pants with relief. Because the show raises questions about identity and about the boundaries between destiny and personal choice, it feels surprisingly up-to-date. My only quibble with this excellent production is that no one eats a banana. Cinema Mad about Claire Foy Deborah Ross Unsane 15, Nationwide Steven Soderbergh’s latest film, Unsane, is a psychological thriller about a woman who is incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital even though she claims to be perfectly sane. But is she? It was filmed fast, on an iPhone 7, and some aspects are worryingly thoughtless — its treatment of mental-health patients, for example, is remarkably Unsensitive. And it does descend into a plainly ridiculous, subpar farce. But it is also, in parts, deliciously schlocky and it stars the wonderful Claire Foy, whom one hopes was paid decently. So shocking that she earned less than Matt Smith for The Crown, but as a positive person who likes to look on the bright side might I suggest that we celebrate the fact men are still doing so well? And throw a party or something? Here, Foy plays the unlikely named Sawyer Valentini, who has relocated from Boston to Pennsylvania to escape David Strine (Joshua Leonard), the man who has been stalking her for two years and has made her life hell. She has a new job in a bank where the boss instantly comes on to her — Soderbergh is clearly down with the women, sometimes clumsily so — and she’s in a state. She’s lonely, but suffers panic attacks, which makes dating impossible. So she seeks therapy, and undergoes a session with a seemingly sympathetic counsellor at the Highland Creek Behavioural Centre. She confesses that, yes, she’s had suicidal thoughts, but hasn’t everyone at some time or another? She signs some papers, which she thinks are simply committing her to further therapy sessions, but then discovers she’s admitted herself as an inpatient. She is put on a locked mixed ward where the woman (Juno Temple) in the next bed threatens her with a dangerously sharpened spoon. Meanwhile, the staff are profoundly Unhumane, and just the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk dish out drugs, Nurse Ratched-style. One appreciates that, for plot purposes, this has to be a scary, perilous, unreasonable place but, still, it seems a pity that its view of mental illness and treatment is very definitely stuck somewhere in the dark ages, possibly around 656AD. This is, essentially, the classic mental hospital set-up, based on the well-worn trope of a woman (usually) who keeps protesting that she doesn’t belong here, it’s all a horrible mistake although, of course, the more she protests the madder she is taken to be. The best thing here is Foy, and they should have paid her at least six times as much as her male co-stars (See Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit and Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer, and so on.) But it takes a fresher turn when Sawyer claims that one of the orderlies, who is calling himself ‘George Shaw’, is, in fact, David Strine. But is he? Has she been locked up with her stalker? As I don’t wish to stray into spoiler territory, I’ll speak just in generalities from now on. There are those deliciously schlocky twists, which are often ingenious, and although shot on an iPhone, it’s an iPhone with a hefty amount of extra kit, so there’s none of that dimly illuminated, shaky hand- held nonsense. And Foy is magnificent, worth twice the money, whatever the original sum was. (But don’t worry, fellas. This won’t affect our party. At all.) True, Sawyer is a victim but it’s not as straightforward as that, as she is awarded agency, and we see how stalking can not only turn you into a wreck, but also becomes the crime that you are meant to prevent. (This is shown via flashback, and a police security expert — a cameo from Matt Damon — telling her the precautions she must take: quit Facebook, don’t park out back, always carry your keys in your hand.) It is also, I have to say, quite a neat metaphor for the whole #MeToo business, as it’s fundamentally about women who are not believed, and whose stories are thereby discounted. That said, and as written by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, the film can feel like 98 minutes of mansplaining, and it is thematically messy, as it throws so much else into the pot, like the American private healthcare racket. Plus, it has plot holes so huge you can likely see them from Mars — ‘oh, for God’s sake,’ I said many times — and the third act is preposterous, so wholly Uncredible I started laughing. Probably the best thing here is Foy, and they should have paid her six — if not 20 — times as much. The party is still on, though. Your place or mine? Rock The making of the Moody Blues Michael Hann Rarely has one irate punter so affected a band’s trajectory. Without the anger of the man who went to see the Moody Blues at the Fiesta Club in Stockton in 1966, the band would never have reinvented themselves, never have transformed into psychedelic pioneers, and next month they would not be travelling to America to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the honour bestowed annually upon those the US music business deems the most significant artists of all. The Moody Blues had been a moderately successful group — everyone who has ever listened to an oldies radio station knows their version of ‘Go Now’, a No. 1 single in 1964 — but by 1966 they were on the skids. Their two most creative members had left, to be replaced by a new bassist and the 19-year-old singer-guitarist Justin Hayward. That night in Stockton, in a club where a version of the Playboy bunnies was a major attraction, the group donned their blue suits and went through their tired routine of WOO L LE Y & WA L LI S FINE ART AUCTIONEERS SA L I S B U R Y SA L E R O O M S SOLD IN SALISBURY | BOUGHT IN NEW YORK SOLD TO THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM FOR £575,000 The first American porcelain teapot - John Bartlam, Cain Hoy, 1765-69 FOR CONSIGNMENTS OF ANTIQUE CERAMICS & GLASS PLEASE CONTACT: Clare Durham | 01722 424507 | email@example.com w w w. w o o l l e y a n d w a l l i s . c o . u k the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk 45 BOOKS & ARTS The drummer Graeme Edge piped up from the back of the van: ‘He’s right, that bloke, we’re crap’ ‘Nights in White Satin’. It’s extraordinary in good and bad ways: it’s florid and overblown, as well as wildly ambitious and often very beautiful. It’s peak English psychedelia, and it made them superstars. Yet while pretty much every other English group who reinvented themselves as psychedelic vagabonds have found themselves, at some point in recent years, hailed as pioneers and trailblazers, the Moody Blues have remained stubbornly critically unrehabilitated. Even Hayward jokes that the real reason they’re being inducted into the Hall of Fame is that ‘they ran out of hip people to give it to’. It sometimes feels as though critical perceptions are unchanged since an interviewer from Zigzag magazine met Hayward in 1976 and — in a sympathetic piece — said of the band: ‘They’re very respectable, most of them are stinking rich, and they make records which sell to middle-class trendy young couples living in the stockbroker belt who know and care as much as about rock music as Batman.’ That despite the fact that Hayward was very much part of Swinging London, smoking dope — ‘turning on’, as he still calls it — dropping acid, and going to the right parties and the right clubs. Days of Future Passed wasn’t meant to happen. The Moody Blues’ label, Decca, had sent them to the studio to record rocked-up versions of Dvorak to demonstrate their new ‘Deramic Sound’ stereo recording system. The band instead hijacked the sessions to their own ends. 46 ‘It was all done in a week,’ Hayward says. ‘Our stuff was recorded in two or three days, and then the orchestra was done on a Saturday in one three-hour session. They had one run-through, had a tea break, and then they did their take.’ The album was mixed on the Sunday, then on the following morning the executive producer Hugh Mendl had to present it to the patrician Decca board. ‘And of course they were saying, “This is not Dvorak! This is not what we wanted!” And Hugh was saying, “No, but it’s quite good, and I think it will do the trick for us.” So they put it out as a budget-priced album, but then people started to become interested in it.’ Fifty-one years later, the Moody Blues still have a career thanks to the decision to drop the blue suits and embrace the cosmic. But Hayward understands why they remain oddly peripheral even as pop’s heritage is pored over and picked through. ‘We made some great records and we made some lousy records,’ he says. ‘Every one of the reviews, I could see exactly what they meant. Would I have bought the Moody Blues? That’s the question I have to ask myself. That’s the dilemma for me. I do sometimes think: why do people like this? I can’t quite figure it out.’ © TATE R&B covers and comedy songs, earning the money for the repayments on their guitars and the cost of their petrol. ‘We really weren’t very good,’ Hayward recalls. ‘This chap came in the dressing room afterwards, and he said, “I just thought I’d tell you, you’re the worst fucking band I’ve seen in my life. You’re rubbish. And somebody’s got to tell you.” ’ Hayward burst into tears, joined by his bandmate Ray Thomas. An hour or two later, as the group passed Scotch Corner on their drive south down the A1, the drummer Graeme Edge piped up from the back of the van: ‘He’s right, that bloke. We’re crap.’ ‘Literally the next day, we said: let’s get rid of the blue suits and do our own songs and see what happens,’ Hayward says. What the Moody Blues did next was one of the most dramatic about-turns in pop history: their 1967 album Days of Future Passed (marked with the release of a live re-recording this month, recorded last year). Days of Future Passed is an extraordinary record — a song cycle tracing the course of a day, with spoken word passages, orchestral interludes, and the song that came to define the group, Days of Future Passed Live is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and CD. Exhibitions Time and motion Martin Gayford Tacita Dean: Portrait National Portrait Gallery, until 28 May Tacita Dean: Still Life National Gallery, until 28 May Andy Warhol would probably have been surprised to learn that his 1964 film ‘Empire’ had given rise to an entire genre. This work comprises eight hours and five minutes of slow-motion footage of the Empire State Building during which nothing much happens. Warhol remarked that it was a way of watching time pass or, you might say, the Zen of boredom. Much the same could be said of the films in Tacita Dean’s two exhibitions, Portrait and Still Life at the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery respectively. The most ambitious of these, ‘Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS’ (2008), on show at the NPG, is composed of six separate films, each five minutes long, of the late dancer and choreographer enacting a balletic version of Cage’s celebrated (or notorious) composition 4’33’’ (consisting, of course, of a silence lasting for that interval). Cunningham — who was by then wheelchair-bound — interprets this by being almost entirely motionless. So far, you might think, so minimalist. But in one way Dean’s work is almost baroque. The biggest gallery of the exhibition is filled with six large screens, on to which are projected moving images of this motionless, aged man, shot from multiple angles. The Dean has developed a thing about fruit as well as about old men whole piece piles paradox on paradox. To see it, you move around the space, while he barely shifts. Dean is devoted to the medium of 16mm colour film, now as outmoded as oil pigment. So the only sound is the quiet whirr of projectors. ‘Portraits’, another of her works at the NPG, consists of 16 minutes of David Hockney in his studio, doing what he spends a lot of time doing: smoking, contemplating, musing on his own pictures. Again, nothing much eventuates. Hockney puffs away and at one point laughs at his own thoughts. You the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk you see. But you don’t have to. Like most gallery-goers, you could move on after a few seconds. With film, it’s different. You feel an obligation to watch until the end — which would mean a couple of hours viewing just for the films in ‘Portraits’. Also, you expect there will be action. That’s why very early Hollywood directors devised a frenetic repertoire of chase sequences, battle scenes, dance extravaganzas and explosions (still popular today). It goes right against the grain to settle down in front of a screen and watch a movie in which nothing happens. That’s what makes Warhol’s ‘Empire’, whatever else it is, a provocatively witty idea. Some of Dean’s works are more than that: intelligent, poetic and profound. Even so, I can’t help feeling that sitting in an art gallery watching a film of inactivity is a highly unnatural act. Opera Love Handel Michael Tanner Rinaldo Barbican Hall La traviata Coliseum, in rep until 13 April ‘Majesty’, 2006, by Tacita Dean are watching him thinking, perhaps reflecting on the cycle of 82 portraits he had just completed, reproductions of which hang on the wall behind (one depicting Dean’s young son). Of course, traditional portraiture is created by an artist observing someone sitting doing nothing much. Dean is presenting the observations from which a Velazquez or a Freud would make a final selection — the raw footage, as it were. Dean has joked that she has developed ‘a thing about old men’. Hockney was 78 in 2016 when ‘Portraits’ was made, Cunningham 89. Other subjects of her filmed portraits include the octogenarian Cy Twombly, who potters around his own studio, reads a letter and goes out for lunch (Coca-Cola plus a turkey sandwich), and the critic, poet and translator Michael Hamburger. The latter is marginally more demonstrative than the other subjects. He is seen working at his desk, but also reads a poem and discourses on a rare variety of apple that he imported from the west country garden of his friend Ted Hughes. The camera lingers, too, on the orchards that surrounded his Suffolk house. Dean has in fact developed a thing about fruit as well as about old men. One of the pieces at the parallel exhibition next door in the National Gallery, ‘Prisoner Pair’ (2008), is made up of close-ups of what the French call a poire prisonnière — that is, a pear preserved in a bottle of alcohol. The camera lingers on its mottled surfaces and the gleaming glass around. It’s beautiful, like a lot of Dean’s films. Personally, I enjoyed the little National Gallery exhibition more than the larger portrait show, because for the most part it consists of stills — paintings and photographs. These add up to a meditation on passing time, mortality and decay, all perennial themes of the still-life genre, and for that matter of portraiture. However, there is a difference between paintings and sculpture — which are by their nature still — and movies. It is possible, if you are in the mood, to look at a painting or a sculpture for a long, long time. The longer you do so, if it’s really good, the more the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Handel’s Rinaldo has not been highly regarded even by his most ardent admirers. I have never understood why — even less so after the recent performance at the Barbican, with stunning forces, including the English Concert, under the inspiring direction of Harry Bicket. Certainly the plot is absurd, with a lastminute mass conversion of Muslims to Christianity in order to bring things to a happy conclusion. But there are only six main characters in complicated relationships with one another, turning on their love and hatred like a switch, and going through the usual hoops; that is what Handel operas are. The penny has dropped with me, almost too late, that it is a complete mistake to look for characterisation in Handel. Strong emotions are expressed, and he is a master of putting them into music, but who is experiencing and expressing them is a matter of indifference. Can any admirer of Handel swear that — with the exception of a tiny handful of his works, such as Giulio Cesare — he gives a damn about the outcome of his operas. Who ends up happy and who distraught or dead? Think of the anxieties and relief we feel during the operas of Monteverdi or Mozart or Wagner or Puccini, and there is no comparison. Once that’s granted, Handel is expressive on a grand scale, and in Rinaldo as much as in almost any of his 47 BOOKS & ARTS CATHERINE ASHMORE ter I loathe most in all opera, the elder Germont. Something is odd, though, when the sententious old creep gets by far the biggest applause of the evening for his ‘Di Provenza il mar’ — Englished, of course, by Martin Fitzpatrick, in an unwieldy way, with many misplaced accents and clumsy constructions. About the rest of the leading roles there is little positive to say. The two main characters are miscast, Claudia Boyle having far too small a voice for most of Violetta’s part, though she pulled out the stops once or twice to adequate effect. Mostly, though, and especially in such key passages as her ago- La traviata was so comprehensive a flop that it is painful to go into detail nised interjections in Act Two scene ii while the men play cards, she was barely audible. The South African Lukhanyo Moyake needs acting lessons. At present he is a fairly large stage absence, and his voice is more braying than singing. Singing actors far more adequate than these would have been sunk by the production, Daniel Kramer’s first as artistic director of ENO. The opening scene suggested a Las Vegas brothel, with men in their underwear, white boxers or something kinkier. Violetta, everything in the text and music makes clear, is higher class than this unenthusiastic orgy, repeated in Act Two. The next scene takes place on her lawn, with a double bed swaying above it; in despair she rips up the turf and buries herself under it, a foretaste of her digging her own grave in the last act. And so on. Nothing worthwhile survived. Grave concerns: Claudia Boyle as Violetta in La traviata at ENO operas. It has the advantage, too, of not having a merely expository first act, as so many of his operas do. Absorbing from the start, it achieves an even higher level in Act Two, before the mild longueurs of Act Three. Harry Bicket’s visits with a Handel opera have become an annual occasion at the Barbican; concert performances, but that is in their favour. When the opera was first presented, its main claim to attention was the amazing scenery and the ‘machines’, but scenery nowadays tends to be amazing in a quite different way, and it’s a relief to me to be without it. Few performances, though, have had such superb line-ups of singers as Rinaldo. Probably the best-known name here was Iestyn Davies, the great countertenor of the moment, in the title role, as he deserves to be. Some of the other singers were less familiar, but the second counter-tenor, the Pole Jakub Jozef Orlinski, after a slightly tentative Act One, showed that he will soon be a familiar name. Joélle 48 Harvey was a stunning Almirena, with her show-stopping ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’. Go to YouTube if you have a spare half-hour and compare all the big names singing that piece: for me most of them tend to queen it up, whereas Harvey was moving in the simplicity of her rendering. Perhaps the most dazzling part of the night was the end of Act Two, when the harpsichordist Tom Foster took over and gave a stunning virtuoso performance expressive of Armida’s determination to have vengeance. These occasions should be recorded. English National Opera’s new production of La traviata requires grief rather than critique. The evening was so comprehensive a flop that it is painful to go into detail. I will just mention that Leo McFall conducted with sensitivity and a sure, if slightly slow, sense of pacing, and the orchestra responded superbly. And Alan Opie, now with the company for 50 years, gave a lesson in dignity and vocal warmth while playing the charac- Television Sunday best James Walton For as long as I can remember, Sunday nights have been the home of the kind of TV drama cunningly designed to warm the sternest of heart cockles. Think, for example, of Robert Hardy cheerfully bellowing his way through almost every scene of All Creatures Great and Small (‘PASS THE SALT, JAMES!’). Or of Pop Larkin’s impressive commitment to chuckling indulgently in The Darling Buds of May. Or of Heartbeat somehow racking up 372 episodes. Even so, ITV has now taken this tendency to surprising new lengths, with not one but two Sunday-night dramas that run consecutively and contain such traditional elements as gorgeous sun-dappled scenery, cute animals, gruff old-timers with hearts of gold and any number of lovable eccentrics. First up, at 8 p.m., is The Durrells, now back for a third series, but clearly in no mood to change a winning formula. The the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk opening episode began with a voiced-over letter from Mrs Durrell (Keeley Hawes) to her Aunt Hermione obligingly bringing us up to speed on what’s happened to her family since we last saw them — not a great deal, as it turned out. And with that, the programme got down to the serious business of making sure we liked it. In this aim, very little is left to chance. For one thing, the Corfu setting, and everybody in it, remain unremittingly charming. But perhaps more importantly, the show — based loosely on Gerald Durrell’s memoirs of his early life — is as considerate as ever when it comes to sparing us from having to do much work. Particularly helpful here are the Durrells themselves, with their pathological aversion to the unsaid. In some families (maybe even a few of our own) one or two of the members might keep one or two of their feelings hidden from each other. Here, though, nobody concerned — including the viewers — is ever left in any doubt as to what anybody is thinking at any given moment. Equally reassuring, meanwhile, is the certainty that no problem will prove intractable — or, indeed, all that problematic. In Sunday’s main plot, middle brother Leslie found himself juggling three girlfriends, a situation that, naturally, his siblings and mother were soon aware of. For the pur- poses of the drama, this briefly filled Mrs D. with some alarm, but naturally, too, she needn’t have worried. A few mildly comic misunderstandings later, Leslie had made his choice, and although it differed from his mother’s, she didn’t mind in the least. After all, as Aunt Hermione put it, somewhat anachronistically for someone speaking in 1937: ‘Good parenting isn’t about meddling in your children’s lives. It’s about loving them.’ And in the unlikely event that this didn’t leave your heart warm enough, you didn’t have to wait long for The Good Karma Hos- Don’t we all enjoy a pleasantly undemanding and good-natured wallow every now and then? pital — a programme so similar in tone that it felt almost as if ITV had spent the ad break speedily replacing the Greek music, fauna and scenery with their Indian equivalents. The series features Amrita Acharia as Dr Ruby Walker, who, after getting fed up with her life in Britain, is now working in a hospital in southern India run by Amanda Redman in her usual role as a wise and tough-but-kindly old broad. Needless to say, as a young woman, Ruby has to deal with her unfair share of blokes who’ve yet to be convinced that she’s up to the job, and who communicate their sexist suspicions largely through the medium of looking askance. One rural patriarch, mind you, took the process further than most by shouting ‘What are you? A girl of 15 or 16?’ and threatening to hit her with a stick. Fortunately, once her all-round competence had saved his son, he was instantly converted to the feminist cause. As was Ruby’s hunky colleague Gabriel, who’d disagreed with her diagnosis and was duly shown to be wrong. (‘Sometimes it’s hard being a man in a woman’s world,’ observed Amanda Redman’s character in a neat summary of pretty much all current TV drama. ‘Being born with a penis is a huge disadvantage.’) Of course — as I’ve possibly demonstrated — it’s easy to be sniffy about this sort of programme. Yet there has to be some reason why The Durrells and The Good Karma Hotel are so popular that on Sunday BBC1 more or less gave up the ghost by showing only a film against them. That reason, I’d suggest, is their neat combination of shamelessness and undeniable efficiency. ‘OK,’ the makers seem to be saying, ‘so you’ve seen plenty of shows like this already — but, if you’re honest, isn’t that because we all enjoy a pleasantly undemanding and good-natured wallow every now and then?’ And annoyingly enough, this might well be true. WILLIAM COLDSTREAM A loan exhibition to coincide with the publication of the catalogue raisonné 23 March – 2 May 2018 Monday - Friday 10.00-5.30 Saturday 11.00-2.00 (closed Easter weekend) the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk William Coldstream, Stephanotis and Persimmons, 1979, oil on canvas, 28 x 20 inches (1908-1987) 49 BOOKS & ARTS THE LISTENER Vince Staples Grade: B+ Another ex-Long Beach crip replanted in pleasant Orange County via the conduit of very large amounts of record company money and thus now able to draw on his time as a gangsta, while telling us all it was a very naughty thing to have done. The difference between Staples and much of the similarly uprooted West Coast hip-hop crew is twofold. First, off-stage the man is thoughtful, articulate and refuses to hunker down beneath the comfort blanket of black victimhood. Further, he eschews all drugs and alcohol and loathes the glorification of gang culture — something he calls coonery — and is a Christian. (Although it is hard to imagine Jesus Christ cheerfully singing along with this little number.) And second, he has words. He may not have the deep warm rumble of Snoop or the musical imagination of Kendrick Lamar. But his use of words is often mesmerising, the rapping focused and utilising complex rhythms most of his rivals would not go near. He’s a clever lad. This single, ‘Get The Fuck Off My Dick’, which follows last year’s fairly triumphant album Big Fish Theory, is sparse, a four-note piano motif the only counterpoint to scratchy vocal loops and Staples’s loquacious rant. He is no more enamoured of rap than he was of running with the gangs, it seems, and intends to give it up sometime soon. ‘You can keep your money/ it don’t do nothing for me’. He is not liked in some quarters for this disdain, but me — I like him more for it. What do you reckon, Republican candidate for the presidency, 2032? — Rod Liddle 50 Radio The new seekers Kate Chisholm As Bob Shennan, the BBC’s director of radio and music admitted this week, there are almost two million podcast-only listeners in the UK who never tune into BBC Radio. They’re captivated by specialist music (Heart, Absolute, etc), specialist talks (mostly religious such as Premier Christian) or specialist news and current affairs (the Economist, Monocle). And they never feel the need to cross over into Auntie’s sphere of influence. The BBC’s response, says Shennan, must be to produce ‘a revitalised audio product’ to meet the needs, or rather demands, of these new audiences. ‘Audio product’ seems a long way from Music While You Work or Down Your Way. Soon, Shennan envisages, most listeners will be using voice apps to order up what they want to listen to from a vast range of programming, sometimes from what are now called ‘linear’ (i.e. traditional scheduled) stations by switching on (or tuning in) in the old-fashioned way, at other times by dipping into preselected podcasts, or streaming from the web, or maybe resurrecting something from the ‘deep archive’. More intriguing was Shennan’s admission, in the same speech, that the UK (unlike Norway) is still not ready to switch off analogue and go digital-only, at first planned for 2015, then put off until 2017, and now receding, as DAB sets begin to look more and more like cassette-players or video-recorders. There’s no need now (or at least not for the foreseeable future) to junk that old Roberts set in the kitchen, its loudspeaker muffled under layers of grease, flour and icing sugar. It still gives the best signal (DAB has never worked properly in my area). On Sunday night it gave me the rasping, haunting sound of the Revd Gary Davis, blues singer from the Deep South, who was featured in Gary O’Donoghue’s programme for Radio 3, Blind, Black and Blue (produced by Lee Kumutat and a team of blind editors and technicians). The BBC’s Washington correspondent and blind himself, O’Donoghue has always wondered why so many blind and black musicians achieved such celebrity in the first decades of the last century, leaving an indelible mark on American music and beyond. Many of them were blind because of illnesses as children, such as conjunctivitis or lack of vitamin A, which went untreated because black people did not have access to medical care. They grew up poor and uneducated, under the rigid segregation imposed by the Jim Crow laws, which made the lives of those who were black and blind extra diffi- cult (how could they know they were in the wrong part of town?), but taught themselves to play music that resonated way beyond their own lives. Blind Willie McTell, for instance, is celebrated in one of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs, while Davis played alongside Dylan at the Gaslight Cafe on MacDougal street in Manhattan, the blues influencing the folk revival with songs like ‘I’ve got fiery fingers,/ I’ve got fiery hands,/ And when I get up in heaven/ Gonna join that fiery band.’ The tell-it-all style of Sophie Willan’s Guide to Normality on Radio 4 (produced by Suzy Grant) comes from the same source, although it is very different in tone. She grew up in a chaotic family, often in care because her mother suffers from drugs-induced psychosis. Rather than lamenting her fate, she’s turned to stand-up comedy as a release, a way of telling. And precisely because she has never been able to take anything for granted, she’s well qualified to make her Most listeners will be using voice apps to order up what they want to listen to from a vast range of programming audiences sit up and think differently about themselves. Willan’s raw reality check is a refreshing blast from someone who’s definitely not had it easy but has not an ounce of self-pity. This week’s Lent Talks, also on Radio 4 (produced by Rosie Dawson), gave us a shocking story, told in such a deadpan, matter-of-fact way it lingered in the mind. What was the effect of such an experience? Did she really bury it for years? Dr Katie Edwards, who now teaches biblical studies at Sheffield University, began by explaining that she has always been confused by ‘the silence of Jesus’. Why didn’t he speak out? Why was she always taught that silence, particularly in the face of adversity and abuse, is a strength, a virtue? She then told us about an experience she shared with her schoolfriends when they were young teenagers. Befriended at the ice rink by a group of young men in their early twenties, they went to a party organised by them. They didn’t tell their parents. Why would they? To them, the men were funny, kind, romantic. But as soon as they arrived at the party, there was, recalls Edwards, a different atmosphere. She felt a sense of dread so strong she began to feel sick and could not swallow the drink they were all given. That saved her from the worst experience. Her friends, who passed out, drugged by the drink, were raped. She was held down, her arm broken. No one ever spoke about it afterwards or told anyone about it. Her broken arm was explained away as an accident at the ice rink. ‘It never occurred to them to tell anyone what had happened. They knew they wouldn’t be believed.’ the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk A gift in your will can secure Emelda’s future. We support disabled children to get the education they deserve. Let your legacy be their future. To find out more, request your free information pack by emailing Clare at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the form below: Mr/Mrs/Ms/other First name SPECTP22032018I Surname Address Postcode We’d like to tell you more about our work and other ways to support disabled people, if you’d rather not be contacted by post just let us know by ticking this box. Thank you. Please return to: Leonard Cheshire Disability, 66 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL leonardcheshire.org/giftsinwills Registered charity no: 218186 (England and Wales) and no: SC005117 (Scotland) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no: 552847. NOTES ON … Evensong By the Revd Dr Jonathan Arnold hen Palestrina wrote his Mass settings and motets, or J.S. Bach his cantatas and passions, they could not have imagined the ways in which their music would be heard today. We can now access sacred music in our living rooms, at work and on the commute: an hour-long compilation of the choir of New College, Oxford performing the Agnus Dei has fourand-a-half million views on YouTube. Spotify and smartphones may eliminate the need to visit a church or chapel to hear these works, but visit we still do. While overall church attendance has fallen by two-thirds since the 1960s, attendance at traditional choral worship in the UK is on the rise, and has been for the past two decades. Evensong services at Magdalen College Chapel in Oxford, where I have the privilege of ministering, are resolutely popular. Numbers at our weekend Evensongs are well into the three figures, and have been for around 20 years. My colleagues in several other college chapels report similar turnouts. The trend is not confined to university towns. It is thanks largely to their weekday choral services that Britain’s 42 cathedrals have seen such a remarkable resurgence in popularity: figures are up by a third in a decade, and that’s excluding the tourists. Evensong has barely changed since the W GETTY IMAGES Magdalen College Chapel publication of the Book of Common Prayer in 1662. It is perhaps not a coincidence that attendance at traditional choral services started to surge as modern life began to seem most removed from their world of candles, canons and communal reflection: Evensong offers an antidote to the modern age of instant digital gratification. For a generation who struggle to sit in silence without taking out their phones, quiet reflection is hard to come by. So, too, is community: under-35s are more lonely than those over 55. Attending a choral service offers an oasis in the busy working day — not just because it is an escapist 45 minutes, but because it is a participation in something significantly other to ourselves. It points towards the transcendent, and forges a bond between all in the sacred space by the shared experience of the liturgical rite. For me, the music enhances the words of the service, giving beauty and character to the heartfelt words of the Psalms, to the joyful thanksgiving in Mary’s song of praise and liberation (the Magnificat) and to the prayers of the Collects. But you need only glance at the statistics to know that not all of those who attend Evensong are Christian. Choral services do not coerce the attendee into any particular doctrinal confession: even Richard Dawkins admits to having a ‘certain love’ for Evensong. People are free to choose the extent to which they engage with the worship, which is in many respects more passive than in Sunday services: at Evensong, the focus is on listening, and worshippers do not take communion. What some will hear through Christian ears is still beautiful heard through secular ones. Choral music within the liturgy is one of our greatest cultural and religious heritages; it is every bit as sincere and meaningful on a wet Tuesday in March as in a Christmas Nine Lessons and Carols. Pop in. Travel & General FRANCE 23 LUXURY PROPERTIES to rent for one week or more in south-west France, Provence and the Côte d'Azur. All sleeping six or more, all with pools, some with tennis courts. Staff; plus cooks and/or babysitters if required. Tel: Anglo French Properties: 020 7225 0359. Email: miles.maskell@ anglofrenchproperties.com www.anglofrenchproperties.com ITALY TUSCAN/UMBRIAN BORDER. Hilltop house in 11 acres. Looks amazing on the website. Even better in real life. 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Visit www.wilkinsonpublishing.com.au the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ‘It is, in my mind, a terrible Narnia, with signposts to Dior, Dubai and death’ — Tanya Gold, p62 High life Taki Gstaad A couple of columns ago I wrote about an incident that took place at the Eagle Club here in Gstaad. I indicated that if cowardice prevailed, I would go into detail (and I’ve had two weeks to think about those details). Well, cowardice did prevail, but although the Eagle has not lived up to the requirements of a club, what happens in a club stays in a club. I need to live up to the standards of someone who joined 60 years ago and generously contributed to it financially when it was floundering and about to go under. As I wrote a fortnight ago, the mix of gentlemen and low lifes is a toxic one. The latter are bound to step out of line and revert to type. Like throwing a punch from behind having misinterpreted a joke, or lying about what had taken place beforehand. Fraudsters should not be invited into clubs as guests, not because they might set up a crooked deal — which they would if they could — but because manners go handin-hand with morals, and a fraudster lacks both. A toxic mix indeed. And when my wife, who was born a serene highness into a 900-year-old noble family and has never in her life had a snobby thought towards a fellow human being, feels insulted enough to commiserate with a woman by telling her she’s sorry the woman had to marry a man so common (no use going into details about that particular incident) it’s time to call it a day. I’m off for good. The irony is that I no longer like the place. A club cannot be run by a Mrs Danvers who, although an employee, chooses who comes in and who doesn’t. She will, of course, bring in low lifes. Having said all that, I wish the place well. My children are members and my grandchildren use it, but the next time I cross its portals I will be a transgender black woman wearing fishnet tights. Mind you, the days when men walked on the outside of the pavement and stood up when a lady entered the room have gone the way of high-button shoes. I am told that giving up one’s seat to a woman on public transport in America can land one in trouble. Feminists do not take kindly to what they feel is condescension. Edmund Burke thought that manners were more important than laws. Poor old Edmund, he wouldn’t exactly have been sought after by television producers seeking to push the boundaries nowadays. In fact, common courtesy might soon become a statutory offence. Good manners are not a superficial activity. They serve a moral purpose. They illustrate that one is willing to put others first. A Schubert song, a Hopper painting, a Chopin nocturne, a Mozart aria; all strike a blow against the rudeness and the brutality of modern life. The great Paul Johnson wrote that a duel, with its code of conduct, was better than the murderous brawls in the streets, the punch from behind. The media are at present obsessed with the Weinsteins of this world. But Hollywood etiquette has always been about reminding others that you are more important than they are. The level of hostility and the decline in civility in Hollywood reflect wider society, where young people remain glued to screens that depict vulgarity and violence. The raging cult of celebrity — the I-am-somebody-important-you-are-anobody syndrome — has spread throughout the world. Once upon a time, not only were celebrities gracious and polite in public, they also aped society swells whom they considered their betters. Displays of selfish, hostile behaviour may be common in Hollywood and downtown New York — and even in London — but it’s not always the ‘stars’ who are responsible. The diva-like behaviour filters down, the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk ‘And your partner — is he locally sourced?’ and personal assistants are as obsequious to their bosses as they are aggressively disdainful towards others. What is worse, however, is the modern cultural phenomenon of needing to shock and of letting it all hang out. The utter drivel I read every day from so-called celebrities shows that the two words most missing from today’s lexicon are ‘self’ and ‘respect’. Revealing things that one would hesitate to tell one’s shrink — I haven’t got one but some of my best friends do — is now commonplace, replacing the dignified silence that was once worth a thousand words. Whatever happened to reticence? Yes, society is corroded by low lifes, but it was ever thus. Remember when men took off their hats when a lady walked into a lift or when they went into a restaurant or bar? Try telling a man nowadays to take off his hat and put up his dukes. Offensive informality was always more American than British, and I for one never minded that. The rural south always had better manners than the north, and where I went to school manners were more important than anything — except honesty. One never lied or cheated. And how brilliant was the great Hank Williams Jr who sang: ‘We say grace and we say ma’am/ And if you ain’t into that, we don’t give a damn.’ I’m off to the Bagel, a week late already. Low life Jeremy Clarke During the past three years I have spent quite a bit of time in a rented house in Provence. Volets Bleus is a rectangular breeze-block bungalow perched on the side of a hill. In front of it is a tiled south-facing terrace resting on concrete pillars. The terrace looks over the tops of the trees that grow out of the valley floor, and further out over a commercial vineyard, and then to a distant line of oakforested hills. Our nearest neighbours are a Dutch couple who live in a pretty old property a quarter of a mile away and high above us, currently on the market for €1.2 million. Kukor and Ezzard refer to our breeze-block shack as ‘the ugliest house in the Var’. ª 55 LIFE Previously, Volets Bleus was owned by a wealthy Scottish couple who used to drive down from the UK in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce. The chauffeur thought the property beneath his dignity, so while his employers camped out in the house, he stayed in the best local hotel. This unusual state of affairs became a folk memory among the indigenous French. The first question asked by the first local to make a courtesy visit was: ‘Are you Scottish?’ Catriona is in fact Scottish. But she had to disappoint him by going on to say that sadly she was unrelated to the couple with the Rolls-Royce and the haughty chauffeur and that she was only renting. Catriona lives here all year round; I come and go. I like the house, she doesn’t. Indeed, she has a ready list of grievances for summer visitors who tell her how lovely it must be to live here. In winter she is frozen and in summer she almost boils to death. The roof leaks. The septic tank smells. The stink of putrefying boar corpses in the hunting season is unsupportable. The house is regularly and dramatically infested with millipedes, ladybirds, biting ants and a reputedly edible dormouse called a loir. The scratch scratch scratch of loir in the roof drives Catriona mad. (Loir are protected by French law and impossible to kill, in any case. We’ve tried everything from cage traps to sticky pads to ultrason- ic sound. Personally, I am now greatly in favour of these intelligent creatures.) Sneeze and the electricity trip switch at the bottom of the hill is thrown. Matter from the lavatories occasionally bubbles up into the kitchen sink. The crack in the floor that runs the length of the house, and which seems to suggest that the house might slip down the hill at any moment, grows alarmingly wider. The wood burner is inefficient The house is regularly and dramatically infested with a reputedly edible dormouse and smoky. The cupboards are mouldy. And so on and so forth. If pressed for time, she merely characterises the house as hot, cold, damp, leaky, draughty, dusty, mouldy, smelly, smoky and infested. But her love of the countryside in which the house sits amounts to a sort of pagan idolatry. Forget the house; for Catriona the countryside is everything. The scent of pine or thyme wafting across her nostrils on a hot breeze transports her. In mid-April the first nightingale arrives in the treetops in front of the house, clears its throat and flings its soul out. Over the next week more arrive. Last year four within earshot sang their little heads off day and night for six weeks. The nightingales are so numerous in the district, and they sing so loudly, that people complain about them. They sing even through torrential rain and crashing thunderstorms. If a mistral has blown the atmosphere free of dust, the stars at night are like flung silver pepper. On such nights I will admit that it is pleasant to sit or lie outside with the gin bottle for an evening of low-tech entertainment. But unlike Catriona, I am sniffy about the Provençal countryside. ‘It’s barren,’ I complain. And so it is. The only vegetation that thrives here, as far as I can see, are spiky things. Before the Romans bought the olive and the vine, the place must have been uninhabitable. There’s no standing or running water. No babbling brooks or placid ponds. There’s no topsoil even, just boulders and sharp-edged rubble. ‘But look!’ she says, pointing at the hills. ‘It’s so green.’ ‘Scrub oaks,’ I spit. ‘Weeds.’ ‘And so quiet!’ she says. I concede ‘quiet’. That’s because they’ve shot all the songbirds except the Shove Your Tissues The man wears chinos and a flannel shirt, a zip-up fleece and odd socks: one is more beige. INTRODUCTORY OFFER: Subscribe for only £1 an issue 9 Weekly delivery of the magazine 9 App access to the new issue from Thursday 9 Full website access Iran is our natural ally The National Trust in trouble His face, as creased and faded as his shirt, reminds me of Guernica, but without the light bulb, or the nostrils. If I did tell him about my penchant for being led astray by the man who holds a dog lead in one hand, himself in the other, he’d hurl himself at the space where a window used to be, then I’d have to counsel him. Boris in Libya Can you forgive her? Isabel Hardman and Matthew Parris on Theresa May’s fate The H less ou on ston of MY DATES WITH DIANA TAKI www.spectator.co.uk/A152A 0330 333 0050 quoting A152A UK Direct Debit only. Special overseas rates also available. $2 a week in Australia call 089 362 4134 or go to www.spectator.com.au/T021A 56 He asks why I have my arms folded; I ask why he doesn’t. ‘What would your present self say to your former self?’ ‘She’d say you’re a prick.’ (Other self nods.) He writes down ‘transference’ and looks at the clock I’m not supposed to notice behind my head. — Samantha Roden the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk nightingales. Perhaps their little bones make for fiddly eating. But there is one truly marvellous thing about Provence on which we agree; about which everyone agrees. You fling back the shutters every morning and it dazzles you. It makes one feel cheerful, sexy and alive. I even suspect that three years of this sunshine is partly responsible for restoring my health. Three years ago the good old NHS ‘threw the kitchen sink’ at my cancer. This uncannily sharp sunshine has, I think, done the rest. I can’t believe my luck. Real life Melissa Kite ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!’ I screamed through the window of the car while driving down Cobham High Street. ‘Are you aware,’ my saner self said to me, ‘that you are driving down Cobham High Street screaming a slogan from a film?’ ‘Yes,’ I said to my saner self. ‘Yes, I am aware. And I’ll take it from here, thank you.’ I had been to the kebab shop for a chicken skewer to cheer myself up when it happened. It was 8 p.m., dark, and I pulled up outside Ali’s feeling utterly deflated by what I shall simply call ‘all the rotten hypocrisy’. I parked, as I always do, in the off-road space outside his takeaway joint and two others, a fish and chip shop and an Indian. As usual, there were cars crammed in all over the place and I pulled up where I wasn’t blocking anyone in, went inside, said hi to Ali and ordered my usual. I had only been waiting for about two minutes when a bloke came running in breathless, shouting: ‘Someone’s getting a ticket!’ I looked outside and a parking warden was indeed issuing a ticket at 8 p.m. in the pitch dark to a car pulled up on a plot of land that was completely off-road. My car. I ran outside and said I’d move. Too late, he said. I explained that this space has, for as long as anyone can remember, been crammed with cars like this. And what about all the others? Why just me (in my 4x4)? A row ensued, the conclusion of which was the warden’s smug assertion that ‘I just issue ticket. You argue with council’. He shoved the thing at me and I took it, speechless. Then I got into my symbol of the Imperialist ruling circles and drove away. I wasn’t going back to buy the kebab Ali was making me because if I did, that was putting the sorry episode up in price by another tenner. So I would go without dinner. It was the only lucid thought my brain could produce. Yes, I would go without dinner to save money and as a protest. Who was meant to see or care about this protest? God, possibly. I had only got as far as the next junction when my brain was suddenly gripped by a terrible explosion of the reasons I was trying to cheer myself up with a kebab in the first place, by which I mean ‘all the rotten hypocrisy’: chiefly this raping and pillaging we seem to be undergoing as standard, and the fact that a young blonde slip of a girl from Canada was held for hours at our border, then deported because she stated publicly she didn’t much like the sound of it. I felt my foot go down on the brake. I felt my hands turn the wheel. I felt my foot go down hard on the accelerator. I felt my car turn and career back towards the kebab shop. Someone wound my window down, and I heard a strange, strangled sound coming from the inside of the car: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!’ A passer-by looked at me askance. I screeched to a halt at the kebab shop to find the warden had gone. I drove a few doors down the street where I found him laughing with a colleague. Let the record now reflect that I went tonto. If the council have CCTV footage I am confident it will show a woman in wellies, face and hands covered in grime from Bridge Susanna Gross Every bit of anger about every twisted outrage on the planet was pouring out of me Contract: 5Xby South horses, black eyes streaming with tears, hair standing on end, yelling, screaming and crying as though every bit of anger about every twisted outrage on the planet was pouring out of her. The parking warden in his grey uniform, unfortunately, had become the representation of everyone who enforces all the rotten hypocrisy in the world. He stood there speechless, but his friend wasn’t having it. His friend advanced on this woman with his fists bared. He ran at her, so that she lost her balance and staggered backwards. Then he ran at her again, screaming at the top of his voice: ‘Get in your car! Go on! Get in it and go or I’m giving you another ticket.’ We only got as far as the junction again. ‘I’m still mad as hell…’ ‘Alright, alright.’ I pulled over and called the police. Two officers arrived, young, handsome and polite. They went inside the kebab shop then came back. ‘The camera at the shop hasn’t captured anything,’ said one of them, ‘but I’m not convinced a crime was committed.’ He paused, before adding: ‘On a more positive note, Ali says your kebab’s ready.’ the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Colin Simpson, who has died after a long illness at the age of 69, was a star both at the bridge table and away from it. I vividly remember first meeting him when I started playing rubber bridge at TGRs about 20 years ago. He was tall, with a commanding presence, and despite playing for very high stakes, unusually even-tempered. He was also a rarity among bridge professionals for having a proper job — and what a job! For more than 30 years, Colin was a special branch detective in counterterrorism. In 1982, he was assigned to protect Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador in London. One evening in June, as Argov was leaving the Dorchester, a terrorist opened fire. Argov fell, and Colin began chasing the gunman. When he had closed the gap to a few yards, the man turned round and opened fire; luckily he missed and Colin managed to shoot him in the head. He was the first policeman ever to shoot dead a terrorist on English soil. (Argov survived but was paralysed.) As you can imagine, Colin never lost his nerve or cool during bridge. He often represented England, and after retiring went on to become a Senior World and European Champion. But he always said it was highstake rubber bridge that taught him, the hard way, never to give up. This was one of his favourite hands: z AQ 10 4 yAK 3 2 X– w A 10 7 6 zKJ 7 yQ 9 8 X J 10 8 wQ N 7 65 W E S 5 z 98 y76 X– w KJ 6 5 2 5 4 9 8 z 3 y J 10 XAK Q 9 4 3 2 w4 3 2 West led the wQ. Colin won with the ace, cashed the zA, and ruffed a spade. He then cashed the XA — and got the bad news. How could this possibly make? But he found a way. He crossed to the yA and ruffed a third spade, then crossed to the yK and ruffed a heart. He now held XKQ9, w43. West held XJ10876. Colin exited with a club; West had to ruff and play a trump into Colin’s tenace; Colin won and exited with another club: West had to do the same again. Contract made with aplomb — by a man who will be much missed. 57 LIFE Chess Kramnik’s Immortal Raymond Keene Every so often a game is played which is worthy of joining the immortals in the pantheon of chessboard masterpieces. Anderssen v. Kieseritsky, London 1851, Zukertort v. Blackburne, London 1883, Botvinnik v. Capablanca, AVRO 1938; these are the jewels to which every chess player aspires. As Marcel Duchamp once observed: ‘not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists’. The former world champion Vladimir Kramnik played such a game against Levon Aronian, one of the pre-tournament favourites in the Berlin Candidates to determine the challenger to Magnus Carlsen’s crown. The championship match itself is set for London in November. #RONKCN-RCMNKL: Fidé Candidates Berlin 2018; Ruy Lopez GG0H0E$D0HF$E $WEThis kind of ‘delayed exchange’ is a popular counter to the Berlin Defence. FWE 3GJ4I(see diagram 1) This is an extraordinary idea and shows an admirable flexibility of thought. White’s play has been a little passive and Kramnik alertly realises that he can exploit this with a rapid kingside advance. -J 0JEWhite needs a more robust response to Black’s aggressive plan. The alternative 9 Nc3 fits the bill so that if Black continues as in the game with 9 ... g5 10 Nxe5 g4 11 d4 Bd6 12 g3 Bxe5 13 dxe5 Qxe5 then the white e-pawn is protected and he has time for 14 h4 with unclear play. I This shows up White’s 9th move as being too slow. The black attack now develops with terrifying speed. 0WGIF11 Nxg4 is destroyed by 11 ... Bxg4 12 hxg4 Qh4+ 13 Kg1 Ng3 and mate on h1 is inevitable. $FI$WG FWG3WG3F3GBlack could play 14 ... Qxd4 15 cxd4 gxh3 but he much prefers to keep queens on and play for the attack. J For the moment White has sealed up the kingside but Black now swiftly mobilises the rest of his army and quickly opens further lines. E Ì3EThe loss of time that White suffers over the next few moves proves to be disastrous. 27<<.'01 Black to play. This position is a variation from today’s game Aronian-Kramnik, Berlin 2018. How can Black briskly conclude his kingside attack? Answers to me at The Spectator by Tuesday 27 February or via email to email@example.com. There is a prize of £20 for the first correct answer out of a hat. Please include a postal address and allow six weeks for prize delivery. .CSěVGGL¥SSOĚTěKON 1 Qxf8+ .CSěVGGL¥SVKNNGR Hannu Visti, London SE16 58 Competition Averse to verse Lucy Vickery Diagram 1 rDbDkDrD 0p0W1p0p WDpDWhWD DWgW0WDW WDWDPDWD DWDPDNDP P)PDW)PD $NGQDRIW Diagram 2 WDWDkDWD 0pDW1WDp WDpDWDWD DW0bDW)n WDWDPDpD HW)rDW0W P)WDW)WD $W!RDWDK 16 Qd3 minimises White’s disadvantage. $GÌ3DE3CHThe key breakthrough. This creates possibilities of advancing with ... f4 as well as the prospect of levering open the h1-a8 diagonal. $I White cannot play 19 exf5 as Black then has a winning combination – see today’s puzzle. Ì4WIJWIH3F4F Ì3EHWI0C4F4F$F (see diagram 2) A brilliant coup. If now 25 exd5 then 25 ... Qe4+ 26 Kg1 gxf2+ forces a quick mate. HIWHGWF26 Rxd3 Qxe4 27 Re3 f2+ 28 Rxe4+ Bxe4 is a beautiful finish. Ì3G4GI9JKěGRGSKINS 28 Kh2 g1Q+ 29 Kxg1 f2+ mates. rDWDkDrD 0pDW1WDp WDpDbDWD DW0WDPDn QDWDWDp) DW)WDW)W P)WDW)WD $NGWDRDK In Competition No. 3040 you were invited to submit a poem against poets or poetry. Plato started it, but over the ages poetry has been accused of many sins: elitism, aestheticising horror, inadequacy as an agency of political change. In what was a wide-ranging and spirited entry there were references to Shelley (‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’), and to Auden (‘poetry makes nothing happen’), and to much else besides. Commendations go to Nicholas Stone, Mae Scanlan, Brian Allgar and Nigel Stuart. The winners take £30, except Basil Ransome-Davies who pockets £35. There’s Chaucer the gofer, there’s ode-machine Hood, There’s Herbert the God-bothered parson. There’s Shakespeare the aspirant. They’re only good For wiping a metrophobe’s arse on. There’s Whitman the mystagogue, out of his tree, There’s Tennyson, bearded and smelly. There’s Dowson the dipso, and Cummings the twee. They give me an ache in my belly. Pound’s Cantos are voodoo, they chargrill your brain, While Stevens amounts to a riddle And Ginsberg the Windbag leaks verse like a drain. The bastards are all on the fiddle. They hijack the language and grind it up fine Into tiles for a fancy mosaic. Go stick your damn tropes where the sun doesn’t shine. I am ad infinitum prosaic. Basil Ransome-Davies Good God, the verbiage, the guff That gets itself laid out in print By those who seem to weave their stuff From contemplated navel lint. They cast loose, looping lines to catch Some fluttering passing thought in flight, Or, given feelings words can’t match, Plough on just trotting out the trite. Worse still are those whose grandstand works Come shrouded in some borrowed myth, So if they have a point it lurks Buried deep in thickening pith. For anything that matters, prose Will win as it has always won; And every self-styled poet knows That poetry gets nothing done. W.J. Webster Every iamb, every trochee, every anapestic joke he Tries to tell is more annoying than the last one. With each spondee, with each dactyl, she seems flaky as a fractal. Are they stoned or drunk or trying to pull a fast one? When their measures wax erotic, they look weirdly unexotic. the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk LIFE All those rhymes and rhythms they keep having fun with May be just benignly strange, or may pose some grave moral danger, So beware the foolish straw their gold is spun with. Some are Beat and some Romantic. All their egos are gigantic. Keep your distance when they try to draw you close. Their metaphors are snares that will catch you unawares, And their similes are like a fatal dose. Some are living, some are dead, some are Sylvia and Ted, And you wouldn’t want to drink with them or date them. The way they play with words, like a chef with dead, plucked birds Makes you wonder why God bothered to create them. Chris O’Carroll They live on British sherry and the goodwill of the fey, They cannot drive, so always go by train. You’ll find them all in standard seats for which they cannot pay As, in vague, sepulchral voices, they explain. ‘We read at schools, at colleges, with luck, the BBC, Reciting from slim books we cannot sell. It’s vital work; we’re passing the baton of Poetry.’ Is the thing picked up? The poets never tell. They live on tiny payments from yet smaller magazines, From residencies, festivals and worse. They’ll look askance if once you ask what any poem means And despise you if you dare to call it verse. They live by liberal morals, partner-swapping like as not, In garrets filthy, though their hands are clean. They think it’s work, composing rhyming, florid tommyrot Which they hope will earn a medal from the Queen. Adrian Fry Is there anything worse than an evening of verse? How anyone one stands it — to me it’s a puzzle, I refuse to consume a paltry pantoum, I swear that I’ll never indulge in a ghasal. Crossword 2351: Triplets by Fieldfare Unclued lights form three sets of three, each set related in a different way to a theme-word which is hidden in the grid and should be highlighted. #EROSS 1 Keeping on certain subject, I am an unusual scientist (13) 9 A court’s brief shade (4) 14 Mount paintings an artist submitted (6) 15 In position, mark hit (5) 20 Small holes in stone column you replaced (7) 21 Good money made, half in Oldie (7) 23 Risky amount to carry on horse (7) 24 Swimming organ, cold, leads to pains (5) 25 Recently winged (5) 26 Comparable condition, yet I lag badly (7) 32 Stupid-sounding rightwinger in his element? (7) 36 Fighter KOs cross old farmer (4) 37 Murky liquidity in such a fund? (5) 38 A half-hearted mob in farmland (6) 39 Old poet’s limited range (4) 41 Rank one makes fast (4) 42 Like some wine? Assert with courage editor’s drunk (13, hyphened) All poems romantic or, worse still, pedantic, intended to render me vexed and distressed, and sonnets Shakespearian, dull, antiquarian, even Petrarchan, I’d bin with the rest. I’ve demolished my brain on an unwreathed quatrain and sestinas conducive to premature death, I’m avoiding the hell of a vile villanelle or a sad Sapphic ode, till I breathe my last breath. Poets? My mission’s to set up petitions to curb the offenders, with no recompense; no time for apologies, burn the anthologies, make penning poems a hanging offence. Sylvia Fairley 0121+5102'0 Ian McEwan was challenged on the Today programme to come up with the beginning of a novel inspired by the current confrontation with Russia. Let’s have a short story from you inspired by these events. Email entries of up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 4 April. the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk &OVN 1 Huge ship covered in blossom (5) 3 Page missing, wrote about a group of items (6) 4 Alps initially look vertical (5) 5 Philosopher you must admit almost genuine (7) 7 Expanse, some say, is better ventilated (6) 8 Value of equity in online business? (9, two words) 13 Candle for menorah fake? No end of confusion (7) 17 Good new puppies are shiny (7) 18 Most economical way one gets in supply (9) 19 One that bites yokel taking off end of the jaw (7) 21 Grazer left in superb pasture (9) 22 Engaging king, too briefly attentive (7, two words) 27 DNA sequences jail ordinary European: him? (7) 28 Hoodwinks lawyer before hearers (6) 29 These sung at ancient drunken social? (6) 31 You may be lucky to have one thousand at meeting (6) 33 Cattle pest: ox bitten upfront (5) 35 Smashed piece, using spades violently (5) A first prize of £30 for the first correct solution opened on 9 April. There are two runners-up prizes of £20. (UK solvers can choose to receive the latest edition of the Chambers dictionary instead of cash — ring the word ‘dictionary’.) Entries to: Crossword 2351, The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP. Please allow six weeks for prize delivery. 0CMG #FFRGSS 'MCKĚ 51.76+1061+6¥5#64 #2 ‘Now is the woodcock near the gin’, said by Fabian in Twelfth Night, suggests the position of BECASSE in relation to 8, 21, 28, 30 and 37. (KRSěPRKYG Jenny Staveley, London SW2 4TNNGRSTP Andrew Bell, Shrewsbury, Shropshire; A.M. Dymond, London SE24 59 LIFE No Sacred Cows If Corbyn wins, my escape route is clear Toby Young ’m currently in Israel on a press trip organised by Bicom — the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre. Bicom does a good job of getting experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to give talks to journalists and I’ve attended a few in their London offices. But this is the first time I’ve been on one of their legendary excursions to the Holy Land, which they organise about six times a year. In essence, you’re given a whistle-stop tour of the country while being briefed at every turn by senior ministers and officials on both sides of the divide. It’s seventh heaven for foreign policy nerds, but I also have another reason for being here, which is to weigh up the pros and cons of emigrating to Israel. Believe it or not, my entire family is eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return because Caroline’s father is Jewish. And the idea of moving here is genuinely appealing because I’ve been fanatically proIsrael since falling in love with the place aged 17. I had just failed all my O-levels and was mooning about feeling like an outcast when my father decided to send me to a kibbutz. It turned out to be the perfect antidote to my adolescent funk. I found everything about Israel, particularly its origins, deeply affecting, and in spite of not being Jewish I My entire family is eligible for Israeli citizenship because Caroline’s father is Jewish I felt as if I’d discovered my people at last. I was inspired by the example of pioneering Zionists like Theodor Herzl to take control of my own destiny. I would return to England, retake my O-levels, go to a sixth form and, God help me, apply to Oxford. And when it all worked out, I felt as if Israel and the wonderful example of its founders had saved me and I swore an oath that I would always defend the country from its detractors. In the 37 years since, I have done my best to keep that promise and been back several times to renew my vows. Many aspects of contemporary Israel make it an attractive place to live. It is a vibrant liberal democracy, the only truly democratic country in the Middle East. It has a first-rate higher education system, low unemployment and a booming economy. Sustained growth in GDP has transformed Tel Aviv into a sophisticated metropolis, with many of the same cultural amenities as London and New York, and the country is well equipped to withstand any major downturn in the global economy, being virtually self-sufficient in food production. True, its cuisine is fairly basic, but if you like hummus, falafels and salad, which is all Caroline eats, you’ll get along fine. And it has plenty of newspapers, weekly news magazines and talk shows, so I could probably scratch out a living as a hack. It’s not all milk and honey, mind you. We were given a briefing in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday by a spokesman for the Israeli National Police who told us about the ‘stabbing intifada’, whereby more than 300 Palestinians have attempted to kill Israelis since October 2015. He told us that the day before, not 100 yards from where we were standing, an offduty security guard was repeatedly stabbed by a 28-year-old man from the West Bank and later died of his wounds. Even though the police have become better at intercepting these lone wolves, the approach of Israel’s 70th anniversary on 28 May will see an escalation in violence, particularly as Donald Trump has announced he intends to mark the occasion by relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem. We met with a pollster on Tuesday who revealed that 35 per cent of the 4.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip think ‘armed resistance’ is the most effective means of establishing a Palestinian state. The most hopeful peace initiative involves creating a separate Palestinian state to sit alongside Israel — the ‘two-state solution’ — but progress is painfully slow. Israel has fought between seven and ten wars in its 70-year history, depending on your definition of ‘war’, and will probably fight several more. No chance of its superb army ever being defeated, obviously, but the big argument against moving here is that my children would all have to do a stint in the Israeli Defence Force and might be killed in action. There’s also the fact that I love my country and something pretty cataclysmic would have to happen to force me to leave, such as Labour winning the next election. This may be a dangerous part of the world, but I would feel a lot safer here than living under a Corbyn dictatorship. Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator. MICHAEL HEATH 60 the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk year — will be in Dublin, not Twickenham. And the Irish have several big players to come back from injury. Spectator Sport England’s dream ended in two perfect kicks Roger Alton hich would you least like to see coming towards you? An Uber driverless car, Ant McPartlin in his black Mini after a long lunch, or a Johnny Sexton up and under? Sexton is a rugby genius: two of his kicks won Ireland the VI Nations Grand Slam at the weekend (as predicted by this column, we should modestly note). The first was the miraculous drop goal from as far away as the Gare du Nord which beat France in the final seconds in Paris; and the second was the millimetre-perfect kick to the England line which led to the first try. England never recovered. Sexton’s penalty, incidentally, came after Owen Farrell had latetackled the Irish fullback; something worth considering amid all the ballyhoo about the newly matured Farrell. I bow to no one in my admiration for the Saracens standoff, but he could start a fight on the moon, as we may have observed before. Now the autumn showdown with the All Blacks — the one we were told would be a rehearsal for the World Cup final next port is full of ultra-competitive types, but you don’t have to be an arse. (Or do you, José?) After one of the best tennis games we will see this year, the sleepy-eyed giant Juan del Potro managed to beat Roger Federer, who suffered some sort of mental collapse in a final set tie-break at Indian Wells. A brilliant match, and afterwards Delpo made the traditional scrawl on a TV camera. Not his signature but a heart with the name ‘Cesar’. This was his giant black Newfoundland dog, who had died a couple of weeks earlier. Delpo is a substantial unit himself, but his dog was the size of a small horse. No wonder they got on so well. Del Potro has been out so much with injury, you forget how marvellous he is to watch. A massive serve, a blistering forehand and, at last, a real challenge to Roger in the slams, you think. But hang on, del Potro is nearly 30, and Federer pushing 37: the young bucks seem to be dropping further and further behind. But welcome back Delpo, and good luck with finding a new Cesar. S W Owen Farrell newly matured? He could start a fight on the moon ne man who didn’t take many a backward step when it came to competition was the ultra-hard former Aussie Test captain Ian Chappell. O He has now popped up in the unlikely role of peacemaker in a fascinating article for Cricinfo where he muses on the deplorable behaviour in the current South Africa-Australia Test series. Chappell equates the continual on-field badgering from the Aussies to workplace bullying, which is rarely out of the news and roundly condemned wherever it takes place. But not so much on the cricket field; which is where the officials or the players should start to take control. Before the series, says Chappell, the Aussies were reported to be planning to bait Kagiso Rabada, the brilliant and feisty young black South African currently rated the world’s no. 1 bowler. Well they did a pretty good job, because Rabada faced a ban after getting thoroughly into Steve Smith’s face during the second Test. Now he’s won his appeal and will play in the final two matches of this gripping series. Thank heavens, because the undernourished arena of Test cricket doesn’t need to shoot itself in the foot again by banning the world’s best players. It’s got enough problems already. As for Rabada, South Africa’s first black cricketing superstar should do wonders for the game there. nteresting to see the owner of Greek club PAOK Salonika come on to the pitch with a holstered pistol after a late goal was disallowed. Not even Ken Bates thought of that. I DEAR MARY YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED Q. Recently, during a stay in a luxurious mountain hotel in Italy, and having hurt my knee skiing, I was reading The Spectator in the library. I was alone in peace, thinking how wonderful the world is, when a man came in with his mobile, stretched out on a nearby sofa, and proceeded to engage in a long, loud phone call in German. I left the library after 20 minutes of mounting rage, for the peace of my bedroom. What should I have done? — S.F., a quiet-mannered Englishwoman abroad A. There are two ways you might have countered this breach of civility. One, by using your own mobile to record a snatch of the diatribe, then playing it back within his earshot. This would have unnerved and swiftly silenced the offender. Two: by approaching the offender wearing a concerned but kind expression as you whispered: ‘Be careful. You can be fined for using your mobile in this library.’ ‘Fined? By whom?’ they would retort. ‘By your own conscience…’ could come your gnomic reply. Q. My sons are at a leading boysonly public school. The problem I have is with the staff, who — from the headmaster downwards — all leave their suit jackets flapping when making speeches or teaching, no doubt to appear ‘open’ and approachable. Instead the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk the effect is worryingly casual. How do I tell them the correct dress? Could you do the honours so I can leave your answer lying around at strategic points within the school? My understanding on the subject was drawn from a glance at my late father who fastened the top two buttons, sometimes just the middle but never the lowest. — S.B., Bath A. Regarding buttons, the impeccably presented Sladmore Gallery director Gerry Farrell decrees that ‘top button only is the gentleman’s way’. Incidentally no school will do itself a disservice by imposing a draconian dress code. Standards are soaring at the oncechaotic Holland Park school, which many claim is a direct result of students knowing exactly what is expected of them in the way of appearance. This confidence follows through into the rest of the school day and ‘empowers’ their learning curves. Q. A dear, unvain friend has developed an unsightly colourless mole right at the top of her nose. We meet for lunch once a month at Peter Jones. Last time I couldn’t take my eyes off it. How can I tactfully tell her she must get it removed? — P.B., London SW1 A. Next time you meet tell her that you’ve just come from an appointment in Harley Street. You’ve had an unsightly mole removed from your shoulder and the dermatologist wanted to check the healing was all in order. Pass on the name and address as you say: ‘It’s exactly like the one you have on your forehead.’ 61 LIFE Food Too good for kleptocrats Tanya Gold n 2007 Mikhael Gorbachev starred in a Louis Vuitton advert. He was driven past the Berlin Wall with Louis Vuitton luggage and the photograph was printed in Vanity Fair. It was baffling and reassuring, but nothing lasts forever. A few years ago I went on the Kleptocracy Bus Tour. It is run by a man called Roman Borisovich and it tours London — and sometimes Oxford — identifying kleptocratic crimes, feuds, housing, anxieties and behaviours. During a recent tour, a neighbour of Andrey Guryev, the fertiliser magnate who bought Witanhurst in Highgate, testified that a voice from a security box had asked him to stop strimming his own hedge. Of course, I looked for kleptocratic restaurants from the tour bus — for Novikov (Asian and Italian), for Rivea at the Bulgari Hotel (Italian), for Mari Vanna (Russian), for Rextail (meat). But Borisovich did not mention them and I did not blame him. Any kleptocratic restaurant tour would have to take in Itsu on Piccadilly (sushi) and the Sheraton Park Lane’s Palm Court (afternoon tea), I Knightsbridge is no longer a real place but a smelted fairyland housing the international rich where Alexander Litvinenko met the FSB goons. It is a question of taste, and so I did not race to Zizzi’s in Salisbury for a quick review last week. I loathed the gags about Zizzi’s — poisoned, but still in Zizzi’s? — but snobbery dies hard in England. The Kleptocracy Tour bus trundled through Knightsbridge. That is no longer a real place but a smelted fairyland housing the international rich, including Russians removing money from Russia with or without Vladimir Putin’s permission, which is tidal, and laundering it through townhouses, which they ruin with windows and carpets. It is a parallel world with a parallel map and Knightsbridge is its capital city. Harrods is its Waitrose, even if the biscuits are terrible. I like this parallel map and its byways. It is, in my mind, a terrible Narnia, with signposts to Dior, Dubai and death. This is a land where parking tickets are almost never paid. The Mail lurks, waiting for photographs of banana-yellow Lamborghinis being repossessed — it happens more often than you might think. The kleptocratic restaurant tour, which exists only in this column’s head, also trundles through Knights- bridge. Rivea at the Bulgari Hotel is on Hyde Park and Mari Vanna is almost opposite it. Mari Vanna is dusty and cluttered. It is for the kleptocrat who misses his mother, but not enough to bring her to Knightsbridge. There is the Berkeley Hotel too, with its shoeshaped biscuits for women who worry they don’t think often enough about shoes. But none are as glossy or as gilded as the new kleptocratic restaurant which belongs to Richard Caring, a man who looks like a kleptocrat but is trapped, for now, in a dying liberal democracy. It is Harry’s Dolce Vita on Basil Street. Some restaurants are well-named, and Harry’s Dolce Vita is beautiful. It is long and light with a green and white awning, topiary, and a golden front door. Inside, a designer has rummaged for everything he finds lovely and yet has managed, with fawn leathers and light fittings and stained-glass windows, to make something coherent rather than disgusting, which is more usual. It is very slightly Nestlé Gold Blend, but that is nothing to hate. The food is Italian because kleptocrats love Italian food, and steak, fish and schnitzel are all perfect, if more beautiful than usual; the puddings literally have a PR. The service is prosperity theology drunk neat; that the wifi is broken has reduced the staff to something like existential grief and I feel an urge to comfort them. A perfect restaurant then, in a confected district filled with confected people, and it is both soothing and chilling, because nothing lasts forever. Harry’s Dolce Vita, 7-31 Basil Street, London SW3 1BB, tel: 020 3940 1020. ‘I’ll take those three.’ MIND YOUR LANGUAGE Body-hacker A 72-year-old Australian called Stelarc, the BBC reported, has an ear growing from one arm. He hopes to connect a microphone to it so that people can hear on the internet the sounds it picks up. Mr Stelarc is a body-hacker. They tend to have names like Stelarc. Hacker itself was first used as a surname, but not for a body-hacker or a computerhacker. Adam le Hacker’s name was recorded in 1224. He was probably either a hedger or a maker of hacks; tools for chopping. I had assumed without thinking about it that life hacks and computer hackers shared a 62 verbal origin with journalistic hacks like myself. It is not so. Oliver Goldsmith wrote an epitaph: ‘Here lies poor Ned Purdon, from misery freed, / Who long was a bookseller’s hack; / He led such a damnable life in this world — / I don’t think he’ll wish to come back.’ Edward Purdon really existed. Goldsmith had known him in Dublin before he dissipated his inheritance and fell dead in Smithfield aged 37. He won a place in the Dictionary of National Biography on the strength of Goldsmith’s lines. Anyway, that kind of hack is like a hackney horse for hire, and is named after Hackney in London. And an argument that is hacked to death is not chopped about with a billhook but ridden to death like a hackney horse. It is from hack in the sense of ‘chopping’ that hacking, or designing your own software, emerged in the 1970s. In the next decade hacking acquired the meaning of ‘gaining unauthorised access’ to a computer system. Yet already in 1963, students at MIT who got free phone calls by connecting a computer to the exchange were called hackers. By the 1980s there was an ambiguity about hacking: either being keen at computer skills or getting at computers or telephones without authority. By then hackers had a 50-year history as unskilled enthusiasts in a sport, particularly golf. In the 1930s, Americans said they could hack it, if they managed to do something. In the 21st century, cars, education, life itself were hacked by enthusiasts with stratagems like those of computer hackers. Why should the body be immune from being hacked about? — Dot Wordsworth the spectator | 24 march 2018 | www.spectator.co.uk Winemaker Lunches Readers are invited to join us in the boardroom at 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1 for the following Spectator Winemaker Lunches. These delightfully informal events, at which celebrated producers introduce and discuss their wines over a four-course cold lunch provided by Forman & Field, are hugely popular so early booking is recommended. Dourthe Friday 6 April, 12.30pm for 1pm £80 Dourthe is one of the great names of Bordeaux and the company boasts an enviable number of châteaux. After an aperitif of Dourthe No.1 Sauvignon Blanc, brand ambassador Nick Dagley will present a number of excellent wines from the Dourthe range, including the 2016 Ch. La Garde Blanc, 2014 Ch. Pey La Tour Reserve, 2011 Ch. Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac, 2011 Ch. La Garde Rouge, 2011 Ch. Le Boscq and the 2011 Ch. Belgrave. www.dourthe.com Champagne Pol Roger Friday 20 April, 12.30pm for 1pm £80 Pol Roger is pretty much the house pour at The Spectator and we are delighted that Freya Miller from the maison will be presenting the Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV, the 2006 and 1999 Pol Roger Brut Vintage en magnum, plus the exquisite, pudding-friendly Pol Roger Rich. From the wider Pol portfolio we will also enjoy the 2015 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny. www.polroger.co.uk La Tunella Friday 4 May, 12.30pm for 1pm £80 Family-owned La Tunella is a 70-hectare estate in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia in Italy’s far north-east and its wines are imported exclusively by Corney & Barrow. La Tunella’s Giovanna Zamparo will present several of the estate’s wines, including the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc La Tunella, 2016 Rjgialla La Tunella, 2016 Cabernet Franc La Tunella, 2016 Pinot Nero La Tunella and the beguilingly sweet 2016 Noans La Tunella. www.latunella.it Springfontein Friday 18 May, 12.30pm for 1pm £80 Springfontein Wine Estate is a strikingly beautiful spot near Stanford, Walker Bay, and we are greatly honoured that Tariro Masayiti, South Africa’s leading black winemaker, formerly of Nederburg, will present Springfontein’s celebrated wines in person. These will include examples from the Terroir Selection, the single varietal Devil’s Drums premium wines and the sought-after Whole Lotta Love and Child in Time blends from the Limestone Rocks range. www.springfontein.co.za To book, visit www.spectator.co.uk/lunches or call 0207 961 0015 Handbuilt horsepower - that’s the FP CRUX European Fund - a carefully constructed portfolio designed to perform The same experienced team that manages the CRUX European Special Situations Fund manages the CRUX European Fund. They take the same care and pay just as much attention to detail when carefully constructing this portfolio. They hand pick stocks that they believe will deliver strong long-term performance. They focus on world-class businesses that may have originated in Europe but in many cases now dominate their global niches. Consult your financial adviser, call or visit: 0800 30 474 24 The CRUX European Fund offers a similar and proven strategy to the CRUX European Special Situations Fund. 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