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The Spectator 23 September 2017

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70-page glossy quarterly magazine with Roger Scruton, Sarah Vine, Helen Lederer and Michael Heath, and featuring…
Killer robots
by
Mary
Wakefield
Kingsman uncovered
23 september 2017 [ £4.25
by
James
Delingpole
www.spectator.co.uk [ est. 1828
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James Forsyth on the new
Tory battle line
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established 1828
A fallen idol
F
ew world leaders have fallen from
grace as quickly as Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Nobel prize-winner, who also
holds the US Congressional Gold Medal
for her bravery and peaceful resistance to
Burma’s military junta, now stands accused
of aiding and excusing the suppression —
even the genocide — of the Rohingya Muslims, more than 400,000 of whom in recent
weeks have fled from Burma, which elected
her leader nearly two years ago.
There have been calls from her fellow Nobel laureates for her peace prize to
be annulled. The UN has described action
against the Rohingya as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ and complained
that its observers have been denied access
to Burma to judge the situation for themselves. Our Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, himself under fire, has weighed in this
week, also using the term ‘ethnic cleansing’.
The plight of the Rohingya in Burma
has been a cause for international concern
for decades. Yet their recent treatment at
the hands of Buddhist mobs and the military takes their persecution to a new level.
What seems baffling to so many is the fact
that this horror is happening under Suu Kyi,
a human rights campaigner who was herself
kept under house arrest for 15 years by the
military. How, it’s asked, can she now be colluding with her former captors, looking the
other way as they use the tactics — mob violence and murder — once deployed against
her supporters?
The answer is that she is an extreme case
of a much-repeated phenomenon — a campaigner fêted in opposition for admirable
principles, but who then takes power and is
found wanting.
Suu Kyi said this week that she intends
to find out why half of the Rohingya population in Burma have fled. But the satellite images of about 80 burning villages are
clear enough. Her spokesmen claim that the
Rohingya are burning down their own villages to draw attention to themselves, even
planting landmines to draw condemnation against the Burmese army. Her efforts
to deny their sudden desperation to leave
Burma as ‘fake news’ fools no one. About
half of Burma’s Rohingyas have now fled
to Bangladesh, most arriving in the past few
weeks. Such an exodus does not take place
without good reason.
But even if Suu Kyi did want to take on
Aung San Suu Kyi has been a woman
of the people. But now the people of
Burma emerge in a different light
the military, she would probably fail. While
she won a mandate in the 2015 election,
Burma cannot be said to be democratic
in a genuine sense. Her post, that of ‘state
counsellor’, cannot be compared to that of a
western president or prime minister. Burma
has not undergone a democratic revolution
but remains under the ultimate power of
the military, over which she has little control or even influence. Having been placed
under house arrest for much of the two decades between 1990 and 2010, Suu Kyi is now
under a more metaphorical form of imprisonment.
Ought she to rediscover the bravery that
led her through two decades of peaceful
opposition to the military junta and make a
stand against the army? That is what a true
martyr would do, even if it led her to prison.
Suu Kyi might, of course, have refused the
position of state counsellor altogether on
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
the grounds that it wasn’t a truly democratic
position. But where would that have got her
— and Burma? She would have been condemned for turning down an invitation to
effect change from within.
Moreover, if she condemned — or even
acknowledged — the treatment of the
Rohingya then she’d be in trouble, not just
with the military but the public that elected her. The Buddhist-majority Burmese
population has never seen the Rohingyas
as fellow citizens. The partial relaxation of
the dictatorship has exposed the sectarian problems which have always bubbled
beneath the surface.
All along, Suu Kyi has been a woman of
the people. It is just that now the people of
Burma begin to emerge in a different light
— less an oppressed, homogenous group
and more a mass of religious rivalries, with
a Buddhist majority at odds with a Muslim
minority. Add to this the incident that began
the most recent spell of violence — a terror attack on an army post, committed by
a group of Rohingya militants and which
killed about a dozen — and the conditions
for sectarian violence are ideal.
The lesson of Suu Kyi is it is far easier to
be admired when you are a rebellious outsider than when you eventually win some kind
of power. The reputations of Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and many
others also suffered from the same transition,
though to a lesser extent than Suu Kyi. One
day, perhaps, Burma will settle into peace
and democracy. Whatever happens, Suu Kyi
will not be winning any further tributes from
western liberals. But we should reflect that it
is not really her who has changed, so much as
the circumstances in which she finds herself
and our perception of her.
3
Hero or slimeball? p18
Smile if you hate
Tories, p16
The cult of Bob, p32
THE WEEK
3
Leading article
7
Portrait of the Week
9
Diary George Osborne, the Today
programme’s Don Corleone
Sarah Sands
11 The Spectator’s Notes
The truth about Boris’s £350 million
Charles Moore
BOOKS & ARTS
12 Brexit wars
The Conservatives’ last battle over
Europe has just begun
James Forsyth
BOOKS
28 Jane Ridley
Victorious Century,
by David Cannadine
14 A court’s contempt
The ECJ’s quest for ever more power
Marina Wheeler
30 Patrick Skene Catling
Dunbar, by Edward St Aubyn
Owen Matthews
Red Famine, by Anne Applebaum
16 Can we be friends?
The MP who won’t drink with Tories
Isabel Hardman
31 Duncan Forbes
‘Willow’: a poem
18 Ukraine’s last best hope
Saakashvili, the great reformer
Owen Matthews
32 Ian Thomson
So Much Things to Say,
by Roger Steffens
25 Letters Christians betrayed, race
relations and the Taki effect
20 Close of play
I’m enjoying my long goodbye
Henry Blofeld
33 Neel Mukherjee
Late Essays 2006–17, by J.M. Coetzee
26 Any other business Hoping for
a rate rise? Don’t bet on it
Martin Vander Weyer
22 Crime and prejudice
Is Brexit-based violence real?
Ross Clark
17 Rod Liddle Fostering hate
21 Lionel Shriver Let the statues stand
22 Barometer Euro millions, drink
driving and Scotland’s last snow
24 James Delingpole The age of terror
Richard Davenport-Hines
The World Broke in Two,
by Bill Goldstein
34 Harry Ritchie
How Language Began,
by Daniel L. Everett
35 Thomas W. Hodgkinson
Viking Britain, by Thomas Williams
Cover by Morten Morland. Drawings by Michael Heath, Castro, Mike Stokoe, Evans, Phil Disley, RGJ, Percival, Geoff Thompson, Grizelda, Nick Newman, Dredge
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: editor@spectator.
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Email: dstam@spectator.co.uk; Distributor Marketforce, 161 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9AP. Tel. 0203 787 9001. www.marketforce.co.uk Vol 335; no 9865 © The Spectator
(1828) Ltd. 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 | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Apple’s terrifying power, p36
Chatty Man, p34
The art of Haeckel, p39
LIFE
ARTS SPECIAL
36 Rory Sutherland
How Apple came to rule the world
53 High life Taki
Low life Jeremy Clarke
38 Museums
Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia
Daisy Dunn
54 Elaine Feinstein
‘A Ghost in the Rylands Library’:
a poem
39 Illustration
The art and science of Ernst Haeckel
Laura Gascoigne
56 Real life Melissa Kite
41 Exhibitions Basic Instincts
Kate Chisholm
LIFE
Any drive for ideological purity
is flat-out creepy
Lionel Shriver, p21
57 Bridge Susanna Gross
Wine club Jonathan Ray
Nobody really goes to the bottle
bank to recycle glass: we do it for
the fun of smashing bottles
Rory Sutherland, p36
43 Art market Why do artists vanish?
Martin Gayford
AND FINALLY . . .
50 Notes on… Gresham College
Mark Mason
44 Opera Pagliacci; L’enfant et les
sortilèges
Michael Tanner
58 Chess Raymond Keene
Competition Lucy Vickery
45 Television Strike; Electric Dreams;
Bad Move; Porters; W1A
James Walton
60 Status anxiety Toby Young
Battle for Britain Michael Heath
46 Cinema Borg vs McEnroe
Deborah Ross
47 Radio Kate Chisholm
48 The listener LCD Soundsystem:
American Dream
Rod Liddle
Theatre Oslo; Prism
Lloyd Evans
Noam Chomsky has done his very
best to make his work on language
as arcane and incomprehensible
as string theory
Harry Ritchie, p34
59 Crossword Pabulum
61 The Wiki Man Rory Sutherland
My children have impeccable
manners, although my daughter has
inherited my violent side
Taki, p53
Your problems solved
Mary Killen
62 Drink Bruce Anderson
Mind your language
Dot Wordsworth
49 Music Simon Rattle’s non-job
Norman Lebrecht
CONTRIBUTORS
Lionel Shriver, the novelist,
is now a fortnightly columnist
for The Spectator. She writes
about pulling down statues
on p21.
Marina Wheeler is a
barrister and member of the
Bar Disciplinary Tribunal.
She’s also Boris Johnson’s wife.
She writes about the European
Court of Justice on p14.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Henry Blofeld has retired
from commentating for Test
Match Special. He reminisces
on p20.
Jane Ridley is a historian and
broadcaster. She reviews David
Cannadine’s book about 19thcentury Britain on p28.
Rory Sutherland is
executive creative director of
OgilvyOne and The Spectator’s
Wiki Man columnist. He
doesn’t have an iPhone. He
writes about iPhones on
page 36 and trade on p61.
5
“As a boy, I picked up
an extra paper round
in Petersfield to save
for flying lessons.”
—Richard Pillans, Boeing UK Chief Test Pilot
“As a boy, I picked up an extra paper round in Petersfield to save for flying lessons. I managed to get my pilot’s
licence before I could even drive a car. It’s freeing to get up in the air and see the world from that perspective.
Even though I left the British military I still feel like I’m part of it as a civilian test pilot. The data we gather proves
the Chinooks are safe before the frontline fly them. We feel good about supporting the team overseas.”
SEE HOW RICHARD IS BUILDING A STRONGER UK AT BOEING.CO.UK
PARTNERS YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW.
Home
B
oris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary,
issued a manifesto for a ‘glorious future’
for Britain outside the European Union as
‘the greatest country on Earth’. This was
seen as a challenge to Theresa May, the
Prime Minister. People like Sir Vince Cable,
the Lib Dem leader, and Kenneth Clarke,
the Tory arch-Remainer, said he should
have been sacked. Mr Johnson’s lengthy
piece in the Daily Telegraph came six days
before a big speech on the subject promised
by Mrs May, in Florence, before the next
round of Brexit negotiations. He declared
that Britain should pay nothing for access
to the EU single market. Amber Rudd, the
Home Secretary, went on television and
accused him of ‘back-seat driving’. Others
got up a row over his claim that ‘once we
have settled our accounts, we will take
back control of roughly £350 million per
week. It would be a fine thing, as many of
us have pointed out, if a lot of that money
went on the NHS’. Sir David Norgrove, the
chairman of the UK Statistics Authority,
said this was ‘a clear misuse of official
statistics’. Oliver Robbins, the government’s
top Brexit official, was transferred from
the Department for Exiting the European
Union to the Cabinet Office in order to
work more directly for the Prime Minister.
A
home-made bomb ignited in a wall
of flame in a morning rush-hour
Underground train at Parsons Green
station, injuring 30 people but failing to
explode. Police arrested an 18-year-old
Iraqi orphan (who had been in foster care
in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey) at Dover,
a 21-year-old man in Hounslow, Middlesex.
and and 25-year-old man in Newport,
Monmouthshire. It was found that people
who shopped on Amazon for an ingredient
of a popular bomb-making compound
would receive the information that it was
‘frequently bought together’ with the other
ingredients. Britain is the fifth-biggest
audience in the world for extremist internet
content after Turkey, the United States,
Saudi Arabia and Iraq, according to a study
by Policy Exchange.
T
he number of people who died in the
Grenfell Tower fire may be fewer
than the estimate of 80, according to
police, who have so far seized 31 million
documents in their investigations. Ryanair
began cancelling 40-50 flights a day for six
weeks without much notice. In response
to loud complaints, it published the details
of which flights would be cancelled up to
the end of October. A ship detained and
held at Aberdeen for more than a year was
ordered to be auctioned to pay the crew’s
wages. Acidic vapour wafted over part of
Hull when a dockside tank containing 580
tons of hydrochloric acid leaked overnight.
Abroad
P
resident Donald Trump of the United
States said at the UN that if America is
‘forced to defend itself or its allies, we will
have no choice but to totally destroy North
Korea’. Of Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North
Korea, he said: ‘Rocket man is on a suicide
mission.’ His words followed the firing of
a missile by North Korea over Japan and
2,300 miles into the Pacific, which happens
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
to be the distance to the American territory
of Guam. Within minutes, South Korea
fired a missile into the sea, which happened
to travel the same distance that could have
taken it to Pyongyang. The UN Human
Rights Council in Geneva demanded to
be allowed into Rakhine state in Burma
to assess the reason for 400,000 Muslim
Rohingyas having fled to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh attempted to stop the refugees
from dispersing in the country.
H
urricane Maria devastated Dominica;
‘We have lost all that money can buy,’
said the Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit,
who lost the roof of his own house. It then
moved west across the Caribbean. Many
were killed when a strong earthquake
struck Mexico City. Toys ‘R’ Us filed for
bankruptcy protection in the United States
and Canada. J. P. Donleavy, author of The
Ginger Man (1955), died at 91. Equifax, the
American credit reporting company, said it
might have had data stolen relating to 143
million Americans and 400,000 Britons.
I
n Egypt, a mass trial concerning the
violence that followed the removal
of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013
sentenced 43 to prison for life and 300 to
terms between five and 15 years. Haider
al-Abadi, the Prime Minister of Iraq,
demanded the suspension of a referendum
on Kurdish independence. In Spain, the
Civil Guard searched print works for the
ballot papers to be used on 1 October in
a Catalan referendum on independence,
which has been declared illegal. Plumbers
unblocking sewage pipes in Geneva found
the problem was cut-up €500 notes.
CSH
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Sarah Sands
N
ext month, the Today programme
marks its 60th anniversary, so I
have been mugging up on the archives.
If there is a lasting characteristic, I
reckon it is curiosity about how the
world works. After four months in this
job, my sense of wonder is undimmed
that global experts on everything from
nuclear warheads to rare plants can
be conjured on to the show. Political
debate is at the heart of Today, but it
is knowledge rather than opinion that
I prize most, and even the most avid
political interviewers have a hinterland.
They also understand the cumulative
effect of unsocial working hours. The
great Sue MacGregor, who is chairing
a reunion of Today old hands as part of
our anniversary programme, reminds
me that she once fell asleep while
interviewing Michael Heseltine.
I
recite the Reithian principles of
educating, informing and entertaining
like morning prayer. I didn’t go to one
of the grand universities that can no
longer appear on CVs at the BBC, and so
regard Today as a news version of Open
University, an educational utopia. Some
commentators have objected to the 30
seconds we devote each day to a puzzle,
set by GCHQ and other brainboxes. It
is there to celebrate mathematics and
to remind us that problem-solving and
decoding run deep in the nation’s past and
its future. A tech entrepreneur told me it
has become the perfect start to her day.
description of Theresa May as a dead
woman walking on both political and
literal grounds: ‘If she is walking, she
can’t be dead.’
O
London, Mona Juul, slip into the studio
alone. The hefty entourages tend to come
with business folk or with Jonathan Sacks
for Thought for the Day, two very different
types of security needs.
S
o far as domestic politicians are
concerned, I understand that the
former chancellor George Osborne
always used to bring the biggest crowd,
a detail which plays to his recent Don
Corleone image. Incidentally, a former
cabinet member, possibly unversed in US
jail culture, takes issue with Osborne’s
T
he team teases me for having a
fondness for ambassadors, but the
best provide the kind of enlightened
conversation that our listeners appreciate.
Some come with large entourages, others,
such as the Norwegian ambassador to
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
I
want to try to tell the story of Brexit
through concrete examples rather
than positions. We looked at the fashion
industry the other day and the designer
Patrick Grant made a simple case. When
he is making a suit, he imports parts
from different countries. He can order
a zip from Italy overnight. If he deals
with America, he has to fill in a great
pile of forms. He dreads the additional
regulation. Boris Johnson wrote in his
4,000-word article that was meant to
have been a speech (journalists so hate
wasting material) that leaving the EU
would lessen regulation. Can he explain
to Patrick how?
W
T
here has also been grumbling that
science, arts and culture feature more
in the programme than they used to. I
refer back to our origins. The late Robin
Day, who conceived it, was steeped in
politics, but one of his first ideas was for
a daily item on an arts first night. Coming
from newspapers, I find it natural to mix
subjects. A New York Times journalist
asked me just before I started whether all
its listeners were in hospitals or prisons,
because those subjects always led its
news. A daily show must be familiar
but not predictable. Real news needs to
advance and expand our knowledge.
n Brexit bias, tone has become
almost as important as argument.
I notice that cheerfulness can grate on
some, who regard it as political comment.
When the Australian high commissioner
asked on the Today programme why
Brits were so gloomy, it was categorised
as an anti-Remain intervention. It is true
that whoever came up with the word
‘Remoaners’ delivered a lasting blow.
The Brexiteers own optimism just as
Remainers claim reason.
Precious Mysteries
26 September –
8 October 2017
Closed 2 October
Fine Jewellery and
Contemporary Silver
goldsmithsfair.co.uk
#goldsmithsfair
e are all trying to figure out China
and our relationship to it. A friend
in the arts world who spends much time
there, shrugs that it is ducks and drakes.
He says there is less worry in Beijing
about the military capabilities of North
Korea than of triggering a humanitarian
crisis, with refugees pouring into China.
Meanwhile, Chinese leaders are fearful
of a ravenous capitalist appetite among
the young. They believe materialism
will lead to spiritual impoverishment.
So the government is commissioning
art and music ventures on a grand scale
to restore a hinterland among their
population. Imagine it happening here.
T
he Civil Service, like the BBC,
is looking for a workforce that
represents equality of opportunity.
Having examined age, race, gender and
class, they are keen to search out invisible
anomalies. I am told they have introverts
next in their sights. Presumably one of
the less vocal lobby groups.
9
Charles Moore
S
ir David Norgrove, the chairman of
the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA),
is an honourable man. When he publicly
rebuked Boris Johnson for his use of
the famous £350 million figure about
our weekly EU contribution, I am sure
he was statistically, not party-politically
motivated. But two points occur. The
first is that Sir David was, arguably,
mistaken. He thinks Boris said that, after
Brexit, Britain would have £350 million a
week more to spend. He didn’t. He said
‘we will take back control of roughly
£350 million a week’. This is correct.
So long as we are in the EU, that
£350 million a week is out of our control,
because even our rebate, which forms
part of that figure, is EU-dependent.
When we leave, it will all be under our
control. Sir David’s reaction came too
fast. The UKSA had already attacked
the £350 million figure when first used by
the Leave campaign in the referendum.
Is it in a grudge match with anyone who
answers back?
W
hich leads to my second point.
Never a week goes by without
a senior politician using a statistic
controversially. This is part of the
adversarial character of politics. If a
public official comments on one such
remark, one naturally asks why he
ignores others. Why attack Boris alone?
People begin to doubt his neutrality.
Looking at the authority’s record
since Sir David became its chairman in
March, I see that it has rebuked only
one other politician — complaining to
Amber Rudd about a misleading leak
of immigration figures. Is it credible that
Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell or
numerous Remainers have brandished
no figures which do not add up? As
Treasury private secretary to Mrs
Thatcher (and a very helpful witness for
me in my biography of her), Sir David
had painful experience in the ‘shadowing
the Deutschmark’ saga of how hard
it is to disentangle the economic and
statistical aspects of the European
issue from its politics, so it should give
him pause. The schoolmasterly role of
UKSA is part of a bad trend in modern
governance which sets officials in
judgment over our elected rulers. The
W
intention is to uphold higher standards. The
effect is to impose rule by a bureaucratic
establishment which we, the voters, have
no opportunity to kick out and which —
not coincidentally — is full of Remain
supporters. In an interview with the
magazine Civil Service World in June, Sir
David said, of the £350 million: ‘I thought
it was clear that the Brexiteers didn’t mind
about the number so long as there was
focus on it.’ No doubt this is his sincere
belief, but on this most divisive subject,
such words will not be seen as impartial.
O
n Tuesday, for the first — and
undoubtedly last — time in my life,
I found myself mounting the platform at
the Liberal Democrat conference. This was
because my father, Richard Moore, was
receiving a richly deserved award there.
He is 85, so I was assisting him up the steps
in Bournemouth. Part of his distinguished
service to his party consists in the fact —
surely unique in human history — that
he has attended every Liberal annual
conference since 1953: these shows have
taken up a year of his life. He told me that
he spoke at the first one he attended, in
Llandudno, in favour of what was then
referred to as the Schuman Plan, the
embryo of what is now the European
Union. It is sad for him that Britain will
leave the EU more than 65 years later.
No doubt my euroscepticism is partly
attributable to delayed teenage rebellion,
but the funny thing is that my father and
I have extremely similar views about the
importance of European civilisation: we
just disagree about how best to uphold it. It
was touching that the audience recognised
his integrity and commitment. What nice
people — quite unsuitable for politics.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
hat is this? ‘2017. It’s 50 years since
the Summer of Love and the same
number since I was born. Perhaps I was
touched by the extraordinary moment
I was born into, because my life has
been coloured by all sorts of love from
the start. My passionate parents set the
tone, dripping in love for each other…
my sister… my loud-laughing friends…
And then there are the lovers… that I
have walked beside and hold tightly in
my heart. Love. I celebrate it, practise
it, mourn it, and fight for it.’ Then the
subject shifts: ‘But my appreciation
and experience of this most delicious
of topics, is dwarfed by Shakespeare’s
understanding of love. My mind spins
when I imagine how his life must have
been: how hard he worked, how far
he travelled, how dark and scary the
landscape he lived in was. If I close my
eyes and propel my imagination back
in time, I hear the tectonic plates of the
planet creak. I see the ground opening
up and Shakespeare clambering out of a
deep crack in the earth’s surface, dusty,
desperate and gasping for air… then, with
the clarity of clear water, he sings from
the earth he was born… Pre Freud, pre
therapy, pre equality or civil rights, he
asked all the big questions. “What a piece
of work is a man?” And my! I love him
for it! And in this light I shout the same
question into the Thames breeze.’
T
he above outpouring is by Emma
Rice, artistic director of Shakespeare’s
Globe. It is less than 50 per cent of her
programme notes on a new play at the
Globe — part of her ‘Summer of Love’
season — called Boudica, which she only
mentions in her final paragraph. In dusty,
desperate, gasping Shakespeare’s original,
the line Rice loves him for is not actually
a question. It is Hamlet’s exclamation.
Luckily, she won’t spend much longer
shouting it half-comprehendingly into
the Thames breeze, because the Globe’s
board realised their mistake in appointing
someone who knew Shakespeare so little.
She leaves the job in the spring. The search
for novelty in the arts, from which she
benefited, is undoubtedly necessary, but
it does often produce what Dr Johnson
(speaking, in fact, of Cymbeline) called
‘unresisting imbecility’.
11
Brexit wars
The Tories’ latest titanic battle over Europe
JAMES FORSYTH
T
he time for choosing is fast approaching for Theresa May. Soon she must
make a decision that will define
her premiership and her country’s future.
The past few days have shown how hard,
if not impossible, it will be for her to keep
her entire cabinet on board with whatever
EU deal she signs. It is imperative that she
now picks what kind of Brexit she wants.
But doing so will risk alienating — or even
losing — various cabinet members. She has
been trying to blur the lines for months,
but as one of those closely involved in this
drama warns: ‘She can’t fudge this forever.’ Another participant in the struggle says:
‘She’s got to decide who she wants sitting
round the cabinet table.’
Mrs May had planned to reveal the
next part of her Brexit plan in her speech
in Florence, but the political tussle started
long before she left for Italy. We have seen
the Foreign Secretary defying his boss, then
being attacked by the Home Secretary,
while Brexiteer cabinet ministers were
forced to deny that they had agreed to
resign en masse. Yet these are merely the
opening skirmishes in the latest battle of the
Tories’ 50-odd-year civil war over Europe.
The Brexit referendum did not settle this
question; it just redefined it. This battle now
threatens to be the bloodiest.
The cabinet is split between those who
want to stay as close as possible to the EU
single market, copying regulations and
transposing European Court judgments
where necessary, and those who want to
chart a more independent course and go for
a free-trade agreement with the EU based
on the one recently struck by Canada. A
basic (and reasonable) question hangs in the
air: what does Britain want? Yet the government has managed three rounds of Brexit
talks with the EU without saying which is its
preferred option.
This is not a clever negotiating tactic
borne out of a desire to keep Brussels guessing. Rather, it is a consequence of the government not knowing the answer. It might
seem remarkable, incredible even, that more
than a year after the referendum and almost
six months after Article 50 was triggered, the
cabinet cannot agree. But it is true. Barely
a week ago a ministerial meeting about the
Florence speech broke up without agreement because Michael Gove had concerns
12
about the ‘end state’ that it indicated. No
one in the cabinet disputes that Britain must
leave the EU single market. Free movement
of people — the price of single market membership — is out of the question after the
Brexit vote. But a close second to single
market membership is being proposed. This
would involve Britain ending free movement, but doing everything else it can to stay
in regulatory alignment with the EU’s internal market: what one cabinet minister calls
EEA-minus (meaning European Economic
Area). Britain would have something close
to internal market membership on condition
that it would not diverge from the EU on an
issue without prior agreement.
To Brexiteers inside government, this
removes one of the main points of leaving:
the chance to chart a different course on
issues such as the economy and technological and medical research. One laments:
More than a year after the referendum
the cabinet cannot agree what kind
of deal they want with the EU
‘They’ll have us over a barrel for ever more.
It is the opposite of taking back control.’
Critics complain that this plan ‘is coming
from a place of trying to keep everything
the same as far as possible’. They fear Brexit
might not mean Brexit after all.
But the EEA-minus crowd — led by
Chancellor Philip Hammond and Cabinet
Secretary Jeremy Heywood (one thing that
Brexit should explode is the myth that the
civil service are impartial actors) — are
the ones with their tails up. Talking to keen
Brexiteers in the past few days I have sensed
an immense nervousness about where things
are going. There is a general feeling that they
are being successfully cast as zealots and are
losing the internal argument. By contrast,
the cabinet ministers pushing for EEAminus (who voted Remain) are upbeat.
One predicts: ‘That’s where we’ll end up.
Not in but very close.’ They believe that civil
servant Olly Robbins’s move from the Brexit department to No. 10 should help secure
that shift. One senior Brexit department
figure tells me: ‘Olly Robbins and Treasury civil servants are in favour of EEA-lite’.
That’s why those pushing for this course are
so delighted that Robbins is working for
May. They believe his presence, and his close
relationship with the Prime Minister (they
worked together at the Home Office), will
help steer her down this path.
The EEA-minus crowd hope that the
Florence speech will advance their agenda.
One says this is a ‘crunch week’. They believe
that if Boris Johnson goes to Florence ‘he’s
dipped his hand in the blood’ and it will be
impossible for him to resign over Brexit
— at least with any credibility. But those
close to the Foreign Secretary believe that
his very public intervention against EEAminus, in the form of his 4,000-word article
for the Daily Telegraph a week ago, will have
helped constrain the Prime Minister. His
declaration that Britain should not pay for
access to the single market and should enjoy
‘regulatory freedom’ after Brexit, is seen by
his allies as making it ‘harder for him... but
it also makes it harder for her to go as far as
Hammond wants’.
Boris had become fed up at being cut out
of the picture: not invited to key meetings
and not allowed to use his talents properly.
The last straw was what one source close to
him describes as a ‘sneak attack’ while he
was out of the country earlier this month.
On Monday 11 September, No. 10 emailed
various cabinet ministers asking them to
hold a time two days later for a meeting with
the Prime Minister without saying what the
meeting was about. The Foreign Office said
Boris would not attend, as he would be in
the Caribbean inspecting hurricane damage. Then No.10 said the meeting was about
Brexit. But still no indication was given
about its crucial importance.
Michael Gove was invited. But, as No.10
would have known, he is much more relaxed
about the terms of transition than the Foreign Secretary. Unlike Boris, he’s been
comfortable for a while about making mem-
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
ber-state-sized budget contributions to the
EU during this period. Why? Because he is
sceptical of the civil service’s ability to get
the bureaucracy ready for leaving in March
2019, and so doesn’t regard a two-year
transition as a particularly bad thing.
To Boris, the cash matters. He was furious when he was briefed on the plans for the
Florence speech, as he remains determined
to honour his pledge to ‘take back control’ of
£350 million a week. If the UK pays into the
EU as normal during any transition, there
will be no extra cash available for the NHS, or
any other public service. This would severely
hamper any Johnson leadership bid when
May steps down. His opponents would say:
we’ve left the EU, Boris, where’s the money?
This is a particularly sensitive point for
Boris because ever since the referendum
his internal critics have been warning Tory
MPs that the £350 million line is the equivalent of Nick Clegg’s tuition fees pledge: an
unforgivable act of perfidy in the eyes of the
public. As one of those who will be involved
in any Johnson leadership bid says: ‘He
needs to detoxify himself with that money.’
When Boris was told he couldn’t deliver a
speech ahead of May’s visit to Florence, he
went public — and repeated the £350 million figure. He pointedly made no reference
to transition, and suggested that the money
the UK sends to the EU would come back
straight after Brexit.
In recent days, he has calmed down. I’m
told he could ‘live with the transition’ but
as long as the Prime Minister makes clear
that it will be followed by ‘a complete, clean
Boris had become fed up at being
cut out: not invited to key meetings
and not allowed to use his talents
break’ with the EU. On this point, Gove
agrees. He is concerned about any system in
which the UK would have to keep mirroring the single market in the entire economy
rather than just being EU-export compliant.
One friend of Gove’s says that the role
of the European Court of Justice is crucial.
May has previously said she will not accept
its writ. But what Gove worries about is the
UK being bound by the ECJ indirectly, and
forced to copy its judgments in some way.
ECJ rulings are not always in this country’s
best interests, as Marina Wheeler explains
on page 14.
If opposition to some kind of EEA-minus
deal is the hill on which Boris chooses to fight,
others will back him. One minister stresses
that if May goes down that route it would
be ‘very dangerous for her’. To date, she has
been supported by the 80-odd Tory MPs
who are belong to the European Research
Group, which campaigns for a clean Brexit.
But they would turn on her if it looked as
if Britain would be made to march in lockstep with the EU’s regulatory framework.
May has three problems. She is sincere
in her desire for a deal that respects the referendum result, so a lot of energy will be
focused on trying to persuade her that an
EEA-minus deal fulfils this function. Its
advocates argue that it does so because free
movement would end. Dissenters say —
with some justification — that it does not,
because this country would not be ‘taking
back control’ in any meaningful sense.
The next issue is whether the UK could
walk away without a deal. May famously
said that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.
But there is growing concern in government
that preparations for ‘no deal’ are so inadequate that the UK couldn’t actually do that.
I understand that civil servants in David
Davis’s Department for Exiting the European Union have taken to writing emails setting out the problems, chiefly to ensure that
their backs are covered should any Chilcotstyle inquiry look into what went wrong. The
chances of ‘no deal’ may be as low as one
in five. But even that should demand a level
of preparation that is simply not happening.
Some even suspect that Sir Jeremy Heywood is relaxed about the lack of planning
for a ‘no deal’ scenario because he thinks
this means the government won’t walk
away without one. One Tory Eurosceptic
complains: ‘We prepared for the millennium
bug, we stockpile vaccines for bird flu and
all sorts of epidemics. So, why aren’t we preparing for “no deal”?’ It is a good question
and makes you wonder whether it is incom-
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
petence, complacency — or a more cynical
desire to rule out this option out by stealth.
Then we come to the third issue: one that
the British Brexit debate too often forgets:
there is another side in this negotiation.
Even if May is persuaded to hug Europe
close, the EU may have other ideas. One figure who has the ear of Davis at the Department for Exiting the European Union says:
‘EEA-lite is a non-starter as the EU won’t
accept it without free movement’, which the
referendum took off the table. If this is the
case, it will render much of the governmental
discussion of the past few weeks irrelevant.
Europe has destroyed the past three Tory
prime ministers. After the referendum, one
figure turfed out with David Cameron said
that at least it would stop the Conservatives
banging on about Europe. Instead, the fight
is intensifying as the endgame approaches.
Whatever deal May agrees will be a compromise, both within her own party and with
the EU itself. To the Remainers, the deal
won’t be as good as membership, while the
Brexiteers will have to admit that the new
arrangement does not take back as much
control as they would like. So, the 50-year
Tory civil war over Europe continues.
The battleground will be how much
Britain should diverge from the EU and
chart its own course in the world. This might
not turn into the Tories’ own Hundred
Years’ War. But it would be no surprise if it
did for another three Tory prime ministers
before it is finally over and done with.
13
A court’s contempt
The ECJ’s quest for ever-more power
MARINA WHEELER
T
he issue of sovereignty has mysteriously disappeared from the debate
over Brexit. Some business-focused
commentators even like to assert that in a
‘global, interconnected world’, sovereignty
is meaningless. But a court judgment, delivered earlier this month, perfectly illustrates
what is at stake.
The case is about national security. Specifically, it is about the legality of techniques
used to identify and disrupt people intent on
unleashing terror: the kind of terror we have
seen recently in Manchester, Westminster,
Borough Market and Parsons Green.
The technique at issue is the bulk collection of communications data (BCD).
This data is the ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and
‘with whom’ of communications, not what
was written or said. It includes, for example, information about a subscriber to a
telephone service or an itemised bill. This
is acquired by commercial service providers and supplied to the intelligence agencies
for them to analyse. According to David
Anderson QC, the former Independent
Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, the use
of these powers saves lives. Interrogating
such data has enabled terrorists’ intended
targets to be identified swiftly, even where
the individuals involved were not already
under surveillance.
Nevertheless, privacy campaigners
oppose the collection of BCD, and use the
courts to try to outlaw it. In October 2016,
the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) —
a specialist court set up by the British parliament to scrutinise the activities of the
intelligence agencies — rejected one such
attempt, ruling that the existing communications data regime complied with the
European Convention on Human Rights
(ECHR). But the claimant, Privacy International, hasn’t given up. Now, it argues
that BCD must also comply with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This is the EU’s
bespoke human rights instrument from
which the UK government claimed —
wrongly — to have secured an opt-out.
The existence of two parallel European human rights charters is confusing.
The ECHR, which is enforced by the European Court of Human Rights (in Strasbourg),
and since the Human Rights Act, by the
national courts, predates the EU and has
14
nothing to do with it. The Charter of Fundamental Rights, by contrast, is an EU
instrument, enforced mainly by the EU’s
European Court of Justice (in Luxembourg).
After testing the evidence in the Privacy
International case, the IPT found that only a
‘minuscule proportion’ of the data collected
was ever examined, that the intrusion was
minimal and that the only people whose
data was accessed were those believed to
pose a security threat.
Isn’t that the end of the matter? In any
case, issues of national security are supposed to lie outside the remit of the European Court of Justice. Article 4 of the Treaty
on European Union states that ‘national
security remains the sole responsibility of
each member state’.
However, that is not how the European
Court of Justice (ECJ) has chosen to view it.
Issues of national security are
supposed to lie outside the remit of the
European Court of Justice
In a series of recent, poorly reasoned decisions involving the collection of BCD, the
ECJ has ignored Article 4 as well as provisions in directives to similar effect. It has
also failed to refer to its own previous judgments which recognised public security as
being outside its remit.
In the latest case, called Watson (as in
Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour
Party), the ECJ’s Grand Chamber ruled
that the indiscriminate collection of com-
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munications data was unlawful. It imposed
requirements about accessing data, in
order to safeguard privacy rights under the
Charter. According to the government, if
applied, these would ‘effectively cripple’
the agencies’ bulk data capabilities. The
IPT went further: ‘We are persuaded that if
the Watson requirements do apply to measures taken to safeguard national security, in
particular the BCD regime, they would frustrate them and put the national security of
the United Kingdom, and, it may be, other
Member States, at risk.’
Despite this chilling conclusion, the
IPT is prevented by EU law from deciding
whether the Watson requirements apply and
whether the Privacy International challenge
succeeds. The case must be sent to the ECJ,
and given the ‘supremacy’ of EU law, whatever it rules must stand.
On the day of the IPT judgment, Mr
Justice Mitting was reported as saying that
the case raised profound political questions about the role of the EU and the
nation state. He is right. This is an astonishing state of affairs. Apart from anything
else, the ECJ is ill-equipped to rule on
such matters. It is not a human rights court
(unlike the European Court of Human
Rights in Strasbourg). It has no facility to
handle security-sensitive evidence, unsurprisingly, given member states did not
intend it to have a national security role.
In due course the ECJ will rule on the
scope of its own jurisdiction. There is no
reason to think it will choose to limit its
reach. On the contrary, it has shown itself
to be increasingly willing to thwart the will
of member states. To the dismay of human
rights groups, it blocked a long-standing
wish that the EU become a signatory to the
ECHR. Why? Because deferring to judgments from Strasbourg would impede its
own ambitions to become the EU’s premier
human rights court.
In other words, governments of countries that are signatories to the ECHR are
bound by decisions of the European Court
of Human Rights. But the EU decided that
it stands above any such external check on
its powers.
Many people were surprised by the integrationist ambitions set out by Jean-Claude
Juncker in his State of the Union address.
This is because they have chosen to look the
other way while power and authority have
moved ineluctably to the EU’s federal institutions — away from member states, and
their citizens. Reclaiming sovereignty allows
the nation to decide for itself how to balance
the needs of security with the requirements
of privacy and keep its citizens (and visitors)
safe. Co-operating with others to improve
security plainly makes sense. Giving up the
right to decide does not.
Marina Wheeler is a barrister and member
of the Bar Disciplinary Tribunal.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Can we be friends?
Labour MP Laura Pidcock isn’t half as fierce as she seems
ISABEL HARDMAN
H
ave you heard the one about the
new Labour MP who refuses to be
friends with Tories? When Laura
Pidcock dropped into an interview with a
left-wing website that she has ‘absolutely no
intention of being friends with’ any Tories,
she was surprised by the fuss that followed.
It might have seemed odd to her, but within Parliament it’s well known that friendships that cross the divide spring
up the whole time. Sometimes it’s
personal: Kezia Dugdale, leader of
the Scottish Labour Party, caused
headlines when she started dating
a nationalist MSP. But more often,
political: to achieve something, MPs
from different parties often have to
work together.
But the new member for North
West Durham sounds as if she is
appalled at the whole system. Her
first speech in the House of Commons was a denunciation of it. ‘The
clothes, the language, the obsession
with hierarchies, control and domination, are symbolic of the system
at large,’ she told her fellow MPs.
Then she elaborated in her interview, saying she’s ‘not interested in
being cosy’ with the Tories (or ‘the
enemy’), as she’s ‘disgusted at the
way they’re running this country
— it’s visceral’. It was such strong,
almost hateful language that I felt
a little nervous trotting up to her in
Parliament and asking if she’d like
to be interviewed by The Spectator.
The strangest thing about the
29-year-old is that, in person, there is no
trace of the angry tribalist. She’s constantly smiling, giggling quite often, and has a
warmth to her that is so at odds with her
public image as to be rather discombobulating. So what’s going on?
‘From a very, very young age I was
taught to see everything through a political
lens and through a class lens,’ she explains.
She attended anti-Thatcher protests in
her buggy and in her final year of primary school she recalls her parents celebrating Tony Blair’s landslide victory in the
1997 election. At secondary school she was
known as ‘the political one’ and a ‘swot’. ‘I
16
always felt compelled to stand up for people
that were being ribbed because they didn’t
have the best trainers. There were very visible signs of poverty in the school that I was
very aware of.’
She’s on the left of her party, but dislikes
being described as a ‘Corbynite’, which to
her makes Labour sound like a ‘cult of personality’. But she says she can’t think of
anything she really disagrees with him on.
Before entering Parliament she was a trade
unionist and anti-racism campaigner, working on the Show Racism the Red Card campaign. She was also a councillor, but lost her
Northumberland seat to a Tory a month
before being elected to Parliament.
Her constituency has the highest rate of
suicides in the country. She says she often
feels ‘close to tears’ after her surgeries with
people in crisis, often as a result of government policies such as benefit cuts and the
rather clunky introduction of universal
credit. ‘I do feel genuinely sick and frustrated and, yes, angry. But really upset that
there can be this picture painted that is so
starkly removed from what I’m seeing in my
constituency.’ She is in politics both to confront stereotypes and those who she thinks
propagate stereotypes.
But here is the puzzle: Pidcock may be
appalled at some ‘nasty party’ Tories who
are relying on stereotypes of the people she
represents. But might she, now, be relying
on a stereotype of a Tory? It isn’t just that
Pidcock doesn’t want to go drinking with
Conservatives. She doesn’t seem to want to
do much drinking (whether coffee or wine)
with anyone. She mentions the importance
of ‘professionalism’ throughout our interview, and ends up admitting that she doesn’t
really socialise with politicians of any political persuasion. ‘I want to reach out more
because I don’t really socialise much,’ she
says. ‘I’m just so insistent on doing a good
job and I don’t know if they [her fellow MPs]
are all off having a good time.’
She has said already in the chamber that
she finds the place ‘intimidating’ — and it
isn’t unusual for a new MP to pitch
themselves as standing outside the
system. But Pidcock doesn’t seem to
want to enter it at all, save in a professional capacity. She even believes
that she and other Labour MPs with
strong northern accents, like her colleague Angela Rayner, are treated like ‘exotic creatures’ merely
because of the way they speak, not
what they say.
Is this just a new MP sounding a
bit earnest? Perhaps, but normally
newly elected folk like to emphasise
the camaraderie in their intake, rather than suggesting, as Pidcock does,
that they see each working day in
Parliament as a ‘shift’ and save their
energy and time for their friends at
home. It might actually be that Pidcock’s refusal to be friends with
Tories has as much to do with being a
‘swot’ as it does with her discomfort
about their beliefs.
It will be interesting to see whether she keeps this up, or whether she
finds drinks and dinners with unlikeminded colleagues help her get
things done. But my more immediate concern is whether, having had a coffee and an hour’s interview with me, she
would want to be my friend. She bursts
out laughing. ‘I’m sure there’s humanity in
you, Isabel,’ she jokes. ‘From what I gather
from you, you are a very genuine person
or I wouldn’t have agreed to do the interview.’ I’m happy to take the compliment,
but I don’t think this makes me particularly
unusual in Parliament.
Indeed, I wonder whether if Pidcock
ends up accidentally having a coffee with
a real-life Tory MP she might find there’s
humanity in them, too. She might even find
she wants to be their friend.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
ROD LIDDLE
Poor old Ron and Pen,
just trying to help
H
ere’s the problem. An Asian bloke
gets on to the Tube holding a bulging Lidl bag with wires sticking out
of it. I don’t know if it had the words ‘large
bomb’ written in Magic Marker on the side
of the bag. Anyway, a little later, it blows
up, and lots of people are injured. Later
again, surprise is expressed that he had
been able to get through with his primitive
bag of tricks. We are continually exhorted
to be vigilant on public transport, so why
wasn’t he apprehended? Did nobody think
it looked a bit suspicious? I have the feeling
we know the answer to that. Just think of
the howl-round, the furore, if the man had
been pulled over and it hadn’t been a bomb.
Like the Muslim chap who was evicted from
a flight last year because he had mentioned
9/11 and felt compelled to take legal action.
And so that’s where we are, right now.
Pinned to our seats by over-sensitivity, as
the train enters the darkness of the tunnel,
next stop paradise.
Both of the men so far arrested for last
week’s outrage were the foster children of
two elderly, respectable, caring, decent and
honest mugs, Ronald and Penny Jones, from
Sunbury-on-Thames. According to a neighbour, they were gutted to read that their
charge may have carried a bomb on to a
Tube train full of commuters. Better gutted
than decapitated, I suppose, or incinerated.
Apparently Ron and Pen had experienced
a certain amount of trouble with the young
man suspected of planting the bomb. We
don’t know what sort of trouble. Wandering
around chanting stuff in Arabic? Perhaps
they thought it was just a difficult phase
he was going through, like acne or heavy
metal. ‘They just need to be loved,’ one of
the Joneses told the press, adding, ‘It’s so
rewarding… They are grateful to be safe.’
Well, indeed, and how spectacularly that
gratitude is expressed.
The couple have housed at least 250
‘children’ from war-torn countries, i.e. Iraq,
Syria, Somalia, the usual suspects. ‘We just
like to be able to help people,’ they said,
plaintively when they received their MBEs
for… well… um… I’m not absolutely sure
you are helping, if I’m honest. Your kindness and good intentions may be unquestionable. But helping? Really? Ron and Pen
might well complain later that the number
of foster children they reared who may have
later gone on to try to bomb the rest of us
was only 1 or 2 per cent of the total but it
would still be too large a proportion for me.
I am a bit Trumpish in the number of people
from Iraq, Syria and Somalia I wish to be let
into the country. I have a number in mind,
a smallish number, and it is one we are told
What sort of checks are made before
these supposed refugees are farmed out
to the kindly and the gullible?
was actually invented by Islamic scholars.
When nasty people aver that Islam has given
us nothing, they are at least partly right.
Several points occur as a consequence.
First, the speed with which the Parsons
Green bombing dropped down the news
agenda. At roughly the same time as our little
bomb, a jihadi went berserk with a hammer
in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, and attacked
two women. Before this a French policeman
was stabbed trying to arrest three female
Muslims, just returned from Syria, who were
driving with some haste towards NotreDame, their car full of gas cylinders. Hear
much about that? We have become a little
like the warren of sleek, cultured, sheltered,
liberal rabbits in Watership Down whose
number reduces each day because they are
snared by the man who protects and feeds
them. They, too, dislike talking about their
plight and the deaths are not mentioned: we
must accept our fate, they say. I don’t know
what the Islamic view of rabbits is.
Second, Mr Jones is approaching his
nineties and his missus is in her seventies.
Have they not been taken advantage of by
the authorities?
‘Have we got anyone for Ron and Penny
this week? I see a new batch have arrived.’
‘Yeah, give them young Mohammed for
a few months and see how they get on.’
What sort of checks are made before
these supposed refugees are farmed out to
the kindly and the gullible? But then, I suppose, what checks are made before they are
let into the country in the first place.
And then there is this. The narrative we
are expected to buy into is that terrorism is
nothing to do with Islam and, further, that it
is a state of mind imposed upon young and
‘vulnerable’ Muslim men and women by an
outside agency — a foreign agency and an
agency which, again, has nothing to do with
Islam. This is the process of ‘radicalisation’
we keep hearing about and I have never
bought into it, having a certain respect for
the concept of free will. And, I would contend, a rather less generous view of Islam’s
worldwide beneficence and pacific nature
than the one we are all enjoined to take.
And yet here we have a young man
taken into the kindly, if somewhat wrinkled,
bosom of an English couple who, it may
emerge, still ended up trying to terrorise
people in the name of his weary God. If the
Joneses had been a Muslim family, then the
press and the police would be demanding to
know what they knew of this process of radicalisation, and what they had done to counter it. But there is nothing to be done. The
religion itself sets its people apart from the
rest and, in all too many cases, this apartness
leads to a hatred. Radicalisation is nothing
to do with it.
SPECTATOR.CO.UK/RODLIDDLE
‘He’s been downgraded to a Category One.’
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
The argument continues online.
17
Ukraine’s last best hope
Mikheil Saakashvili is a reckless narcissist – but he might just transform the country
OWEN MATTHEWS
ou have to hand it to Mikheil
Saakashvili: the man doesn’t give up.
After a tumultuous nine years as president of Georgia, which began with a furious
anti-corruption purge, culminated in a short
but disastrous war with Russia in 2008 and
ended with accusations of embezzlement
and authoritarian practices, he is determined to return to power — not in his own
country, but in Ukraine.
Saakashvili is brilliant and divisive.
His many fans, principally drawn from
the educated and the young of Georgia
and Ukraine, see him as exactly the kind
of clear-thinking, fearless leader who can
sweep away the tangle of cronyism that has
turned most former Soviet states into kleptocratic autocracies. To the sceptics, who
include the many hundreds of thousands of
officials he has put out of a job, he’s a reckless risk-taker who provoked Russia into
invading the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008.
They also accuse him of being a relentless
self-publicist more interested in showboating than actually making things work.
Having spent time with Saakashvili
(at the presidential palace in Tbilisi during
the war, where I scribbled furiously to keep
up with his mile-a-minute conversation
as he drank red wine with correspondents
late into the night, and later in New York,
where he transformed himself into a Williamsburg hipster during a brief post-presidential retirement), I have come to believe
that both sides are right. Saakashvili combines high principle with almost manic
personal ambition, rashness with ironclad
self-belief. It makes him both one of the
most inspiring and flawed political figures
of modern times.
Saakashvili stepped down as President
of Georgia in 2013, his once-popular party
destroyed in the polls. The regime which
succeeded him, in classic post-Soviet fashion, brought a slew of embezzlement and
abuse-of-office charges against Saakashvili, and stripped him of his Georgian citizenship. But in 2015 his political career
was re-launched when Ukrainian President (and chocolate billionaire) Petro
18
Poroshenko offered Saakashvili the
post of governor of the Odessa region.
Ukraine is one of the most corrupt
countries in the world, tying last year with
Russia for 131st place out of 176 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. And Odessa is the most corrupt
region of Ukraine; in fact, the multi-ethnic
port city has been famous for its criminality
pretty much since its foundation by a halfSpanish, half-Irish mercenary-adventurer
in 1794. Saakashvili swept in on Odessa’s
crooks like a righteous avenger. In Georgia,
he reformed the crooked traffic police by
firing every single officer, and he cleaned up
corruption in the port of Poti by temporarily scrapping customs duties altogether.
Saakashvili believed that the same zerotolerance tactics would work in Odessa. He
appointed Yulia Marushevska, a 27-year-old
political activist, as director of the mafiacontrolled port and installed a high-tech
system for tracking all shipments and customs payments that was publicly accessible,
in real time, online. Saakashvili also got an
old ally from Georgia, Giorgi Lortkipanidze, appointed chief of police. He drafted
in foreign advisers to help his anti-corruption effort, including an anti-fraud officer
from the City of London Police and an official of the EU border agency. Bate Toms, an
American-born lawyer and chairman of the
British-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce,
spoke optimistically of Odessa becoming
‘one of the richest cities in eastern and central Europe’.
It didn’t happen. In November 2016,
Saakashvili and Lortkipanidze resigned
their posts, complaining that their efforts to
kill off Odessa’s crime syndicates had been
stymied by none other than Poroshenko
himself. Fighting dismal approval ratings
and an ongoing war against Russian-backed
separatists in Eastern Ukraine, Poroshenko faced a choice between angering the
criminal clans on whose political support
he depended and supporting Saakashvili’s house-cleaning campaign. Poroshenko
chose political expediency. Then, in late
July, Saakashvili — who studied law in Kiev
Saakashvili combines high principle
with almost manic personal ambition,
rashness with ironclad self-belief
and speaks fluent Ukrainian as well as Russian — was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship on an obscure technicality while on
a speaking tour in America. That left him
officially stateless.
Saakashvili could easily have applied for
political asylum in any number of countries:
he has many powerful allies, including Arizona senator John McCain, who described
him as ‘my great young Georgian friend’ in
a presidential foreign-policy debate against
Barack Obama in 2008. Instead he chose
to crash right back into Ukrainian politics — quite literally. Earlier this month
Saakashvili, accompanied by several hundred supporters, a handful of European
parliamentarians and Ukrainian politicians,
attempted to cross the Polish-Ukrainian
frontier by train. Poroshenko mobilised a
large force of border guards to stop him.
Abandoning the train, the Saakashvili party
boarded buses and tried another crossing,
which they were told was closed because
of a bomb threat. Undeterred, they headed for a third border control point, where
around 100 supporters formed a flying
wedge with Saakashvili at its centre and
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
charged through a cordon of Ukrainian riot
police. Later than evening he was addressing cheering crowds outside the Mayor’s
office in Lviv.
Saakashvili claims, with some justice,
that the cancellation of his citizenship was
illegal and that he plans to challenge it in
court, as is his right as a Ukrainian. But
he is also running a massive risk. Georgian courts have requested his extradition
(Saakashvili, again with strong justification,
has dismissed the abuse-of-office charges as
politically motivated). Though the Ukrainian prosecutor-general has said that he will
not prosecute for the illegal border crossing,
Saakashvili’s liberty is now at the mercy of
local party politics.
The question is whether Poroshenko
has the cojones to risk making Saakashvili a martyr — and himself an international pariah. Poroshenko desperately needs
economic support from the European
Union and the International Monetary
Fund, both of which have already balked
at Kiev’s dismal failure to tackle corruption. Imprisoning Saakashvili, the longtime darling of the West, would destroy
the last vestiges of Poroshenko’s credibility. He also needs support from the US. In
July, Poroshenko travelled to Washington to
ask Donald Trump personally to maintain
pressure on Russia by sanctioning Krem-
‘Let’s call him Brexit.’
lin-connected individuals and companies as
punishment for their ongoing support for
separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Poroshenko
also asked Trump to send weapons to fight
what he calls the ‘Russian occupiers’, something the US has hitherto shied away from.
Both efforts would be seriously complicated by throwing Saakashvili in jail.
But the more profound conundrum is
whether Saakashvili, with his flamboyant
and confrontational style, can actually succeed in his crusade to transform Ukraine
from a dysfunctional mafia state into a
prosperous European country. In June,
Saakashvili founded a political party based
on anti-corruption, and though its ratings
remain tiny, the new political movement is
generally thought to have played a major
role in Poroshenko’s decision to exile his
turbulent rival. Saakashvili has now vowed
to stand against Poroshenko in the next
presidential election.
Much more is at stake than just Saakashvili’s political career and freedom. The
whole vector of the West’s foreign policy
towards the former Soviet Union, including
Russia, since the end of the Cold War has
been to encourage the rule of law, democracy and free speech, on the promise that
reform will lead to prosperity. Two popular
revolutions in Ukraine and one in Georgia (the Orange and Maidan revolutions in
2004 and 2014, and the Rose revolution in
2003) have seen people angrily rise up to
depose corrupt Moscow-backed regimes in
favour of supposedly clean, pro-European,
pro-Nato governments.
The hopes of all three revolutions,
thanks in part to Russian interference,
military and otherwise, have collapsed in
ignominious failure and corrupt businessas-usual. If there’s to be any hope that postSoviet nations can, in the pungent Russian
phrase, finally ‘live like people’, then feisty
reformers like Saakashvili have to succeed.
A reckless egomaniac he may be, but he’s
the closest there is to someone who’s on
the side of the angels in a corner of Europe
beset with ultra-nationalism, kleptocracy
and Russian aggression.
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19
CLOSE OF PLAY
Henry Blofeld
T
his retiring is a hectic business. When
I said in June that it was going to
be my last year with Test Match Special,
it never occurred to me that I would
have to do much more than float quietly
into the sunset. Yet I suddenly became
a much greater object of interest than
I had managed to be in my previous 46
years behind the microphone. In no time
at all, I found myself sitting on Andrew
Marr’s sofa, before shifting to Piers
Morgan’s boudoir for Good Morning
Britain. And on it went. I flitted from
studio to studio and on the journeys in
between I was bombarded with calls
from local radio stations as far apart as
Radio Cornwall and Radio Norfolk.
O
n one such journey, a remarkable
coincidence occurred. The evening
before, my wife Valeria and I had talked
for a long time about TMS and all the
adventures I have had. I remarked that
one sadness was never establishing
any contact with Howard Marshall,
who pioneered cricket commentary
before the war. In a wonderful voice, his
commentary on Len Hutton making 364
at the Oval against Australia in 1938 was
highly recognisable as the start of what
we do in the commentary box today.
Marshall himself was dead and I never
made contact even with someone who
knew him. My agent Ralph Brünjes
and I were snarled up in traffic on the
Embankment by Chelsea Old Church
when he received a message from his
office. Apparently a lady who was a
relation of Marshall’s wanted to speak to
me. We arranged to meet. She said that
when Marshall died she had inherited a
number of his things, including a picture
he had painted of the tavern side of
Lord’s from the top deck of the pavilion.
She wanted to give it to me.
for BBC television. Alongside him was
the formidable Jim Swanton of the Daily
Telegraph, a figure who would have made
Bismarck look to his laurels. When this
huge chimney suddenly started to belch
smoke, Fingleton said immediately, ‘I see
Jim Swanton’s been elected pope.’
D
uring the Lord’s Test against South
Africa I was asked to ring the fiveminute bell before the start on the
Saturday. This privilege is normally
reserved for former Test players so I
was greatly honoured. Michael Vaughan
appointed himself my main advisor. He
assured me that, when holding the bell,
the two-handed interlocking grip was the
way forward. He also suggested, somewhat
mischievously, that as it was the fiveminute bell, I should clang away for the full
five minutes. The MCC secretary Derek
OVER AND OUT:
AN EVENING WITH
HENRY BLOFELD
19TH OCTOBER 2017
EMMANUEL CENTRE,
WESTMINSTER
S
he and her husband brought it
round to our house. It is charming,
with that tall black chimney still in
place far back on the other side of
St John’s Wood Road. Seeing that
chimney always reminds me of when the
Australians were playing a Test match
at Lord’s in the 1950s, and the mildly
irascible former Australian opening
batsman Jack Fingleton was working
20
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Brewer, who actually supervised my
performance, told me that Dickie Bird
had also intended to do this and had to
be restrained. The members gathered in
force below the balcony of the Bowlers’
Bar where the bell hangs. When the
moment arrived, I gave it six deafening
clangs. What fun it was.
I
was also selected to commentate on
the second Test against South Africa
at Trent Bridge, a special joy for me
as it is my favourite Test ground. I
played there in a first-class match in
1959 when that great Australian allrounder Keith Miller turned out for
Nottinghamshire against Cambridge
University in one of his last games, and
made a hundred. My main thrill this
time came on the first day. I was taken
during the lunch interval to a bus stop in
the neighbouring Loughborough Road
where I launched a new gleaming green
Number 6 bus with ‘Henry Blofeld
OBE’ painted on the front of the
bonnet. Nottingham City Council was
thanking me for all my years of spotting
its buses at Trent Bridge. I wonder what
Robin Hood would have made of it.
A
nd so to my final Test at Lord’s,
where for three days the full-house
crowds were so encouraging it felt more
than faintly surreal. On the third and
final day my last spell of commentary
passed off smoothly enough. When
I finally handed over to Ed Smith,
there was only a mild skirmish when
my headphones became inextricably
entangled with my binoculars. At the
end, I walked all the way round the
ground between the boundary rope
and the stands and the full house crowd
stood and cheered me to the echo. It
was wonderful, but I have to say I found
it slightly embarrassing. It was all so
staggeringly unbelievable. Then Joe
Root, the England captain, asked me up
to the dressing room for a glass or two
of champagne and presented me with
a shirt signed by the England players. I
also spotted Alastair Cook holding his
one-year-old daughter with scarcely a
fumble and much more certainty than
he had held any recent catch at first slip.
She is a brave young lady. What a day.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
LIONEL SHRIVER
At this rate, we’ll have to rename New York
G
rowing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, I took the monuments around
the state capitol for granted. The
first Confederate soldier killed in the Civil
War, Henry Lawson Wyatt, has leaned into
the wind on those grounds for 100 years.
Atop a pedestal inscribed, ‘To North Carolina women of the Confederacy’, a mother
in billowing skirts reads to her young boy,
his hand on his scabbard. Only in adulthood
have I done a double take. I was raised in a
slightly weird place.
In an era of fungible Walmarts, regional
distinction in the US is hard to come by, and
I treasure Raleigh’s funk factor. Yet I didn’t
grow up around folks who wished the South
had won the Civil War and wanted to bring
back slavery. For much of my lifetime (OK,
NC isn’t in a salutary political place in Trump
World), cities like Raleigh have had better
race relations than many Northern ones.
Up against the movement to cleanse the
American South of Civil War tributes, aesthetic attachment to regional oddity constitutes a weak argument. I’ll make it anyway.
These sculptures are curious, interesting,
specific to one part of the country and often
better crafted than anything that would
replace them. Some are defiant; many others have a mournful cast. They are sobering
reminders of a dreadful juncture in American history, and you have to remember a war
even to regret it. Junking all these memorials
off in some cluttered museum would result
in an ineffable atmospheric loss for my complicated home town.
Yet post-Charlottesville, any reflective discussion of the fate of these relics is
regarded overnight as over. Mysteriously,
after one unfortunate woman was murdered
by a single right-wing malefactor with a driving licence, it’s a given that every Confederate monument must come down. Dissension,
even ambivalence (like mine), means you’re
a white supremacist.
Predictably, the push to politically sanitise public spaces isn’t stopping at Civil War
monuments. In New York City, a mayoral
commission will examine what iconography
might get the axe. Under consideration for
removal is the statue of Christopher Columbus towering over 59th Street, at an inter-
section perhaps soon to be called something
other than ‘Columbus Circle’. In the past few
weeks, a smaller Columbus statue has been
defaced with red paint; another Central Park
statue, of a renowned gynaecologist who
experimented on slaves, was also vandalised.
Columbus cost indigenous peoples dear.
Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. As Oxford
University was recently reminded, Cecil
Rhodes was an imperialist. Prior to 1960
or so, every celebrated man in the Western
world would probably qualify in today’s
terms as a ‘misogynist’ (a strong word thrown
around with well too much abandon).
We now require those we admire for
particular achievements to be blameless in
every respect, while the very definition of
blamelessness, ever more strict, is a moving target. Applying today’s demanding
standards of rectitude to previous generations — requiring all past notables to have
We require those we admire to be
blameless, while the very definition of
blamelessness is a moving target
embraced racial equality, feminism, disability rights, anti-colonialism, non-smoking and
gender fluidity — means pulling down virtually every statue standing. Named after the
Duke of York, involved in the slave trade,
New York could be in for rebranding.
This campaign is potentially limitless, not
to mention anti-historical. More, any drive
for ideological purity is flat-out creepy.
Can we have a little more ‘Let he who is
without sin cast the first stone’? This rampage against any regard for ancestors who
didn’t tick every modern political box has a
totalitarian texture, and would leave Americans a sterile public environment with only
statues of Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet
Tubman — until, that is, some eager beaver unearths, say, their insensitive remarks
about cross-dressers.
Aside from contributing to a general
ambience — a sense of something having
happened once, of someone having done,
you know, whatever — most public statuary
functions as outdoor furniture. It’s decorative. With signal exceptions (DC’s Vietnam
memorial), most people ignore monuments,
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
never reading the inscriptions — and the
older the statuary, the more oblivious the
public. They’ve no idea who’s up on that
pedestal, and they don’t care; at best, little
girls fancy the horses. (Don’t imagine that I
recalled those two bronzes around Raleigh’s
capitol. I had to look them up.) The only
folks I see study big dated statues are bored
foreign tourists. Consequently, the terrible
injury these tributes ostensibly cause a range
of minorities feels manufactured.
Thus, while I’m happy for statuary to
be ‘recontextualised’ with a contemporary
slant on subjects that can’t pass today’s purity test, the real effect would be negligible.
No one to speak of would read the plaques.
In contrast to the spontaneous, celebrative destruction of homages to Stalin or
Saddam in the heat of overthrow, this drive
to politically decontaminate public memorials is a cool power contest. The social justice
brigade is muscle-flexing. Yet their righteous efforts will have little palpable effect
on people’s lives. Perhaps the most expedient solution is to ‘recontextualise’ what a
monument is: a three-dimensional record of
what and whom some predecessors wanted
to remember at the time it was erected, rather than a lauding in the present of absolutely
everything these figures ever said and did.
Symbolism is important, but purely symbolic gains belong low down the list of vital
social reforms, when in the US, blacks’ median income is half that of Asians and twothirds that of whites. Take a jackhammer
to Jefferson’s visage on Mount Rushmore
and what have you got? Gesture without
substance. Do American progressives really want to confront, ‘Never mind that we let
cops shoot whomever they like and never
serve a day in jail, because we chucked that
bronze of Robert E. Lee that you’d never
even noticed before’?
Bulldozing statuary long part of a local
landscape is gratuitously divisive (people do
notice memorials when you smash them).
We’ll have too little to show for these scuffles once the dust settles. Neither the UK
nor the US needs more discord. This shortof-monumental matter is an elective conflict. Amid the Trump/Brexit turmoil, this is
a time to pick battles with care.
21
Crime and prejudice
BAROMETER
Roll up, roll up
Beware of jumping to conclusions about Brexit-induced violence
Party conferences this year revolve around
the familiar settings of Bournemouth,
Brighton and Manchester. But one party
used to be more adventurous.
— For its first conference in 1981 the newly
formed Social Democratic Party (SDP)
opted to have a rolling conference with
meetings in Perth, Bradford and London,
with the entourage travelling between
them (to quote the Conservative Research
Department) ‘rather like Trotsky in his
armoured train’.
— The following year the train rolled
between Cardiff, Derby and Great
Yarmouth, but broke down between
Peterborough and Ely on the last leg.
— The travelling conference was then
abandoned, but during its last assembly
as a major party in 1989, leader David
Owen gave his speech on the seafront at
Scarborough due to a bomb scare.
ROSS CLARK
Euro millions
How much do we send to the EU per week?
£350 million gross contribution excluding
rebate (due to rise to £375 million by 2019).
£235 m gross contribution minus rebate.
£155 m gross contribution minus rebate
and EU funding of UK public projects.
£106 m gross contribution minus all EU
money spent in UK, such as farm payments.
Last orders
Wayne Rooney was banned from driving
for two years, fined £170 and given 100
hours of community service for drinkdriving. In addition to disqualification, how
are drink-drivers punished?
— In 2015 there were 37,578 convictions,
30,357 of them male and 7,007 female. This
compared with 72,127 a decade earlier.
Fines ...................................................... 76%
Community orders............................... 16%
Suspended sentence ............................... 3%
Immediate custody ................................. 2%
Conditional discharge ........................ 0.5%
Absolute discharge ............................. 0.2%
N
othing spoke of the fractious
atmosphere in the aftermath of
the Brexit referendum more than
the death of 40-year-old Arek Jozwik in a
shopping centre in Harlow, Essex in August
2016. What might, on any other weekend,
have been passed over as just another
grubby Saturday-night incident on Britain’s
drunken high streets became elevated into
a symptom of Brexit-induced racial hatred.
James O’Brien, an LBC radio talk-show
host, declared that certain Eurosceptics had
‘blood on their hands’ as did ‘anybody who
has suggested speaking Polish in a public
place is in any way undesirable’. This was
the premise of almost all reporting on the
story: a man seemed to have been murdered
for being Polish.
Viewers of BBC1’s News at Six were
told, ‘the fear is that this was a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum’. The story was taken up by the world’s
media with the New York Times writing
that Jozwik ‘was repeatedly pummelled and
kicked by a group of boys and girls’ because,
according to his brother, he had ‘been overheard speaking Polish outside a takeout
pizza restaurant’. Razem, a left-wing Polish
party, released a statement saying ‘the racist and xenophobic attitudes are reaping an
increasingly horrid harvest.’ In Harlow, residents held a candlelit vigil to protest against
what was explained to them as a wave of
hate. To people at home and abroad, Britain
Source: drinkdriving.org
Melting point
The final surviving snow patch from last
winter in the Scottish Highlands was
reported to be on the point of melting —
for only the sixth time in 300 years. How
many snow patches have survived from
winter to winter in recent years?
2011-12 ....................................................... 2
2012-13 ....................................................... 6
2013-14 ........................................................ 6
2014-15 .................................................... 21
2015-16 ..................................................... 74
2016-17 ....................................................... 7
Source: Scottish Snow Patch Survey
22
‘This area’s popular with people who go
on to develop special dietary requirements.’
seemed to be a far less pleasant place.
The idea of anti-Polish murder in postBrexit Britain was understandably shocking. But what was the evidence for it?
Crimes take time to investigate, the truth
takes months to come out. When the answer
came in Chelmsford crown court last week,
there was far less media interest. Given the
prominence of the story, it’s worth setting
the record straight.
The killer, a 16-year-old, was sentenced
to three years’ detention for manslaughter. The court ruled he threw a punch which
caused Jozwik to fall to the ground and sustain fatal head injuries. Rightly, his violence
has been punished, but was it an unprovoked
hate crime? It emerged from the case that
there was a racial element to the incident
James O’Brien, a host on LBC radio,
declared that certain Eurosceptics
had ‘blood on their hands’
— although the racism was not aimed at Mr
Jozwik. On the contrary, the court heard it
was Mr Jozwik and his friends who made
racist comments against the then 15-yearold and those he was with. As the defence
counsel put it: ‘They made racist remarks to
the youngsters, then invited violence from
them, and they were considerably bigger
and stronger than the young people.’
The tragic death of Mr Jozwik brings
shame on Britain for conditions in town centres late at night. But what evidence of a link
to Brexit? None at all. Drunkenness and
violence have been a problem for decades.
So what about the great surge in hate
crime that was reported after the Brexit
vote, of which the death of Mr Jozwik was
said to have been part? In October last year,
the Home Office reported a spike in reported hate crimes in the July — 5,468 of them,
a 41 per cent increase on the same month
in 2015. Quoted in a Guardian article which
carried a photograph of Mr Jozwik, David
Issac, chairman of the Equality and Human
Rights Commission, declared that the figures ‘make it very clear that some people
used the referendum result to justify their
deplorable views and promote intolerance
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
and hatred’. Maybe; but then again maybe
not. The figures have to be considered in the
context of rising reports of ‘hate crime’ since
it was first introduced as a category of crime
five years ago. In 2013/14 there were 44,577
hate crimes, followed by 52,465 in 2014/15
and 62,518 in 2015/16. Interestingly, the figures have spiked in July each year, perhaps
as people take advantage of long evenings
to spend more time on the street. If Britons
have been becoming more hateful over the
past few years it is a trend which began long
before the EU referendum.
An alternative explanation is that there
has been an increase in reporting of this
type of crime owing to the publicity given
The idea of anti-Polish murder was
understandably shocking. But
what was the evidence for it?
to it, aided by the somewhat loose official definition: ‘any criminal offence which
is perceived, by the victim or any other
person, to be motivated by hostility or
prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.’
In other words, for a ‘hate crime’ to be
recorded no one has to prove that a crime
was motivated by hate on the grounds of
race, nationality, sexual orientation or so
‘We need you to lead the
Brexit negotiations.’
on — mere perception is enough. When you
consider that an Oxford physicist last year
tried to report the Home Secretary’s speech
at the Conservative party conference as
a hate crime, you see the problem. In the
event, the police recorded Amber Rudd’s
speech as a hate ‘incident’ but decided it
wasn’t a crime.
Mr Jozwik’s death was not the only
reported post-Brexit ‘hate crime’ which
turned out to be nothing of the sort. Among
other high-profile incidents, the window
of a Spanish restaurant was broken in Lewisham — recorded on that trusty record
of crime, Facebook, as a result of Brexitinduced hate but later treated by police
as a burglary. Then there was the
abusive graffiti which appeared on a Polish
cultural centre in Hammersmith. This produced understandable horror and a local MP,
Greg Hands, underlined that Poles are welcome. Only later did it emerge that the graffiti read ‘Fuck you OMP’ — OMP being a
Polish centre-right think-tank which had
backed Brexit.
The Jozwik case provides a salutary lesson for anyone who is tempted to jump to
conclusions about crimes before the full
facts are known. Such reactions are themselves a form of prejudice, which in this case
has been committed by people who considered themselves to be standing up against
prejudice. Racism and xenophobia should
never be tolerated, and it is good that greater efforts are being made to stamp them out
than in the past. We should rightfully feel
ashamed that Mr Jozwik met his death here
and ask what is it that makes our town centres at night such breeding grounds for violence and aggression.
But the idea that the referendum
unleashed a frenzy of violence against
foreigners culminating in the murder of
Arek Jozwik — something which caused a
lot of soul-searching among Leave as well
as Remain voters at the time — has turned
out not to be true. On that point, people on
both sides of the Brexit divide should surely
be relieved.
PROSPERITY BRITAIN:
A PROGRAMME FOR PRODUCTIVITY
Thursday 30 November, 8 - 10.30 a.m. | Landing Forty Two, Leadenhall Street, London
New technology is constantly emerging – yet the country’s productivity stagnates. Why is it that the output of an
average British worker lags behind that of our overseas competitors and what is the Government doing about it?
Chaired by Andrew Neil. Speakers to be announced.
In association with
REGISTER HERE
www.spectator.co.uk/productivity | 020 7961 0044
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
23
JAMES DELINGPOLE
Accept this as the new normal? Never
N
ot long after the Parsons Green
Tube bombing, another of those
viral, defiant-in-the-face-of-terror cartoons started doing the rounds. It
was quite witty — a section of Tube map,
redrawn in the shape of a hand giving those
pesky terrorists the middle finger. But it
wasn’t remotely funny. In order for humour
to work it has to spark a feeling of amused
recognition. This did the opposite. It said
something that all but the most deluded
among us know to be a complete lie.
The lie is that when a terrorist bomb
fails to detonate properly and injures ‘only’
a dozen or so people, rather than killing
scores, this constitutes some kind of moral
victory; that Londoners — indeed Britons
generally — now accept such incidents as
‘part and parcel of living in the big city’; that
our mood is not one of fear, helplessness
and apprehension but of cheery optimism
and determination not to have our lifestyles
altered in the face of terror.
Really? Perhaps someone should have
explained this to the passengers on the London to Birmingham train a couple of days
after the Parsons Green bomb. The teenage
daughter of some friends was in one carriage and told me what happened. ‘There
was a weird beeping noise which no one
could explain. Then a funny smell. Everyone
was looking at each other, like: “What are
we going to do? This is horrible! We’re not
going to make it home. We’re going to die
here now!” Then this man next to me pulled
the emergency cord and the train stopped.’
It turned out to be a false alarm. With
impressive speed, a railway employee
appeared and assessed that it was safe to
resume the journey. So: not a drama you’re
going to read about it in the papers. But my
point is, look at how all those passengers
reacted; see how quickly their terrified imaginations were triggered by sounds and smells
(brake fluid, probably) that, not so long ago,
they would have accepted as part of the routine rattle, whistle and pong of a typical railway journey. This is the new normal. Yet our
political class remains in a state of denial.
As does the BBC. Just this morning, I heard
it vox-popping sundry unflappable District
Line commuters — the modern equivalent
24
of that presumably staged but iconic second world war photo of the jolly milkman
doing his rounds in the rubble of the Blitz —
as part of its now familiar, life-goes-on-asnormal response to every terror event.
‘No, we’re not bovvered,’ the doughty
commuters all insisted — those the BBC
felt worthy of quoting, at any rate. But
frankly, what other option do they have?
We can’t all be like Marco Pierre White Jr,
the son of the celebrity chef, who tweeted:
‘Parsons Green Tube station this morning
was targeted by terrorists, this is why I don’t
take the tube #theRichDontDie.’ Tasteless
it may have been, which is why he apolo-
The longer this ‘Keep buggering on
and it’ll go away’ narrative persists, the
longer MPs can delay doing anything
gised and withdrew it, but it contained more
than a grain of truth.
Of course we’re going to go on taking public transport, because how else are
we going to get to work? But that doesn’t
mean we’re not going to squirm involuntarily every time someone of Middle Eastern
appearance gets on with a rucksack or a coat
that looks a bit too bulgy. Nor that we’re not
going to spend our whole journey feeling
like cattle on the way to the slaughterhouse.
In private, people admit this. Rarely
in public, though, as it contradicts an official narrative that seeks to brand those
who express such qualms as letting the
‘Who’s going to kick off?’
side down, apparently because it’s not how
British people should behave. It goes: ‘We
stood up to the Nazis during the Blitz. We
stood up to the IRA. Now we’re responding
with the same sangfroid and stiff upper lip to
all this bothersome, but perfectly manageable nonsense from Johnny Muslim.’
What’s odd is that the people who most
commonly express this point of view are the
kind of people — BBC journalists, celebrities, Guardian columnists, lefty students —
who would hitherto have felt embarrassed
by such jingoism. There has been a weird
inversion where robust, right-wing Churchillian types who think something must be
done have been cast as lily-livered surrender
monkeys, while the progressive appeasers
portray themselves as indomitable heroes.
It’s canny politics and an excellent way
for open-borders, SJW types to goad Katie
Hopkins and Tommy Robinson on Twitter.
But I don’t think this Keep Calm and Carry
On nonsense — which reached peak stupid
when breakfast TV presenter Phillip Schofield filmed himself walking fearlessly over
Westminster Bridge the day after the attack
there — is doing anyone much good. In fact
it’s only putting us more gravely at risk.
The longer this ‘Keep buggering on and
it will all eventually go away’ narrative persists, the longer our MPs will be able to delay
doing anything to address the problem.
Barely four months ago, 22 children and
adults were blown to pieces, and 250 injured,
for the crime of going to an Ariana Grande
pop concert. In any other era, so appalling
an incident would be as seared into the public consciousness as, say, the sinking of the
Titanic or the immolation of the R101, with
concerted action from politicians of all parties to make sure such a terrible thing never
happened again.
And what has our generation of politicians done? Called a few Cobra meetings. Declared the occasional Level 5
security threat. Claimed emptily that ‘enough
is enough’. Meanwhile, there are an estimated
32,000 Muslims eager to commit the next terror atrocity — with another 100,000 prepared
to give them moral support. When did any of
us ever vote for this to be our new normal?
Isn’t it about time something was done?
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
LETTERS
Christians betrayed
Sir: Michael Karam’s article (Ya Allah!,
16 September) is timely. Many Westerners
seem to be unaware that there is such a
person as a Christian Arab (a Christian
who speaks Arabic as their first language),
yet there are millions. At the time of the
Crusades, Christians were a majority in the
Near East. In 1914 about 25 per cent of the
Near and Middle East was still Christian.
The percentage is now much lower because
events have forced massive Christian
emigration, especially to North America.
The serious consequences of this
ignorance were not only felt by the
Christian Iraqi removed from a flight
after another passenger heard him
speaking Arabic. The West’s ill-thoughtout interventions in the Arab and wider
Muslim world have had dire repercussions
for the Christians of the region, who have
become targets of Muslim revenge.
It was clear to me at the time of George
W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq that President
Bush and Blair had no idea that there
was a Christian community in Iraq, nor
that it would be put in extreme peril
once the invasion started. Today it has
almost disappeared. The final betrayal
has been the inadequate response of the
West to the plight of Christian refugees
from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. In justice
they should be given priority as genuine
asylum seekers; instead, politically correct
immigration authorities seem to be
prioritising Muslims and the Christians are
in danger of being forgotten.
Alistair Kerr
Louth, Lincolnshire
sector will doubtless encounter highflying second- and third-generationers as
colleagues and managers.
Yet why does much of the public sector
still feel so different? By veering into
mental health and crime statistics, Munira
Mirza (Theresa May’s phoney war, 16
September) risks missing the point. While
institutions are not necessarily racist (or
sexist or homophobic for that matter), they
are often ossified after years of dominance
by narrow cliques disconnected from a
fast-changing wider society. If Mrs May’s
race ‘audit’ can begin to tackle this, it will
achieve something worthwhile.
Sanjoy Sen
Aberdeen
The Taki effect
Data Roman
Sir: I write to disagree with Theo White’s
proposal that government should interfere
in any way with people’s choice of food
(Letters, 16 September). In 1979, a report
came out which suggested that we should
cut down on sugar, cut down on salt, cut
down on saturated fat, and increase fibre in
our diets. Professor John Yudkin also wrote
a book, Sweet, White and Deadly, which set
out how bad sugar is for us. It was widely
publicised, and as a nutritionist I had to
write a review of it when at university.
I concluded then as now, that sugar is the
culprit for many of our woes. Our enemy
is sugar.
But do I want a sugar tax? No. People
have to make their own decisions and take
responsibility for themselves. Did either of
these or any other books and articles make
a scrap of difference? Not a bit. Despite
plenty of research and reports, the public
take notice of either what suits them, or
what suits the media. In the case of salt and
fat, subsequent research has shown that all
the hype about cutting down on saturated
fat and salt was misguided.
In the case of sugar, Professor Yudkin’s
book has been swept under the carpet and
the result is the massive increase in obesity
and Type 2 diabetes. Until we get away
from lobbyists and fad diets, and start to
believe the results of proper research, we
will never improve our eating habits.
Dy Davison
Rothbury, Northumberland
Sir: Every week I turn to ‘Ancient and
Modern’ in the hope that the Roman
soldier who heads the column will have
been issued with a smartphone. He will
never conquer the barbarians with such
outdated technology. Perhaps Peter Jones
could put a word in Caesar’s ear?
Alison Sproston
London SE16
The Mass in Maltese
Sir: Michael Karam is quite right to point
out that the Arabic word for God is shared
by all major faiths represented in the
Middle East. But one doesn’t have to travel
outside Europe to hear that designation
used hundreds of times daily, and by nonArabs. In very Catholic Malta and Gozo,
there are more than 1,000 masses a week,
most in Maltese. As a first-time visitor last
year I was delighted to listen to the familiar
forms recited in that fascinating language
and to join with the people saying: ‘[I
believe in] Alla.’ It felt good to do so.
Dr Clare Hornsby
London SW1
Out of the race
Sir: Visitors to any British town centre will
have no trouble spotting all manner of
thriving businesses built up by immigrants.
And anyone working in the private
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Sir: Taki does not seem to realise just how
famous and influential he really is (High
Life, 16 September). In his column of
9 September he urged readers to obtain my
book Facing the Persians. It deals, among
other poems, with the minds of his revered
Spartans at Thermopylae. Within days it
had sold out, requiring urgent reprinting,
with requests coming both nationally and
worldwide, from Germany to western
Canada. Unrecognised indeed!
Ian Olson
Aberdeen
A fat lot of good
Sovereign territory
Sir: Any of the 1,600 inhabitants of
Barbuda who take The Spectator will
be surprised to read that it is a British
overseas territory (‘Portrait of the
Week’, 16 September). Barbuda, along
with its sister island Antigua, became an
independent country in 1981.
Jeremy Stocker
Willoughby, Warwickshire
25
ANY OTHER BUSINESS|MARTIN VANDER WEYER
A rate rise in November? After years
of dithering, don’t bet on it
I
t is more than three years since Bank
of England governor Mark Carney was
accused by Labour MP and Treasury
Select Committee member Pat McFadden
of behaving like ‘an unreliable boyfriend,
one day hot, one day cold’ in his hints about
forthcoming interest-rate rises. And it’s more
than a decade since the last time the official UK bank rate actually moved upwards:
the only shift since McFadden’s remark has
been a cut from 0.5 per cent to 0.25 per cent
in August last year. In fact there’s a palpable
sense that the Bank, in common with other
central banks, has all but lost the power to
deploy interest rates as a monetary tool, having left them so low for so long.
So we wait to see whether this week’s
round of rate-rise signals lead to action at the
Monetary Policy Committee’s next meeting on 2 November, or fades into the new
year. The flurry began when MPC member
Gertjan Vlieghe, previously labelled as the
panel’s ‘über dove’, said, ‘We are approaching the moment when the bank rate may
need to rise’ in response to inflation close to
3 per cent and ‘a modest rise in wage pressure’. Carney echoed that view in a speech
in Washington, cautiously adding ‘over the
coming months’.
Their remarks pushed the pound above
$1.35 (its post-referendum low was $1.20)
and to €1.14 from an August low of €1.07
and tourist-rate parity. A stronger pound
is itself anti-inflationary, since it reduces
import prices; and if inflation thereby ticks
down again, the urgency of a rate rise will
begin to evaporate. Hence the Bank may be
trying temporarily to deploy the exchangerate tool, at the expense of UK exporters,
in the hope of being able to leave the interest rate tool in the box. Why? Because there
are also fears — expressed by Carney to
the irritation of Brexiteers who still regard
him as a mouthpiece of Project Fear —
that Brexit uncertainty is contributing to a
slowing of growth and business investment,
which won’t be helped by higher rates.
Nor will the housing market, which is
now in a doldrums of stagnant prices and
26
low turnover. Then there’s the looming consumer debt crisis, which gets worse month
by month so long as disposable incomes
fail to keep pace with inflation and credit is
readily available. Would it be better to prick
that bubble sooner or later?
The last quarter-point rise in bank rate,
in July 2007, was the 35th rate change of the
decade that preceded it. In those days, the
mechanism was well oiled and well understood by markets — even if hindsight tells
us the cheap-money era of the early 2000s
laid the foundations for the financial crisis
that followed. Now, central bankers are not
so much unreliable boyfriends as petrified
ones in a perpetual dither. The more finely
balanced and scrutinised their decisions, the
more potential negatives that might follow
from a single move, the greater the temptation to do nothing until it’s too late. I’m not
betting on a rate rise in November.
Those Ratner moments
I was intrigued to read that Moira Ratner,
wife of former chain-store jeweller Gerald,
urged her husband not to use the notorious passage of his speech to the Institute of
Directors at the Royal Albert Hall in April
1991, in which he joked about earrings in his
shops being ‘cheaper than an M&S prawn
sandwich but [they] probably won’t last as
long’, and about being able to offer a sherry decanter at such a low price ‘because
it’s total crap’. His business promptly shed
£500 million in market value and was gone
by the following year, along with his fortune.
The ‘Ratner moment’ entered the language of business — and we witnessed a
classic example in Lord (Tim) Bell’s shambolic Newsnight interview earlier this
month, in which the once-invincible veteran
of spin tried to declare himself innocent of
Bell Pottinger’s association with the Gupta
family in South Africa while Kirsty Wark
read out an internal email from him claiming credit for winning the account. The PR
firm he co-founded went into administration
eight days later, the clients who had paid so
handsomely for the benefit of its looseness
with the truth all these years having stampeded for the exit.
This week’s Ryanair news story, however, almost certainly isn’t a Ratner moment
in the making. The cancellation of 50 flights
per day — 2 per cent of a daily schedule of
2,500 low-cost flights — in order to fulfil
pilots’ holiday entitlements without spoiling
the airline’s punctuality record, threatens to
leave 250,000 customers uncompensated
and has also wiped £500 million off the airline’s stock market value. But Ryanair boss
Michael O’Leary built his business on the
principle that passengers can ‘bugger off’ if
they don’t like it, and says he doesn’t ‘give
a rat’s arse’ about the share price. On that
basis I suspect he’ll fly through this turbulence unscathed, chiefly because passengers
on the uncancelled 2,450 daily flights will
continue, grudgingly, to admire the costcrushing operational ruthlessness that has
transformed air travel to their benefit, however rudely they are sometimes treated.
Dangerous automata
Likewise, I predict one-click shoppers will
not shun Amazon, despite the revelation by
Channel 4 News that if you use the online
retailer to buy a combination of household
chemicals that could create a homemade
bomb, the algorithm informs you that ‘customers who bought this’ also bought another lethal component, ball bearings. Like the
promulgation of jihadist material through
Google, Facebook and Twitter, this raises a
whole other debate about the impossibility
of effective surveillance, and the absence of
any moral compass within internet automata that grow far beyond human scale.
But businesses like these that are highly
efficient can, it seems, get away with amoral
and uncaring attitudes because consumers
still value them for what they offer, especially when it’s cheap or free. Only when the
wider world has already recognised a brand
to be a con trick at heart does that Ratner
moment await.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
DE AGOSTINI PICTURE LIBRARY/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
Jane Ridley is amazed that
David Cannadine has
found a new way to view
19th-century Britain
Harry Ritchie hails an
unlikely hero: homo erectus
taught us how to speak
Thomas W. Hodgkinson
says that Alfred the Great
saved our island from a
savage horde, much as
Churchill did
Rory Sutherland admires
the success of the iPhone –
but worries about the
downsides
Daisy Dunn learns that the
Scythians attached the
remains of their enemies to
their horses
Laura Gascoigne is dazzled
by the illustrations of a
dodgy German biologist
‘The Falconer’, c.1880, by
Hans Makart
Martin Gayford — p43
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
27
BOOKS & ARTS
BOOKS
Britain über alles
The 19th-century belonged to us, according to David Cannadine’s
ambitious new history. Jane Ridley is mesmerised by it
Victorious Century: The United
Kingdom 1800–1906
by David Cannadine
Allen Lane, £30, pp. 555
David Cannadine was a schoolboy in 1950s
Birmingham, which was still recognisable
as the city that Joseph Chamberlain had
known. In the 1960s the town planners
demolished much of Victorian Birmingham. The bulldozing of 19th-century cities coincided with — and helped to cause
— a boom in Victorian history, led by
Asa Briggs. As a postgraduate student at
Cambridge, Cannadine wrote a thesis on
Birmingham’s 19th-century aristocratic
landowners. Since then, there has been a
torrent of academic research on 19th-century history, and this has had a ‘deadening
and dampening effect’. The Victorians have
gone out of fashion. Historians have migrated to the rich pastures of the 18th century
or the newly available archives of the 20th.
So much has been written about 19thcentury Britain that a new interpretation
seems almost impossible. But in this magnificent Penguin history, Cannadine pulls it off.
At first sight the book seems conventional
enough. This is a narrative history. It is also
a political history. As Cannadine explains,
the vital feature of 19th-century Britain
was the extraordinary importance of Parliament. Other countries had parliaments,
but none were as enduring or as prestigious
as Westminster.
Most histories of 19th-century Britain
begin in 1815 and end in 1914. Cannadine’s
account, by contrast, starts in 1800 with
the Act of Union with Ireland, which created the United Kingdom, and ends with
the Liberal landslide election of 1906; both
dates are landmarks in Britain’s parliamentary history. But this is not a clichéd textbook story of the triumph of democracy and
reform. Nor is it an insular, inward-looking narrative of Westminster high politics.
There is something else going on here. Cannadine begins his history in the middle of
the Napoleonic Wars with France. Throughout the book the story of Britain’s relations
28
with Europe and with its expanding empire
is integrated into the narrative of domestic
politics. This is a global history, a spellbinding account of Britain’s rise and fall as a
great power.
Starting the story in 1800 shifts the conventional perspective. The Act of Union
with Ireland, as Cannadine points out, was
an expedient forced upon Prime Minister
Pitt by the war with France. It seemed the
only way to prevent a rebellion in Ireland
or a French invasion. It pleased none of the
Irish. Nor was the Younger Pitt’s strategy
of fighting the French by defeating them
at sea, and financing coalitions of the continental powers on land, a success. The co-
As every schoolboy used to know (but
now doesn’t), Lord Grey bowed to the
people with the Great Reform Bill
alitions always broke apart and Napoleon’s
domination of the land seemed comprehensive. Not until Pitt had fallen did Britain
begin to win.
The Napoleonic War of 1803–14 was the
only major conflict in recent history where
Britain had no strong political leader; merely a succession of mediocre prime ministers.
These included Spencer Percival, the only
British PM to be assassinated, and the second-rate Addington (‘Pitt is to Addington/
As London is to Paddington’) — though
Cannadine reckons that the latter has been
much underestimated. The war was a triumph for Britain’s military-fiscal state. It
was financed by massive borrowing, made
possible by a buoyant wartime economy
and a sophisticated banking system. Military success was enabled by the efficiency of
the Whitehall bureaucrats, overseeing ships,
weapons and supplies. For France, by contrast, the war was an economic disaster. The
result was that Britain, whose future had
seemed in the balance in 1800, emerged in
1815 as the strongest and richest power in
the world.
The 1830s was the hinge decade. As
every schoolboy used to know (but doesn’t
any more), the Whig government under
Lord Grey bowed to the people and pushed
through the Great Reform Bill. This was the
prelude to a decade of reform, of sustained
legislative engagement with contemporary
issues, which was something entirely new.
It marked the end of the old military-fiscal
state and the beginning of the so-called age
of improvement. Overseas, this was a pivotal decade too. European peace coupled
with the opening of new markets in China
and Latin America offered unprecedented
opportunities for trade and investment. The
UK was more engaged with the world than
ever before.
In 1848 the historian Macaulay declared
that the history of England was ‘essentially
the history of physical, of moral and of intellectual improvement’. The Great Exhibition
of 1851 was a defining moment, celebrating
Britain’s material progress. But, as Cannadine shows — and this is a major theme —
for every Macaulayan self-congratulatory
optimist, there was a doom-laden Matthew
Arnold, wracked with doubt and wringing
his hands. The backwardness of Britain’s
education by comparison with its European neighbours was much bemoaned (as it is
today), and so was the rise of overseas competitors.
The most extraordinary part of the story
was not visible to contemporaries. Industrial supremacy gave the United Kingdom
a global hegemony, which was at its zenith
in the 1850s and 1860s, but Britain’s wealth
didn’t translate into military might. At
home, governments came under constant
pressure to reduce defence spending, and
the British army was by far the smallest of
all the European great powers. The price of
parliamentary government was an empire
on a shoestring. It’s a miracle that the Victorians managed to hold on to their empire.
So how did they do it? One way was by
devolving power to white settlement colonies, many of which were granted selfgovernment in the 1850s. The 1857 Indian
Mutiny or Great Rebellion was the most
significant crisis of the 19th-century British empire: the stakes ‘were at least as high
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
Bristol ablaze: anger at the Lords’ rejection of the Second Reform Bill sparked riots in Queen’s Square, Bristol, October 1831
(William James Muller)
as they had been at the Battle of Waterloo’,
says Cannadine, and it too was a close-run
thing. Afterwards, the Brits economised by
ruling India in collaboration with the traditional elites.
The Second Reform Act of 1867 created an electoral system where ‘the Liberals would need the votes on the margins to
enable them to dominate England, whereas the Conservatives would use their powerbase in England to try to dominate the
UK’. This, as Cannadine observes, explains
Gladstone’s preoccupation with Ireland,
which was an attempt to buy Irish votes
and undercut the nationalists by offering
reforms. Gladstone’s attempts to conciliate
Ireland, culminating in his conversion to
Home Rule, failed. Also unsuccessful were
his attempts to repair the weaknesses of
the mid-Victorian state with education bills
and civil-service and military reform. Cannadine has little time for Disraeli, though
he gives his government credit for what in
the long run was a truly significant piece
of legislation, though few thought much of
it at the time: the 1867 Canadian Confederation Act, which welded Canada into a
vast, land-based nation bordering America,
effecting a major geopolitical reorientation.
By the 1880s the signs of decline were
clear. Britain still accounted for 23 per cent
of world manufacturing output. But in Ireland (and to a lesser extent Scotland and
Wales), nationalists were fighting a land
war and the Union was under strain, while
Germany and the US were powering ahead
of the British economy. During the second
government of the anti-imperial Gladstone,
Britain occupied Egypt, and gained further
African territory at the Congress of Berlin,
but this expansion was defensive and pessimistic. It was soon to lead to imperial overstretch, when the British found themselves
in possession of an empire which, even on
shoestring economics, they couldn’t afford.
Kipling’s ‘Recessional’, written at the
time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee
in 1897, articulated the mood. ‘Even though
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
the foundations had been in some ways
fragile and fortuitous,’ writes Cannadine,
‘the nineteenth century had “belonged”
to the United Kingdom more than to any
other power, and as it ended there was serious concern, which turned out to be wellfounded, that the twentieth century would
“belong” elsewhere.’ Britain’s humiliating
performance in the Boer War, when 450,000
imperial troops took three years to subjugate 60,000 Boer soldiers, rubbed home its
failings. There followed an episode of selfdoubt and the abandonment of Britain’s
policy of splendid isolation.
This is a thumping great book, and it is
probably destined to become a classic. Cannadine writes long sentences and his paragraphs go on for a page or more, but there is
something hypnotic and compelling about
his majestic delivery. Extraordinarily for a
history book there are no footnotes. Only a
historian at the very top of his game can do
that and get away with it, and Cannadine
succeeds triumphantly.
29
BOOKS & ARTS
Harsh, but entertaining
Patrick Skene Catling
Dunbar
by Edward St Aubyn
Hogarth, £16.99, pp. 211
When millionaires become billionaires they
become even greedier and more ruthless.
At the highest level, Trumpian economics
can be lethal. Edward St Aubyn, in his powerful new novel Dunbar, applies the oxyacetylene brilliance and cauterisation of his
prose to bear on the tragic endgame of a
family’s internecine struggle for control of
a global fortune. St Aubyn is a connoisseur
of depravity, yet also shows he cherishes the
possibility of redemption.
Henry Dunbar is an 80-year-old Canadian mogul who founded and developed
the world’s second-most influential media
conglomerate. His older daughters, Abigail
and Megan, want the wealth and power; his
youngest daughter, Florence, wants only his
love. The rivalry is freakishly intense, but
one can endure the horrors and enjoy the
author’s stylish craftsmanship.
At first the old man’s situation seems
terminally dire. The diabolically acquisitive
daughters have bribed his personal physician to commit him to a supposedly secure
psychiatric hospital in the Lake District.
Demented and further confused by drugs,
Dunbar has been incapacitated so that he
should be unable to resist the final quashing
of his authority by a hostile takeover at an
imminent board meeting in New York. Surprisingly, however, Dunbar’s hospital roommate, Peter Walker, an alcoholic comedian
with a multifaceted personality disorder
and voices to match, proves to be providentially sympathetic and resourceful.
‘I really did have an empire, you know,’
said Dunbar. ‘Have I ever told you the story
of how it was stolen from me?’
‘Many times, old man, many times,’ said
Peter dreamily, who is moved not to achieve
justice in big business but to contrive their
escape to the nearest bar. Dunbar, as
instructed, spits out his medication and follows Walker out through the kitchen’s back
door. They find a vehicle suitable for rugged
terrain, with the ignition key conveniently
in place. Dunbar’s captors have confiscated all his credit cards, except one he managed to hide, a card for a Swiss account
with unlimited credit. The alcoholic, having
served his narrative function, is recaptured
and kills himself. Dunbar is then free for a
lonely, dangerous escape in the snow, pursued by hospital guards.
Dunbar is saved from frostbite and collapse by a tramp, a defrocked vicar who was
ruined by Dunbar’s newspapers. ‘When he
had been running a global empire, his cruelty and his vindictiveness and his lies and
his tantrums were disguised as the neces30
sary actions of a decisive commander-inchief, but in his current naked condition the
naked character of these actions screamed
at him, like ex-prisoners recognising their
torturer in the street.’ An Aubynesque simile can brighten a grey passage: ‘A gaudy
sunset, like a drunken farewell scrawled in
lipstick on a mirror.’
But the overall focus, satisfactorily, is on
contemporary social pathology and Dunbar’s moral transcendence. Most of the
novel is harsh; all of it is entertaining.
The hunger
Owen Matthews
Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine
by Anne Applebaum
Allen Lane, £25, pp. 496
In 1933 my aunt Lenina Bibikova was eight
years old. She lived in Kharkov, Ukraine.
Every morning a polished black Packard
automobile would draw up to the door of
the handsome pre-revolutionary mansion
her family shared with other senior Party
cadres to take her father to his job as Party
boss at the Kharkov Tractor Factory. When
he returned in the evening her father would
be carrying bulging packets of sausages and
meat from the factory canteen. Lenina did
not remember wanting for anything.
Yet in reality Kharkov, like all Ukraine’s
cities in that terrible year, was an island
of plenty in a sea of starvation. All over
Ukraine millions of peasants were dying
of hunger in a massive, man-made famine
deliberately unleashed by the Soviet state.
As Anne Applebaum chronicles in her
wrenching, vivid and brilliant account of the
Holodomor — literally, the ‘hunger-death’
— famine had become the main weapon
of a war unleashed by Stalin on both the
reactionary peasant class and on Ukrainian
national identity itself.
During the famine years those peasants
who managed to crawl to Ukraine’s cities,
bellies bloated from hunger, were rounded
up by special trucks that patrolled at night
on secret orders from the municipal authorities to pick up the living and the dead. By
morning there was no trace, for those who
chose not to see, of the horror which was
unfolding all around.
That wilful blindness has continued ever
since. For Ukrainian nationalists, the Holodomor was a genocide unleashed against
their people that is today commemorated
in a day of national mourning akin to Holocaust memorial day in Israel. For the Soviet
authorities — and now, disgustingly, Putin’s
tame historians — the great famines of the
early 1930s were nothing more than a natural disaster.
As Applebaum shows, drawing on a
wealth of witness accounts and Soviet archi-
val sources, there was little natural about it.
From the earliest days of the Revolution, she
writes, ‘the link between food and power was
something that the Bolsheviks also understood very well… constant shortages made
food supplies a hugely significant political
tool. Whoever had bread had followers, soldiers, loyal friends.’ As early as 1921 Maksim
Litvinov — later Soviet foreign minister —
told a group of visiting American aid workers coming to help the starving of the Volga,
in his precise but accented English, ‘Yes, but
food is a veppon…’
It took Stalin’s ruthless genius to fully
weaponise hunger as a tool of total war
against the enemies — real or imagined
— of the Soviet regime. The first Five Year
Plan of 1928 called for peasants’ private
land to be confiscated and all herds and
grain to be turned over to the new collective farms. All over the Soviet Union, peasants slaughtered their livestock and gorged
themselves rather than give them up to the
Soviet state. Eyewitnesses from the Red
Cross reported seeing peasants ‘drunk on
food’, their eyes stupefied by their mad,
It took Stalin’s ruthless genius to fully
weaponise hunger as a tool of war
against enemies real or imagined
self-destructive gluttony, and the knowledge of its consequences. Harvests from the
new collective farms fell disastrously. By the
summer of 1932, it was clear that Ukraine
— for centuries the grain-basket of the Russian empire thanks to its fertile black earth
and twice-yearly harvests of winter barley
and summer wheat — had catastrophically failed to meet the production quotas set
by the Kremlin. Stalin reverted to what he
knew best from his days as a bank-robber
in Tbilisi — violence, and theft. Requisition
gangs were sent to seize grain reserves, seed
reserves, animal fodder and, ominously,
daily food supplies.
The unfulfilled portion of the Plan had to
be ‘fulfilled unconditionally, completely, not
lowering it by an ounce’, Stalin’s lieutenant
Vyacheslav Molotov told the Ukrainian
authorities in October 1932. Already, the
secret police had rounded up wealthy peasants who had resisted collectivisation and
shipped them to newly built gulags in their
tens of thousands — the guards dubbed the
trainloads of humanity ‘white coal’. Now,
the Soviet authorities unleashed something
very close to a war on their own Ukrainian
citizens. ‘During the Revolution I saw things
that I would not want even my enemies to
see,’ wrote the Politburo member Nikolai
Bukharin. ‘Yet in 1919 we were fighting for
our lives… but in 1930–33 we were conducting a mass annihilation of completely
defenceless men together with their wives
and children.’
On 1 January 1933 Stalin demanded that
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Mykola Bokan’s photograph of his family, including a memorial to ‘Kostya, who died of
hunger’, July 1933. Bokan and his son were arrested for documenting the famine — both
died in the gulag
the Party use a recent law on ‘theft of state
property’ to prosecute collective and individual farmers in Ukraine who were allegedly hiding grain. That telegram is probably
the closest thing we have to a direct command from the Kremlin ordering the Holodomor. Stalin’s cable, writes Applebaum,
‘was a signal to begin mass searches and persecutions… in practice that telegram forced
Ukrainian peasants to make a fatal choice.
They could give up their grain reserves and
die of starvation, or they could keep some
grain reserves hidden and risk arrest, execution or the confiscation of the rest of their
food — after which they would also die of
starvation.’
The result was ‘such inhuman, unimaginable misery, such a terrible disaster, that
it began to seem almost abstract, it would
not fit within the bounds of consciousness’, wrote Boris Pasternak after a trip to
Ukraine. The young Hungarian communist
Arthur Koestler found the ‘enormous land
wrapped in silence’. The British socialist
Malcolm Muggeridge took a train to Kiev,
where he found the rural population starving. Embittered, the idealistic Muggeridge
left the Soviet Union, convinced he had witnessed ‘one of the most monstrous crimes in
history, so terrible that people in the future
will scarcely be able to believe it ever happened’.
The enduring tragedy of the Holodomor — which left at least five million dead,
including almost four million Ukrainians
— is that Muggeridge was right. Plenty
of modern Russians still don’t believe it
ever happened. Since Ukraine’s independence — and even more so since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the
ensuing Russian-backed separatist war in
Donbass — the Holodomor has become
an ideological touchstone, as vehemently
denied by the Kremlin as it is promoted by
nationalist Ukrainians.
Applebaum resists the passions of that
raging ideological battle and sticks to the
relentless, horrifying facts, unequivocally documented in the Soviet secret police
reports, eyewitness accounts and the correspondence of senior Party leaders. She
squarely places the Holodomor in the
wider context of the Soviet regime’s battle
with Ukrainian identity itself (an imperial
crusade against separatism inherited from
Willow
Of all the trees, the willow is
The last to lose its yellow leaves
And yet among the first to try
Its newborn growth in early spring
When it can glisten gold and green
As trees come back to life again,
But when it rains it seems to cry,
To hang its head and tear its hair
As down the leaves the water seeps
And forms a droplet on each leaf
And, while the rain and wind are there
To wave its arms and shed a tear,
We think of it as him or her
Although in truth it does not care,
But we need company in grief
And that is why we like to hear
The willow is the one that weeps.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
— Duncan Forbes
the Tsars). ‘Famine was only half the story,’
she writes. ‘While peasants were dying in
the countryside, the Soviet secret police
simultaneously launched an attack on the
Ukrainian intellectual and political elites.
As the famine spread, a campaign of slander and repression was launched against
Ukrainian intellectuals, professors, museum curators, writers, artists, priests, theologians, public officials and bureaucrats.’ The
archives show that Stalin’s aim was demonstrably not just to exterminate the reactionary peasantry but to squash all memory of
the independent Ukrainian state that had
flickered briefly in the aftermath of the first
world war.
Perhaps most controversial is the debate
over whether the Holodomor was, in fact,
a genocide. Some commentators have
accused Applebaum of shying away from
that loaded word — though in fact she is
perfectly clear that the debate is a purely
semantic one. Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who invented the word
‘genocide’, spoke of the Holodomor as the
‘classic example’ of his concept: ‘It is a case
of genocide, of destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation.’ The
controversy stems, as Applebaum explains
in a carefully written epilogue, from the
later, more legalistic definition of ‘genocide’ as set down by the United Nations in
1948. The Soviet delegation to the first UN
General Assembly had argued that political persecution was ‘entirely out of place
in a scientific definition of genocide’, and
successfully lobbied that the official definition be restricted to the annihilation of
entire ethnic groups. ‘Genocide’ thereafter
became ‘organically bound up with fascismnazism and other similar race theories’,
Applebaum writes. ‘The Holodomor does
not meet that criterion. The Ukrainian famine was not an attempt to eliminate every
single living Ukrainian; it was also halted,
in the summer of 1933, well before it could
devastate the entire nation.’
Applebaum’s summary of the reality of
the genocide debate says more about Moscow’s successful — and cynical — manipulation of international discourse than it does
about the events of 1930–34 in Ukraine.
But it will also anger Ukrainian nationalists who see the Holodomor — as they see
today’s conflict in Donbass — as a species
of epic blood feud between the two Slavic
nations. They are wrong. Both conflicts are
about the Kremlin’s imperial programme of
power and control rather than blind ethnic
hatred.
Today’s ideologically charged conflict
between Kiev and Moscow often reduces
history to the cannon fodder of propaganda.
That makes Applebaum’s meticulous study
— the first since Robert Conquest’s excellent but inevitably poorly sourced The Harvest of Sorrow (1986) — so important. The
Soviet state successfully concealed the real31
GETTY IMAGES
BOOKS & ARTS
Bob Marley and the Wailers at the Crystal Palace Bowl, 7 June 1980
ity of the Holodomor even from children
like Lenina Bibikova who were growing up
in its midst — then spent 70 years denying
its crimes. Applebaum has drawn back the
veil — with the same force, clarity and readability as in her earlier books on the Gulag
and on the Soviet postwar conquest of Eastern Europe — on one of the 20th century’s
most egregious crimes.
The cult of Holy Bob
Ian Thomson
So Much Things to Say: The Oral
History of Bob Marley
Text and photographs by Roger Steffens
W.W. Norton, £20, pp. 434
The Harder They Come, Jamaica’s first (and
still finest) home-grown film, was released
in 1972 with the local singer Jimmy Cliff as
the country boy Ivan Martin, who becomes
a Robin Hood-like criminal outlaw amid the
ganja-yards and urban alleys of the Jamaican capital of Kingston. The film’s director
Perry Henzell, a ganja-smoking white Jamaican who had been sent to board at Sherborne school, was influenced by the gritty
‘newsreel’ school of Italian neo-realism
(Bicycle Thieves, Obsession), which aimed
for a documentary immediacy off the street.
The soundtrack, assembled by Henzell in
under a week, effectively introduced reggae
32
to white British audiences.
Without the soundtrack album, it is fair
to say, reggae would not have taken hold in
Britain in the way it did. Fashionable dinner
parties in early 1970s Britain often enjoyed
a musical accompaniment of the Maytals’
gospel-hot ‘Pressure Drop’ or Desmond
Dekker’s ‘007 (Shanty Town)’. Earlier, in
the 1960s, scooter-riding Mods had adopted
Jamaican ska as a supplement to their diet
of imported American soul, but reggae was
a ganja-heavy newcomer, whose strangely
hymnal, incantatory quality insinuated itself
happily into the middle-class hippie culture
which Mods (and indeed skinheads) professed to despise.
Prior to Henzell’s film, reggae had been
given only minimal airplay on BBC radio,
and the British press was hardly enthusiastic. It was ‘black music being prostituted’, Melody Maker reported Deep Purple
and the Edgar Broughton Band as saying. In 1985, going one better, Morrissey
of the Smiths announced: ‘Reggae is vile.’
(Bizarrely, in October 2007, British Conservatives adopted Jimmy Cliff’s rousing
‘The Harder They Come’ as a Tory anthem,
the party of law and order thus endorsing, if
unwittingly, the crime habits of a Kingston
rude bwoy.)
The Harder They Come, a favourite,
oddly, with George Melly, was part-financed
by the Island Records founder-boss Chris
Blackwell, who saw in Jimmy Cliff’s rebel
film image a means to promote his lat-
est signing, Bob Marley.
In many ways the groundwork for Marley’s eventual
success was laid by Henzell. The first Bob Marley
and the Wailers album, produced by Blackwell, Catch a
Fire (1973), was a JamaicanAmerican hybrid, whose
hard-driving Kingston
rhythms had been overlaid
in a London studio with
rock guitar solos. It was
Blackwell’s, not Marley’s,
idea to aim the music at a
‘rebel’ white college audience. Unsurprisingly, Catch
a Fire was ignored by Britain’s black reggae crowd
(to whom the Harrow-educated Chris Blackwell was
‘Chris Whiteworst’).
To date, more than 500
books have been published
on the ‘Reggae King’ Bob
Marley, who died of cancer in 1981, aged 36. For
many non-Jamaicans, Marley is reggae: he remains
an international celebrity,
honoured with a waxwork
at Madame Tussaud’s and,
as Roger Steffens reminds
us, listed in Forbes magazine at Number 5
among the ‘highest-earning dead celebrities’ for 2014.
Steffens, a US-based music critic and
longtime Marley fan, has spent years interviewing friends, associates and admirers of
the Jamaican superstar. So Much Things to
Say, an ‘oral’ account of Marley’s life and
times, amounts to an absorbing alternative biography. Among the author’s many
interviewees are Blackwell (whose mother
Blanche Blackwell, incidentally, died last
month at the age of 104), Carlton ‘Carly’
Barrett, Junior Braithwaite and Peter Tosh
of the Wailers (all three of whom would
eventually be murdered by Kingston gunmen), as well as the reggae singer-songwriters Bob Andy and Joe Higgs.
According to Higgs, the word reggae,
originally spelled ‘reggay’, first appeared in
1968 with a Leslie Kong-produced hit called
‘Do the Reggay’ by Toots & the Maytals.
It was a black music imaginatively rooted
in the soul of ancestral slave Africa. Marley himself was not, however, black. With a
Caucasian father (Captain Norval Marley of
the British West Indian Regiment), he found
it easier to deal with the world at large —
that is, with white people. Although Marley
was brought up in Kingston’s impoverished
Trench Town ghetto, his mixed race complexion and handsome aquiline features lent
him an acceptable ‘uptown’ look.
In his brief introduction, the BritishJamaican poet Linton Kwesi Johnson
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
speaks admiringly of Marley’s ‘iconic status’ and (in another cliché) his ‘consummate professionalism’. Through all the
‘trials and tribulations’ (another cliché) of
his fame the Trench Town rocker continued to embrace universal love, smoke ganja
(he was ‘no joker-smoker’, says a friend),
and eat nut cutlets. Unfortunately, Marley’s
proto-hippy ‘One Love’ vibe died a death
in Jamaica long ago: there is too much violence for kindly, dreadlocked Rastafari idealists who grow cannabis plants and hope to
save the planet by smoking them. So Much
Things to Say (the title is taken from a song
on Marley’s Exodus album) offers lots of
new information on the Jesus-like cult of
Holy Bob.
Deep learning
Neel Mukherjee
Late Essays 2006–2017
by J.M. Coetzee
Harvill Secker, £17.99, pp. 304
Given the brilliance of his career as a fiction-writer, it is easy to forget that J.M.
Coetzee has a commensurate career in nonfiction. He trained as an academic (English literature, mathematics, linguistics and
computer analysis of stylistics), taught for
several years in the US and in South Africa, and continues to translate, write essays
and reviews — most notably for the New
York Review of Books — and introductions
to books. This third volume of non-fiction
pieces, Late Essays 2006-2017, gathers a
selection mostly from the NYRB and from
his introductions to a series of novels translated into Spanish and published by the
Spanish-language press El Hilo de Ariadna.
The current crop seems to be simpler essays than the ones that appeared in
Stranger Shores (2001) and Inner Workings
(2007). In the earlier works, we’ll find a discussion of the concept of hybridity in the
memoirs of Breytenbach, or a long piece on
Benjamin’s ‘Arcades Project’, or references to Homi Bhabha’s notoriously impenetrable book The Location of Culture, or a
bravura lecture, ‘What Is A Classic?’, which
forensically dissects T.S. Eliot’s own lecture bearing the same title that breathtakingly positioned the modernist project in a
redefined map of European literary greatness. Certainly, one can see the differences
between the introductions and the NYRB
pieces, but this is not a failing, rather an
intelligent understanding of genres: the
demands of a short introduction to a European or English-language classic in Spanish translation are different from those of
an intellectual (but not academic) literarypolitical magazine.
Coetzee’s lifelong interest in Beckett
— his PhD dissertation was on the Irish
writer — appears here in no fewer than
four essays, the last of which, ‘Eight Ways
of Looking at Samuel Beckett’, is original,
revelatory, dense with thought and ideas
that could be used as a springboard for several doctoral theses. There are two essays on
Patrick White, one of the greatest novelists
of the last century (and a fellow Nobel laureate); the essay on White’s posthumously
published unfinished novel, The Hanging
Garden, has an illuminating discussion on
The Vivisector and how the novel ‘was…
fated to be an elegy not only for the school
of painting represented by Duffield [the
novel’s protagonist] but also for the school
of writing represented by White himself’. A
startling essay on Les Murray sails close to
personal criticism, augustly reprimanding
the poet for carping about his status as an
outsider in Australian literary life, a status
Coetzee thinks is largely a pose.
Unsurprisingly, given Coetzee’s deep
knowledge and abiding interest in German
language and literature, there are essays
on Goethe, Hölderlin, Kleist and Walser
(Coetzee is a great standard-bearer for
this sui generis Swiss writer). The essay on
translating Hölderlin presents a clear (and
gripping) summary of the life and works of
the poet, finds time to talk about his appropriation by the National Socialists and contest the appropriation, before moving on
to the merits and shortcomings of Michael
Not a single page goes by in
this collection when you don’t
learn something
Hamburger’s translation of the poetry. One
can only feel humility and gratitude in the
presence of such deep learning, so lucidly
conveyed. It brings to mind a similar essay,
‘Paul Celan and his Translators’, in Inner
Workings, and the long essays, on translating Kafka, and Robert Musil’s Diaries, in
Stranger Shores.
A spare, dry sense of humour occasionally flashes through the essays. Making a list of
the jobs (and their corresponding locations
in parentheses) which the young Beckett
applied for, Coetzee writes, ‘…advertising
copywriting (in London), piloting commercial aircraft (in the skies)’. And Coetzee’s
own stylistic austerity can make certain riffs
in the ‘Eight Ways…’ piece look positively
like flights of fancy. His powers of syntheses
and linkage are formidable, something only
possible to pull off if an author has seemingly boundless reserves of knowledge and
reading. Not a single page goes by in this
collection when you don’t learn something:
he will pick out the moment from Beckett’s letters when, talking about Cézanne,
Beckett will strike ‘the first authentic note
of [his] mature, post-humanist phase’. The
term ‘late style’, certainly in the Said-ian
connotation of it, is often meant to signify
jaggedness and incompletion married to a
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
simplicity born of wisdom and maturity, but
here, Coetzee’s ‘late style’ is all lucidity.
Muddled in minutiae
Richard Davenport-Hines
The World Broke in Two: Virginia
Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence,
E.M. Forster, and the Year that
Changed Literature
by Bill Goldstein
Bloomsbury, £25, pp. 336
‘Publitical’ is a neologism worth avoiding.
Bill Goldstein uses it to describe T.S. Eliot’s
activities when launching and promoting his
quarterly review of literature, the Criterion,
which had its first issue in October 1922.
Eliot wanted an eminent French author as a
contributor: ‘the only name worth getting is
Proust’, he told Ezra Pound. As the founding
editor of the New York Times books website, Goldstein is attuned to cultural fashions, publicity drives and the politicking of
literary factions. And so he makes a painfully reductive explanation of Eliot’s remark:
‘The importance of Proust was publitical
above all.’
1922 was the publication year of P.G.
Wodehouse’s The Clicking of Cuthbert and
of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophus. It was the foundation year of the
Laugh-a-Gram cartoon film company (proprietor, Walt Disney). But there was nothing
‘publitical’ about Wodehouse or Wittgenstein, and so Goldstein turns his focus on
Eliot (who finished and published The Waste
Land), D.H. Lawrence (who wrote a novel
set in Australia, while living in a small town
in New South Wales), E.M. Forster (who
overcame writer’s block and began his last
novel), and Virginia Woolf (who wrote a
short story, ‘Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street’,
which she expanded into a wonderful novel).
As Kangaroo was published in 1923, A Passage to India in 1924 and Mrs Dalloway in
1925, the reality behind Goldstein’s chronological arrangement seems weak.
Goldstein is an enthusiast for literature
with the right measure of self-belief. He
crackles with excitement about the making
of books and the creating of literary reputations. His admiration for his four chief
protagonists gives a nice temper to his own
book: there is no one whom he wants to
show up or do down. Einstein and Patrick
Hennessy, scientist and historian, both took
as their motto: ‘Never lose a holy curiosity.’
But although Goldstein reveres his quartet,
his inquisitiveness is neither discriminating
nor hallowed. He gives his readers a trudging chronicle, week by week, sometimes even
day by day, of his protagonists’ activities and
ideas during 1922. His purpose is to convey
the tensions, fumbling, frustration, arousal
and joyous climax of creativity. But the fore33
BOOKS & ARTS
‘Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street’, Kangaroo and
The Waste Land all declared the glaring contradiction of 1922: the war was over, but had
not ended.
This is too trite a theme to bear the weight of
significance that is piled on it in The World
Broke in Two.
The title is one of the best points in
Goldstein’s book. ‘The world broke in two
in 1922 or thereabouts,’ Willa Cather wrote
in 1936 of the year when Joyce published
Ulysses and Eliot The Waste Land. The
phrase looks catchy on the book cover, but
Goldstein is ungrateful to Cather. In the
modernist ascendancy of 1922, ‘the form of
storytelling she prized, and excelled at, was
no longer of signal importance’, he says on
the first page of his book. ‘She was the relic
of an old literature, the value of which had
not been preserved against the new literature that Joyce and Eliot represented.’
This is the New York literary publitician talking like a commodity dealer taking a short-term position. Cather’s novel of
1922, One of Ours, is a lopsided, risk-taking
triumph with flaws that increase its fascination: it would be acclaimed for its war writing if she had been a man. Her next novel,
A Lost Lady (1923) is a marvel of emotional richness: Madame Bovary set in a small
American community called Sweet Water;
little known in England, but unforgettable to anyone who has read it. Both novels
leave A Passage to India bowled middlestump. Goldstein’s dismissal of Cather as
démodée gives an early warning of what is
wrong with his over-researched, unreflective and lustreless book.
34
ments remains unaware of it,
but Chomsky’s crazed theories — about humans’ innate
language-learning devices and
the deep structure of a universal grammar that creates all
languages — have been comprehensively disproved. The
new orthodoxy is the empirical
school of cognitive linguistics,
and Daniel Everett is its star
pupil — and the one thinker
with the credentials and ambition to try to reach the general
public.
Here, Everett takes on one
of Chomsky’s daftest claims —
that the innate neural gizmo
which makes us able to talk
didn’t evolve gradually but just
turned up, created by accident,
by some genetic mutation that
miraculously gave us brains
wired for words. Chomsky estimates that this fluke happened
about 50,000 years ago... when
rock art and cave paintings also
began to appear. And cue the
Twilight Zone theme tune.
Complete nonsense, of
course. There is no innate linguistic machinery in our brains,
there was no magical quirk in
our DNA that gave us a language-learning machine, and it
did not all happen 50,000 years
ago.
This is now so universally
accepted that Everett doesn’t have to spend
much time debunking what is obviously a
preposterous theory. Instead, he can concentrate on the alternative explanation —
that language developed slowly, at proper
evolutionary pace, not jumping into complete existence all of a sudden, just as the
first giraffe didn’t appear out of nowhere to
the surprise of the rest of the short-necked
herd.
Giving language enough time to evolve
means that it must have started much further back than a mere 50 millennia ago.
About 1.9 million years further back, Everett estimates. Since we, homo sapiens, turned
up only 200,000 years ago, this means that
it wasn’t us who invented language but an
ancestor species — homo erectus.
Like us, homo erectus emerged in Africa
and, like us, they soon spread far and wide
— throughout Europe, China and Indonesia. They were smaller than us, and their
brains were smaller than ours, but not that
much smaller, and the speed and extent of
their roaming indicates some level of collective organisation — and communication.
The archaeological record, however, is
scant: a carved seashell, some sharpened
stones that formed the most basic of toolkits, and the most amusing item in archaeBRIDGEMAN IMAGES
play is so fidgety and inconclusive that the
reader is left panting for a cup of cocoa.
Goldstein is a man for the microscope
rather than the telescope. His readers are
given such close and tiny details that the big
vision is lost. There is nothing interesting in
Eliot’s decision to wear black tie at a dinner
of Lady Rothermere’s or in the stewed pears
offered to Lawrence for breakfast. Inordinate quotation from his subjects’ letters and
diaries makes for choppy, disjointed reading and peppers Goldstein’s pages with too
many inverted commas. He seems remote
in his understanding of Woolf as a woman,
and at his most sympathetic in writing of
Forster’s doubts and anxiety. Yet Goldstein’s account of Kangaroo will be new
and appetising to most readers. If only he
had written more about this half-forgotten
novel, and less about people’s ailments and
squabbles.
He puts Eliot, Lawrence and Woolf, if
not so much Forster, into a mental landscape of postwar trauma. The scale of death
from the war of 1914–18 and the subsequent
influenza epidemic left its survivors grieving and haunted: memories of the past were
encased in everybody’s present thoughts.
Goldstein reiterates:
Our hero, homo erectus
Learning to talk
Harry Ritchie
How Language Began: The Story of
Humanity’s Greatest Invention
by Daniel L. Everett
Profile, £25, pp. 384
One of the great achievements of science is
that so many of its branches, from astronomy to zoology, have been blessed by such
great popularisers — your Attenboroughs,
your Sagans, your Dawkinses. Alas, there is
one inglorious exception to this marvellous
rule — linguistics. A discipline that has produced enormous and enormously important
advances over the last century — but not
one linguist who has managed to tell the rest
of the world about them. Steven Pinker did
have a bestseller with The Language Instinct,
but he was moonlighting from his day job in
neuropsychology.
Linguistics does have one world-class
intellectual celebrity, but Noam Chomsky
is celebrated mainly for his radical politics,
and he has done his very best to make his
work on language as arcane and incomprehensible as string theory.
The world outside linguistics depart-
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
ology — the ‘Erfoud manuport’. Formerly
the prized possession of some homo erectus
who carried it around his or her person, this
is a cuttlefish bone that looks like a phallus. In fact, in a phallus lookalike competition, any actual dick would be pushed into
second place by this cuttlefish bone, which
looks so like a phallus that it undermines
its supposed significance as a symbolic artefact. Symbol? The Erfoud manuport just is
a dick.
There is, however, startling evidence from
the fossil record — the remains of homo
erectus which have been found on Flores
and Socotra, dating from about 700,000 years
ago. Both Flores and Socotra are islands, not
visible from the mainland, reachable only by
challenging seas. And to establish successful
communities, at least 50 people must have
made the crossing together.
If they could sail, they could certainly
talk, Everett reasons. Reasonably enough
— those fossils provide melodramatic proof
of homo erectus’s planning, social organisation, technology and cooperation, their individual intelligence and collective culture.
And, surely, surely, Everett argues-cumpleads, their ability to communicate with
each other using some sort of language.
Their chat wouldn’t have been up to
much, Everett has to concede. Homo erectus
lacked our vocal prowess and their brains
were smaller and slower, so these were
dimwits saying dull, basic things slowly with
grunts and moans. ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ —
that really is the kind of thing homo erectus
must have said to each other.
Which doesn’t sound like much of an
advance on a dog’s bark, but it really is —
because even a basic language is an extraordinary achievement, requiring theory of
mind, the creation of a shared attention
space, honed physical control and, most
startling of all, the collective creation of a
symbolic communication system involving
thousands of communally agreed meanings
and conventions.
That’s why no other species has managed to create even the most basic sort of
language. Getting to that stage requires a
fizzingly creative and aware brain, so maximum respect to homo erectus for having
made that intellectual leap. Me Tarzan, you
Jane — simple and dull, but a huge breakthrough.
Everett’s case isn’t new — the idea that
homo erectus invented language has been
around for a couple of decades — but his is
a new and ambitious attempt to explain it to
that fraction of the population that doesn’t
have a linguistics degree. He doesn’t quite
pull his populist schtick off — his prose is
a bit costive and repetitive and the illustrative anecdotes tend to clunk. But it’s a laudable effort, the subject-matter is completely
enthralling. Though he may lack the Dawkins touch, Everett is at the very top of his
intellectual game and field.
Demonised by history
Thomas W. Hodgkinson
Viking Britain: An Exploration
by Thomas Williams
William Collins, £25, pp. 416
Some oleaginous interviewer once suggested to Winston Churchill that he was the
greatest Briton who ever lived. The grand
old man considered the matter gravely. ‘No,’
he replied at length. ‘That was Alfred the
Great.’
In his hefty, hard-to-pick-up History of
the English-Speaking Peoples, Churchill
expatiated on King Alfred’s foremost quality: it was his ‘sublime power to rise above
the whole force of circumstances, to remain
unbiased by the extremes of victory or
defeat, to persevere in the teeth of disaster,
to greet returning fortune with a cool eye, to
have faith in men after repeated betrayals’.
Remind you of anyone? But perhaps it
isn’t surprising that Churchill should have
singled out for reverence another wartime
leader who had saved his island from a savage horde. Alfred’s ultimate victory over
the Vikings remains our foundation myth,
a ninth-century fore-echo of the clash with
Nazism. And this, according to Thomas Wil-
Did the Anglo-Saxons glimpse in
the Vikings a garish, nightmarish
image of their former selves?
liams in his robust new book, is one among
many reasons why the Vikings have tended
to be demonised by history. The more brutal
and bristle-bearded the enemy, the greater
is Alfred’s Greatness for subduing them.
And the greater, therefore, are we.
Viking Britain — an engrossing account
of the skirmishes, wars and final symbiotic
absorption that occurred between AngloSaxons and Scandinavians from the late
eighth to the early 11th century — suggests
that another motive for exaggerating the
differences between the Vikings and ourselves is a queasy awareness of the similarities. The idea is that the Anglo-Saxons
glimpsed in the enemy a garish, nightmarish image of their former selves. After all,
it hadn’t been so many generations earlier
that they too had arrived by sea, calling on
a comparable pagan pantheon (they worshipped Woden; the Vikings Odin) for the
courage to ride roughshod over the natives,
rape their women and ransack their wealth.
Since then, they had converted to Christianity. Which made them the good guys,
up to a point. Yet as Catherine Nixey has
detailed in a recent book, the early Christians were often as vile and violent as their
foes. She focused on the Middle East and
Maghreb. Williams describes the brutality
of Charlemagne’s wars against the Saxons
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
in northern Europe, how in 782 the Emperor had 4,500 prisoners beheaded on the
banks of the Weser, and later decreed that
anyone who refused baptism should be executed. It may have been this, Williams suggests, that persuaded the Scandinavians to
step up their raids to the West. Fearsome as
they were, they were fearful of these ruthless, self-righteous Christians in the South,
who worshipped a son-sacrificing God and
ritually ate his flesh. There’s an argument
that their long-shafted, two-handed, horseslaying axes were developed in response to
the threat from evangelical Frankish cavalry.
Williams’s revisionist zeal doesn’t prevent him from admitting that the Vikings
were, in some ways, very different from us.
Their slave girls were occasionally forced
to immolate themselves on the funeral
pyres of their deceased masters, having
first submitted to gang rape at the hands of
their friends and relatives. And the warriors had a peculiar way of celebrating victory. They would bugger the vanquished foe.
It was not, as far as we know, a practice in
which King Alfred indulged after routing
Guthrum at Edington.
This even-handedness makes Viking
Britain a better work, if not necessarily a
better read. Williams is scrupulous to avoid
the easy pub-chat message. He writes fluently and with feeling. It did, though, strike
me as odd that a book with such a title
should devote only ten pages to the quarter-century when Britain was ruled by the
Scandinavian king Cnut and his sons, or the
Knýtlinga, as they were collectively known.
That was the period, arguably, when the
country could most truthfully have been
described as ‘Viking Britain’.
Williams’s answer may be that by then
the Knýtlinga weren’t really Vikings, since
they were no longer marauding hoodlums,
nor pagan. But this is to restore the stereotype he has already dismissed. I found
myself wondering if the author was drawn,
despite himself, to the old story, and if this
might be part of the reason for his mild air
of gloom as he traipses off, in several wryly
entertaining autobiographical vignettes,
to scrutinise a rune stone or brood upon a
tumulus. It is usually raining. One time, he
has argued with his wife.
Glance at the author photo on the dust
jacket and you’ll see that, with his mighty
beard, Williams himself resembles the popular image of the Viking. Was it this that
led him to become curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum? Or did
he grow the beard later, consciously or subconsciously absorbing the style notes of his
specialism? It’s impossible to be sure. But I
like to imagine that in the photograph for
his next book, which will no doubt deal with
the Vikings’ adventures on the continent
and elsewhere, Williams will be wielding a
long-shafted axe.
35
BOOKS & ARTS
ARTS SPECIAL
iAddicts
Rory Sutherland doesn’t have an iPhone. But he knows why you do
F
or many years The Spectator employed
a television reviewer who did not own
a colour television. Now they have
decided to go one better and have asked
me to write a piece to mark the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. I have never owned
an iPhone. (In the metropolitan media
world I inhabit, this is tantamount to putting on your CV that you ‘enjoy line dancing, child pornography and collecting Nazi
memorabilia’).
But, even though I’m a diehard Android
fan, I still cannot help paying attention to
every single thing Apple does and says. I
don’t think this happens in reverse. I doubt
Apple owners pay any attention to the next
phone announcement from LG or Nokia
— any more than Anna Wintour lies awake
wondering what Primark’s autumn season
has in store.
How has it achieved this? Well, like De
Beers before it, Apple has exhibited a rare
marketing genius in creating something that
defies the usual rules of economics.
By stubbornly resisting the pressure to
chase volume sales by producing cheaper
variants of the iPhone, and through fanatical attention to design, Apple has, ingeniously, become a technology company with
the characteristics (and the margins) of a
luxury-goods company or a high-fashion
brand.
On the one occasion that Apple
deferred to the bidding of financial analysts
and introduced a lower-cost alternative to
the flagship iPhone (the plastic-bodied 5C),
it failed. Just as there is very little demand
for the world’s second most expensive
champagne, or for private jets with densely
packed seating, there is very little demand
for the world’s second-best flagship phone.
As someone wisely once said to me, in
response to a business proposal, ‘Yes, there
may be a gap in the market, but is there a
market in the gap?’
Notice that, for the world’s most valuable
company, Apple sells remarkably few things.
Ring up Samsung, and they won’t just sell
you a phone, a vacuum cleaner and a television, they can also build you an offshore oil
rig or a supertanker. By contrast, I can name
every current Apple product from memory.
But it isn’t only the range that is kept
tightly controlled: so, too, is the pace of
replacement.
36
With Apple’s control over both hardware
and software, any new product or upgrade
is a media event worldwide (Android
upgrades take place piecemeal, depending
on your handset). Apple’s tempo of innovation is hence kept at a humanly comprehensible level.
Together these two things mean that,
once you decide you are an Apple person,
choosing an Apple phone is easy — as is
deciding when you will next upgrade and to
what. For an Android user, the ‘choice architecture’ is baffling: new phones are launching all the time at every different price-point
imaginable. Unless you want to spend weeks
reading reviews, you can lose the will to live.
It is often the case with super-dominant
brands that they possess a superpower that
When Apple created the smartphone,
did it unwittingly create 20 Marlboro
in electronic form?
is so strong that we accept it without thinking. It is, when you think about it, a remarkable quality of Coca-Cola that, aside from
water, it is the only cold, non-alcoholic
drink you can order anywhere in the world
without having to think for a second whether or not it is available. You can be in the
bar of the Colombe d’Or, a McDonald’s
in Taipei, or a beach shack in Belize and,
if you ask for a Coke, you’ll get it. If they
don’t have it, that’s their fault, not yours.
Ask for a Dr Pepper or a ginger beer in
those places and you’ll get an ‘I’m sorry, no’
accompanied by an eye gesture that somehow implies that you are a weird idiot just
for asking.
Like a fashion brand, Apple’s peculiar
magic lies in taste-making. Conventional
business logic suggests that you should find
out what people want and then provide it to
them in volume at as low a price as possible.
Apple’s approach is closer to that of an artist, chef or couturier — it exists to inform
and improve your taste, rather than to
reflect it: ‘It’s not the customer’s job to figure out what they want,’ as Steve Jobs put it.
In some ways, Apple is more like a
French brand than a democratic American
one. In France, the more expensive the hotel,
the more likely it is to refuse to make you
a sandwich. There’s only one extortionate
prix-fixe menu, but the view from the ter-
race is so good you’re happy to go along
with it.
In the same way, we accept a proprietary charging cable and no headphone jack
because the Apple taste-sommelier tells us to.
Apple hence has the extraordinary
power to make people accept things they
didn’t previously want. No other tech brand
can seduce to the same extent. This gives it
exceptional power to innovate.
How can we not admire this? The only
reason to worry is scale.
Let’s be clear. Humans do almost everything to generate feelings. We don’t have sex
predominantly to produce children — or buy
Prada sunglasses to protect our eyes from the
sun: we do it because of how it feels. Nobody
really goes to the bottle bank to recycle glass:
we do it for the fun of smashing bottles. Or
take those alcohol-based hand sanitisers you
get in public lavatories: if asked, you would
explain that you are using it to reduce the
risk of infection, but really it’s because of the
pervily enjoyable sensation you get when the
liquid evaporates on your hands.
We do things that feel good, then we
post-rationalise. And Apple’s greatest
insight is that a phone’s appeal lies less in
what we can instrumentally do with it than
in how it feels when we do it.
But there’s one important difference.
We don’t (well, I don’t) spend five hours a
day having sex, buying sunglasses or recycling bottles. There aren’t one-and-a-half
billion people spending an hour a day sanitising their hands. Apart from anything else,
there’s a time and a place for all these things.
But for a smartphone the time and place is
‘all the time, any place’.
When something changes behaviour
to the extent the smartphone has done, do
we need to ask what the downside may be?
(Silicon Valley professes to be improving
the world, but is wilfully blind to unintended
consequences.) Are 40 billion working hours
being wasted every year because it feels better to write on a lovely touchscreen rather than an ugly but functional keyboard?
When it is a rainy day in Peckham, how
does it improve your life to see pictures of
your friends on holiday? When Apple created the smartphone, did it unwittingly create
20 Marlboro in electronic form? Though at
least when people smoked they were paying
attention to the other people in the room…
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
APPLE INC/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
iPhone 8 Plus, unveiled last week at the new Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Headquarters, Cupertino, California.
The new features include a Retina HD display, A11 Bionic Chip and wireless charging
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
37
BOOKS & ARTS
© THE STATE HERMITAGE MUSEUM, ST PETERSBURG, 2017. PHOTO: V TEREBENIN
Museums
The icemen cometh
Daisy Dunn
Scythians: warriors of ancient
Siberia
British Museum, until 14 January 2018
You wouldn’t want to stumble upon the
Scythians. Armed with battle-axes, bows and
daggers, and covered in fearsome tattoos,
the horse-mad nomads ranged the Russian
steppe from around 900 to 200 BC, turning
squirrels into fur coats and human teeth into
earrings.
At their mightiest, they controlled territory from the Black Sea to the north border
of China. They left behind no written record,
only enormous burial mounds, chiefly in
the Altai mountains and plains of southern
Siberia. Chambers that weren’t looted in
antiquity were preserved in the permafrost
only to be discovered millennia later. It is
thanks to Peter the Great and the expeditions he launched that so many objects have
now been retrieved from the ice.
There are hats for horses topped with
felt cockerels, lumps of cheese kept in pretty pouches, a stick-on beard dyed chestnut
Chambers were preserved in the
permafrost only to be discovered
millennia later
brown. Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia
is unlikely to leave you pondering how little
humans have changed.
Herodotus said that the Scythians were
cleverer than their Black Sea neighbours.
They did their best work in gold, punching and pummelling appliqués from flat
sheets and moulding huge belt buckles
into shapes of animals in combat. A vulture tramples a tiger to maul a yak. A tiger
chews the hind leg of a panther-wolf-bird
hybrid. Scythian men wore their buckles
over sheepskin coats and leather trousers.
Some tribes completed the ensemble with
tall pointy hats.
The Scythians were racially diverse. Several women buried in mounds at Pazyryk,
near the modern Chinese/Mongolian border, look European, while the chiefs have
Mongol features. Standing face to face with
one of these heavily tattooed, mummified,
injured warriors is as unsettling as it sounds.
Was it the third blow of the battle-axe to
his skull that killed him, or the thrust of the
sword to his brow? At least he was dead
by the time he was scalped and relieved of
his brain.
Herodotus said that the Scythians scalped
their enemies, too, attaching the remains to
their horses’ bridles. They embalmed their
own dead, stuffing them with straw, pine
needles, herbs and larch cones from the
38
War horse: horse headdress made of felt, leather and wood, late 4th–early 3rd century BC
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Siberian forests. The remains were placed in
coffins made from whole trees and interred
in felt-lined chambers. When a chief died,
says Herodotus, his horses were killed and
his cupbearer, cook, groom, squire, messenger, and one of his concubines strangled and
buried with him. The mounds at Pazyryk
contained dozens of horses and enough saddles, bridles and bits to keep them going in
the afterlife.
One of the most beautiful objects in
the exhibition is a small saddlecloth decoration of a winged bull. Discovered in
northern Kazakhstan, it was embroidered
from wool with a delicacy one wouldn’t
expect from a people so enamoured of
triple-blade arrowheads. It was delicacy,
though, that the Scythians used to define
themselves. Pass the cases of terrifying war
implements, and you come to a copy of a
felt tomb hanging featuring men with neat
Herodotus said that the Scythians
would ‘howl in wonder’ as they
inhaled cannabis
bobbly haircuts and cheerful moustaches riding horses. They look almost cute.
Although the human remains suggest the
Scythians were clean-shaven, the Greeks
and Persians characterised them with
beards. Perhaps they aspired to grow facial
hair (no one really knows what the false
beard was for).
Their women, after all, were trouserwearing, horse-riding warriors — Amazons,
according to Herodotus. In his Histories, the Amazons sleep with the Scythian
men but refuse to cohabit with the existing Scythian women because they are not
outdoorsy enough. The Amazons therefore
set off with their Scythians to establish a
new people. With their peculiar wooden
hats — topped with tall plaits of hair —
and weaponry, the women of Scythia must
have looked terrifying to the Greeks. It’s
now thought that they really did inspire the
Amazon myths.
It would have been nice to see something
of the Amazons in this otherwise exhilarating exhibition. One senses a slight tentativeness on the part of the curators to draw
too much from Herodotus, even though the
evidence from the mounds corroborates so
much of his colourful account. He said the
Scythians would ‘howl in wonder’ as they
inhaled cannabis. A brazier with burned
hemp seeds is on display. He described stages in their burial practices that the archaeology confirms. The Scythians were much as
he described them: formidable horsemen,
horsewomen and warriors with a taste for
fine craftsmanship; they worked gold as if it
fell ‘from the sky’.
Illustration
Frills and furbelows
Laura Gascoigne
Over the winter of 1859–60, a handsome
young man could be seen patrolling the
shores of the Gulf of Messina in a rowing
boat, skimming the water’s surface with a
net. The net’s fine mesh was not designed
for fishing, and the young man was not a
Sicilian fisherman. He was the 25-year-old
German biologist Ernst Haeckel from Potsdam searching for minute plankton known
as Radiolaria. In February he wrote excitedly to his fiancée, Anna Sethe, that he had
caught 12 new species in a single day —
‘among them the most charming little creatures’ — and hoped to make it a full century
before leaving.
Haeckel had a degree in medicine but
no interest in treating patients, whose visits
he curtailed by holding surgeries from 5 to
6 a.m. A man of prodigious energies who
survived on a few hours sleep, he preferred
to devote his waking hours to documenting
in watercolour drawings the intricate structures of different species of Radiolaria, as
seemingly infinite in their variety as threedimensional snowflakes. With no formal
art training, he had an astonishing ability
to record complex combinations of spirals,
lattices, stars, needles and radial spokes
by looking through a microscope with his
left eye while focusing on drawing with
his right.
The exquisitely illustrated Monograph
on Radiolaria he published in 1862, soon
after his marriage, won him the German
Academy of Sciences’ highest honour, but
on the day of the award — his 30th birthday — his beloved Anna died of a ruptured
appendix. From that point on, writes Julia
Voss in The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel, he was ‘consumed by a ferocious universal loathing’ and ‘gradually gave way to
the darkest nihilism’. The image is hard to
What do you do with a genius with
unconscionable views?
square with a 1904 photograph of a twinklyeyed Haeckel standing next to a chimpanzee skeleton with a human skull in his hand,
looking like a more benign and less simian
Darwin. But it helps to explain his development of views on race, euthanasia and
war ‘as a continuation of biology by other
means’ that today seem inexcusable.
Things would have been fine if this
Übermensch of a biologist had stuck to
publishing illustrated studies of underwater creatures, from Radiolaria (1862–1888)
&&
""
!"#/**$'%(',+)+.-,-
Daisy Dunn is the author of Catullus’
Bedspread and The Poems of Catullus
(HarperCollins).
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
39
BOOKS & ARTS
© TASCHEN KÖLN/NIEDERSÄCHSISCHE STAATS- UND UNIVERSITÄTSBIBLIOTHEK GÖTTINGEN
‘Cnidarians’ from Haeckel’s book Art Forms in Nature, 1899–1904
40
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
to Siphonophorae (1869–88), Calcareous
Sponges (1872), Arabian Corals (1876),
Medusae (1879–81) and Deep-Sea Keratosa
(1889). The trouble started when he strayed
from marine biology into human biogenetics. Carried away by Darwin’s theory of
evolution, he sought to introduce some
Teutonic order to the vagaries of natural
selection. Darwin scented danger when
his young disciple sent him a copy of his
General Morphology of Organisms in 1866:
‘My dear Haeckel, Your boldness sometimes makes me tremble,’ he wrote, ‘but…
someone must be bold enough to make a
beginning in drawing up tables of descent.’
Haeckel’s illustration of the descent of man
in the embryology textbook Anthropogenie he published eight years later showed
a chimpanzee, gorilla, orang-utan and African up the same tree.
What do you do with a genius with unconscionable views? If he’s an artist, judge him
by his art. Fortunately for history’s verdict
on Haeckel, his art has lasted better than
his science: while his Radiolaria have been
renamed Radiozoa and downgraded from
multicellular to unicellular organisms, his
dazzling draughtsmanship remains undiminished. It takes an illustrator’s skill to
describe such minutiae, but an artist’s imag-
It takes an illustrator’s skill to
describe such minutiae, but an artist’s
imagination to bring them to life
ination to bring them to life: if the frills and
furbelows of Haeckel’s ‘Desmonema annasethe’ (1879) evoke lacy lingerie blowing in
a breeze, it reflects the fact that he named
this particular jellyfish in loving memory of
his first wife, just as he later immortalised
his young lover Frida von Uslar-Gleichen —
lost to a morphine overdose in 1903 — in
the nomenclature of the jellyfish Rhophilema frida. (His longer-lived second wife of 30
years, Agnes, didn’t have so much as a sea
slug named after her.)
It was Frida who assisted him with the
preparation of what would become his
most influential work, Art Forms in Nature,
published in ten instalments between 1899
and 1904. Coinciding with the birth of art
nouveau, its treasury of biomorphic wonders was plundered for inspiration by
architects and designers. Amsterdam’s
new Stock Exchange, opened in 1903,
and Monaco’s Oceanographic Museum,
launched in 1910, both boasted chandeliers modelled on Rhophilema frida, but
the most extraordinary monument to Haeckel’s art was the entrance to the 1900
Exposition Universelle in Paris designed
by René Binet after Clathrocanium reginae, a species of Radiolaria resembling a
Prussian spiked helmet.
Haeckel’s influence on the fine arts is
harder to measure. The connections Voss
makes with Kandinsky and Klimt seem a
little forced, but Max Ernst’s snappily titled
‘The Gramineous Bicycle Garnished with
Bells the Dappled Fire Damps and the
Echinoderms Bending the Spine to Look
for Caresses’ (1920–1) is a clear descendant of Haeckel’s calcareous sponges. The
600 pages of stunning plates in this sumptuous book could win him a whole new
generation of artist followers, just as long
as they stick with the marine invertebrates
and avoid the apes.
The Art and Science of Ernst Haeckel is
published by Taschen.
Exhibitions
Mothers’ ruin
Kate Chisholm
At the heart of Basic Instincts, the new exhibition at the Foundling Museum in London,
is an extraordinarily powerful painting of
a mother and baby. At one time the ‘Angel
of Mercy’ was sold as a greetings card by
its owner, the Yale Center of British Art in
Connecticut, presumably intended as something you might send your own mother or
child. But take a second glance and you
might well wonder who bought the card and
who they might have sent it to.
In Joseph Highmore’s Georgian scene,
a young, fashionably dressed woman is
splayed across the canvas, her feet in delicate silk shoes, a tiny baby, naked, resting
precariously on her lap. On her left cowers a
veiled figure in grey, resolutely turned away
from her; on her right, a huge figure in classical robes and wearing a pair of massive
feathery wings offers a guiding hand, pointing towards the buildings in the background
which are meant to represent the Foundling
Hospital, established in London in 1739.
Closer study reveals that the delicate pink
ribbon stretched between the woman’s
hands is poised around the baby’s neck; a
tiny pink brushstroke indicates the baby’s
tongue, gasping for breath.
It becomes clear that this is not a typical
virginal scene. The woman has been stopped
in the nick of time from strangling her baby
to death. But her fashionable silks, her desperate expression, the hooded, cowering figure all suggest the baby is the consequence
of rape, not wanton sex, and the woman has
been abused, ruined and now abandoned,
possibly by the very people who are now
looking at the painting. Her baby just-born,
perhaps on that very spot, arrives not in a
comfortable bed but in a dark cavern, outwith the safe domestic space.
There’s a shocking immediacy about the
portrait, a sense that what is unfolding in
the picture is happening around you. This
woman could be your daughter, Highmore
seems to be saying. The picture, from about
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
1746, was never put on public display.
Highmore, who was a friend of the artist
William Hogarth, a fellow governor of the
Foundling Hospital and responsible for the
image on the subscription roll, appears to
have realised it was way ahead of its time.
When it did eventually appear in a sale
catalogue at Sotheby’s in the 1960s it was
attributed to the more famous Hogarth, not
Highmore, and described as ‘An angel succouring a foundling child’, the focus diverted from the mother’s actions to the act of
mercy, of rescue.
Now at last it is being shown here for
the first time, and at the end of an exhibi-
The woman has been stopped in
the nick of time from strangling
her baby to death
tion designed to show that Highmore (1692–
1780) was much more than just a society
painter, depicting the respectable front of
the Georgian middle class. His choice of
murder weapon — the pink ribbon — is a
very poignant reminder of why the Foundling Hospital was established by Thomas
Coram, a retired sea captain.
On his return from roaming the world
in the 1720s Coram was shocked by all the
starving, threadbare children he saw on the
streets of his home city, abandoned and
41
BOOKS & ARTS
YALE CENTER FOR BRITISH ART, PAUL MELLON COLLECTION
‘The Angel of Mercy’, c.1746, by Joseph Highmore
struggling to survive, and he determined
to rescue them. The charitable foundation,
which still bears his name and still works ‘to
create better chances for children’, accepted 228 children between 1741 and 1745,
schooled at the hospital and trained for
future employment. Many of the mothers
left a token as a distinguishing mark, in case
they should ever be in a position to reclaim
their child, and many of these tokens were
ribbons, very often pink.
‘We need to rethink Highmore as an artist but also rethink that period, when even
middle-class women were in danger of
assault and social exclusion,’ says Dr Jacqueline Riding, curator of the exhibition.
Another portrait on show is of the famous
courtesan Teresia Phillips, who claimed to
have fallen into prostitution after being
raped at the age of 13. Highmore gave per42
mission for the picture to be used as the
frontispiece to her memoirs, published in
1748, and for a note to be inserted in the text
indicating that the portrait could be seen at
his studio in Lincoln’s Inn. It was an adver-
In the 18th century even middle-class
women were in danger of assault
and social exclusion
tisement for his work, but it was also a huge
risk, aligning himself with such a notorious
female celebrity.
Visitors to his studio could also have
viewed a portrait of ‘the noble Clarissa’,
heroine of Samuel Richardson’s eponymous
novel, also published in 1748. Clarissa, from
an educated, wealthy family, dies of hunger
and self-neglect after being abandoned by
them for refusing to marry the man they had
chosen for her and then duped and raped
by her persecutor Lovelace. The novel was
a huge success, some of the girls deposited
at the Foundling Hospital were named after
her, and it remains (at just under a million
words, or four volumes of 600 pages apiece)
perhaps the most profound dissection of
male and female desire ever written.
Highmore’s earlier portraits of women
are very much of their time — decorous,
fashionable, somewhat dull. But his connection with the Foundling Hospital alerted him
to the inequalities and injustices of his time
and to the plight of women and children at
the mercy of men who always held the keys.
‘Angel of Mercy’ still has the power to shock
and, sadly, tells a very modern story.
Basic Instinct is at the Foundling Museum
from 29 September until 7 January 2018.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Art market
Fickle fortune
Martin Gayford
Here’s an intriguing thought experiment:
could Damien Hirst disappear? By that I
mean not the 52-year-old artist himself —
that would be sensational indeed — but the
vast fame, the huge prices, the hectares of
newsprint, profiles, reviews and interviews
by the thousand. Could all that just fade
from our collective memory into a black
hole of oblivion?
The answer is: yes, quite easily. Artists
vanish all the time. Take the case of Hans
Makart (1840–1884). He was a contemporary of Monet, Manet and Degas, but enormously more acclaimed in his lifetime than
any of those. A period of Viennese life was
dubbed the ‘Makart era’, a fashionable
idiom was named the ‘Makartstil’.
One reason for his success was that he
was a master of PR. Makart transformed
his studio, an old foundry, into a vast stage
set crammed with floral displays, sculpture and opulent bric-à-brac. Cosima Wagner described it as a ‘wonder of decorative
beauty, a sublime lumber-room’. To a 21stcentury eye, old photographs of the space
look like installation art.
Makart was able to put on a tremendous performance, too. In 1879 he designed
a spectacular parade to celebrate the silver
wedding anniversary of the Emperor Franz
Joseph, with floats, costumes, every detail
conceived by the artist — and Makart leading the entire caboodle in person on a white
horse. The Viennese liked it so much they
carried on repeating the ‘Makart parade’
until the 1960s.
He gave his age what it wanted: masses
of voluptuous naked flesh depicted with
sub-Rubenesque gusto, mixed with jewels,
rich textiles and maybe a spot of blood. But
Could Damien Hirst fade from our
collective memory into a black
hole of oblivion?
who remembers Makart now? To be fair, a
few art historians do — and probably more
in Austria than elsewhere. But compared
with Cézanne or Sisley — obscure nobodies
when he was riding that white horse — his is
a very dim name these days.
Makart’s is not an isolated case. Many of
the most familiar figures in the history of art
passed through periods — lasting in some
cases for centuries — during which nobody
paid them or their works any attention at all.
In 1786, Goethe — one of the most cultivated and erudite people in Europe — passed
through Assisi without looking at the frescoes of the Upper and Lower Churches of
San Francesco. Giotto, Simone Martini and
Cimabue simply weren’t then on the list of
interesting things to see.
Similarly, nobody took much interest in
El Greco between his death in 1614 and the
mid 19th century. For a long while, Johannes
Vermeer was, if not a complete artistic nonentity, then no more famous than dozens of
other 17th-century Dutch genre painters.
Even within recent times, the rise of Vermeer’s reputation has been stratospheric. In
2014, the most popular art exhibition in the
world was a show in Tokyo in which the biggest attraction by far was one of his paintings,
‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ (seen by 750,000
people at a rate of 10,000 a day). Twenty-five
years ago this picture was not even the most
celebrated Vermeer.
The market in artistic fame — even of
old masters — is surprisingly volatile. The
examples above are, of course, those who
got remembered again. But plenty, famous
in their day, never get rediscovered. Alternatively, they may be hugely admired by one
age, then relegated to a much less prominent
spot in our collective consciousness. Raphael Mengs, Guido Reni and the Carracci are
among those currently in this position: their
works still hang on the walls of major art galleries, but they are not paid much attention.
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43
BOOKS & ARTS
PHOTO BY VCG WILSON/CORBIS VIA GETTY IMAGES
‘The Japanese’ by
Hans Makart,
1870–75
but only for a short period (approximately
1988–93 in Hirst’s case; 1959–63 in Smith’s).
He certainly managed to provide just
what a particular era wanted (future historians may call it ‘the plutocratic period’). His
auction of new works at Sotheby’s — held, by
eerie coincidence, on 15 September 2008, the
day Lehman Brothers collapsed — realised
£111 million. But his prices and reputation
have been bobbing up and down since then.
His current exhibition, Treasures from
the Wreck of the Unbelievable, which fills
two large museums in Venice until December, looks like an attempted relaunch. It has
pulled in the crowds but received some hostile reviews (‘undoubtedly one of the worst
exhibitions of contemporary art staged in
the past decade’ according to ARTnews).
The numerous exhibits, fabricated at a cost
of millions and priced accordingly, might
well sink back down into the cold, green
depths of collective indifference.
The good news, from Hirst’s point of
view, is that what disappears may always
resurface. Makart, Smith and Denny may
yet make a comeback. To echo Hockney, it
would require an incredibly perceptive person to know what, if anything, being made
today will fascinate future centuries.
Opera
Small wonders
Michael Tanner
Pagliacci; L’enfant et les sortilèges
Leeds Grand Theatre, and touring until
18 November
When it comes to art that is being made
right now, the volatility is even greater.
Recently, I’ve been looking at Private View,
a lavish coffee-table book published in 1965.
It was intended as a snapshot, as the subtitle
puts it, of ‘The Lively World of British Art’,
including gallery owners, writers and many
others, but mainly artists.
In many ways it’s a marvellous volume,
with wonderfully evocative photographs by
Lord Snowdon. Quite a few of those featured
are still highly familiar: Bridget Riley, Francis
Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud. But
dozens of names are now known only to specialists in the period. Some of them even the
experts would have to look up.
David Hockney, who got a few pages in
Private View, once observed that ‘very few
people would know what the truly significant
art of today is. You’d have to be an incredibly perceptive person to do so. The history
books keep being changed.’ That’s demonstrably true. And it’s possible to climb a long
way up the pole, then slip right down again.
Some years ago, I was lining up to go
into a lunch in honour of the artist representing Britain at the Venice Biennale. I fell
into conversation with an elderly man stand44
ing behind me in the queue whose face I
couldn’t quite place. After a bit he remarked
in a melancholy tone: ‘In 1970, this lunch was
given for me.’ It was Richard Smith.
During the 1960s and early 1970s Smith,
and his friend and art-school contemporary Robyn Denny, were among the brightest stars in British art. The glittering prizes
— Venice, Tate retrospectives while they
were still in early middle-age— were theirs.
Then it all went away. There are 85 works by
Denny in the Tate collection, but only one is
currently on view (which is more than there
have sometimes been).
Towards the end of his life, Smith reflected sadly: ‘I was the right kind of artist for
that kind of time. Then… I don’t know.’
Denny kept telling him, Smith said, ‘Our
time will come, Dick. Our time will come.’
But he’d been saying that for a long time:
‘years and years and years’.
So the answer is that it would be entirely conceivable for Hirst — mega-rich and
colossally well known though he is — to melt
away like mist. Indeed he has several resemblances to Makart and Smith. Like the former he is a master of self-presentation. Like
the latter, it seems to me, he had good ideas,
It has been a reasonably good week for
peripatetic opera-loving female-underwear
fetishists. In La bohème at Covent Garden
Musetta slipped out of her knickers and
swung them round, as everyone, except
me, mentioned in their reviews; and now,
in Leeds, in the first of Opera North’s ‘Little Greats’, what laughter the actors in the
drama got was from Tonio and others trying
on Nedda’s bra.
This new production of Pagliacci by
Charles Edwards, sadly under-attended, was
possibly too ingenious. It is set in a rehearsal
room, and we see the first day of rehearsals and then the final run-through. It kind of
works, but anyone unfamiliar with the opera
would have found it mysterious, and some of
the time I felt I was on shifting sands. Still,
the central thrust of this sole real masterpiece of verismo hit one powerfully, from the
superbly delivered prologue by the Tonio of
Richard Burkhard to the final despairing cry
that the comedy is over. There are occasional vulgarities in the score, the last few bars
being the most egregious case. But mainly it
is dramatically pungent, wonderfully melodious, and frequently inspired. Its usual
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
twin, the shameless Cavalleria rusticana, is
perhaps more coarsely enjoyable, but Pagliacci has refinement and, in the relatively
complex figure of Tonio, the deformed (not
that he was here) and jealous clown, pathos
and unease.
With an all-round excellent cast, Peter
Auty’s Canio stood out, dramatically frightening and with his superb voice on its best
form. But Canio is given the most chances;
the build-up from suspicion to conviction to
crime passionnel is plotted by the composer-librettist with skill, the performer of the
role just having to be careful that he doesn’t
feel too much too soon. Jon Vickers set the
standard here, but Auty can be ranked alongside him. And the Nedda of Elin Pritchard
was excellent too, in her Madame Bovarylike dreams, and her growing nervousness.
Opera North’s orchestra showed that it is
not only the Ring that they are consummate
performers of, and Tobias Ringborg, not previously known to me, found plenty of colours in the score.
These Little Greats will come in various combinations, and audiences can pick
which ones they prefer, or just go to a single
one — there is a separate programme book
for each of them. The second on this occasion was Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges, to
Colette’s marvellous text. A much trickier
piece to bring off, it actually triumphs in this
production by Annabel Arden to an extent
I’d hardly have thought possible, especially after the Glyndebourne production, one
of the few that I have taken as definitive.
Wallis Giunta is brilliant as the Child (it’s
performed in French), more plausibly boyish in figure and movement than any other
I’ve seen. The cast clearly adore doing it,
with John Graham-Hall outstanding as Tea
Pot, a large upwards- curving black spout in
just the right place. Maybe the Tom Cat and
Female Cat could make more of their duet,
but though Colette might have liked them
to, Ravel might not have. Martin André conducted with the gusto that is often lacking
when people tackle this piece, and brought
the work to a close that was both charming
and moving.
It occurred to me midway through the
piece that it is really Ravel’s Parsifal, not
perhaps an insight that everyone will want
to share. But the Child is shown us, to begin
with, very much in a state of nature, bent
on self-gratification and failing to notice
the feelings of others. When Parsifal is
hauled on to the stage for shooting a swan
and declares, ‘If I see something flying, I
shoot it’, he has to learn pity, which he is
able to do only through the recognition of
his ill-treatment of his mother, leading to
her death. The things that we have seen the
Child mistreating, from furniture to live
creatures, are all moved when he bandages
the Squirrel’s wounded paw, and they murmur that ‘Il est bon, l’enfant’ — Ravel’s version of Parsifal’s final healing of Amfortas’s
wound, with the knights’ approving chorus.
In the programme book there are heavyweight quotations from Melanie Klein, but
she is only, as is so often the case with psychoanalytic thinkers, emphasising a point
that has already been made with clinching
conviction by artists.
Television
Loose ends
James Walton
On Sunday night, Holliday Grainger was
on two terrestrial channels at the same
time playing a possibly smitten sidekick of
a gruff but kindly detective with a beard.
Even so, she needn’t worry too much about
getting typecast. In BBC1’s Strike, she continued as the immaculately turned-out,
London-dwelling Robin, who uses such
traditional sleuthing methods as Google
searches. On Channel 4, not only was she
dressed in rags, with a spectacular facial
scar and a weird hairdo, she was also living
in an unnamed dystopian city, where her
detective work relied on a handy capacity
to read minds.
This was the first and highly promising
episode of Electric Dreams, which has set
itself the ambitious task of adapting ten scifi stories by Philip K. Dick, each with a different writer, director and cast. Sunday’s
programme opened with a demonstration
understandably protesting against a new law
that all citizens must have their minds read
by the mutants known as Teeps — as in telepathics. Unfortunately for the protestors, a
Teep called Honor (Grainger) was already
deploying her psychic powers to identify the
ringleader for the cops. And once she had,
it didn’t take her long to discover either his
most shameful secrets or his co-conspirators.
Her reward was to be made the assistant to
Agent Ross (Richard Madden) in his quest
to root out more anti-government, anti-Teep
subversives.
At first, it seemed as if the pair had risen
above the mutual suspicion between ‘Normals’ and Teeps — who’ve been banished
to their own ghetto. The longer the episode
went on, though, the less certain this became.
Dick’s stories, written during the Cold
War, are already famous for their ability to
resonate in any era. And here — without the
programme ever stinting on the thrills — the
parallels with our anxieties about state and
corporate surveillance, the death of privacy
and the fear of minorities (justified or otherwise) came across in a way that managed to
feel both unignorable and unforced. It was
also nicely tricky to work out whose side we
were on.
My only slightly sheepish reservation is
that the ending was one of those inconclusive ones, where the final revelation — in
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
this case, the real nature of Ross and Honor’s
relationship — was left unrevealed. As ever,
you could appreciate how smart and grownup it was to let us make up our own minds.
But as ever too, in a less sophisticated part of
the mind, there was a definite twinge of disappointment at being left dangling.
The other big new programmes of the
week were all sitcoms — which I’ll take in
ascending order of quality. On Wednesday,
ITV brought us Bad Move, co-written by and
starring Jack Dee as a man who’s moved to
the countryside with his wife — or at least
to that version of the countryside generally found in sitcoms. Cue rude shopkeepers,
smug neighbours who announce their visits
with a hearty ‘Coo-ee!’ and much anguish
about the lack of internet access. The result
isn’t wholly terrible, but it is distinctly plodding, as if Dee had given himself a creative
writing assignment in which the aim was to
reproduce as faithfully as possible all the elements of a bog-standard prime-time sitcom.
Far better, and far more idiosyncratic,
is Porters (Dave, Wednesday), a pitch-dark
show featuring a group of hospital porters who vary between the unpleasant, the
The people most depressingly fluent in
BBC bollocks are the ones who’ll have
been promoted next time you see them
deluded and the psychopathic. Subjects for
hilarity on Wednesday ranged from mental
illness to a bloke smashing a dead rabbi on
the head with a mobile phone.
This is not, then, a programme for those
who like their comedy lovable. On the other
hand, the plotting is inventive (at times
alarmingly so), there are plenty of good
lines, and, as in Green Wing, the heartlessness somehow ends up being bracing rather
than mean-spirited.
And so to the best of the lot: BBC2’s
W1A, now back for a third series. The makers claim that their feelings towards the
BBC are a mixture of exasperation and
affection — but on Monday, once again, the
exasperation was much easier to spot.
We rejoined the BBC management
team as they launched a new initiative
that requires ‘finding what we do best and
doing less of it better’. (Incidentally, in my
intermittent experience, the people most
depressingly fluent in BBC bollocks are the
ones who’ll have been promoted next time
you see them.) Meanwhile, the more cutting-edge types have decided that ‘nobody
watches television any more’ and that the
future lies with ‘BBC Me’, where viewers
provide content for the corporation instead
of the outmoded other way round.
As usual, enjoying W1A’s pin-sharp, sideof-the-angels satire was undercut by just one
thing: the thought that somewhere in the
real BBC there’ll be people wondering if all
this doesn’t sound like rather a good idea
(going forward).
45
BOOKS & ARTS
The rivals: Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe and Sverrir Gudnason as Bjorn Borg in Borg vs McEnroe
Cinema
No balls
Deborah Ross
Borg vs McEnroe
U, Nationwide
Borg vs McEnroe is a dramatised account
of one of the greatest tennis rivalries of
all time — between Bjorn Borg and John
McEnroe (the clue was always in the title)
— that doesn’t hit nearly as hard as it
should. It does the job. It gets us from A to
B. But it doesn’t dazzle. It doesn’t have the
dramatic smarts to lend either surprising
tension or excitement to otherwise familiar events, or shed any new light on them.
It’s more the pt-pt-pt-pt of a stolid baseline
46
rally and now, you will be thankful to hear,
that’s it with the tennis puns. (I only had
two anyhow.)
The film stars Sverrir Gudnason as
Borg and Shia LaBeouf as McEnroe and
it all plays out in the lead-up to their most
famous showdown. That is, the 1980 Wimbledon final that ran to five tempestuous
Borg stares dishily out to sea, but what
is he thinking? We never find out
sets. For Borg, the cool Swede, a win would
mean a record-breaking fifth consecutive
title, but only if he could see off this American upstart with the volatile temper, potty
mouth and wild, frizzy hair. It also interlaces
their back stories although, being a Scandinavian production, it is far more interested
in Borg than in McEnroe. The film could
quite easily have been called plain Borg. Yet
we still don’t get under his skin. Far from it.
Mostly, he is allowed to stare deeply into
the middle distance like some dishy Scandinoir detective or, perhaps, a character from
a Bergman film. But what is he thinking? We
never find out.
Directed by Janus Metz, and written by
Ronnie Sandahl, the film initially depicts
the players as polar opposites. Borg is
shown in his Monaco apartment, staring
deeply and dishily out to sea, while McEnroe watches TV footage of himself, remonstrating with a referee, prior to appearing
on a TV chat show. ‘You and Borg are as
different as two people can be,’ the chatshow host tells him.
Borg is ‘Ice-Borg’. He is unflappable,
seemingly emotionless. He spends the night
before matches testing the strings on nearly
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
50 rackets, feeling the tension with his bare
feet. Meanwhile, McEnroe (‘Superbrat’) is
shown losing his cool every which way. He
loses his cool on court, with interviewers,
and does not obsessively test his rackets
the night before. Instead, he goes clubbing.
I think that if the chat-show host hadn’t
pointed out that they’re as different as two
people can be, we might possibly even have
worked it out for ourselves.
Except they aren’t, essentially. That different. The film’s big reversal comes at
around the halfway mark when we spool
back in time to see that Borg was furiously angry as a youngster, but had been
taught to channel it by his trainer, Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgard). ‘All that rage, fear
and panic,’ Bergelin tells him. ‘Load it in
every stroke.’ The young Borg runs into the
forest, screams, hits trees, gets over himself,
emerges a new man. (What is this therapy
and where can I get some?) But where did
all the anger come from initially? There’s
some suggestion that he suffered from discrimination as a boy, wasn’t considered the
The film simply pt-pt-pt-pts its way
from A to B, like a stolid baseline rally
right class for tennis, but this isn’t a sufficient explanation. And as an adult, he had
all these weird superstitious rituals — his
parents were only allowed to watch him
at Wimbledon every second year and had
to wear the same clothes; he always had
to have the same hire car — which are
explained to us in montage but are never
interwoven into his psyche.
Meanwhile, McEnroe is so barely coloured-in he’s more of a sideshow. LaBeouf
does capture his scrappy volatility, but it’s
that, over and over. And Gudnason’s performance is ultimately as shallow because
he’s never required to show anything
beyond that cool detachment. But what is
he thinking, ffs? Nope, still haven’t a clue.
It does make you long for scriptwriter Peter Morgan to have taken it on. He is
the master of warring rivalries: Rush, The
Damned United, Frost/Nixon, even The
Queen, which was, in effect, the Queen vs
Tony Blair. He would have given us a dramatic through line, as well as an understanding as to why any of this might matter, plus
those smarts — the ones that bring tension
and excitement to familiar events. The final
match, told in a 20-minute sequence, may
or may not be a decent re-enactment —I’m
not enough of a tennis nut to know — but
because we’ve never properly understood
what’s at stake for both players psychologically, there is little at stake for us. Also, the
pacing is so workmanlike that it does not
feel like any kind of thrilling culmination.
It has simply pt-pt-pt-pt-ed its way to here.
This is, in short, a standard sports biopic
which, like I said, does the job. But it certainly does not ace it. (Look! I had a third!)
Radio
Seeing the light
Kate Chisholm
‘You can’t lie… on radio,’ says Liza Tarbuck.
The Radio 2 DJ was being interviewed for
the network’s birthday portrait, celebrating 50 years since it morphed from the Light
Programme into its present status as the
UK’s best-loved radio station — with almost
15 million listeners each week. ‘The intimacy
of radio dictates you can’t lie because people can hear it.’
She’s absolutely right. As she went on
to explain, when you’re driving and it’s just
the radio and you, no distraction, ‘You can
hear things in my voice that I don’t even
know I’m giving away.’ It’s what makes
radio so testing for politicians, you can see
right through them, and why so many of the
DJs on Radio 2 have become household
names. We love Ken Bruce, Jo Whiley, Liza
Tarbuck, Clare Teal, Steve Wright — and
so many of those who have gone before —
because they sound as if they really want to
talk to us, really know how we are feeling,
really want to make our days a little more
cheerful.
Even when, as Ken Bruce told us in the
rather clumsily titled Bryan Adams: Radio
2 — a Birthday Portrait (produced by Susan
Marling), it used to take four days for a listener’s comment to reach him in the studio, there was always an immediacy about
the connection between presenter and listener. On this has been built Radio 2’s success. You might not like the music but it’s
hard to switch off when the chat between
tracks is so engaging, so energised, so keen
to please, without being patronising, overeager or complacent. Your attention is
never taken for granted.
It’s always been a go-to place for me
when I need a pick-me-up, a more lighthearted look at the world, an alternative
to gloom and despair. The new season of
One to One (produced by Mark Smalley)
on Radio 4 is focusing on practical, everyday ways to counteract more serious bouts
of despair. Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of this magazine, talked about her own
struggles with mental illness and in the
first programme on Tuesday took us outdoors, into the countryside, to hear from
the psychiatrist Dr Alan Kellas what he
has learned about the benefits to health
of reconnecting ourselves with the natural
world.
Kellas is working on research into ‘sustainable’ mental health, suggesting that
being outdoors can help us to become
aware, to switch on our hearing, engage with
the world, while being active may provide
a sense of purpose. Hardman recalled how
she has been helped by engaging in ‘methodical activities’, forcing herself to go for walks
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
along the shoreline near her home with a
notebook and pen. ‘Just writing down every
wildflower that I saw… It does seem to help
take my mind away from the torture chamber inside my head and to focus on the sea
campion or thistles…’
This week on the World Service its
daily afternoon programme, BBC OS,
presented by Nuala McGovern, has been
looking at the experiences of Syrian refugees across Europe and the Middle East
in an unusual collaboration with Germany’s Westdeutscher Rundfunk radio station and Swedish Radio (both of which are
funded at least in part by licence fee). The
intention, part of a European Broadcasting Union initiative, is to find out whether those who have been forced to flee are
recovering from being uprooted, from
those terrifying journeys by sea and long
treks across Europe in the hope of finding refuge. Are they beginning to feel integrated with the communities where they
ended up?
WDR has established its own digital station for refugees, edited and presented by
them. WDRforyou reaches its audience,
in Farsi, Pashtu, Arabic and other Middle
Eastern languages, mostly through Facebook. Monday’s ‘live’ broadcast on the
‘Writing down every wildflower I saw
seemed to take my mind away from
the torture chamber in my head’
World Service (produced by Zoe Murphy)
was from the WDR studios in Cologne and
was streamed throughout Europe via the
EBU. Salama and May, both from Syria and
trained as journalists by WDR and Swedish Radio respectively, gave us their take
on what it means to be a refugee. Salama
wanted to investigate attitudes to death in
Germany. What will happen when I die?
Where should I be buried? If in Germany,
none of my Syrian relatives will be able to
visit my grave.
May, who arrived in Sweden in 2012, was
married at 15 to an abusive husband. She is
now divorced and no longer wears the hijab.
She wanted to find out how other Syrian
women have been affected by moving to a
country where attitudes to marriage, gender
equality, the woman’s place are so different.
‘I feel like a teenager,’ she says. ‘I’m finding
out who I really am.’
Later in the week we heard from Syrians living in Malmo in Sweden, Berlin,
Beirut, Cairo and Athens. What emerges
is how different the stories of integration
can be, and how surprising, the newcomers to Beirut sometimes finding it far more
difficult to settle than those who ended up
in Malmo.
If you missed them, the reports and live
programme can be found online. It’s an
opportunity to catch up on stories that have
slipped off the agenda.
47
BOOKS & ARTS
MANUEL HARLAN
THE LISTENER
LCD Soundsystem: American
Dream
Grade: B+
Number one. Everywhere, just about.
You have to say that the man has
a certain sureness of touch. Hip
enough not to be quite mainstream,
rock enough not to be quite pop. The
knowing nods — to Depeche Mode,
Eno, 1970s post-punk and 1980s
grandiosity and always, always, Bowie.
Fifteen years on from James
Murphy’s first excursion in these
clothes and the man from New
Jersey, now grizzled and greying, has
come up with an album as good as
any he’s made — which is a qualified
nod of admiration: I often find his
tunes too eager to please, the neatly
corralled stabs of funk a little forced.
Murphy always wants to have his
cake and eat it, get the dance crowd
in and the indie kids too. You have
to say that, commercially, this
formula works. But it is a very arch
balancing act.
American Dream — you just know
that title isn’t going to be one of
exultation — is fashionably morose,
full of self-reproach. There are whiffs
of the Bunnymen here and there and,
as the melodies swarm upwards and
power chords come in, even (Christ
help us) Simple Minds. But, leaving
the lyrics — banal, inchoate, selfpitying — aside, there are some very
fine moments. Few people can tweak
their little synthesisers to such effect.
‘I Used To’ is ominous, thudding,
electro-rock with a crisp, mesmerising
drumbeat. ‘Oh Baby’ — fiendishly
cleverly constructed — sounds a bit
like Yazoo covering Suicide. The best
is last — the 12-minute minimalist
throb of ‘Black Screen’, where at last
the listener is invited to wait a while,
to immerse themselves, before the
pay-off. If only he had the confidence,
or the lack of concern, to do that
more often.
— Rod Liddle
48
Robert Lindsay as Jack Cardiff in Prism
Theatre
Speech therapy
Lloyd Evans
Oslo
Lyttelton Theatre, until 23 September
Prism
Hampstead Theatre, until 14 October
Oslo opened in the spring of 2016 at a modest venue in New York. It moved to Broadway and this imported version has arrived
at the National on its way to a prebooked
run at the Harold Pinter Theatre. It’s bound
to be a hit because it’s good fun, it gives a
knotty political theme a thorough examination, and it’s aimed squarely at the ignorant.
In the early 1990s Norwegian diplomats
set up ‘back-channel’ talks between the
PLO and Israel. The play follows that pro-
cess and it treats geopolitics like a flat-share
comedy. The bickering partners are hauled
in by the lordly Norwegians and forced to
hammer out their differences around the
table. Play-goers need have no prior knowledge of Israel and its fraught relationship
with the Palestinians. Everything is laid out
on a plate and the viewer is made to feel like
a privileged observer at the launch of a conspiracy. Each side is guilty of subterfuge and
exaggeration. The Norwegians pretend to
be impartial while engaging in ‘constructive
ambiguity’, i.e. the creation of false obstacles
whose removal can be claimed as a victory
by either party.
Toby Stephens enjoys himself playing
the host, Terje Rod-Larsen, as an oily buffoon, and Paul Herzberg’s Simon Peres is an
amusing study in majestic vanity. Director
Bartlett Sher manages to capture the emotional temper of the talks. The delegates are
all chest-thumping males who seem to adore
the romance of the process, the schoolboy
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
secrecy, the encrypted language, the hushhush locations, the scent of power, and the
awareness that history itself is present at the
table. It becomes clear that the simple physical proximities, the sharing of waffles and
whisky, can help to break down the barriers.
Sworn enemies gradually move from mutual
suspicion to grudging respect and finally to
amity and friendship.
By the end the Arabs are laughing at an
impersonation of Yasser Arafat performed
by an Israeli wearing his jacket as a headdress. A melancholy truth emerges from all
this: if every Israeli and Palestinian were
forced to spend a month talking heart-toheart to his neighbours, peace would follow.
Terry Johnson’s new play charts the life
of Jack Cardiff, an Oscar-winning cameraman, who worked with Hitchcock, John
Huston, King Vidor, and many others. We
meet the ageing genius in his dotage as he
dodders around a converted garage in the
care of his wife and a nurse. The set-up is
baffling. Cardiff is writing an autobiography and he describes to his nurse the artistic challenges involved in creating a great
shot. Yet Cardiff has severe dementia so
If every Israeli and Palestinian were
forced to spend a month talking heartto-heart, peace would follow
his vanishing vocabulary keeps undermining his ability to reminisce articulately. And
for some reason the nurse has a dual role
as a secretary. Her job is to annotate Cardiff’s random thoughts and shape them into
a book. And yet she doesn’t own a computer.
She has to bang out his words two-fingered
on an old typewriter. It’s very hard to grasp.
Robert Lindsay seems content to play
Cardiff as a harmlessly dotty old twerp.
Claire Skinner, far too young for Cardiff’s
wife, potters around in mumsy clothes and
a hairdo like an electrocuted hedgehog.
It’s all rather dispiriting to watch. After
the interval we flip back half a century
and we’re in the Belgian Congo, where
Cardiff is filming The African Queen. We
watch him relaxing between takes as he
plays cards with Bogie and Lauren Bacall
and swaps catty witticisms with Katharine
Hepburn. A sex-mad Bacall drags Bogie
off for a quickie in the jungle and Bogie
lashes Hepburn with a caustic put-down.
‘No wonder Spencer drinks.’ This half-hour
section is so good it deserves to be extended into a full-length play.
Claire Skinner is utterly transformed as
Hepburn. Her wig and make-up deserve
prizes for their creator, Amy Coates. Skinner brilliantly conveys Hepburn’s delicate,
prickly manner, and her punctilious diction is matched by the barbed fluency of her
prose. The entire scene is wonderful. Then
the action shifts again. Marilyn wafts in and
we watch Cardiff setting up a shot and easing her frazzled nerves. Then we’re back
to Cardiff pootling around in his garage in
extreme old age again.
There are great things in this flawed play.
Fans of Hollywood’s glory years will adore
it. But the blunders and missteps are puzzling. Terry Johnson has been allowed to
combine the roles of writer, script editor and
director. An extra pair of eyes would have
helped.
Music
Director’s cut
Norman Lebrecht
Much fuss has been made of the title given
to Sir Simon Rattle on arrival at the London Symphony Orchestra. Unlike his LSO
predecessors — Valery Gergiev, Colin
Davis, Michael Tilson Thomas, Claudio
Abbado, André Previn — all of whom were
engaged as principal conductor, Rattle has
been named music director, a position that
bears serious administrative responsibilities.
As Rattle put it recently in one of a dozen
media interviews: ‘Valery wasn’t interested,
nor Claudio. Colin loved them to bits, but
he made it very clear that he did not want
anything to do with the running or the auditions or the personnel… I will be much more
involved with the day to day.’
But will he? Of all the erosions that
have affected orchestras in the past generation, among the most significant is the progressive degradation of the music director.
Once a towering despot who fired players
at will and treated orchestras as personal
fiefdoms — think Toscanini, Beecham, Solti
— the role evolved first into a chummy primus inter pares and latterly into some way
below par.
The passing of tyrants is not altogether
unwelcome. Boston players still tell of the
oboist who, fired in mid-rehearsal, stalked
out yelling, ‘Fuck you, Koussevitzky!’ The
Russian maestro, no master of English idiom,
replied, ‘Is too late to apologise.’ Despotism
of his kind was decidedly unappealing.
Leonard Bernstein, Koussevitzky’s protégé, pioneered a friendlier style, salting his
rehearsals with Jewish jokes and, on occasion, dropping both hands to his sides and
conducting by expression alone — as if to
say that the conductor is a luxury item, to be
sparingly used and widely shared.
By the 1980s it was common for the top
maestros to be music director on two or
three continents, allowing each orchestra
a fragment of their golden attention. With
maestros away, their powers were usurped.
Musicians seized the right to choose new
members of the orchestra. In 1989, Herbert
von Karajan resigned from the Berlin Philharmonic after years of acrimony, following
the players’ rejection of his choice of principal clarinet in 1983, arguing that Sabine
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Meyer — their first female candidate — did
not suit their sound. In 2005, Riccardo Muti
was ousted at La Scala by a players’ vote of
no confidence.
Further erosions followed. In the
absence of maestros, managers controlled
content. ‘I would never let a music director
tell me which soloists to hire,’ a US orchestra
president assures me. ‘Nor would I accept
his preferred guest conductors.’ Patronage used to be a maestro’s perk, giving old
codgers access to young talent that some
would shamefully abuse. Loss of patronage has all but disabled the role. Except for
Muti in Chicago and Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera it is hard to name a musical
institution today where the dominant voice
belongs to the music director.
Take Covent Garden. Antonio Pappano has kept the old ship running at decent
speed for 15 years but was powerless to
Simon Rattle has a job title that has
less clout than a viscountcy
stop cuts to his orchestra. Over 45 years at
the Met, James Levine has left no lasting
imprint. When his friend, Kathleen Battle,
was fired for being a pest, Levine was unable
to reinstate her. At the Vienna State Opera,
all Franz Welser-Möst could do when his
productions were cut by the general director
was to resign, stating that the music director’s job lacked meaningful authority.
So what, exactly, can Rattle hope to
achieve at the LSO? He has told friends he
would like to see some changes in personnel, but hiring and firing are entirely in the
players’ hands. All the music director can
do is nudge and wink to his supporters and
hope for a desired outcome. Rattle opened
the season with a programme of all English composers, most of them living, but he
won’t be allowed to push programming any
further than the box office will bear — and it
won’t bear more than one such eye-catcher
per season.
What Rattle ought to do is abolish otiose tours that exhaust his best players,
along with the recording dates at Abbey
Road with fourth-rate wannabees. But LSO
needs the dough from these dates and players would not tolerate a music director who
interferes with revenue streams.
In an ideal world, Rattle would tour the
LSO around its own country, instead of everywhere abroad, with a rallying cry to raise
standards. That won’t happen either, because
the Arts Council won’t fund anything that
treads on the toes of regional clients. All of
which leaves Rattle with a job title that has
less clout than a viscountcy, an honorific to
deceive the media into believing in miracles.
These inhibitions may help explain why the
incoming music director has set such store
on getting the public authorities to build him
a new hall. That, at least, could be credited as
a concrete achievement.
49
NOTES ON …
Gresham College
By Mark Mason
GETTY IMAGES
H
ow many people need to gather
together before it becomes more
likely than not that at least two of
them will share a birthday? The answer
might surprise you. It’s just one of the many
intriguing facts that I’ve learned at Gresham College.
Gresham was founded in 1597, the
brainchild of Thomas Gresham, king of
what’s now called the Square Mile. He had
also established the Royal Exchange, and
decreed that rents paid by merchants there
should fund free lectures open to anyone.
The arrangement continues to this day. No
need to enrol or book: anyone can turn up
at any lecture that takes their fancy. So next
time you buy a Paul Smith T-shirt or Tiffany
ring at the Exchange, congratulate yourself
on your contribution to public learning.
The logos of both institutions feature a
grasshopper: this was Gresham’s emblem.
One of his ancestors was abandoned in the
countryside as a newborn baby, and was only
discovered when a boy chased a grasshopper
into the field. Gresham knew that without
that insect he would never have existed.
From the start, lectures were delivered in
English as well as Latin (Oxford and Cambridge used only the latter). Gresham also
led its more famous cousins in having professors of geometry and astronomy; an early
School of thought: the site of the first
college in Bishopsgate
occupant of the second post was Christopher Wren. In 1660 the college gave birth
to the Royal Society, which meant that, for
a while, the Society’s members were known
as ‘Greshamites’. Samuel Pepys attended a
1666 lecture at which one of the first-ever
blood transfusions occurred. ‘There was a
pretty experiment of the blood of one dog
let out, till he died, into the body of another
on one side, while all his own run out on the
other side,’ he wrote. ‘The first died upon
the place, and the other very well, and likely
to do well.’
At that time, professors lived in the
college (then sited on Bishopsgate). Robert Hooke knocked a hole in his roof
so he could stick a telescope through it.
There were more shenanigans in the 1890s,
when the professor of geometry Karl
Pearson illustrated his lectures on the laws
of chance by scattering 10,000 pennies
across the floor.
By then the college had moved to new
premises. They’ve since moved again, to
Barnard’s Inn Hall, a 14th-century gem near
Chancery Lane. Some of the bigger lectures
take place at the Museum of London, while
more than 2,000 have been recorded and
are available to watch on the college’s website. I love the thought of Thomas Gresham coming back to see his dream of wider
learning fulfilled on such a scale.
So how many people do have to gather together for a 51 per cent probability
of a shared birthday? It’s just 23. Counter-intuitive, I know, but think of it this way.
You’re the first person in the room. The second person to enter has a 1 in 365 chance
of sharing your birthday. So does the third
person, making it 2 in 365. But there’s also
the chance they could share each other’s
birthday. Imagine those three possibilities
as the three sides of a triangle. When you
get to four people there are the four sides of
a square, plus the diagonals. Now imagine a
23-sided shape, with every point joined to
every other point. The possibilities suddenly seem a lot larger than you assumed...
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Tuesday16:08
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SPEPRASY17
‘To try to solve the puzzle of socialism’s
enduring appeal, we have to turn to
evolutionary psychology’
— Toby Young, p60
High life
Taki
As everyone who stands up when a lady
enters the room knows, the once sacrosanct
rules of civility throughout the West have
all but disappeared. The deterioration in
manners has been accelerated by the coming of the devil’s device, the dehumanising
iPhone, as well as by phoney ‘art’ and artists
such as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. I don’t
know why, but Warhol is a bugbear of mine.
He always treated me politely, featured me
favourably in his magazine Interview, and
referred to me in a good light in his diaries.
Perhaps me being violent back then — he
headlined a cover story with a reference to
me being a terrorist among the rich — made
him think twice before he stuck the knife in.
Warhol ruined many lives by leading people astray with drugs and false promises, but
most of all he ruined art by making it showy.
The fact that today’s hustlers sell a picture
of a Coke bottle or a shark suspended in
formaldehyde for millions is obscene. The
worship of money and celebrity is Warhol’s
legacy and art’s tragedy.
I thought of Warhol and what I call ELCP
— Extraordinarily Lower Class People — as
I roamed around London this week. Being
an ELCP has nothing to do with the old class
system; it is all about vile manners while
shopping in Bond Street. Most ELCPs are
Chinese, with dyed blond hair, wires in their
ears and an extremely vapid expression on
their faces. The only thing that matters to
an ELCP is wealth, and the ability to outshop the next idiot. Comfort and fame are
also prerequisites. They are forever posting
pictures of their ugly selves via the devil’s
instrument. The Tao, which was known as
the Way of Heaven, and which embodied
the sacred character of ancient China, has
gone with the same wind that swept away
the antebellum south in the US.
I may write as an oldie, but my children
agree with me. They both have impeccable
manners, although my daughter has inherited my violent side. Her raised voice sends
shivers. My son, who is a great athlete and
very strong, has a sweet nature and thinks
only of girls all day, and definitely all night.
Both children have expressed shock to me
at how their peers see rules and traditions
as something to resist or ridicule on the
grounds that they interfere with self-expression. They also agree with me about mass
tourism, the bane of modern life.
When the hippies first told us that if it
feels good, do it, one never imagined that 40
years later their message would have become
law. One can even change gender nowadays
by declaring oneself a man or a woman, and
make the news if anyone expresses shock.
It’s all about being a victim. Now everything
goes, including activities once considered
shameful or criminal. Third-century Rome
has nothing on the 21st-century West.
Thus, despite the sadness of the occasion, the hundreds of us who attended the
memorial service of thanksgiving and celebration for the life of Nick Scott were a welcome sight. Nick was president of Pugs club,
dandy, soldier, raconteur, humorist extraordinaire, gentleman, landscape artist, farceur,
great friend and as sensitive a soul as it is
possible to be without being too precious for
words. They say that you can tell a man by
his friends. Well, just check out the following:
the Maharajah of Jodhpur did a round trip
from India — 20 hours’ flying time — on his
magic carpet. The crown prince of Greece,
Pavlos, hopped on a plane in New York, flew
all night, attended the service at St Luke’s
Church, Chelsea, then drove back to Heathrow and caught a plane back to the Bagel.
His brother, Prince Nikolaos, flew in from
Greece, as did George Livanos, whose doctor has prescribed rest. Bob Geldof changed
the dates of his singing tour in order to
address us. I’ll get to that in a moment. A
part of the church was reserved for Pugs
club members and we were all advised by
the president pro tem Count Bismarck to
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Saying it with flowers
wear our club tie. Everyone, including Arki
Busson and Rolf Sachs, who never wear
neckties, did so.
Celebrations of a life are bittersweet
occasions. Some are too corny, others downright false. This was as good as it gets. The
Revd Emma Smith was perfect, the choir
divine, and things began to rock with Sir
James McGrigor’s childhood memories of
Nick. Rolling in the aisles, as they say. He
was followed by Commodore Tim Hoare, a
lifelong friend and Eton schoolmate. Tim is
a very serious man who shows only his funny
side to people. He spoke briefly and movingly, and generously gave Bob the rostrum.
We l l , M a r k A n t o n y w o u l d h a v e
blanched. Geldof spoke for 30 minutes and
when he finished, everyone in the church
wanted more. Both Tim and Bob spoke
with such eloquence and heart-rending
truthfulness that Nick was brought back to
life. This is a hard thing to say but I have
never in all my days heard a better eulogy.
He described Nick in depth, but his flaws
came across in a positive light, all due to
Geldof’s words. He didn’t hide a thing. Nor
did he skirt any issue. The rhythm was perfect, from sad to funny, from melancholy to
burst-out-loud laughter.
My only hope is that this extraordinary
eulogy has been preserved on tape. The
mother of my children called it the best ever
and I have to agree. Geldof is a poet of rare
intelligence and talent and what a pity it was
that he called me useless during the greatest
eulogy ever.
Low life
Jeremy Clarke
I got off the plane at Changi still pleasantly sedated by Xanax, passed through the
‘nothing to declare’ channel, and there, waiting with my name on a signboard, was my
guide for the next four days. Joy was short,
middle-aged and had a low centre of gravity. She was Chinese, she said, pleased about
it. A minibus and driver were waiting at the
kerb. ‘Get in!’ said Joy. I did as I was told. We
53
LIFE
drove to the centre of Singapore just in time
for the Garden Rhapsody light and sound
show.
‘Look! Supertrees! Can you see them?’
she said. You couldn’t miss them. Towering above and around us were a dozen or so
50-metre-tall branched steel structures twinkling with coloured lights. For a quarter of an
hour the lights changed colour in time to the
chord changes of sentimental songs from hit
musicals. We sat cross-legged on the ground
among a thousand other tourists gaping
upwards. ‘Look! No litter! Very clean!’ said
Joy showed me a video clip of
Kate Middleton looking very
pleased to have met her
Joy, impatiently diverting my attention from
the rhapsody of light and sound to the cleanliness of the concrete on which we sat. I obediently searched the concrete for litter. ‘Did
you enjoy?’ she said when the music stopped
and the lights ceased to flash. ‘Very gay,’ I
said. ‘Gay?’ she said. She was dumbfounded. ‘What you mean, gay? I don’t understand
you. Now we eat.’
We ate at a table for two in a circular
restaurant perched in the canopy of one of
these ridiculous Supertrees. Joy ordered the
restaurant staff around with toe-curling peremptoriness. She chose the dishes. Quick-
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ly losing confidence in the intelligence of
the waiter, she would have truck only with
the manager. When at last she found time
for conversation with her new client, she
monopolised it.
Joy was a simple soul and inordinately proud of the social status conferred by
her prestigious occupation of tourist guide.
There was a very famous, very beautiful
Hong Kong film starlet, in fact, who preferred to use her above any other guide
when she visited Singapore. She showed me
a photograph on her huge smartphone: Joy
standing next to this beautiful Hong Kong
film star. Joy’s face was a picture of starstruck defiance. ‘Which one is you?’ I said.
‘Funny,’ she said, dismissively.
She was immensely popular, she said,
and particularly with American tourists.
One of them had lately sent her a Donald
Trump election-campaign baseball cap. It
was a special edition, I must understand.
Instead of saying ‘Trump–Pence’, this one
said simply ‘Trump’, which made it far more
covetable. That is how much her Americans
love and appreciate her. She would bring it
tomorrow and show me. Unfortunately for
me, she would not be wearing it. It was too
precious. But she would bring it and let me
have a look at it.
Another feather in her cap was getting
to shake hands with the Duchess of Cambridge five years ago. Joy flicked through her
phone’s photo album and showed me a video
clip of Kate Middleton looking very glad to
have just met Joy. Joy told me how adroit she
had been that day in obtaining information
from a security guard — one of her many
contacts — about which part of the pennedin crowd Kate would make for first.
I was indeed most fortunate, I agreed,
to be allocated such a prestigious and wellconnected guide. Something akin to modesty fleetingly softened her features. Amazing
as her life was, however, Joy felt that she was
destined for greater things. This job was only
A Ghost in the Rylands Library
The other members of the conference
are scholars of after-lives
but since my papers lie in this archive
I am visiting the story
of old conflicts and silly disappointments
now once again exposed:
I am a ghost
of all the messy drafts which here survive
– and so much energy went into them
I might have managed a more sensible life.
Instead I chose to register
all that felt with so much urgency
it could not be forgiven.
My generous hosts,
Iran is our natural ally
The National Trust in trouble
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
it is an honour to be in your possession.
I was always driven
to find the human voice within a song
and set out thoughts as clear
as spoken words could make them –
but for all my dedication
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
it was the living mattered most.
— Elaine Feinstein
54
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
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LIFE
a foot on the first rung of the ladder. Was I
married, she said? Sadly not, I said. Was she
married? ‘No. Single,’ she said.
The Xanax had made me ravenous. Joy
talked about her work and her famous clients and her ambition while I gulped down
the spicy food. ‘Eat!’ she said, maternally
shovelling another heap of whatever it was
on to my plate. ‘Do you like the music?’ she
said. The music was a repetitive saxophone
melody with a sort of spaced-out funk
The Donald Trump election
campaign baseball hat was too
precious to wear, she said
background. If I had said not, no doubt she
would have conferred with the manager and
had it changed. I did like it, however, and
said so. In fact, I was listening to it, repetitive as it was, rather than to her. She did
not like it, she said. It was bloody awful. She
said ‘bloody awful’ in a posh British accent.
‘Do you like my accent?’ she said. ‘I am
funny, aren’t I? Everyone laughs so much
when I do my funny accents. Oh, you will
see how funny I am. All my clients say I am
so funny. Eat!’ I gobbled faster. ‘You have
never been married?’ she said, sceptically.
‘No,’ I said. ‘You have girlfriend?’ ‘Many,’
I said. ‘Oh,’ she said, and for a moment she
looked crestfallen.
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56
Real life
Melissa Kite
BT have just put the phone down on me for
asking them to stop sending me junk mail,
which is a bit much really. I rang the customer services number to ask if they would
please unsubscribe me from all the emails
they’ve been sending since I became a wifi
customer of theirs. ‘You’re driving me mad
with these emails,’ I explained, and truly I
was at the end of my tether.
Every day, the same message arrives in
my inbox, warning me I have only days left
to take advantage of a special offer on BT
Sport. I wouldn’t mind but one of the things
I spent countless precious hours of my existence explaining to BT when I took out wifi
was that on no account did I want BT Sport.
I’ve tried to unsubscribe from the emails but
all that happens when I select the unsubscribe option is that I am redirected to a
page bearing a short paragraph that, if it
is a way to unsubscribe, is surely the most
impenetrable way that proposition has ever
been worded. This is it, word for word:
‘Contact BT. Email is the quickest and
most environmentally friendly way to keep
up to date with BT’s latest news and offers.
We’d love to continue contacting you by
email, but feel free to unsubscribe here if
you wish. Email address…………………
If you are a BT customer and just want to
change your contact email address please
visit https://home.bt.com/login/loginform.
Submit.’
That’s it. All you can conceivably do is
enter your email. But as they already have
my email, and what I’m trying to achieve is
them not having my email, how does entering my email achieve un-entering my email?
You can click the submit button without
entering your email, but if you do all it says
is ‘Please tell us your email address.’ ‘But you
already have my email address, you fiends!
That’s why I’m angry!’ I scream at the screen.
Not wanting to enter my email again, and
make the seventh circle of junk-mail hell
even worse, I decided to ring customer services. I suppose I expected a mild apology.
But the chap on the other end of the
phone — in Swansea — took umbrage.
‘That’s nothing to do with us,’ he snapped.
‘How can emails from BT asking me to
sign up for BT Sport be nothing to do with
BT?’ I asked, hardly believing that those
words were having to come out of me as
they came out of me.
‘I don’t know who they’re from,’ he said.
‘They’re not from us.’ And he went on and
on about how he had no way of stopping
emails that were nothing personally to do
with him.
‘I’m not saying you personally sent these
emails!’ I said, my voice getting on for a
squawk. He then gave me the old ‘calm
down or I won’t help you at all’ routine.
‘Look, I’m cross because you’ve done something wrong,’ I said. ‘This is another problem. You wind your customers up then tell
us we’re the problem when we get angry.’
‘Well, I’m just trying to help.’ No, you’re
not. ‘The thing is,’ I said, ‘I took out BT wifi,
I gave you my money, and all you’ve done
ever since is send me an email a day asking
me for more money. So if they don’t stop I’ll
have to terminate my account.’
He told me to hold the line while he got a
supervisor. A very short time later, barely a
minute, he came back and informed me that
his colleague had successfully unsubscribed
me from all BT marketing emails.
Oh, so when you said you can’t make
them stop what you meant was you can
make them stop in 30 seconds, I didn’t say.
‘Out of curiosity, before I go, tell me what
it was I should have done on that unsubscribe page.’
‘You press the unsubscribe button and it
unsubscribes…’ ‘No, ’ I said. ‘You can’t press
a button…’
‘You’re not listening!’ he shouted, and
then he went off on one, yelling down the
phone about me not paying attention. ‘You
need to calm down,’ I said. There was a gasp,
a barely audible retort. ‘You (something or
other)…’ And a click, as the phone went
down. The usual questionnaire was texted
to my phone 15 minutes later.
‘Hello, BT here. You spoke to our advisor. What did you think?’
‘Well, I rang to complain, he told me to
calm down, shouted at me, then, when I told
him to calm down, he put the phone down
on me,’ I texted back.
‘Thank you for taking part in our survey.
Your feedback will help us to continually
improve.’ Of course it will. And I’ll get no
more junk mail. And the world will live as
one.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
SPECTATOR WINE JONATHAN RAY
Bridge
Susanna Gross
I’m writing this from Stuart Wheeler’s beautiful villa in Tangier, in the hills just above the
bay, where for a week every September he
hosts a high-stake rubber bridge game. There
are sometimes one or two new faces, but usually it’s the lucky old regulars who return,
like Patrick Lawrence, Alexander Allfrey,
and none other than the great Andrew Robson. This is my sixth visit, and I love it: the
company, the food, the booze, the distant call
of the muezzins. Of course, Andrew’s presence adds an extra layer of magic: it’s a treat
to play with and against him, even if he does
win our money, and even more so to have
him on tap to discuss hands.
The fun started before we’d even got
here. On the plane out from Gatwick,
Andrew passed us all a bridge quiz, using
real hands from the recent World Transnationals. We had to give in our answers at the
end of the flight, which kept us unusually
quiet (probably Andrew’s plan). No one got
full marks. Try this one — but cover the N/S
hands as we only got to see E/W:
Dealer East
z Q 10 9
y84
XK J 9
wQ 8 4
z AK
yQ9
X 10 8
w2
8 3 2
6 2
7
N
5 4
W
E
S
z J 7
y 75
X6 2
wA J
z 54
y A K J 10 3
X AQ3
w K 10 7
M
as de Daumas Gassac is one of
the great estates of the Languedoc. Indeed, it is often referred
to as the Languedoc’s Grand Cru or First
Growth, and I am just one of many to have
fallen under its spell.
The estate’s Moulin de Gassac range is
famously accessible and shares the same
pedigree and winemaking philosophy as that
of Mas de Daumas Gassac, and speaks just
as resolutely of its terroir.
It is also extremely well-priced, particularly so for readers of The Spectator since our
partners Mr Wheeler have lopped off up to
£1.50 a bottle. Several of these wines aren’t
available anywhere else and those that are
won’t be so keenly priced. Fill your boots.
The 2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Guilhem’
Blanc (1) is a slowly macerated, cool fermented blend of Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon
Blanc and Terret Blanc that’s full of white
stone fruit and a delightful freshness. It makes
a perfect aperitif. £8.95, down from £10.
The 2016 Moulin de Gassac Viognier
(2) is a delight. It’s peachy, apricotty and
slightly nutty with surprisingly good acidity. It’s as good on its own as it is with grub.
£9.95, down from £11.50.
The 2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Faune’ (3)
has a touch more weight and creaminess,
being a half-and-half blend of Viognier and
Chardonnay. It has the peachy aromatics of
the former and the buttery, honeyed notes of
the latter. It is utterly charming. £10.50, down
from £12.
The 2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Guilhem’
Rouge (4) is a typical Languedoc blend of
Syrah, Grenache and Carignan filled with
ripe briary fruits, spice and chocolate with a
long, robust, slightly earthy finish. It’s a cracking value everyday red. £8.95, down from £10.
The 2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Albaran’ (5)
is made from old vine Syrah and Cabernet
Sauvignon with some time in oak. It’s a perfect autumn red, full of cassis, spicy blueberries and plums. There’s a touch of vanilla too,
and firm but mellowing tannins and a long
finish. £10.50, down from £12.
Finally, the 2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Elise’
(6), a half-and-half blend of old vine Syrah
and Merlot. It’s full of soft, juicy, concentrated fruit with the smoothest of tannins.
Although it’ll keep a year or so it really
deserves to be opened immediately and
knocked back with abandon. £10.50, down
from £12.
The mixed case has two bottles of each
wine and delivery, as ever, is free.
ORDER FORM Spectator Wine Offer
6
www.mrwheelerwine.com/spectator
Mr. Wheeler, Estate Office, Park Lane BC, Langham, Colchester, Essex CO4 5WR
Tel: 01206 713560 Email: sales@mrwheelerwine.com
9 6 53
Please note prices are for cases of 12
West
North
East
South
1NT
3NT
Pass
Pass
1y
2NT
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
White
Red
North led the z3. How would you play?
If spades are 4–4 there’s no problem, you can
knock out the wA for your ninth trick. But I
was pretty sure North had led from zAKxxx,
making it unsafe to play a club. I decided to
cash the yA (in case the yQ drops), run the
diamonds and then finesse the heart. I was
awarded just half a point for my answer,
because although I would have made the
contract, my thinking was too shallow. There
is a way to combine your chances. Start by
cashing five diamonds. North can’t discard a
spade. Nor can he discard two hearts if he
holds yQxxx or yQxx. So he has to discard
his club(s). Now you exit with a spade! If
spades turn out to be 4–4, you don’t need to
finesse a heart; if spades are 5–3, you do!
Mixed
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Guilhem’ Blanc, 12%
2016 Moulin de Gassac Viognier, 12.5%
2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Faune’, 13%
2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Guilhem’ Rouge, 13%
2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Albaran’, 13.5%
2016 Moulin de Gassac ‘Elise’, 14%
Mixed case of six, two each of the above
Issue no.
Signature
Name
Address
Email*
£107.40
£119.40
£126.00
£107.40
£126.00
£126.00
£118.70
No.
Expiry date Sec. code
Please send wine to
Postcode
Club price
Total
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£120.00
£138.00
£144.00
£120.00
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Telephone
Prices include VAT and delivery on
the British mainland. Payment should
be made either by cheque with the
order, payable to Mr. Wheeler, or by
debit or credit card, details of which
may be telephoned or faxed. This offer, which is subject to availability,
closes on 4 November 2017.
*Only provide your email address if you would like to receive offers or communications by email from The Spectator (1828) Limited, part of the Press Holdings
Group. See Classified pages for Data Protection Act Notice. The Spectator (1828) Limited, part of the Press Holdings Group would like to pass your details on
to other carefully selected organisations in order that they can offer you information, goods and services that may be of interest to you. If you would prefer that
your details are not passed to such organisations, please tick this boxR.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
57
LIFE
Chess
Bronstein’s legacy
Raymond Keene
Last week I focused on the games and somewhat
tragic career of the ingenious David Bronstein.
Before his time the King’s Indian Defence was
viewed with a certain degree of suspicion, not
least because of the early and gigantic concessions
it makes to White in terms of occupation of
central terrain. It was Bronstein who resurrected
and then espoused that previously neglected
defence, paving the way for later practitioners,
such as Tal, Fischer and Kasparov. Nowadays,
the KID has become one of the main highways
of opening theory, along which both grandmaster
and neophyte may travel, secure in the
knowledge that the defence is essentially sound.
A new book, The King’s Indian Defence: Move by
Move (Everyman Chess) by Sam Collins brings
the theory of this opening fully up to date. Here is
a game with notes based on those from the book.
Gelfand-Nakamura; Bursa 2010; King’s Indian
Defence
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 d6 5 Nf3 0-0 6
Be2 e5 7 0-0 Nc6 8 d5 Ne7 9 Nd2 Ne8 10 b4 f5 11
c5 Nf6 A direct approach, aiming to force f2-f3 so
that the kingside pawns can be set in motion. 11 ...
Kh8 is also possible. 12 f3 f4 13 Nc4 g5 14 a4 Ng6
15 Ba3 White can also play more directly with 15
cxd6 cxd6 16 Nb5. (diagram 1) 15 ... h5 Nakamura
crushed another expert of the Classical Variation,
Alexander Beliavsky, after 15 ... Rf7 16 a5 h5 17
b5 dxc5 18 b6 g4 19 bxc7 Rxc7 20 Nb5 g3 21 Nxc7
Nxe4 22 Ne6 Bxe6 23 dxe6 gxh2+ 24 Kxh2 Qh4+
25 Kg1 Ng3. 16 b5 dxc5 17 Bxc5 Rf7 18 a5 g4 19
b6 g3 20 Kh1 Bf8 A logical move – the c5-bishop
is perhaps White’s best piece and worth
exchanging, plus the second rank is cleared for
the black rook. 21 d6 21 Bg1 is very logical, when
Black can try 21 ... Nh4! and if 22 Re1, he has the
stunning 22 ... Nxg2!! 23 Kxg2 Rg7 24 Nxe5 gxh2+
25 Kh1 Nxe4! and White resigned in RoozmonCharbonneau, Montreal 2008. 21 ... axb6 22 Bg1
Nh4 23 Re1 A logical move, preparing to shore
up the kingside with Bf1, but also a big error. 23
hxg3 is better. (diagram 2) 23 ... Nxg2!! Exposing
the white king and setting off a stunning tactical
sequence. 24 dxc7 White should have tried 24
PUZZLE NO. 475
White to play. This position is from JobavaNepomniachtchi, FIDE World Cup, Tbilisi 2017.
Can you spot White’s winning coup? Answers
to me or via email to victoria@spectator.co.uk
by Tuesday 26 September 2017. 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.
Last week’s solution 1 ... Rg1+
Last week’s winner Julian Pope,
South-West London
58
Competition
Diary stories
Lucy Vickery
In Competition No. 3016 you were invited
to submit an extract from the diary of the
spouse of a high-profile political figure, living or dead.
It was a neat idea on the part of David
Silverman to imagine Calpurnia’s journal in
the style of Bridget Jones’s Diary, but hard
to match the genius of the original. Also
eye-catching, in a patchy entry, were Philip
Machin (Diana Mosley) and Alan Millard
(Ri Sol-ju).
High fives to the winners below, who are
rewarded with £25. Adrian Fry takes £30.
Diagram 1
rDb1W4kD
0p0WDWgp
WDW0WhnD
DW)P0W0W
P)NDP0WD
GWHWDPDW
WDWDBDP)
$WDQDRIW
Dear Diary and Dear Donald’s people whose job
is to read Diary for Donald, Melania very happy
today as every day, not tiniest bit terrified. I love
him (this means Donald, Donald’s people) so
much. His uniquely oval mouth, blue eyes brim
full of egotistical fulfilment, that bigly face topped
with hair which only look like gold flavour spun
sugar but is absolutely real, no joking. I love his
tiny little hands poking and kneading where tiny
little hands never should. And above it all, that
voice, half wheedle, half bellow, like homeshopping channel voice-over through bullhorn.
‘Fantastic!’ and ‘Amazing!’ it says over and over,
speaking of itself, of himself, for ever. Like God,
he is everywhere: White House, locker room,
television, Ivanka’s place. So I am never really
utterly alone, especially when at his side, with no
chance (fake news alert!) to plan escape from
gilded cage.
Adrian Fry
Diagram 2
rDb1WgkD
Dp0WDrDW
W0W)WhWD
)WDW0WDp
WDNDP0Wh
DWHWDP0W
WDWDBDP)
$WDQ$WGK
Kxg2, although his position remains
uncomfortable after 24 ... Rg7. 24 ... Nxe1
Perhaps Gelfand overlooked this simple but
beautiful idea – White is two queens up but
mated by a lowly pawn after 25 cxd8Q g2 mate.
25 Qxe1 g2+ Again the most precise, even
better than 25 ... Qxc7 (which was also very
good for Black). 26 Kxg2 Rg7+ 27 Kh1 Bh3!!
The same theme, but in a stunning second
edition. 28 Bf1 Qd3 29 Nxe5 Bxf1 30 Qxf1
Qxc3 31 Rc1 Qxe5 32 c8Q Rxc8 33 Rxc8 Qe6
White resigns A fabulous game by Nakamura,
and a wonderful advertisement for Black’s
chances in this utterly chaotic variation.
WDW4WDnD
DW1WDpip
WDWDpHpD
DWDW)WDW
W0W4WDWD
DWDW!RDP
W)WDW)PD
$WDWDWIW
The King, alas, is not the most generous of men. It
is true that he hath given me some pretty pieces of
jewellery, yet I was chagrined to learn of late that
they are but paste. Why, even my ladies-in-waiting
are richly bedecked with veritable rubies,
emeralds, and diamonds. I made so bold as to
draw this great disparity to the King’s attention,
but his reply was dismissive: ‘Our coffers are
empty, Madam, and gold does not grow on trees
— unless you count the Autumn leaves.’ He
guffawed heartily at his own witticism.
Now, however, I do believe that the King
intends to offer me the diamond necklace that I
crave, for this morning two gentlemen in his
service called on me. ‘Madam,’ they said. ‘We are
instructed by His Majesty to take the
measurements of thy neck.’ I smiled with delight.
Dear, thoughtful Henry!
Brian Allgar
Today I told Winston millions rely on him, while he
relies on me. I support their support. Never has so
much been owed by so many to one poor woman.
He just laughed.
How glorious! I had his company this evening
and we enjoyed dinner together. I told him that this
was our finest hour. He just laughed.
I haven’t seen him for days and then he breezes
in late this evening. ‘I will have to seek you on the
landing grounds, in the trenches, in the streets and
on the beaches,’ I said. He just laughed.
At breakfast this morning he was his stubborn
self. ‘You never, never, never give in or admit
you’re wrong,’ I shouted, to his great amusement.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
LIFE
Then he said: ‘You’re my inspiration, Clemmie.’
Inspiration! It would be a wonder if he
remembers a single word I say.
Frank McDonald
B’s not at her brightest when copying the Latin. Her
latest slogan for getting shot of the invaders is
REXIT MEANS REXIT. I suspect Suetonius won’t
be impressed by that. What’s wrong, I suggested, in a
tactical retreat to the Fens, a bit of a punt on the
Broads, retire to Cromer sort of thing. The people
have spoken, said B, returning to her investigation of
the latest Mona fashions. Apparently they’re
wearing transverse-slash necklines, and carrying
badger handbags. Whatever you like, I told her, it’s
your chariot. Second husbands must know their
place. She went off in the afternoon and razed St
Alban’s: to impress the faithful and appease the
Trinovantes (their leader, Mogga, is getting pretty
uppity). What about a new slogan? I suggested: say,
Strong as a stable. Or, woad and see. She gave me
that taut smile. The tribal powwow this autumn will
be another bloodbath.
Bill Greenwell
I’ve never liked March — the scaly tail of winter
— but this year I’ll be especially glad to get past
the Ides at least. The atmosphere here is febrile,
menacing even. Julius says I’m imagining things, of
course. And now that he’s officially dictator for
life he’s even more the great Ego Sum, and thinks
he’s invulnerable. Veni, vidi, vici is his answer to
everything. When I murmur something about
hubris he tells me not to spout Greek at him.
‘Greek is for the schoolroom. And I’m certainly
not going to feature in anyone’s so-called tragedy.’
He’s always been brilliantly successful at
facing down opposition but I’m afraid he’s not as
good at realising what’s going on behind his back.
A soothsayer once said he was born by the knife
to die by the knife. But she was probably just
another feeble-minded Greek. Pray Mars.
W.J. Webster
… John’s started behaving rather strangely.
Pressure of the job, naturally, but certain tongues
have been wagging re his ‘controversial’
replacement of G.H. as Foreign Sec. Sour grapes
will flourish in any vineyard, especially SW1. But
PM does have her all-seeing Grantham eye on him
so could be he’s heading for higher things: Tarzan
and Hurdy-Gurdy need to look to their ‘Laurels’.
On the subject of slapstick comedians, J’s been
invited on to the MCC Select ion Committee, viz.
middle-aged codgers with lairy schoolboy ties,
contriving desperate puns involving leg glances,
short slips, bowling a maiden over, &c. Standards
not what they were — ruffians and pop stars get in
nowadays…where will it end, women in the Long
Room? Thomas Lord knows…
J v late home — again; claims some of them
went on to an Indian restaurant, wouldn’t say
which. Most odd: he never used to fancy afterhours Curries…
Mike Morrison
Crossword
2328: Second
coming
by Pabulum
6A and 42 (whose unchecked
letters give IDEA) combine
to suggest the title of a novel.
Remaining unclued lights give
the forenames (in one case a
nickname) of six of its characters, whose surname (5) will
appear diagonally in the completed grid and must be shaded.
Elsewhere, ignore two accents.
Across
1 Interceder tried maxi
getting dressed (9)
9 Sloth-like nursemaids? (4)
11 Decorum in good session
with spirits (10)
12 Terrier requiring food (4)
14 Drink Charles imbibed as
dyspepsia cure (6)
18 Gross aristo snubbed
knight (4)
20 Kay sat fiddling with classy
kimonos (7)
21 Decay infecting maple
pedestal (7)
23 Content of burrito cooked
in iron dish (7)
24 Painter is saucy in
conversation (5)
25 Fool about with English
poem (5)
27 Lottery prize is this Scot:
Frank! (7, hyphened)
30 Poles crew for Charon? (7)
32 Route first-born talked
about with Oscar’s butler
(7, hyphened)
36 Chief knave with cur’s
heart (4)
38 Malign lady pockets sixth
letter (6)
39 Go slow inside city (4)
40 European celebrity still
painted by artist (10)
NO 3019: OFFICIALLY AMAZING
To mark the recent arrival in our house of
the latest Guinness World Records, I am
going to repeat a challenge set several decades ago and invite you to submit a limerick describing a feat worthy of inclusion in
that great publication. Please email up to
five entries each to lucy@spectator.co.uk
by midday on 4 October.
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
41 Wavy Navy in uniform
dyed regularly (4)
43 Empresses freely assist
art (9)
Down
1 Priestess in pulpit after
mass (5)
2 Bit of durra – spot of
cereal (5)
3 Most gifted alto made
joyous (6)
4 Old viol famous rioter
chucks about (5)
5 Decorator wearing
coat (7)
6 Aircraft designer from
hythe in Kelso (7)
7 Woman is engaging court
and makes law (6)
10 Nasty Peter, icier and very
unsympathetic (11)
13 Bag carried by little lass (7)
15 Most like lute (easily
transported in case of
concert) (8)
16 Crop lauded and valued
again (11)
22 Actually excellent tailored
coat (7, two words)
26 Maybe red-bodied
and blue-horned bats
meander (7)
28 Compounds of actinium
turned dull bluish-grey (7)
29 Fanny Adams entering
canon’s house (6)
31 Pancake contains caviar,
perhaps it’s tossed (6)
34 Workers over in cattle
farms? (5)
35 Prosecutor pitched up in
courts (5)
Name
Address
Email
SOLUTION TO 2325: HARD TASK
The theme was PIGS.
First prize J. E. Green, St Albans, Hertfordshire
Runners-up Michael Moran, Penrith, Cumbria;
John M. Brown, Rolleston on Dove, Staffordshire
59
LIFE
Status Anxiety
The mystery of socialism’s
enduring appeal
Toby Young
O
ne of the mysteries of our age
is why socialism continues to
appeal to so many people.
Whether in the Soviet Union, China,
Eastern Europe, North Korea, Cuba,
Vietnam, Cambodia or Venezuela, it
has resulted in the suppression of free
speech, the imprisonment of political
dissidents and, more often than not,
state-sanctioned mass murder. Socialist economics nearly always produce
widespread starvation, something we
were reminded of last week when the
President of Venezuela urged people not to be squeamish about eating
their rabbits. That perfectly captures
the trajectory of nearly every socialist
experiment: it begins with the dream
of a more equal society and ends with
people eating their pets. Has there
ever been an ideology with a more
miserable track record?
Why, then, did 40 per cent of the
British electorate vote for a party led
by Jeremy Corbyn last June? It wasn’t
as if he acknowledged that all previous attempts to create a socialist utopia had failed and explained why it
would be different under him. There
was no fancy talk of ‘post-neoclassical
endogenous growth theory’ or ‘predistribution’, as there had been by his
two predecessors. No, he was selling
exactly the same snake oil that every
left-wing huckster has been peddling
for the past 100 years, and in exactly
Corbyn was
selling exactly
the same
snake oil that
every left-wing
huckster has
been peddling
for 100 years
the same bottle. He reminded me of
a pharmacist trying to flog thalidomide to an expectant mother while
making no attempt to hide the fact
that it has caused the deaths of at
least 2,000 children and serious birth
defects in more than 10,000 others.
And yet, nearly 13 million Britons
voted for Corbyn. Could it be that
they just don’t know about all the
misery and suffering that socialism
has unleashed?
That’s a popular theory on my
side of the political divide and has
prompted a good deal of headscratching about how best to teach
elementary history — such as that
more people were killed by Stalin
than by Hitler. One suggestion is
to create a museum of communist
terror that documents all the people murdered in the great socialist
republics — and full credit to the
journalist James Bartholomew for
getting some traction behind this
idea. But is it really historical ignorance that prompts people to invest
their hopes in Corbyn? An inconvenient fact for holders of this theory is
that those who voted Labour at the
last election tended to be better educated than those who voted Tory.
To try and solve the puzzle of
socialism’s enduring appeal, we have
to turn to evolutionary psychologists
and in particular Leda Cosmides and
John Tooby, two of the leading thinkers in the field. They contend that we
don’t come into the world as tabulae
rasae, ready to take on the imprint
of whatever society we happen to be
born into. Rather, we are more like
smartphones that come pre-loaded
with various apps, including a set
of moral intuitions. The problem is,
these apps haven’t been updated for
40,000 years. They were designed for
small bands of hunter-gatherers rather than citizens of the modern world
and prompt us to look more favourably on socialism than free-market
capitalism. Why? Because in huntergatherer societies, where the pooling
of resources is essential for survival,
the principle of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according
to his need’ makes perfect sense.
By the same token, we have a great
deal of difficulty grasping that people
acting in an individual, self-interested way can create huge communal
benefits, as it does under capitalism.
Back in the primeval forest, our survival depended upon distrusting people who weren’t willing to engage in
reciprocal altruism.
In hunter-gatherer societies, goods
are finite. If someone has more than
his fair share of meat, there is less
for everyone else. That’s not true of
capitalist societies, where successful
entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs create wealth without taking anything
away from others; but because we’re
programmed to think of resources
in a zero-sum way we cannot easily understand this. Instead, we’re
inclined to believe people like Corbyn when they tell us the rich only got
that way by stealing from the poor.
So what’s the solution? Are we
doomed to repeat the mistakes of the
past? Hopefully not, but we need to
tell a story about capitalism that is just
as appealing to people’s 40,000-yearold moral intuitions as the sales patter
of socialist snake oil salesmen.
Toby Young is associate editor
of The Spectator.
MICHAEL HEATH
60
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
The Wiki Man
Make life easier and
all else will follow
Rory Sutherland
Y
ou can try to change people’s
minds, but this is difficult.
You can bribe people to change
their behaviour, but it’s expensive. Far
simpler is to make the new behaviour
easy and enjoyable in and of itself.
Recently, colleagues of mine
were asked how to promote the
habit of recycling domestic refuse.
They explained there was no need to
mention the environmental benefits
at all. ‘Just make sure everyone has
two pedal bins, not one.’ Regardless
of people’s attitudes to the environment, what really matters, as Martin
Luther King might have said, is not
the colour of their politics but the
contents of their kitchen.
To encourage pension saving,
the government spends more than
£20 billion annually in tax rebates.
To swathes of the population, this
enormous and wasteful incentive is
entirely unmotivating. What finally
did persuade eight million people
to join workplace pension schemes
was something called auto enrol-
I explained
I was happy
to pay any duty
owed, but I’d
sent ten packets
of Twiglets,
not a bloody
doomsday
device
ment — a fancy government term
for ‘You don’t have to fill in any sodding forms’.
Likewise, economic models of
free trade set great store on whether
the EU tariff on cheddar after Brexit
will be 3 per cent or 4 per cent. This
is largely irrelevant: trade facilitation matters more than tariff reduction. A better starting point for UK
trade policy might be to ensure that
a normally sane individual in the UK
can send something overseas without
tearing his frigging hair out.
A few months ago I sent a small
box of British foods to an expat
friend in Canada who was recovering from cancer. They crossed the
Atlantic in ten hours, then spent
three days in a warehouse in Toronto. Apparently I needed to appoint
a ‘Customs Broker’. (Naturally I had
a wide selection of Ontarian Customs
Brokers on speed dial. They then
demanded a ‘commercial invoice’
or ‘bill of lading’. I vainly tried to
explain to the maple suckers that I
was happy to pay any duty owed, but
that I’d sent ten packets of Twiglets,
not a bloody doomsday device. It was
yet another week before they were
actually delivered.
Last month in Santa Fe I wanted
to post some of my luggage home.
I put it in a box, paid $100 for Priority Air (CH022836798US, if you
want to check) and filled out the customs form in full. By evening it had
reached Albuquerque and was at
LAX the following day. It then sat
in customs for three weeks. After a
weekend recovering from the flight
to London, it spent a further week
in Warwick so British customs could
charge me £50 in VAT for re-importing my British-bought clothes. It
arrived a month after I had posted it.
This is an average speed of 6.25 miles
per hour — with customs delays
eradicating any advances in transportation from the past 150 years.
Subtracting the hours it spent in the
air, it averaged 2.3 miles per hour.
On good days the Donner Party did
better than this.
No I’m not totally naive. I realise that when Nissan exports cars it
doesn’t put them in the post. Nevertheless, if you believe in trade,
it should be something available
not only to multinationals but to
small firms and individuals who
can’t afford to employ rooms full of
bureaucrats who know what a ‘bill
of lading’ is.
I refuse to believe here aren’t
technological solutions (Blockchain
may be one) that can reduce the
friction of trade and make it faster,
easier and more trustworthy. The
financial costs of most tariffs are now
small: what we should seek is not so
much free trade as pain-free trade.
Rory Sutherland is vice-chairman
of Ogilvy Group UK.
DEAR MARY YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED
plenty of hospitality when staying
with us in England. Mary, can
you rule? Moreover how can we
avoid it happening again when
we join them later this year?
— Name and address withheld.
Q. Last year my husband and I
stayed with a much-loved, but
slightly airy-fairy friend in her
house in Tuscany. Flights, tips,
presents, a hire car and housesitters were already costing us
rather a lot, but she insisted we
went out to (quite expensive)
local restaurants for lunch four
days out of five to experience
the regional cuisine. She let my
husband pay each time.
I felt this was overdoing it,
especially as we had to pay for
her, her husband and her three
adult children, and they have had
A. Your friends should have
drawn the line at two lunches paid
for by your husband. Next time,
email them in advance to say that
you have become very interested
in Tuscan dishes and would like
to cook a couple of lunches or
dinners for her house party with
ingredients that you’d buy in local
markets. Add that — because you
are on a ‘bit of a budget’ this year
— this would be ‘just as much fun
and more affordable’.
Q. I’m approaching a mortifyingly
embarrassing birthday. The big
40. I am torn between wanting to
keep it under wraps, and a childish
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
desire to have a fuss made of me.
I’ve sworn friends and family to
secrecy, and warned that if
anyone organises a surprise party,
I will be livid. I’ve considered
deactivating Facebook for the
day, but the thought of my
birthday not being acknowledged
by my wider group of friends
depresses me. What should I do?
— Name and address withheld.
A. On your Facebook profile, go
to ‘Settings’, ‘Account Settings’,
‘Timeline and Tagging’, and
change ‘Who can post on my
timeline’ from ‘Friends’ to ‘Only
me’. That way no one can post
embarrassing pictures of you
on your wall with ‘40 today’
emblazoned across them. If they
try, they’ll find they won’t be able
to, and will send a private message
instead. You will therefore receive
a lot of private messages from
friends making a fuss of you, and
can bask in the glow of attention
and love without worrying the
whole world knows you are 40.
Q. Mary, last week you suggested
that some people, wrongly, have
shame issues about hosting rats.
We live between a cover crop of
maize — a terrific food source for
pheasants and partridges — and
the pens from which the birds are
released. The maize also appeals
to rats, who deposit gnawed cobs
round the garden. When a visiting
American family saw a rat running
past the back door, my response
was: ‘Shh! Don’t tell the others, or
they’ll all want to see one.’
— M.W., Welford, Berkshire.
A. Thank you for sharing this.
Write via the editor or email
dearmary@spectator.co.uk
61
LIFE
Drink
All’s fair in love and Waugh
Bruce Anderson
I
was reminded of Wild West films
from boyhood. Then, the beleaguered garrison scanned the horizon; would the US cavalry arrive
in time to save them from being
scalped? (John Wayne always did.)
Now, one was hoping for relief, not
from the Injuns, but in the form of
an Indian summer. This is of especial
interest to those who have a tendresse
for Somerset cricket. Its paladins usually have a charmingly amateur quality. As Cardus wrote of an earlier
cricketing vintage: ‘[They are] children of the sun and wind and grass.
Nature fashioned them rather than
artifice.’ Somerset needs a match or
two in order to gain points and avoid
relegation. That said, the way we were
playing earlier in the season, being
rained off was the best hope.
It would help if those in charge
of schedules should remember three
things. County cricket is a summer
game. It is also one of the glories of
English civilisation, almost entitled
to rank with the cathedrals and the
common law. As such, it must not be
brushed aside in the interests of junk
In decanters,
the grandeur
of earlier
autumns
awaited us.
We stopped
to sniff and
stayed to
genuflect
sport, or whatever they call 20/20.
But an ungenerous climate can bring
consolations. That prince of foragers,
young Louis, deciding that these were
the perfect conditions for mushrooms,
set off into the wood with a bucket and
brought it back, full of chanterelles.
Scoffing them, we also drew on
the lingering fruits of summer. A summer pudding was to be garnished with
some final wild strawberries. They
always look delicious — and the name.
Caviar apart, is there anything more
alluring in the culinary vocabulary?
That said, what about the taste? In that
passage of Decline and Fall so aptly
named ‘Pervigilium Veneris’, Margot
and Paul saunter from bed to lunch. In
Waugh, low-life deflation is never far
away. They come across Philbrick, that
master of multi-faceted fraudulence,
who is eating some of those ‘bitter
little strawberries which are so cheap
in Provence and so very expensive in
Dover Street.’ He warns Paul that the
League of Nations is taking a beadyeyed interest in Margot’s business (the
Mistress Quickly of 1920s Belgravia,
she is the most elegant whore monger in all literature). ‘Bitter’ is surely
an exaggeration, perhaps a deliberate one. Waugh may have intended to
‘Good heavens, a flying Ryanair jet!’
signal the bitter-sweet fate waiting in
ambush for his principal characters.
Yet he had a point. The tiny wild berries
work as an heraldic escort to the tastebud fireworks of British strawberries.
On their own, they flatter to deceive.
In love and cookery, earthiness has
an honoured place. The beef was roasting. To accompany it, Roland harvested some horseradish, mired in mud.
There was then a problem. Our table
was to be graced by a much greater
power than horseradish, and the two
must never be allowed to mingle. In
decanters, the grandeur of earlier
autumns awaited us. We stopped to
sniff and stayed to genuflect.
I had warned my friends that
luncheon would not only be an occasion for indulgence. There was work to
be done. We had two bottles to compare, a 1989 and a 2000, both from
that superb house, Léoville-Barton.
The debate was vigorous, and inconclusive. The memsahib thought the ’89
was just about the finest claret she had
ever drunk, and one could taste why.
A harmony of sun and nature and artifice, it was in a state of grace. So often
when drinking such a wine, one wonders whether it would have benefited
from another three years, or would
have been even better three years earlier. This was perfect. The novice, the
2000, divided opinions. Still shy of 20,
it was a young unbroken colt. Even so,
I thought it deserved the blue riband.
What fun. Louis, his palate not yet
trained to Bordeaux, but permitted
a sip, began to understand why the
grown-ups were so intent at the glass.
The seasons, the generations, the wine:
by the end, we could hear the music
of the spheres.
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE
Shocking bad hat
My husband complains that
the disposition of teenagers
in London is one of mocking
hostility. I seem to suffer less from
such encounters, and console him
by saying it was ever thus.
In the 1790s ostlers’ boys
would shout ‘Quoz!’ to disconcert
an uncertain-looking passer-by. It
was a word of doubtful meaning,
perhaps connected with quiz.
A generation later, young
loafers would call out ‘Oh, what
a shocking bad hat!’ — enough to
instil doubt in the most carefully
dressed shopman or clerk.
Neither men nor women were
seen out in public without a hat.
The locus classicus for the
62
phrase is in a book with a title
perhaps more entertaining
than its contents: Memoirs of
Extraordinary Popular Delusions,
and the Madness of Crowds
(1841) by Charles Mackay (the
natural father of Marie Corelli,
the sensational novelist). Mackay
gives a circumstantial origin for
the phrase from a Southwark
election, but I don’t find it
convincing. It is quoted by Eric
Partridge in his Dictionary of
Catch Phrases (1977), though he
is seldom credited with putting his
finger on it.
The date of Mackay’s book is
important because to the Duke
of Wellington, on seeing the first
Reformed Parliament in 1833,
is attributed the remark ‘I never
saw so many shocking bad hats
in my life’. The account of this
remark was not published until
1889, in Words on Wellington by
Sir William Fraser, who had made
a reputation back in the 1850s at
the Carlton Club with his stories
of Wellington. But he was only
seven in 1833.
The disapproval is literally of
the hats. The moral character of
a bad hat is secondary. Shocking,
used as a quasi-adverb like this,
was thought a vulgarism (though
Wellington wouldn’t have
minded).
The Oxford English Dictionary
contains no entry for shocking bad
hat, but the phrase figures in its
illustrations of other words. The
earliest comes from 1831, when
R. S. Surtees recounts the fortunes
of Mr Jorrocks, in hunting
raiment, reaching a spot opposite
Somerset House in the Strand,
to be met with boys heckling him
with insults pronounced with the
conventional Cockney V for W:
‘Vot a swell! Vot a shocking bad
hat! Vot shocking bad breeches!’
— Dot Wordsworth
the spectator | 23 september 2017 | www.spectator.co.uk
Winemaker’s lunch
with CVNE
Join us in the Spectator boardroom on Thursday 19 October 2017 for the next in this year’s series of Spectator
Winemaker’s Lunches with Maria Urrutia, marketing director of family-owned Compañia Vinicola del Norte
de España, better known as CVNE, producers of exemplary Rioja since 1879.
Born in New York and educated in the UK, Maria – the fifth generation of her family to work at CVNE – is
uniquely placed to discuss her family’s wines in a global context.
During a delicious four-course cold lunch provided by Forman & Field, Maria will introduce a wide selection of
CVNE’s Rioja wines including specially selected vintages of the Contino Blanco, the Monopole Blanco Seco,
the Viña Real Crianza, the Cune Reserva, the Imperial Reserva and the Imperial Gran Reserva.
CVNE is one of Spain’s finest wine producers and our lunches are hugely popular, so do book promptly to
avoid disappointment.
The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP
Thursday 19 October | 12.30 p.m. | £75
For further information and to book
www.spectator.co.uk/cvne | 020 7961 0015
Courage and commitment - that’s the
FP CRUX European Special Situations Fund
Return on £1,000 invested
1 year
2 years
3 years
4 years
5 years
Since launch*
- 31.08.17
CRUX European Special Situations Fund
£1,219
£1,549
£1,666
£1,744
£2,314
£2,856
Sector average : IA Europe ex UK
£1,235
£1,421
£1,486
£1,593
£2,048
£2,065
Index : FTSE World Europe ex UK
£1,260
£1,454
£1,473
£1,627
£2,055
£2,041
Cash : Bank of England Base Rate
£1,003
£1,007
£1,012
£1,017
£1,023
£1,037
Source: FE © 2017, bid-bid, £1,000 invested, cumulative performance to 31.08.17. *Launch date 01.10.09.
Active managers who invest in their own funds
Active investment management requires confidence,
courage and commitment in every investment decision,
something the managers of CRUX’s European Special
Situations Fund have plenty of.
They are also committed to aligning their investment
aims with that of their clients by investing meaningful
amounts of their own assets in their funds.
As you can see from the table above, it’s an approach which
is delivering strong performance and over the years they have
achieved an impressive track record.
Consult your financial adviser, call or visit:
The Fund has comfortably lapped the index and most
of the tracker funds that follow it nearly every year over the
past five years, as shown in the table above. So if you’re
investing in Europe put yourself on the podium with active
asset management, not in the slow lane with
a passive investment.
Past performance is not a guide to future returns. The value of
an investment and any income from it are not guaranteed and
can go down as well as up and there is the risk of loss to your
investment.
0800 30 474 24
www.cruxam.com
Fund featured; FP CRUX European Special Situations Fund I ACC GBP class. The Henderson European Special Situations Fund was restructured into the FP CRUX European Special
Situations Fund on 8 June 2015. Any past performance or references to the period prior to 8 June 2015 relate to the Henderson European Special Situations Fund. This financial
promotion is issued by CRUX Asset Management, who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority of 25 The North Colonnade, Canary Wharf, London
E14 5HS. A free, English language copy of the full prospectus, the Key Investor Information Document and Supplementary Information Document for the fund, which should be
read before investing, can be obtained from the CRUX website, www.cruxam.com or by calling us on 0800 304 7424. For your protection, calls may be monitored and recorded.
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