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The Ivy League’s dirty secret Tom Leonard Attenborough’s alpha ego James Walton

17 november 2018 [ £4.50 [ est. 1828

James O’Malley on the rise of
the ultimate surveillance state


UAE AED34.00. USA US$7.20.

The greatest pirate who ever lived Horatio Clare

established 1828

A bad deal
uring last year’s general election resulted in a calamitous defeat four years

and a more streamlined regulatory environ-
campaign, Theresa May declared later. And in 1993, Sir John still had a major- ment that ditches the precautionary princi-
that ‘You can only deliver Brexit if ity of nearly 20. Theresa May has none. ple. Instead, the UK will be bound by level
you believe in Brexit’. Unfortunately, her Already, the DUP MPs who provide her playing field restrictions designed to ensure
deal proves this point. It was negotiated by majority have indicated they will oppose the that this country can gain no competitive
a team of people who imagined their job to deal. Their concerns will be shared by Scot- advantage over the EU27.
be a damage-limitation exercise. They did tish Tory MPs who recognise that a weaker May’s deal is not useless. It does bring
not see Brexit as an opportunity and this is union with Northern Ireland might erode back control of borders, farms, fish and
reflected in the terms put before the cabinet. that between England and Scotland. At first money. Payments to the EU will fall from
The deal falls far short of what was prom- sight, the deal does away with the need for about £10 billion to less than £1 billion, sav-
ised in May’s Lancaster House speech. She an internal customs border between North- ing some £50 billion over a parliament. We
said she’d bring back a clean Brexit, taking ern Ireland and the rest of the UK. But the will be free from the Common Agricultur-
Britain out of the Single Market, the Cus- small print shows that the EU is, in effect, al Policy which has, over the years, done so
toms Union and the jurisdiction of the Euro- much to exacerbate Third World poverty. It
pean Court of Justice. The deal she ended Brexit was never, in itself, going to be will stop our courts having to look to Stras-
up presenting to her cabinet will, in sever- a guarantee of national success. It bourg for direction, protecting the common
al important regards, fail all of these tests. represented the removal of a constraint law tradition on which our justice system
But May has conveniently forgotten her (and the respect for it) is based. For those
tests. She doesn’t mention them any more. being given jurisdiction over goods stand- to whom Brexit was about immigration and
Instead, she talks about the uncertainty that ards in Northern Ireland. The fear is that if money, both boxes are ticked.
might be unleashed by no deal (as a result of the UK later wants to make a clean break But to those for whom Brexit was about
her failure to prepare for it) and the political with the EU, it would have to leave North- sovereignty, and the ability of Britain to
weakness created by the result of the gen- ern Ireland behind. manage its own affairs for a 21st century
eral election she called last year. No. 10 disputes this interpretation, but that requires a global outlook rather than
She will now be tempted to turn parlia- this brings us to the largest single problem European parochialism, this deal is a bit-
mentary approval of the draft Brexit deal with Mrs May’s deal: we would not be able ter disappointment. We will not, really, be
agreed on Tuesday into an issue of confi- to leave it freely, at a time of our choosing. It able to break free from EU protectionism.
dence. She will be inclined to tell MPs that would only be possible with the permission We will end up accepting regulatory dik-
whatever they think of this deal, it is the of an ‘independent arbitration committee’. tats under the guise of ‘level playing field’
only one on the table and the only thing sep- This is exactly the state of ‘vassalage’ which requirements. We will not be able to strike
arating us from a chaotic departure from the Remainers and Brexiteers alike have been new trade deals, to the dismay of Americans
EU on 29 March next year. Either accept it, warning about. and Australians who had hoped for closer
or the government will collapse and Jeremy Brexit was never, in itself, going to be a relations with us — and to the dismay of
Corbyn will be prime minister. guarantee of national success. It represented millions who voted for Brexit, with all its
This is a tactic which May should be care- the removal of a constraint: making it work risks, but now find the government unable
ful to resist. It was tried by John Major with would require using the UK’s new freedoms to share their confidence in the project of
the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, and in the wisely. But the UK will have almost no new the United Kingdom.
strict sense of allowing the then prime min- economic freedom under these arrange- This is why May will struggle for
ister to complete the passage of his bill, it ments. The UK will not be able to become a parliament’s approval. MPs from all parties
may seem initially to have worked. But the more competitive economy 20 miles off the will know that there is a better way of doing
price Major paid was to create a poisonous Continent’s coast, competing for investment this. And that even now, it is not too late
atmosphere in the Conservative party which with the promise of lower taxes, freer trade to find one.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 3
Yoko loco, p53
A pirate’s life for me, p44

Vuillard’s muse, p46


3 Leading article 12 The all-seeing state CHRISTMAS BOOKS II
7 Portrait of the Week The dark side of China’s 32 Books of the Year, Part II
high-tech society A further selection of the best and
9 Diary My revolutionary Brexit act James O’Malley worst books of 2018
Jo Johnson
13 The fourth weapon 36 Benjamin Markovits
10 Politics May’s maths problem Social credit is just one part of The Life of Saul Bellow, by
James Forsyth China’s new state control Zachary Leader
11 The Spectator’s Notes Charles Parton 38 Alex Preston
Jeremy Corbyn’s anorak 17 Nervous laughter How to Write an Autobiographical
Charles Moore My awful maiden stand-up gig Novel, and Edinburgh, by
14 Ancient and modern Tom Ball Alexander Chee
Call the polis 20 BlackRock in the spotlight 39 Robert Carver
17 Barometer Forest fires, rabies The investment management corp Cult of a Dark Hero, by
and the name Adolf is finally under scrutiny Stuart Flinders
21 Rod Liddle Juliet Samuel 40 Ursula Buchan
The establishment will win again 22 A different league on the year’s best gardening books
22 From the archive US university admissions are 41 William Cook
Trial and punishment anything but meritocratic Dreamers, by Volker Weidermann
Tom Leonard John Levett
24 James Delingpole
I won’t be turning Catholic just yet 25 Dangerous minds ‘The White Sparrow’: a poem
Searching for the origins of violence 42 Ian Kelly
29 Letters Art vs history, Admiral Taj Nathan
Wemyss, cricket and the Iolaire The Birth of Modern Theatre,
by Norman S. Poser
30 Any other business
A run-in with Amazon in Seattle 43 Bill Emmott
Martin Vander Weyer Japan Story, by Christopher Harding
Alistair Elliott
‘Tristan’: a poem

Cover by Morten Morland. Drawings by Michael Heath, Castro, K.J.Lamb, Bernie, Grizelda, Wilbur, Nick Newmn, RGJ, Percival Editorial and advertising The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP, Tel: 020 7961 0200, Fax: 020 7681 3773, Email:
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The Spectator is published weekly by The Spectator (1828) Ltd at 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP
Editor: Fraser Nelson

4 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |

He hates Tabasco, p69 Grand designs, p40

Does that make him crazy? p25

ARTS SPECIAL LIFE Life is too short to lose friends,
44 Horatio Clare 61 High life Taki particularly difficult ones, who are
The fact — and fiction — of piracy Low life Jeremy Clarke often the most interesting.
46 Exhibitions 62 Peter Mullen Mary Killen, p69
Vuillard & Madame Vuillard ‘If 2018’: a poem
Laura Gascoigne
65 Real life Melissa Kite Wives find it hard to imagine
47 Music Bridge Susanna Gross any sane person seeing anything
Britain’s War Requiem; Turnage’s
to recommend in their useless
Richard Bratby AND FINALLY . . .
56 Notes on… Watling Street James Delingpole, p24
48 Gaming Red Dead Redemption 2
Nick Hilton Patrick West
66 Chess Raymond Keene
Brexit now means slavery,
50 Radio Kate Chisholm according to Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Painting Lorenzo Lotto: Portraits Competition Lucy Vickery
Put that on the bus.
Martin Gayford 67 Crossword Pabulum
Jo Johnson, p9
52 Manuscripts Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms 68 No sacred cows Toby Young
Ed West Battle for Britain Michael Heath
53 Television 69 Sport Roger Alton
James Walton Your problems solved
The listener Yoko Ono: Warzone Mary Killen
Rod Liddle 70 Food Tanya Gold
54 Cinema Fantastic Beasts: The Mind your language
Crimes of Grindelwald Dot Wordsworth
Deborah Ross
55 Theatre
Pinter Three; Don Quixote;
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything
Lloyd Evans
Alistair Elliott
‘The Croissant’: a poem

Jo Johnson MP was James O’Malley was the Dr Taj Nathan is a forensic Ursula Buchan, who reviews Nick Hilton is the director of
transport minister and, under interim editor of Gizmodo UK, psychiatrist and clinical the year’s best gardening books Podot, a podcast production
David Cameron, in the No. 10 and has previously written for director of Merseyside NHS on p40, is an award-winning house. He was The Spectator’s
Policy Unit. He is a member TechRadar. On p12 he looks Trust. He is the winner of the gardening writer. Her most first podcast editor. On p48, he
of ‘the Sensibles’ — Tory MPs at the dark side of China’s John Murray Prize for non- recent book is A Green and reviews the video game Red
seeking to soften Brexit. He technology boom. fiction writing, and his essay is Pleasant Land. Dead Redemption 2.
writes a sensible diary on p9. published on p25.

the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 5


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acquitted of blasphemy after eight years Macron of France signed a book of
Home on death row in Pakistan) for fear of remembrance in a replica railway carriage
heresa May, the Prime Minister, community unrest. Lord Lester of Herne near Compiègne. President Donald Trump
T defended a 500-page technical draft
of the agreement on withdrawal from the
Hill should be suspended from sitting in the
Lords until 2022, its Privileges and Conduct
cancelled his visit to a US military cemetery
because it was raining and he wouldn’t be
European Union. She met immediate Committee said, after he was found to have able to use a helicopter. At a ceremony in
opposition from the Democratic Unionists, offered a woman ‘corrupt inducements to Paris, President Vladimir Putin of Russia
from Jacob Rees-Mogg and from Boris sleep with him’ in 2006 by promising her a shook him by the hand and gave him a
Johnson. Mr Johnson’s brother Jo (a peerage; he denied the allegations. thumbs-up. During a meeting Mr Macron
Remainer) had earlier resigned as a put his hand on Mr Trump’s knee, but later
minister, calling Mrs May’s handling of he British economy grew by 0.6 per in a speech he said: ‘Patriotism is the exact
Brexit a ‘failure of British statecraft on a
scale unseen since the Suez crisis’. The BBC
T cent in the third quarter and the annual
rate of wage increases rose to 3.2 per cent.
opposite of nationalism; nationalism is a
betrayal of patriotism.’
reported that several cabinet ministers Inflation remained unchanged at 2.4 per
had expressed doubts about her Chequers cent. Unemployment rose by 21,000 and t least 48 died in wildfires sweeping
plan back in July. Jeremy Corbyn, the
Labour leader, insisted that Brexit could
the number of people from Cyprus, the
Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
A California and scores were missing.
Some 300,000 had to flee their homes. In
not be stopped, but Keir Starmer, Labour’s Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Paradise, 6,700 homes and businesses burnt
shadow Brexit secretary, said the option of Slovenia working in Britain fell by 173,000. down. Thousand Oaks lost scores of houses
a new referendum was still ‘on the table’. The owners of the Daily Mail were said days after 12 people were shot dead in a
Premier Foods put its Ambrosia creamed to be interested in buying the i newspaper bar there by a former US marine who had
rice business up for sale as it began to from Johnston Press. James Brokenshire, served in Afghanistan; he is believed to
spend £10 million to prepare for Brexit. the culture secretary, defended Sir Roger have committed suicide. One of those killed
The Prince of Wales celebrated his 70th Scruton’s appointment as the chairman was Telemachus Orfanos, 27, who had
birthday. of a new public body to encourage more escaped death last year when a gunman
beautiful houses; Labour said he should killed 58 people in Las Vegas.
he nation had spent a weekend be dumped because in 2007 he wrote in
T solemnly marking the centenary of the
Armistice. Big Ben was allowed to strike
the Daily Telegraph that homosexuality
was ‘not normal’. Adam Thomas, 22, and P alestinian guerrillas in Gaza fired
more than 400 rockets into Israel and
11. The Queen closed her eyes in prayer Claudia Patatas, 38, from Banbury, a couple Israeli aircraft hit 150 targets, killing six
and the Prince of Wales laid a wreath at the who had given their baby the middle name people. Turkey sent an audio recording
Cenotaph. Some people criticised Jeremy Adolf, were convicted of belonging to of the killing of the Saudi journalist
Corbyn, for wearing an anorak and a red National Action, a banned Neo-Nazi group; Jamal Khashoggi to western powers and
tie there. Bells rang; poppy petals fell; large a swastika-shaped pastry cutter was found to Saudi Arabia. Sri Lanka’s Supreme
engravings of individuals who had died in at their home. Court suspended the President’s move
the first world war were made on beaches Abroad to dissolve parliament and hold snap
and washed away by the tide; silhouettes elections. A Spanish court ordered the
of the fallen were placed in churches. n events to mark the 100th anniversary of former Catalan leader Artur Mas to repay
The government was said to oppose the
granting of asylum to Asia Bibi (a Christian
I the Armistice, Chancellor Angela Merkel
of Germany and President Emmanuel
the €4.9 million costs of organising 2014’s
illegal vote on independence. CSH
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 7
Jo Johnson

acob Rees-Mogg observed that maintaining privileged access to our most

J my resignation last week was ‘the
“Emperor’s New Clothes” moment
important market but her deal is a turkey.

in the Brexit process’. If this is right, emember Brexit means Brexit?

that makes me the child, too young
to understand the importance of
R Brexit now means slavery, according
to Jacob. Put that on the bus. Staunch
maintaining pretences, who blurts out Brexiteers, including my brother Boris,
before the embarrassed townsfolk o great to see an MP putting country are publicly admitting we’d be better off
that the emperor is naked. I’ve been
surprised by the noisy reaction to my
S before party, some people have said to
me. Actually, it’s both party and country,
staying in the EU than becoming a vassal
state. Proceeding on this basis is an act of
departure from the middle ranks of because if the Tories allow this deal to collective madness. One telling sign is that
the government. The video I made in become the basis of a new relationship with the government never argues the ‘deal’
my office setting out my reasons for the EU, it’s in trouble. Others have different is better than our current membership.
going had two million views in two days. views about how to extract ourselves from The PM knows she cannot honestly make
Maybe this is an example of Orwell’s the hole No. 10 is digging. EEA this, EFTA that claim and, sensibly, declines to do
dictum that in a time of deceit telling the that. Norway. Canada. Whatever. Brexit is at so. The only comparison she ventures is
truth is a revolutionary act. risk of becoming a parlour game, in which that it is better than having to turn the
we fantasise about ways of having our cake Garden of England into a lorry park,
he deceit is that we’re making a and eating it. The reality is, the PM has done trashing manufacturing supply chains
T success of Brexit. William Hague
once described the goal of Conservative
her best to manage the trade-off between
restoring powers to Westminster and
and stockpiling food and medicines by
quitting without a deal. That’s a low bar.
policy as being ‘in Europe, but not Time to allow the people the final say on
run by Europe’. The government’s whether they still want to leave the EU
proposals will see us out of Europe, yet now we know the deal that’s on offer.
run by Europe, bound by rules which
we will have lost a hand in shaping. ow do you know you’re no longer
Worse still, there is no real clarity about
how this situation will ever end. The
H a minister? You get in a car and it
doesn’t move, goes Peter Lilley’s old
proposed Withdrawal Agreement parks gag. My family knew something was
many of the biggest issues about our up when the lovely Department for
future relationship with Europe into a Transport driver knocked on our front
boundless transitionary period. This is door for the second time in half an hour
a con: there is no evidence that the kind and said he was collecting the red box
of Brexit that we’ve failed to negotiate full of ministerial papers he’d delivered
while we are still members can be minutes previously. I also enjoyed the
magically agreed on once we’ve lost our instantaneous deletion of my wonderful
seat at the table. policy adviser’s entire email system from
her smartphone while she was in the
he ‘deal’ the PM is now finalising middle of sending a message. I’ll miss the
T in Brussels and across Whitehall
makes Brexit an entirely self-defeating
department’s fantastic officials most.

and pointless exercise. Will we be able he person this country misses most
to do worthwhile trade deals with third
countries? No. Could we turn ourselves
T is Jeremy Heywood. I was lucky to
learn from him during the two years I ran
into a low regulation tiger economy? the No. 10 Policy Unit ahead of the 2015
No. Will we ‘take back control’? No, election. He sent me a nice note after
we cede control to the other European our manifesto came out, welcoming that
countries that will determine the rules it had recognised Britain’s ‘impartial,
governing huge swathes of our economy. professional and highly capable civil
When we were told Brexit meant taking service [was] admired around the world
back powers for Parliament, no one and one of our nation’s strengths’.
said to my constituents that this meant The civil service is now stretched to its
the French parliament and the German limits by Brexit, to the detriment of our
parliament, not our own. This is an Tagliatelle: Diamond, gold and silver rings ability to tackle the challenges we face:
utterly abject and shameful national Cassandra Goad, 147 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9BZ a housing crisis, poor social mobility, an
humiliation. And that’s why I resigned. Telephone: 020 7730 2202 ageing society and so on. A great man.

the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 9


May’s maths problem

he bad news for Theresa May is that proposals. There will also be much in the is easier to argue that the public deserve

T Brexit isn’t over. She might have

agreed terms with the European Com-
mission and discussed these with her cabinet,
political declaration to please those who
favour a Canada-style free trade deal with
the EU, suggesting that this might, still, be
another crack at it.
These Tory rebellions mean that the gov-
ernment will need Labour votes to get the
but perhaps her most difficult task awaits: where we end up. But the backstop (which deal through. This will not be easy. Not even
she must now get it through Parliament. will be in the withdrawal agreement) will all the Labour Brexiteers can be relied on
Even if she had struck a good deal, it complicate that. A more cautious view by May. Kate Hoey, for instance, opposes
would have struggled to pass. May only has a would be that 20 Brexit-supporting Tories the deal because of what it would mean for
majority thanks to her confidence-and-sup- will vote against May’s deal. Northern Ireland.
ply deal with the Democratic Unionist Party. They will face blood-curdling threats One set of Labour MPs that the gov-
Northern Ireland was always going to be from No. 10, including a second referendum ernment might have some success with are
one of the most contentious parts of Brexit, or a general election. They’ll be called ‘pur- those who were moderate Remainers in
as the EU has demanded that its future is ists’ who endanger the whole Brexit pro- 2016 but represent heavily Leave seats and
decided first — in the legally binding with- ject. But most of these 20 MPs view the deal so don’t want either a second referendum
drawal agreement — rather than in the com- May is proposing as genuinely worse than or a general election fought on Brexit. The
ing UK/EU trade negotiations. EU membership, so they are not so scared chief whip told colleagues recently that he
In theory, the DUP has agreed to sup- of a second referendum. Compounding this thought there were 15 Labour MPs who the
port the Tories over Brexit. But things look problem is bullishness in Brexiteer circles government could win over.
different now: their language and tactics that they would actually win a second vote. Some ministers think they could secure
(including voting against the government, more Labour MPs than that. They point out
and for the publication of the legal advice Not even Labour Brexiteers can be that 15 voted with the government against
on the backstop) suggest they won’t back relied on by May. Kate Hoey, for EEA membership, which would require
her deal. It seems the government suspects instance, opposes the deal free movement, back in June, and that didn’t
as much, which is why the DUP appears to involve squeezing every last drop out of the
have been kept out of the loop with both The threat of a Jeremy Corbyn government, Labour lemon. They reckon that this deal,
its Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, and though, might prove to be a rather more which will mean the end of free movement
Arlene Foster attacking the putative deal. effective way of whittling down this num- once the transition period is over, could gar-
No. 10 claims victory, saying May has ber. When May was trying to win over one ner support from as many as 25 Labour MPs.
removed the Northern Ireland backstop by wavering cabinet minister, she majored on But even that would not be enough if the
making the backstop UK-wide. However, the dangers of a Corbyn government rather DUP is opposed, unless the Tory rebellion
there are still Northern Ireland-specific pro- than the risk of a second referendum. And can be considerably shaved down. At the
visions tucked away in there. with some success. same time, no whip ever likes having to rely
Rather like the princess who could still But it won’t only be Tory Brexit ultras on MPs from another party. This applies par-
feel the pea despite umpteen mattress- voting against the deal, as Jo Johnson’s res- ticularly to Labour MPs, given the current
es being placed on top of it, the DUP can ignation showed. It will also be opposed circumstances. A huge number of them are
sense the Northern Ireland-specific require- by some on the opposite wing of the party. jittery about being deselected. Any Labour
ments buried under the UK-wide backstop. Emboldened by the language of those on backbencher who votes for May’s Brexit
For this reason, it is highly unlikely to sup- the Brexit side, they will argue that May’s deal knows that he or she would infuriate
port the withdrawal agreement. Without deal is worse than EU membership so Brit- both the Corbynite and pro-Remain wings
DUP support, the vote begins to look very ain should abandon Brexit and stay in. of the membership, thereby making their
tight for May — and that’s before you even There were always going to be a few lives extremely difficult.
consider the many Tory rebellions she is Tories who fell into this category. But How then might this deal get through
likely to face. what will worry No. 10 is that this number the Commons? One theory that is already
The first will come from Brexit ultras appears to be growing. It currently looks being discussed by cabinet ministers is that
who don’t regard her deal as a proper Brex- closer to a dozen than half a dozen. There it might take two votes. In this scenario, after
it. The ERG, the largest Brexiteer lobby in is a feeling that the criticisms by the ERG the first vote, rejecting it, the markets panic
the party, talks about 80 MPs being opposed and Boris Johnson give them covering fire, and MPs are staring over the abyss, so they
to the course May has embarked on, though meaning that it is harder to equate voting have a second vote at which it passes. This
it accepts that the whips will succeed in against whatever May brings back with would be, to put it mildly, high risk. But it
reducing this number, perhaps by half. After disrespecting the referendum result. If is hard to see how the deal could, in other
all, MPs are being asked to vote for a with- some of those who campaigned hardest for circumstances, pass, given the forces now
drawal agreement, not for May’s Chequers Brexit regard this deal as a betrayal, then it ranged against it.
10 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
Charles Moore

t’s time for Bond — Basildon Bond,’ ne of Bairamian’s skills was

‘I is the joke among pro-Leave MPs
as Theresa May serves up her mess of
O recruiting pupils from West
Africa. When the social history of
pottage as Brexit. Market research, mid-20th-century prep schools comes
however, shows the joke does not work to be written, it will show that they
on MPs under 40 because they do not were among the few entrepreneurial
know what Basildon Bond is. So perhaps institutions in post-war Britain. With
I should explain to the hip Spectator big-house rural property prices very low,
crowd that Basildon Bond remains the regulatory costs minimal and lots of ex-
commonest brand of quality paper on officers looking for work, bright sparks
which to write letters. There need to be perhaps he will wear a white poppy and a could easily fill a school with about
48 such letters sent to Graham Brady, Frida Kahlo T-shirt. 60 sons of friends and get going. Rich
the chairman of the 1922 Committee, people in poor, far-flung countries were
to provoke a vote of confidence in Mrs he Queen has been attending Cenotaph identified as valued customers. When I
May among Conservative MPs. There
are certainly far more than 48 who do
T ceremonies since before even Mr
Corbyn was born. I am grateful to Robert
went to my own prep school, Claremont
(of which Bairamian much later became
not, in fact, have confidence in her. It Hardman’s fascinating new book about headmaster) in 1966, it was a fine
does not automatically follow, needless her as a global figure (Queen of the World) example of what we now call diversity.
to say, that they will say so when asked. for the information that ‘On her first tour The first prefect to shout at me was the
The weapon can be used only once in of Canada, in 1951, she was introduced to son of the sports minister of Liberia.
12 months and could recoil upon those Benjamin Mansell, an old soldier of such The father of our most colossal cricketer
who wield it. Or it might provoke what advanced years that he had been too old was the recently assassinated president
Tories call ‘the catastrophe of a Corbyn for the Boer War. Mansell, of Springfield of Nigeria. There was a dignified boy
government’. But what to do about the Junction, Nova Scotia, had served in from Iran, and a large contingent of the
catastrophe of the May one? Afghanistan during the 1870s…The Queen academically very able sons of Indian
must, therefore, be the only person who has grocers from the Canary Islands. Such
feel a proprietorial interest in Labour heard first-hand accounts of both the Anglo- prep schools went ‘rainbow’ long before
I leaders’ attire at the Cenotaph,
because Michael Foot’s famous donkey
Afghan War of 1878 and the 21st-century
Afghan war against the Taliban’ (including,
the state system, but of course they still
studied Kennedy’s Latin Primer and the
jacket in 1981 caused me to write almost in the latter case, from her grandson). Dragon Book of Verse.
the first article in my career to attract
any public notice. It was a leader for the bituaries of Bob Bairamian, the ane Goring was killed last week in
Daily Telegraph, headlined ‘Dressed to
Wound’, and it attacked Mr Foot for
O colourful prep-school headmaster,
paid tribute to his gift for teaching classics,
J a drag-hunting accident. She came
to unwanted fame last year when she
his jacket, flapping trousers, Cornish- glamorising education and helping his was filmed striking out at a masked
pasty shoes and his laying of his party’s pupils win scholarships. He was also a hunt saboteur who had grabbed her
wreath ‘with all the reverent dignity generous man, taking pupils out to lavish frightened horse’s bridle, shouting at
of a tramp bending down to inspect celebratory dinners. But I wonder where him to let go. If she had lived, the case
a cigarette end’. It seemed to crest a the money came from. A dear friend of might have come to court. I do not
wave of reader indignation at Mr Foot. mine and neighbour of Bairamian, also know its exact rights and wrongs, but
Hundreds wrote or telephoned in a prep-school master, bumped into the anyone who has seen masked ‘antis’ at
support. For years afterwards, I felt I great showman in a local pub, roughly 30 work will recognise how hard they try
had been unfair to the dear old boy, but years ago. ‘I say,’ said Bob, ‘I’m in a spot to provoke riders by threatening horses.
when I subsequently learnt that he had of trouble because some parents haven’t Such people have gleefully trolled Jane’s
taken money from the KGB, I reverted paid their fees on time. You couldn’t see death, of course. Jane, whom I knew, was
to my original indignation. So I watched your way to tiding me over for a month, a lovely, funny, warm-hearted woman,
Jeremy Corbyn’s anorak closely on could you?’ My friend, who was excessively who will be grievously missed. Because
Remembrance Day. It was not as bad innocent and kind, wrote a cheque for she was married to Richard Goring, of
as the donkey jacket; but compare the £28,000. This was, apart from his small the hotel family, and because she liked
Corbyn rig in his first wreath-laying cottage, his entire life savings. Bairamian hunting, she was described by the Sun,
as leader in 2015 with his outfit today. only ever paid him back £500. Despite my who reported the fracas, as ‘aristocrat
As a cautious cadet three years ago, he urging, my friend was too embarrassed to Jane’. This amused Jane’s friends,
carefully avoided the Foot trap, wearing complain. By the time he died in a care because she was red-blooded, not blue-
a sober suit, dark tie and conspicuous home two years ago, he had run out of blooded. The paper had forgotten it, but
poppy. Now he is politically dominant, he money. These ‘larger than life’ charmers she started her working life in the 1980s
can risk the anorak. If he becomes PM, often have much to answer for. as a page-three girl in the Sun.

the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 11

The all-seeing state
The dark side of China’s high-tech society

he bullet train from Beijing to Shang- ernment can access data held in different

T hai is the fastest in the world. It takes

just over four hours to travel the
819-mile journey. From the train, it is impos-
silos. But there are around 40 local trials
currently in operation, each of which has dif-
ferent rules and punishments. Once in place,
sible to ignore China’s economic success. the social credit system will act as a way of
There are cities the size of London that enforcing existing laws and regulations.
many westerners will never even have In China’s tech hub Shenzhen, a city of
heard of. They are filled with glass towers 12.5 million people, jaywalkers are punished
and shopping centres, selling Cartier watch- using the social credit system. Pedestrians
es and Gucci bags. who don’t cross the road at the right time or
As the train sets off from each station, do so in the wrong place have their photos
an announcement plays in both Chinese posted on a government website, and on bill-
and stilted English: ‘Dear passengers, peo- boards on the sides of the roads. One firm,
ple who travel without a ticket or behave Intellifusion, is reported to be building a sys-
disorderly, or smoke in public areas, will be tem that will automate this with facial recog-
punished according to regulations and the Run a red light? Lose some points. Donated nition technology. Not only will the system
behaviour will be recorded in the individual to charity? Bonus points. Sold contaminated be able to identify offenders automatically,
credit information system. To avoid a nega- food in your restaurant? That’s going to hit it will then text them to let them know they
tive record of personal credit please follow your social credit rating hard. face punishment.
the relevant regulations and help with the The score is constantly updated. If it falls Another local trial is taking place in the
orders on the train and at the station.’ below an acceptable threshold, then it’s city of Jinan, but this one is for dog owners.
As a technology journalist, I’m used to game over. You could be denied the right to Individuals start with 12 points, but can lose
hearing Silicon Valley executives talk about travel, purchase luxury goods or gain access them for infractions like walking their pet
how liberating new technology is. Yet this to services. In some cases, you may even be without a leash, or letting the animal bark
announcement startled me. It was a remind- publicly shamed with your face displayed too much. Lose all your points and the gov-
er that the same technology that has trans- on billboards. An infraction in one area of ernment takes your pooch away.
formed liberal democracies is now starting life could easily come back to haunt you in The private sector has been just as keen
to be used by authoritarian governments another. According to a State Council policy to adopt social credit. Sesame Credit was
who want to tighten their grip on society. launched by e-commerce giant Alibaba
‘Personal credit’ is essentially a perma- If your score falls too low you in 2015. Much like Amazon, Alibaba is a
nent record of an individual’s behaviour. may be publicly shamed with your platform that connects buyers and sellers.
In the case of the train announcement, the But unlike in America and Europe, most
record is maintained by China’s transport
face displayed on billboards Chinese people didn’t have a bank account
department. If you’re caught travelling until recently, so financial tools such as credit
without a ticket or smoking on the train, document: ‘If trust is broken in one place, checks were unavailable. A system was need-
you’ll be put on a blacklist. You may even restrictions are imposed everywhere.’ ed to create trust within the marketplace.
find yourself banned from the railways. Dr Rogier Creemers, perhaps the West’s Enter social credit. Users who opt in to
In principle, this might seem like a good leading expert on the system, explains how the system are given a score — somewhere
idea. But what gives the system a sinis- moral authority has been a central part of between 350 and 950, based on different
ter edge is the government’s stated inten- Chinese politics for the past two millennia. metrics: how much a user spends, how much
tion. By 2020, it wants to join up the railway ‘China never had a separate church in the personal information has been entered into
blacklist with similar blacklists held by other way that western countries did, and so the the app, whether bills and credit card pay-
government departments, municipalities moral authority of the church is also held by ments have been made on time and how
and even private sector businesses. These the state. This isn’t just about people obey- many verified friends a user has.
records will then form part of a national ing the law; it’s about the state claiming the These metrics are then used as a proxy
‘social credit’ system. moral authority to define what virtue is, and for trust. If someone has bought plenty of
Social credit works in a similar way to then demanding that people live virtuously.’ items without a problem, or has friends who
how we rate our Uber drivers and Deliveroo There isn’t yet a single system of control. use the platform whom the company has
orders. It allows individuals to be rated and The Chinese government is still working already verified, and so on, the system will
scored. Good behaviour is rewarded with on knitting together the various databases divine that the person is more trustworthy.
points, while bad behaviour is penalised. and systems so that different parts of gov- As with the government systems, scores
12 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
are important. If you have a sufficiently high
score, you unlock perks, such as the ability to
rent bicycles without paying a deposit, use
massage chairs (which are strangely ubiq-
The fourth weapon
uitous in China) for free, or even fast-track Social credit is just one part of the new state control
your application for a Schengen visa.
What makes Sesame Credit controver-
sial is that the algorithm that drives it is kept CHARLES PARTON
secret. Most users will have no idea how
their score is calculated. But the company
has admitted it is partially based on the types
of products people buy. ‘Someone who plays
video games for ten hours a day, for example,
would be considered an idle person,’ Li Ying-
yun, Sesame’s technology director, has said.
Buying products for your child would mark
you out as a more responsible citizen. hairman Mao talked of ‘three

or education records, details of purchas-
Economies are built on trust and China’s magic weapons’ for seizing power: es made or internet activity, will be moni-
economy has matured at an astonishing rate. the united front, the armed strug- tored. This is where we find data from the
Those who support the system say that it’s gle and construction of the Communist social credit system, which is like a finan-
designed to manage low-level misdemean- party itself. Now the priority for China’s cial credit rating but far broader. Anyone
ours and will help create more trust. government is to remain in power. To deemed anti-social (or anti-Communist
But it’s easy to see where the next steps ensure that, President Xi Jinping’s party party) will find themselves blocked from
could lead. You don’t need to read too much is developing a fourth ‘magic weapon’. buying air or train tickets, getting a mort-
dystopian science fiction to imagine how The social credit system is a part of gage or even graduating.
such an opaque system, where a mysterious this, but the ‘weapon’ also extends far Finally, there is the ‘grid system’ infor-
number decides your rights and privileges, beyond it. By combining big data, arti- mation, which divides cities into small
could be used to control a population. Some ficial intelligence, recognition technolo- parcels overseen by citizens who are paid
trials have already led to alarming results. In gy and other police techniques, China’s
government intends to create a compre- The East Germans had a Stasi:
The phone system warned anyone hensive method of political and social
calling a person on a debtor blacklist control. in the 21st century, China
that they were untrustworthy It may not live up to everything enlists far more people
that is promised: after all, government-
one region, the phone system was configured implemented computer systems rarely to report unusual activity to the police.
so that anyone calling someone on a debtor work as well as intended. But it will affect The East Germans had a Stasi: in the 21st
blacklist was warned that they were contact- — is already affecting — Chinese society century, China enlists far more people. In
ing an untrustworthy individual. and human rights more profoundly than Chaoyang district in Beijing, for instance,
While we might trust the people cur- any other reform or development insti- there are around 120,000 paid inform-
rently in charge of the new high-tech secu- tuted by the party. ants in operation. The information they
rity apparatus, how can we be sure that The Chinese government has always provide is sifted through using computer
the people in charge in the future will use been interested in keeping files on citi- power and artificial intelligence.
it responsibly? In other words, even if you zens. In the past, each citizen had a As early as 2000, the Golden Shield
inexplicably trust the Chinese government dang’an, or file, that covered their life. project aimed to link up information
to behave responsibly today, how can you be Nothing could be done without the on all Chinese citizens. At a basic level
so sure that Xi Jinping or his successors will dang’an. Everything was entered in it: it would allow authorities to know eve-
behave the same way tomorrow? China’s marriage, social position, job. But this rything about a particular person within
innovative use of new technology may not was, by necessity, pretty rudimentary. The seconds. But it aimed to go beyond that,
just enable perfect surveillance. It will align magic weapon now being created can predicting who might cause trouble to
an individual’s motives with those of the update that surveillance for an infinite- the regime, anticipating the organising
state itself. ly more complex age by tying all man- of any action deemed inimical to the
Technology is only going to develop fur- ner of information to a person’s personal party, and curtailing the freedom and
ther. Processing power will increase, as will ID number. actions of any suspect citizen, by, for
facial recognition. The number of devices The weapon is to have several com- example, taking away the ability to fill up
containing cameras and microchips will ponents. There is recognition technol- a car with petrol or even, in the future, to
increase too. It will keep getting easier to sift ogy, with databases covering the face, start their engine.
through huge amounts of information, in the voice, fingerprints and DNA of every Unsurprisingly, any tool that helps
hunt for anything subversive. Chinese citizen. Then positional moni- to maintain stability is welcomed by
What China has achieved in such a short toring, including mobile devices, which the party. Meng Jianzhu, the ex-head of
time is staggering. But the announcement even now can report on the location of the security system, hailed big data and
I heard on the bullet train made me nerv- 1.4 billion citizens (the trick will be to use modern information technology at a
ous. It was an ominous reminder that there AI to make that information recoverable conference in September last year, talk-
is a darker side to China’s growth, which in real time), backed up by other public ing of ‘extending social governance to
may soon affect us all. systems, such as linking up more than the smallest social units, such as villages
170 million cameras (said to rise to and communities, in order to realise pre-
SPECTATOR.CO.UK/PODCAST 400 million by 2020). cise governance’. His emphasis was on
James O’Malley and Cindy Yu on China’s Next is lifestyle monitoring. Databases anticipating threats. Earlier in July on a
social credit system. concerning the individual, be they health tour of Guiyang, described by the state >
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 13
news agency Xinhua as ‘a pioneer of the may not always be seen as a worthy trade-
application of big data technology in various off. The party is building a considerable ANCIENT AND MODERN
sectors, including police work’, he had called constituency of ordinary, non-dissident peo-
Call the polis
on the country’s police to make full use of ple who cannot travel or book hotels with-
big data and AI. In August he repeated the out being subject to over-frequent checks.
message in Xinjiang. The State Council’s These are still early days, although examples
national artificial intelligence development of arrests through technology are multiply-
plan declares that, ‘AI is indispensable for ing and the Supreme Court has announced
the effective maintenance of social stability’. that 6.7 million people have been banned
This is very much in line with the politi- from buying air and train tickets.
cal zeitgeist. Past politburos were populated Party members, too, might be unhap-
by engineers, who saw security solutions in py at what is being filed away about them. If Brussels
terms of grand projects; the current lead- Interesting questions arise: at what level of is willing to offer the British
ership looks to a new age of ‘informatisa- seniority do officials cease to have all their Parliament only a dog’s Brexit,
tion’ and IT as aids in governance, and this personal doings and sayings recorded? Will that should tell Parliament
fits President Xi’s desire for increased cen- citizens who are talented and wealthier everything it needs to know
tral control. So, for example, if students are prefer to emigrate, voting in the only way about any future prospects for
feared as a perennial catalyst for protest, is it allowed them, with their feet? a Britain tied in with the EU.
surprising that the Ministry of Education has New technology is neither inherent- It is about time for Parliament
suggested monitoring their political senti- ly good nor bad: all depends on use, and to say, ‘Enough is enough’. As
ments by collating data from library records, restraint. Facial, voice and DNA recogni- every Greek polis (city state),
however small, averred, its aim
surveys, social media posts and more? tion technology can help in the fight against
was to ensure that it alone was
Xi puts great emphasis on ‘law-based crime and terrorism. Big data and artificial
the arbiter of its own freedom.
governance’; the Chinese phrase should not intelligence can yield otherwise unobtain- Antiochus III, a distant
be translated as ‘rule of law’, because the able conclusions about tackling diseases successor to Alexander the Great,
party is expressly in control of the law. But and finding cures. But this same technology had ambitions in 196 bc to ‘bring
amid the mass of recent legislation there is might also supply would-be totalitarians with all the cities of Asia under his
a previously unimagined power to control. domination, as they once had
Petrol stations allow cars to be So there is a battle of values shaping up been’. But while Antiochus was
between western liberal democracies and a sure that many Greek cities on
filled only through facial recognition new authoritarianism. China’s new system of and around the western coast
linked to ID cards control and repression will accentuate that of Turkey (according to the
battle. President Xi talks of a ‘community historian Livy) ‘were ready to
little which limits the collection and use of with a shared future for mankind’. A quar- accept his yoke because they
had little confidence in their
people’s private data; nor, given the impor- ter of mankind looks set to share its future
location, fortifications, weapons
tance of maintaining stability for regime sur- in every detail with Xi’s party. If the tech- or warriors’, there were two still
vival, are there likely to be safeguards. nology is extended or sold abroad — some holding out and ‘there was a
Last year, Human Rights Watch doc- countries are already importing aspects of danger that if they were allowed
umented the surveillance work already the system — that fraction might rise. And their way, other cities would follow
under way. A voice-recognition database is might eventually, dear reader, include you. their lead’. (Sound familiar?)
being built in Anhui province. In the Xinji- On top of a show of force, ‘he
ang region, where China is engaged in the Charles Parton is an associate fellow at also tried soft words and a mild
repression of the minority Uyghurs, much the Royal United Services Institute. This is reproach for their stubbornness, in
money and effort is being spent combining adapted from an article first published by the hope that he would persuade
elements of the new magic weapon. Petrol the Chatham House magazine, The World them that they would be free,
stations allow cars to be filled only through Today. as they had hoped, just as soon
facial recognition linked to ID cards. In addi- as they made clear that their
freedom was due to him, and not
tion, all Uyghurs must download an app that
to their own desire to seize it’. (All
automatically reports their browsing history,
very EU.) ‘To this they replied
as well as their given location. that Antiochus ought not to be
Can all this be united into a totalitarian surprised or angry if they were not
straitjacket? It depends on support from inclined to submit impassively to
government, business and the public. It’s the deferment of their freedom.’
also unclear if China can afford the costs Which should be our reply to
in the long term. Beyond the computing Brussels. The fact is that no one
development and equipment, there are the could have tried harder than
costs of recognition-system hardware, of the Theresa May to reach a mutually
personnel to run and maintain the system, acceptable deal, but she was
of the payments to the grid system volun- unable to persuade the EU to
teers. If Beijing’s Chaoyang district’s 120,000 abandon their interests for ours.
After all, why should they? Why
volunteers are paid 300 yuan a month, that
should we? So we must walk away.
equates to £50 million a year. Rolled out
As a Greek statesman said: ‘If you
nationwide, the sums become enormous. follow my advice, we shall possess
The bigger risk is that all this erodes the a free polis and be our own
trust between people and party. At present, masters, able to respond like men,
the party offers a balance between accepting on our own terms, to anyone doing
a convenient electronic life in exchange for us good or harm.’ — Peter Jones
personal information and control, but that
14 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
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Nervous laughter BAROMETER

My awful maiden stand-up gig Hard bitten

TOM BALL A British tourist died after contracting

rabies from a cat bite in Morocco. Whatever
happened to the prominent anti-rabies
posters at British ports?
— The last case of rabies contracted in the
UK was in 1922 but rising cross-Channel
traffic led to a fear that infected animals
could unwittingly be brought in.
t 8.45 p.m. I was back in the toilets If someone had put a pen in my hand and

A again feeling pure terror. In front of

me was a narrow window which I
thought I might be able to squeeze out of if
asked me to write my name, it would have
looked like a scribble. I thought: ‘I’ll tell the
compère it was all a mistake, that they got
— A 1974 regulation introduced long spells
of quarantine and those once-familiar
posters, then restrictions were eased in the
1990s thanks to pet passports.
I dislocated both my shoulders. This seemed the wrong man. I’ll pay my bar tab, sidle out — The last case of human infection in
a more attractive proposition than the alter- of the back door and run off into the night France was in 1923, but the country was
native: leaving the loo and stepping out on as fast as I can and I’ll be careful never, ever not declared rabies-free until 2001 – a
stage to deliver my maiden stand-up come- to mention this to another human being as status it lost for two years from 2008.
dy performance. long as I live.’ But it was too late for that. — Worldwide, rabies kills 59,000 people a
In theory, a few months ago, it sounded Already the man with the microphone was year, 95 per cent in Africa or Asia and 99
like a great idea. Everybody is anxious at the struggling to drag out the two syllables of per cent with infections from dogs.
moment. I’m anxious, you’re anxious, eve- my name into an exciting-sounding intro-
ryone born after 1990 is anxious, or so the duction. To the indifferent applause I left Man powered
newspapers tell us. I stay up at night haunt- my cubicle and took to the stage.
South Eastern Trains and Greater Anglia
ed by a sense of strange foreboding. I once For those reading this hoping for cathar- said they wanted more women train drivers,
went to a party and found four people crying sis, expecting that everything went amaz- as fewer than 5 per cent are female. Some
in the bathroom. Counsellors, therapists and ingly well and I’m now pursuing a career in occupations where female employment is
psychologists are making a killing out of my comedy: you’re mistaken. It was bad. Actu- recorded by the ONS at zero — meaning
inconsolable generation, but no one knows ally, even I was surprised at how bad it was. there are fewer than 1,000 employed:
what to do about it. I read once that there’s Before I’d even had a chance to switch on — Air traffic controllers, butchers,
nothing like facing up to your fears in order the mic, an overweight man in a Burger fork-lift truck drivers, groundsmen and
to conquer them, and that’s why I ended up King crown began heckling me — the usual greenkeepers, pets control officers,
in this predicament. stuff about my act being shit, which though plasterers, production managers and
Imagine all the things that might make prescient, seemed unfair. In the heat of the directors in mining and energy, welders.
you nervous in an average day: work moment I forgot that in dealing with heck-
appraisals, presentations, meeting new peo- lers the comedian is expected to be witty. Fired up
ple. Stand-up comedy is all of those rolled So I said: ‘Shut up.’ Big mistake. The man
California forest fires were blamed on
into one and magnified. So I signed up for looked genuinely hurt. ‘He’s only having a climate change. Have wildfires got worse
the open mic night at the Fox and Duck in laugh, mate,’ cried somebody. ‘Yeah, pick over the years? This is the average annual
Kingston. With only four days to prepare, on someone your own size!’ cried some- acreage (in millions) of US forest burned:
I consulted some people who had been at it body else. He got a bigger laugh than I did 1928-37 ................................................ 41.7
for a while. all night. 1938-47 ................................................ 25.9
‘Try and give yourself some kind of “point At 9.07 p.m. I was back in the bogs. Not 1948-57 ................................................ 10.9
of entry”,’ said Ben, who’s been playing the one of my jokes could be said to have gone 1958-67 ................................................... 4.2
London circuit for a couple of years. ‘Suc- down well. For the most part, my increas- 1968-77 ................................................... 3.6
cess in the low-level arenas, where you’re ingly plaintive attempts at coaxing the audi- 1978-87 ................................................... 3.0
only given a few minutes to make an impact, ence into laughter were met by winces and 1988-97 ................................................... 3.4
is all about having a “thing”. Some people snuffles. There wasn’t even any ironic laugh- 1998-2007 ............................................... 6.6
go for snide and snarky, others go for wild ter. Despite all that, I did feel a small twinge 2008-17 ................................................... 6.6
Source: National Interagency Fire Center
and unhinged. Whatever it is, it just has to be of masochistic satisfaction, as if I’d walked
something people can latch onto quickly and across flaming coals and survived, or spent Fewer and Führer
go “Oh, so that’s his thing then, is it”.’ half an hour doing yoga. I’d looked my worst
Gigi was very much from the opposite fears in the eye for a full seven minutes and A British couple who named their son
school of thought. ‘Just try and be yourself. come out the other end no worse for wear. Adolf were convicted of belonging to
Personal experience is where all the best As for my nerves, they took a while to banned neo-Nazi group National Action.
material comes from,’ she said breezily, hav- subside. That night I was up welcoming the How widespread is the name today?
ing just come off stage performing a set that dawn chorus, waiting by the window for the — In 2010 it was reported that 20 baby
mostly revolved around her three failed adrenalin rush to fade away. But as for my Adolfs had been registered since 1945.
marriages. And what if ‘myself’ isn’t funny? dark forebodings, these were noticeably — In the US, five babies were given the
‘Well, the worst they can do is not laugh.’ absent, and when finally I did nod off, I did name in 1990. Every year since, the figure
From inside the gents I could hear the so in a state of repose long forgotten since has been listed vaguely as ‘less than five’.
final chords of ‘My Sharona’ being hacked boyhood. It would be too much to ask of the — A sample of 27,000 babies born in
Germany in 2006 revealed one Adolf.
out by the aged cover band on before me Fox and Duck that they let me back on stage
There may have been more, as the sample
and I felt a fear far more visceral, much more every time I feel those fears come back, but covered less than 5 per cent of births.
animal than the usual existential anxiety. it’s enough to know that it worked.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 17
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BlackRock in the spotlight
The investment management corp is finally under scrutiny

few months ago, an aggressive US politicians and regulators turned their fire central bank, Philipp Hildebrand; a former

A pressure group called the Campaign

for Accountability declared that it
had a new target: the Wall Street behemoth
on banks, blaming them for the financial
meltdown and whacking them with thou-
sands of pages of regulations. The regulatory
senior adviser to Jacques Chirac, Jean-Fran-
çois Cirelli; and George Osborne’s former
chief of staff, Rupert Harrison. Many of its
BlackRock. Quickly, the American press orgy forced banks to change their business government hires are there for their exper-
picked up on this campaign against exces- models to survive, but it didn’t stop there. tise, not just their connections: Mr Harrison,
sive corporate power. Soon we were reading Soon, authorities began to set their sights for example, is not a lobbyist but analyses
about how BlackRock, like Goldman Sachs on financial markets in general and all of the markets and co-manages an investment fund.
before it, ‘rules the world’. big players within them. BlackRock, as the But the presence of so many formerly
Despite BlackRock’s supposed omni- biggest, has naturally come under scrutiny. powerful policy figures has furthered the
potence, it is relatively unknown in Britain. Regulators have even coined a contentious impression that Fink harbours political
It might be the biggest private manager of new term to describe the industry’s role: ambitions. He has been vocal on corporate
assets in the world but, in political terms, the ‘shadow banking.’ governance issues like boardroom diversity
company has existed in relative obscurity. As it grew, BlackRock expanded its lob- and was talked about as a potential treasury
That is, until last year, when it handed bying operations, especially in Washington secretary in a Hillary Clinton presidency.
George Osborne a £650,000 contract for DC and Brussels. Its ranks have swelled with BlackRock says that it recruits staff from
giving ‘advice’ one day a week. employees who have regulatory or political ‘a very broad set of backgrounds’ who can
In recent months, the firm’s political offer its clients ‘a unique and valuable per-
profile has been rising. When the former ‘BlackRock is petrified of regulators spective’. And in many ways, the company’s
German MP Friedrich Merz suddenly re- turning the screws on them the activities should not be controversial. It is
emerged into German politics as a possible way they did with the banks’ essentially a boring business whose success
successor to Angela Merkel, BlackRock’s stems from developing a risk-management
name appeared again: Mr Merz is the chair- experience. According to the Campaign for technology superior to that of its rivals. Its
man of its growing German business. Accountability, the firm has hired at least 84 other major source of growth — the expan-
Long before BlackRock spread its ten- former US government officials since 2004. sion of its ‘passive’ funds, in which portfo-
tacles into politics, however, it was upend- Since the crisis, the company has had 400 lios simply track indices like the FTSE 100
ing Wall Street’s hierarchy and changing the meetings or calls with senior US officials rather than choosing which stocks to buy —
way people invest. In the late 1980s, Black- and more than 50 with senior UK officials, has done investors a favour by slashing fees
Rock was spun out of the US private equity including presidents and prime ministers, dramatically and driving many of its fat and
firm Blackstone. It began life as a small the campaign group claims (BlackRock expensive rivals to the wall. Through our
outfit offering a new way to manage risk declined to comment on these figures). pension funds, we all benefit from this trend.
and invest in bonds. Within months, under ‘BlackRock is petrified that regula- The company’s ruthlessly efficient cul-
the leadership of its co-founder and chief tors will turn the screws on them the same ture has helped to transform the industry.
executive Larry Fink, its approach caught way they did with the banks, so they want Investment management was once consid-
on and the company began to grow. to pre-empt that,’ said Octavio Marenzi, ered a stuffy, sleepy backwater of old duffers
By the time the financial crisis hit in founder of Opimas, a financial consultancy. and oak panelling. It has now become slick,
2008, BlackRock was already a substantial BlackRock’s political hires include technologically advanced and highly corpo-
player in the world of asset management — Hillary Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl rate. BlackRock employees tend to possess
investing money on behalf of regular sav- Mills; the former chairman of Switzerland’s the same CGI-quality neatness as the most
ers, insurers and pension funds. While the square-jawed investment banker, but unlike
crisis proved devastating for so many banks, the City’s old masters of the universe, they
it provided BlackRock with an opportunity. also exude an almost-tedious air of straight-
Barclays, keen to raise cash to rebuild its laced conservatism that is probably more in
investment bank, put its asset management tune with modern times.
arm up for sale and BlackRock beat rivals Size breeds suspicion, however, and
to snap up the business for $13.5 billion. whatever BlackRock does now, it cannot
Ten years later, it is clear who made the escape political scrutiny. BlackRock is on its
right bet. While Barclays has struggled and way to becoming the next corporate bogey-
shrunk, BlackRock has become a giant in a man of the age, both as a proxy for the power
league of its own, managing $6.3 trillion for of financial markets and because it has
investors in 100 countries. become a well-paid, glamorous sanctuary
With success has come greater scrutiny. for dormant politicians. Its lobbyists’ wage
In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, ‘What are the odds on that?’ bill is only likely to increase.
20 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |

The brutal suppression of a peasants’ revolt

easants’ Revolts tend not to work out we’re headed for suicide — despite the fact because they didn’t like the result of the first

P too well in this country, for the peas-

ants. I suppose that is why we have
so comparatively few of them. There is a
that their statistics suggest the opposite.
Hell, you think that stuff about £350 mil-
lion a week to the NHS was a lie? It has
one — and which will be gerrymandered so
that the Leave vote is split.
None of this is the consequence of the
flurry for a while and then normal service nothing on what we’ve been told since by rights or wrongs of Brexit. All of it is a conse-
is resumed. It is often said that Wesleyan the people who lost the vote: the multi- quence of a failed government and a major-
Methodism helped to quell any uppity ten- tudes of the well-heeled mobilised on their ity in the House of Commons that does not
dencies among the working classes during marches, waving their EU flags, packing out actually want the UK to leave the EU.
the Industrial Revolution, but I suspect it the Albert Hall for Last Night of the Proms, Sure, for a year or so the politicians of
was more a case of the proles understanding all of them insisting that the morons who the two major parties paid lip-service to
that whatever they did, they would not win. voted Leave have now changed their minds the notion that the people’s voice ‘must be
Too much ranged against them, marshalled and citing polls which show precisely that respected’. But the passage of time is a won-
by people who naturally knew much better — much, in fact, as polls, showed a desire derful thing and nobody seems to think that
about what was good for them. to stay in the EU on the evening before the any more. Not the Labour party, which has
And so it is with our latest Peasants’ actual referendum, when Remain had up to apparently resiled from its original stance
Revolt on 23 June 2016 — a mass outpour- an eight-point lead. and will vote against whatever hopeless
ing of anger at the ruling elite in Britain and And we ought to face it: these voices of arrangement is presented before it by the
Brussels, a passion for the nation state and Prime Minister. Not the Remainers within
sovereignty, a long weariness over immigra- For a year or so politicians paid the Conservative party either — perhaps the
tion and a great disdain for the well-heeled lip-service to the notion that the primary villains of the piece, capable of trot-
liberal establishment that believes Leave people’s voice ‘must be respected’ ting out with bovine sincerity the injunction
voters are all ill-educated racist scum who that the People’s Vote must be honoured,
should shut up and get back in their boxes, the establishment, the liberal establishment, while doing everything they possibly can to
to their call centres or wherever it is they have won. It’s as brutal a victory in a way as weaken the government’s hand in negotiat-
work these days. If they work. that which saw Wat Tyler stabbed to death ing with the EU.
What we voted for does not matter, in Smithfield in June 1381: a continual fugue Time and again, the hapless May would
because they will not let it happen. We of outrage, disinformation, lies and chican- trot off to meet Michel Barnier or Jean-
have endured two years of hysteria, bed- ery, broadcast by those with vested interests. Claude Juncker while at home cabinet min-
wetting and tantrums from our masters, our And, of course, a grotesque betrayal, intend- isters would brief about the calamity of
defeated masters. There have been threats, ed all along. a no deal, and how it must be avoided at
dire predictions, spiteful calumnies flung Because there are no palatable options all costs. Thus she would stand at the crease
at those who dared to vote in a way with on the table now for those who voted Leave. and even before the first ball was bowled
which they did not agree; columnists sug- It is either back a deal which ties us to the would find that her bat had been broken,
gesting that democracy has maybe gone too European Union, except without even a to borrow an analogy from that dead sheep
far; shrieks of fury and temper strops; con- vote in return for our continued subjuga- Geoffrey Howe.
tinued attempts to use unelected bodies to tion, or back no deal which stands no chance And yet May was also a Remainer. And
overturn the vote; demands for a new vote whatsoever of getting through Parliament. so too was her Chancellor. Their hearts are
which would be a ‘People’s Vote’ (different Or maybe accept another referendum, not with leaving the EU, their hearts are for
from the original vote because that allowed staying within it as far as is possible. May’s
feral animals into the polling booth); alle- sole purpose at the moment is to stay in
gations from ninnies that Poles and other power — although, frankly, why she should
foreigners were being set on fire or spat at want to eludes me entirely. But imagine what
in the street, that racism is rising; lectures a government with confidence and imagina-
every evening from pencil-necked berks on tion might have done, secure at home and
the BBC about how Brexit is ruining us or therefore immune to blackmailing. Leaving
will ruin us. a trade organisation is not, in reality, a terri-
We’ve been told that we will starve and bly troublesome business. Nevertheless, we
won’t be able to fly anywhere and industrial have made it so.
production will cease. We’ve had big com- I am told quite frequently that a failure
panies screaming they’ll go out of business to leave will lead to riots on the streets. No it
because they can’t employ some benighted won’t. It will lead only to a sullen acceptance
Romanian for 40p an hour. The IMF and, ‘You spend too much time reading articles that once again, you can’t beat the establish-
of course, the EU have been insistent that worrying about screen time.’ ment. It will always win in the end.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 21
A league of their own
US university admissions are anything but meritocratic

that Harvard’s admissions gauleiters give rewards, they got them on their own talent.
here comes a point in a New York low ‘personality ratings’ for criteria such as What was missing, until now, was a

T expat’s life when you suddenly real-

ise that the liberal elites that run this
town have feet of clay.
courage, likeability and kindness to Asian
applicants — often without even meeting
them. The university insists it doesn’t dis-
detailed explanation of how it works in
practice. Thankfully, the Harvard court case
and a cache of staff emails obtained by the
You have watched them joining anti- criminate against any racial groups. plaintiffs have been very helpful. Welcome
Trump marches, opening their beautiful However, these allegations pale beside to the world of ‘ALDCs’, or athletes, lega-
homes for Democrat fundraising parties what the case has revealed about how Har- cies, dean’s or director’s interest list and
and noisily bidding ludicrous sums at char- vard falls over itself to ensure rich parents children of Harvard staff. The dean’s or
ity auctions. Then the time comes for their and alumni parents — preferably both (and director’s interest list is largely composed
children to apply to university and the whole in elite Harvard’s case, they usually are) — of the children of very prominent people
elaborate façade comes crashing down. get their children accepted. Far from being and wealthy donors. One imagines Malia
My wife and I couldn’t help noticing that a Harvard quirk, the legacy system operates
the parents of our daughter’s American at three-quarters of America’s top 100 uni- Graduating from a top US
friends didn’t exactly share our blind panic versities, including all but one of the very university is often just the beginning
as we tried to work out where she should smartest ones (the exception being Massa-
apply for university. chusetts Institute of Technology).
of a lifetime’s relentless networking
Why were people who usually couldn’t Writing about the Harvard case, the
shut up for worrying about their children’s New York Times columnist Nicholas Krist- Obama — whose parents are such dough-
schooling suddenly so much more blasé of recently described legacy preferences as ty champions of equal opportunity — was
about the future than we were? Their chil- progressive America’s ‘dirty little secret’. It’s on the dean’s interest list when she got into
dren were bright, but not that bright. The certainly dirty but hardly much of a secret, Harvard. It’s hard to think her formidable
universities in their sights were among the given that nobody involved feels they have parents didn’t know that.
best in the country: Harvard, Princeton, Yale anything to hide. By clinging to the notion Thanks to what Harvard coyly calls a ‘tip’
and the rest of the Ivy League. that the US is a meritocracy, richer Ameri- (what the rest of us would call a ‘leg-up’), leg-
What these teenagers did have and our cans can always argue that whatever their acy applicants are five times as likely to be
daughter didn’t, however, were parents admitted as non-legacies. The gap between
who had been there, too. More often than ALDCs and the rest is even larger — they
not, their parents had even met there. Their FROM THE ARCHIVE are ten times more likely to win a place.
success therefore was not quite guaranteed Trial and punishment A study last year found almost the same
but vastly more likely than for us poor Brit- number of Harvard students came from the
ish saps and, more importantly, for the vast From ‘The Kaiser’, 16 November 1918: top 1 per cent of America’s richest fami-
majority of their fellow Americans. What is to be done with the Kaiser? lies as from the bottom 60 per cent. Mean-
It’s shocking enough to learn that proud- For the question must certainly be while, the US’s most famous and smuggest
ly meritocratic America is about the only answered. If we may venture to judge university likes to boast about its exclusiv-
country whose universities give precedence the feelings of our countrymen, we ity, annually selecting just 1,660 from 40,000
to its richest, most entitled applicants. It’s should say that, though there is no trace applicants.
doubly dispiriting to learn that liberal col- of a vindictive hostility towards any If Harvard officials weren’t squirming
leges, parents and, frankly, children collude of the Germans who may seriously be to hear their emails to each other on this
without so much as a blush at this outra- trying to enter upon a better way of life, subject read out in court, they should have
geous exercise in hypocrisy and inherited there is a very strong feeling that the been. In one, dated June 2013 and headed
privilege. Kaiser must be brought to trial. This is a ‘My hero’, the then dean of Harvard’s Ken-
The dark mysteries of the grandiosely perfectly logical conclusion. The British nedy School of Government, David Ellwood,
titled ‘legacy preference’ system have just government have announced that lavished praise on William Fitzsimmons,
been laid bare in a Boston courtroom. The all persons proved guilty of offences Harvard’s dean of admissions. ‘Once again
case concerns Students for Fair Admissions, against the laws of humanity during you have done wonders,’ he gushed. ‘I am
the war shall be duly punished. It is
an anti-affirmative action campaign group simply thrilled about all the folks you were
unthinkable, therefore, that the Kaiser
that is suing Harvard University on the able to admit.’
himself should be exempt. The whole
grounds that it discriminates against Asian- Syrian refugees fleeing Raqqa? Not
idea of justice would fall into ridicule
Americans. and disrepute if justice stopped short at
exactly. He was talking about the children
The court has heard all the evidence the person of the Kaiser. of super-rich donors. One donor ‘has already
and now awaits a judge’s ruling. It was told committed to a building’, he went on; anoth-
22 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
er gave ‘major money for fellowships — The average Ivy League alumni associa-
before a decision from you!’ Billionaires tion would give the Freemasons a run for
will dole out millions to Harvard without their money when it comes to mutual back-
even knowing if their child will definitely scratching. Martha Pollack, president of
get a place. Cornell, recently told her university newspa-
per that legacy admissions help perpetuate
n other emails, the dean of a Harvard grad- ‘a Cornell family that goes on for genera-
I uate school praised the admissions chief
for accepting certain students who were
tions’. She saw this as a virtue, not a fault.
Critics note that the proportion of leg-
‘all big wins’. Some went into detail about acy students in US university admissions
applicants’ social connections with the rich remains pretty constant each year, suggest-
and famous. Donor names were redacted in ing an informal quota system is operating.
court to spare billionaire blushes. ‘This free fruit initiative is a terrific idea!’ Legacy undergraduates remain dispropor-
One chain of emails revealed quite how tionately white as well as rich.
calculating Harvard can be in these sensitive ed that a ‘big chunk of athletes and lega- Americans love to see Oxford and
matters. Offering Fitzsimmons advice on a cies’ wouldn’t have got in without a ‘tip’. Cambridge as quaint bastions of privilege
potential student whose family had given Harvard’s Fitzsimmons justified favour- but UK universities abolished legacy pref-
$8.7 million, a Harvard fundraising official ing rich students for financial reasons, spe- erences in the middle of the last century.
said the family had been generous in the cifically mentioning the cost of awarding Our daughter got into Cambridge and some
past, but that more recent years had been scholarships. Yet that cost would barely New York friends were genuinely shocked
‘challenging’. make a dent in the annual returns of the to learn we’d advised her it was probably a
The officer added bleakly: ‘Going for- university’s staggering $40 billion endow- bad idea to mention that her mother is an
ward, I don’t see a significant opportunity ment. Universities also argue legacy pref- alumna at her interview.
for further major gifts. [Name redacted] had erences are important to keep alumni loyal Meanwhile, Downton Abbey: The Exhi-
an art collection which conceivably could and generous, but research has found that bition continues to pack in the punters
come our way. More probably it will go to the system makes negligible difference on its on its epic US tour. Americans are com-
the [name redacted] museum.’ own as to whether old boys and girls donate. ing in droves to shiver with pleasure at the
Universities claim the legacy system If legacy preference only helped in get- iniquities of feudal old Europe and its self-
merely helps determine the choice between ting a good education, that would be reason perpetuating ruling class. But if they really
equally able candidates. However, the enough to object. However, graduating from want a good dollop of hereditary privilege
trial was shown a chart that, in the words a top US university is often just the begin- to gasp at, they could look much closer
of Judge Allison Burroughs, demonstrat- ning of a lifetime’s relentless networking. to home.


Women with Balls An interview series hosted by The Spectator’s Katy Balls

This week’s guest

Emma Barnett
BBC presenter & Sunday Times columnist

I think you are disliked more if you’re a woman

trying to get somewhere. I think I have developed a
talent for being disliked


Find us on the Spectator Radio channel in the iTunes store, or visit RADIO

the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 23


I won’t be turning Catholic just yet

didn’t get an audience with the Pope would say if he’d turned up today and saw the Pantheon! And the Aventine Keyhole in

I when I visited Rome last weekend. But

given that he’s a borderline commie, an
open borders advocate and an increasingly
what was being done in his name.’ It would
be like the Cleansing of the Temple II.
the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. And for
God’s sake don’t order a cappuccino after
11 a.m. or a doppio espresso which is only
fervent evangelist for the climate-change Spaghetti schadenfreude for tourists’ — for so long, that we felt we
religion, we probably wouldn’t have found had to put him out of his misery.
much to say to one another. Nice art At a trattoria called Felice a Testaccio, I Obviously it’s quite pleasing when your
collection, though. ate a spaghetti alla carbonara so delicious, kids turn out not to be complete philistines.
Well, it would be if you had it to your- so perfect in every way that as far as doth The worry is, though, that the only career
self which of course you don’t. Even in the the Capitol exceed the meanest house in that their refined aesthetics fit them for is
autumn off-season, the Vatican museums Rome so far did this ambrosial concoction one that doesn’t pay. Really, Boy would have
feel like shuffling in the midst of a zombie tower above all other pasta dishes ever done so much better had he been born an
horde from The Walking Dead. I’m surprised made. (You’ll gather that this vegan diet I’m Agnelli or a Pamphilj. On the other hand, I’ve
the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel haven’t supposed to be on slipped while I was away.) noticed, there’s almost nowhere a fit, posh
peeled off by now, what with the collected But the best thing of all was that the Fawn heiress type likes to hang out in more than
acid exhalations of the 25,000 tourists who didn’t order it. She picked another dish, not an art gallery — so maybe all that fancy
pass through every day. quite as spectacular. This enabled me to education will pay off yet.
There’s only one way to do it: book the
8 a.m. Smug Tour, where you pay over the What a bunch of spivs and rob-dogs A fan in the Forum
odds for privileged early access ahead of the and plunderers and pederasts and
crowds. Then reward yourself afterwards thugs those old popes were Wandering aimlessly in the Forum, not
with a cappuccino in the gardens outside really having a clue what the various ruins
the café and watch the unwashed masses spend the whole lunch congratulating myself were, we did that thing where you eavesdrop
being prepared for their cultural experience. on my menu skills, glowing with schaden- on a guided tour and hope your hovering
Arrayed along the pathways are perhaps freude, and occasionally charitably offering presence isn’t noticed. But it was. Happily,
two dozen boards, each with a reproduction Fawn little pity-morsels from my plate to by an extraordinary stroke of luck, this guy
of Michelangelo’s two sets of frescoes, each help remind her what she was missing. was one of my biggest fans. ‘I looked round
with a guide explaining to his or her group Felice was on a long list of expert recom- and was going to offer you a free tour but
what the details signify. ‘Been there. Done mendations given to me beforehand by Tim you’d already gone,’ he told me via a mes-
that,’ you think. Smugly. Watson, a teacher at Oundle who knows sage on Twitter, pleading for me to meet
Is it worth it? Only so you can knock Rome like the back of his hand because he up with him later.
it off the list of items on your bucket list leads a party of schoolkids there every year Once I’d persuaded the Fawn he wasn’t
and then tell all your friends how thoroughly on a gastronomic and cultural rustic route a psychopath — wives find it hard to imag-
overrated it is. St Peter’s Basilica especially. march, starting at Siena. On the last trip, Boy ine any sane person seeing anything to
What a blowsy, kitsch monstrosity that is. went — which is the main reason we’d gone recommend in their useless husbands — we
Some of my best friends are Catholics — the to Rome in the first place. Boy had been did meet up. Anton (Anton Nagle if you
soundest of the sound — and I’ve occasion- banging on about the glory that is Rome — want to follow him on Twitter) is a charming,
ally toyed with the idea of doing an Evelyn ‘You’ve got to see the Caracalla Baths! And motormouthed autodidact who stopped
Waugh and joining them. But I didn’t come off in Rome on a bicycling trip to China and
away thinking that the papacy is a very 15 years later is still there.
good recruitment advert. We learned more in three hours with
Do you know it makes more than Anton than in the rest of the trip put togeth-
£80 million a year from tickets to its art col- er. It’s so handy being with someone who
lections alone? Yes, part of me was grateful knows the answer to every single question
that all those sculptures and mosaics and you ask. Like, where exactly is the barber-
paintings had been kept safe in one heav- shop where Audrey Hepburn got her crop
ily guarded collection for all eternity. But in Roman Holiday? It’s on the right as you
another part of me thought: ‘What a bunch face the Trevi Fountain (it’s now a bag shop)
of spivs and rob-dogs and plunderers and and there’s a great story behind this, actually.
pederasts and thugs those old popes were! You see, when Nicola Salvi was building the
They just went round the vestiges of ancient fountain... oh dear. We’re out of time. Guess
Rome, looting. And imagine what Jesus ‘I hope he’ll still talk to us!’ you’ll have to book a tour with Anton.
24 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
Dangerous minds
Searching for the origins of psychotic violence

here was no reason for Edward ing McNaughton’s landlady and his anato- brush diagnostic labels obscures rather than

T Drummond to believe this Janu-

ary day was going to be different to
any other Whitehall working day. Hav-
my teacher, testified that they had observed
no signs of mental derangement. But to
the eight eminent physicians and surgeons
reveals the fascinating patterns created by
a constant swirl of interacting thoughts, per-
ceptions, feelings and impulses.
ing completed his civil service chores and called by the defence it was obvious that Today’s system of classification of mental
visited the bank, he set off back to Down- McNaughton had accepted unquestioning- illness can be traced to the attempts to organ-
ing Street where, as the prime minister’s pri- ly a fiction invented by his psychotic mind. ise the confused psychiatric nomenclature
vate secretary, he had an apartment. He was Their evidence proved compelling. The jury that prevailed at the time of McNaughton’s
passing a Charing Cross coffee shop when, was directed to reach a verdict and, without trial. An influential broad dichotomy of
without any warning, he felt a searing blow even retiring, the foreman announced on insanity was introduced by the German psy-
to his back and, according to a witness, his 4 March 1843 that they found the prisoner chiatric empiricist Emil Kraepelin in the
jacket burst into flames. not guilty on the ground of insanity. 1890s. He proposed two types: episodic man-
The bang drew the attention of a quick- The public was aghast: convinced that ic-depressive psychosis (later updated to
witted police officer, who dashed across criminals and violent madmen would be bipolar disorder); and a progressively dete-
the road as a man prepared to shoot at Mr encouraged to terrible deeds by such leni- riorating psychosis which he called dementia
Drummond again. But even with the assis- ency. To the press too, the verdict was an praecox (‘a precocious madness’); a label that
tance of passers-by, the officer struggled outrage. This was a carefully plotted and was to fall out of fashion in favour of schizo-
to disarm the shooter. He violently resist- fully confessed crime — yet McNaughton phrenia. Repeated subdivisions over the fol-
ed and discharged a second shot, though was being found not guilty. Queen Victoria, lowing 120 years have produced more than
this time without causing injury to anyone. reminded of the attempt on her life three 500 diagnoses within today’s iteration of the
Eventually overpowered, the shooter — a controversial Diagnostic and Statistical Man-
man named Daniel McNaughton — was The more I have examined the ual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Despite
arrested and detained in police custody. criminal mind, the more I have seen these refinements, hair-splitting debates over
Drummond’s initial prognosis seemed a patient’s diagnosis remain a regular feature
hopeful. But then his condition worsened the limitations of medical diagnosis of psychiatric case-conferences.
and within five days of the shooting, he was As a forensic psychiatrist, I have also
dead. McNaughton’s crime had become a years earlier by a man also deemed by the become accustomed to a much more testing
capital offence. courts to be insane, was moved to intervene. and combative arena. Not only are criminal
Despite his resistance to police at In correspondence with Sir Robert Peel, courts adversarial by design, but the ques-
the scene, McNaughton was surprisingly she asked Parliament for a tighter definition tions are far more challenging since lawyers
co-operative under questioning. But it of insanity. often do not accept the basic assumptions
wasn’t only his willingness to admit to the In response, the rattled criminal justice that psychiatry takes for granted. My opin-
shooting that surprised the police. It became system laid the foundations for an enduring ion that a homicide is attributable to the kill-
apparent that his intended target had been approach to understanding the mental ori- er’s diagnosable condition is not enough for
the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel. gins of criminal behaviour. McNaughton’s their lawyers to present a defence of dimin-
McNaughton was a Scottish craftsman name has since become part of legal histo- ished responsibility to a murder charge.
who, following a brief acting career, set up ry — the McNaughton Rule declares that The court needs to know how the condition
his own woodturning workshop in Glas- the defence of insanity requires clear proof affected his mind so as to cause him to kill.
gow in 1835. An industrious and frugal man, that the accused was labouring under such a
McNaughton ran his workshop for five years defect of reason, from a disease of the mind, e attribute the social and psycholog-
and was able to save a considerable sum of
money, teaching himself French and attend-
as not to know the nature and quality of his
actions. Reason and disease were placed
W ical problems of modern society to
the fact that society requires people to live
ing lectures on anatomy in his spare time. centre stage in the law’s assessment of the under conditions radically different from
Under police questioning, he appeared criminal mind. those under which the human race evolved
unconstrained in sharing the extent to which The medical model relies on the process and to behave in ways that conflict with the
he felt he had been terrorised by the rul- of diagnosis to identify underlying disease, patterns of behaviour that the human race
ing elite. The shooting, it emerged, was the which is then treated by either reversing or developed while living under the earlier
denouement of a conspiratorial tale that on removing it. I have practised forensic psy- conditions.
first hearing appeared fantastical. Known to chiatry for 21 years and acted as an expert These words were penned by a former
have radical political views, McNaughton witness in innumerable cases. And the more professor of mathematics who was also the
had complained to both the Glasgow com- I have examined the criminal manifestations author of a campaign of indiscriminate hom-
missioner of police and an MP that he was of the human mind, the more I have seen icidally motivated violence stretching over
being followed by Tory spies. the limitations of medical diagnosis. To me, 17 years. Driven by hostility towards moder-
A series of prosecution witnesses, includ- reducing types of consciousness to broad nity, Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski dispatched >
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 25
incendiary devices across the United States
killing three people and injuring another 23.
Known as the Unabomber, due to his
targeting of universities and airlines, Kac-
zynski had been a brilliant mathematician.
With an IQ of 170, he became an under-
graduate at Harvard University aged just 16,
and went on to earn a Master’s and PhD in
mathematics at the University of Michigan.
He joined U.C. Berkeley in 1967, but then
— without explanation — abruptly resigned
after two years. Frustrated by the rapidly
changing world, Kaczynski had shunned
academic life and moved to Montana, where
he began building a cabin in the woods. He
lived there as a hermit, completely cut off
from the modernising world.
It was in this hideaway that, between
1978 and 1995, Ted Kaczynski manufactured
16 increasingly sophisticated bombs. Even-
tually, he offered to halt his revolutionary

How could schizophrenia be squared

with Kaczynski’s capacity to execute
meticulously planned crimes?
actions if his manifesto, Industrial Society
and Its Future, was published.
The 35,000-word manifesto appeared
in the Washington Post and the New York
Times in September 1995. After reading it
David Kaczynski noticed content and stylis- involved in too many trials in which the cen- a proxy for nerve cell activity — crunch
tic similarities with his older brother’s let- tral issue has been on whether the criteria group-level data to identify commonalities
ters from the 1970s and went to the FBI. In for specific diagnosis were met. within groups. Yet as a forensic psychiatrist
the spring of 1996 Theodore Kaczynski was In the case of Ted Kaczynski, the matter I strive to trace the source of an individual’s
arrested at his cabin. was never resolved. The trial was brought to flawed choices and behaviour. Mine is an
During the subsequent trial, a court- an abrupt halt when, faced with the prospect exploration of the individual’s uniqueness.
appointed psychiatrist’s assessment was that of his legal team humiliatingly portraying Neurobiological studies have undoubt-
Kaczynski suffered from schizophrenia. Had his philosophy as the ravings of a madman edly improved our understanding of the
present-day diagnostic approaches been in (against his express wishes), Kaczynski origins of violence by highlighting possible
use in the 1800s, Daniel McNaughton would changed his plea to guilty of murder. brain mechanisms. But its advocates over-
also have received the same diagnosis. look the fundamental limitation of neu-
The controversy in both the McNaughton oes it help our understanding of their robiology as an explanation of behaviour.
and Kaczynski cases centred on the apparent
lucidity of the men in spite of claims by the
D criminal behaviour to know whether
or not Kaczynski or McNaughton suffered
The goal of this scientific field is to produce
an objective depiction; one to match the
experts of insanity. How could a diagnosis of from schizophrenia? Here we return to the inflamed airways explanation of asthma.
schizophrenia be squared with Kaczynski’s problems with the disease model in psychia- The difference is that brain-based repre-
capacity to execute meticulously planned try. When I ask trainee psychiatrists to define sentations describe, but they don’t explain.
crimes, to avoid detection for so long, and to schizophrenia, they talk about psychotic In itself, a neurobiological narrative will
compose a novella-length manifesto? While symptoms such as hallucinations and delu- never be sufficient for understanding men-
bizarre and dangerous in parts, Industrial sions. If I ask them to define a physical health tal disorder or criminal behaviour. Human
Society and Its Future contained ideas to condition such as asthma they talk about an behaviour cannot be fully explained with-
which large sections of society would sub- inflammatory airway disease resulting in out including the subjective perspective.
scribe. After its publication, professor James bronchospasm: they may include symptoms In explaining violence, the physiology of
Q. Wilson of University of California wrote (wheezing and shortness of breath) in their the brain has to be contextualised by psy-
in the New Yorker that the manifesto was ‘a answers, but do not rely on symptoms alone. chological abstractions of the mind such
carefully reasoned, artfully written paper’ Pondering whether the diagnosis is schizo- as impulses, urges, motives, and inhibitions.
and that ‘if it is the work of a madman, then phrenia or not, which we spend so much time Understanding these subjective phenomena
the writings of many political philosophers doing in clinics and court, takes us down an is central to eliciting the origins of violence.
— Jean Jacques Rousseau, Tom Paine, Karl explanatory blind alley.
Marx — are scarcely more sane’. Is it his A different and newer type of expertise This essay was the winner of the John
willingness to act on these beliefs — and to seems to offer a better way of explaining Murray Prize for a non-fiction essay on the
cause harm to members of the public — that the criminal mind. With the technology to theme of ‘Origins’, launched this year in
separates Kaczynski from Rosseau, Paine remotely visualise the activity of the brain’s association with The Spectator, to mark the
and Marx? What has become increasingly hardwiring, neuroscientific evidence has been 250th anniversary of the publishing house.
clear to me is that diagnosis does not illu- introduced to criminal courts. These quantita- Dr Nathan wins a £20,000 book contract
minate the causes of behaviour. I have been tive researchers — measuring blood-flow as with John Murray.
26 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |

of a bureaucracy that favours the most Armistice into effect. ‘When he reported
Hearts as well as heads powerful EU lobbyists without any say in to the prime minister and cabinet on
Sir: Simon Jenkins suggests we should stop those rules. The Single Market is neither 19 November, he was shocked to find them
remembering and start forgetting about the best economic option nor what the ungrateful and vindictive.’
the first world war (‘Don’t mention the population of the UK voted for. Alistair Lexden
war’, 10 November). His beef is with artists David Harper House of Lords, London SW1
in particular, claiming that art ‘drenches Bude, Cornwall
history in emotion’. He prefers to read
history books.
My family at war
No one would argue against history
Admirable timing Sir: I found myself very moved by Liz
books, but surely it is not a question of Sir: The happiness felt by the dancing Hunt’s description of her visit to Danny
either/or. Artists tell a story in a different Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, supreme Mulholland’s final resting place (‘We will
way from historians, often to a different allied naval commander, on Armistice Day remember him’, 10 November).
audience. They can move people to want to (The Spectator’s Notes, 10 November) was Due to my age, my grandparents were
find out more: to look in the box of letters short-lived. He did not receive the grant able to tell me much of their own second
in the attic, to find out about their family of £100,000 which Parliament awarded world war experiences. Family folklore
connection to the war, to think again about all the other first world war commanders; even claims — quite correctly as it turns out
the past and how it impacts on our present. while they received earldoms, he got a mere — an Agincourt archer as our kith and kin.
Good history books open our minds to new barony, for which he was made to wait a Yet sadly we know nothing of our family’s
ideas and perspectives. Good art opens our year. He told his family these misfortunes involvement in the Great War. Like Liz, it is
hearts and our minds. were the result of disobeying Lloyd high time I righted that wrong.
The 14-18 NOW programme of first George, who had instructed him ‘to arrange Mike Prince
world war centenary arts commissions has that the Armistice should commence at New Milton, Hampshire
invited some of the world’s leading artists 2.30 p.m. in order that he might announce
to create new work in response to the it in the House of Commons between
centenary. With funding from government 2.45 p.m. and 3 p.m’. According to his
Howzat for an error?
and the Lottery — though nothing like the account, Wemyss telephoned George V and Sir: Peter Oborne’s recent review of Simon
sums Jenkins referred to — as well as vital got him to tell the government that the 11th Wilde’s book England: The Biography
corporate and philanthropic support, our hour would be a far better time to bring the mentioned the (statistically) worst-
artists have reached more than 35 million ever first-class cricketer, the Harrovian
people in the UK so far, including many McMaster: out first ball, no wickets, no
young people. catches in his only match. He deserves
Jenkins says he will ponder the war with immortality under his correct initials, which
the help of historians, not artists. That’s fine.
But let others experience the work of artists,
LAND IN THE were J. E. P. (Joseph Emile Patrick) rather
than C. E. B.
who invite us to imagine and participate as HEART OF Harry Beresford
well as think. The fact that we haven’t learnt London SE1
the lessons of history is not a justification LONDON CITY
for forgetting the horrors of war.
Jenny Waldman
Remembering the Iolaire
• Convenient twice daily*
Director, 14-18 NOW Sir: Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence
London SE1 ƐċĂĈŞŖāŐĮħáìŐèììĨ gives a moving account of the loss of two
to London City American troopships off the island of Islay
a few weeks before the Armistice (Diary,
World view ʫ>ÆŖޘŐÆâĞÆĨèġĮţĨĂìÆââìŖŖ
10 November). There was another tragedy
Sir: David Woodhead (Letters, 10 on 1 January 1919 at the approach to the
November) described Tony Abbott’s ʫ ĮħōġċħìĨŞÆŐſĮĨáĮÆŐè harbour in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, when
WTO trade solution as ‘disingenuous’ on èŐċĨĞŖÆĨèŖĨÆâĞŖ HMY Iolaire, coming home in a force
the basis of all existing WTO members ʫ>ÆŐìŖāŐĮħ˫ʗʘʴʘʘʨ ten gale and crowded with more than 200
having additional bilateral and regional servicemen, was dashed against rocks
trade agreements in place, and therefore ʫÂĮĨÆġÆĨèʓˇʓˇʒŐĮţŞìōÆŖŖìŖ and sank. The men were within yards of
a WTO solution for the UK would not be ÆŸÆċġÆáġìŞĮáìĨìƏŞŐìĂţġÆŐ the shore and had survived the horrors of
comparable. ŞŐÆŸìġġìŐŖ the Great War only to be killed so near
It is Woodhead who is being their own homes. The effect on the island
disingenuous. The WTO solution ƐſáìʴâĮħ áěìâ
ŞŞĮ ŐċèÆſ communities was devastating: for years, this
Ŗ ʴţ ÆſŞĮ>
represents a fundamental basis upon which ŐĂ ì
âĈÆ ġſ˅aĮĨ
è catastrophe was not talked about.
ÆĨè Æċ
additional trade agreements can be built. Ă  Ş ÆžìŖ Źċâì& In the recently published The Darkest
Ĩ ˜
ġţèċ ĈÆĨĂìʴ
ċĨâ â
Those additional trade agreements are not Ĩ ì ŹÆſ ŞſÆĨè ŐŸċâìʴ Dawn, the events of New Year’s Day
ʨh ċġ ċ ì
ċġÆá ÆſŖ
even essential but they represent a possible ōġţŖ
 1919 have been thoroughly researched by
enhancement, especially when the UK Malcolm Macdonald and Donald John
would have the authority to negotiate them MacLeod. There are witness statements,
in its best interests. personal descriptions, maps and analyses,
Staying in the Single Market condemns but the cause of the loss is still debatable.
the UK never to negotiate bilateral Catherine Montgomery Blight
agreements and to be subject to the rules St Austell, Cornwall
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 29

Anyone seen Jeff Bezos? I’m

here to talk to him about tax

Los Angeles/Seattle when they are judged more by their phi- Amazon Go, a supermarket without check-
S stocks briefly rallied after the lanthropy than their potential to accumu- outs where sensors identify you, track any-

U midterm results as markets looked

favourably on a divided Congress
and the possibility of cooperation between
late even more wealth. Indeed I wrote last
year about the rather meaningless debate as
to which is actually the richer, both having
thing picked off the shelf and charge you for
it through your phone. But no sooner had
I downloaded the app than all hell broke
Donald Trump and House Democrats. The passed the $90 billion mark. I concluded that loose. Whether or not it was the ceiling cam-
Fed kept interest rates on hold until next although Bezos’s Amazon shares may be eras that identified me, my visitor badge was
month, while remarking on strong growth worth more than Gates’s stake in Microsoft, abruptly unclipped and I was ushered off the
and a continuing fall in unemployment. Gates is ahead by a distance in the practical premises. It turned out I’d been blacklisted
That, in a nutshell, is the economic news as sense that he has found more fruitful ways by Amazon’s PR people and should never
I land at Los Angeles — but a more vivid to spend his money and, in doing so, causes have been allowed on the tour. Bizarre, you
update is delivered, as ever, by the talkative people to admire him. Contrasting visits to might think, for a retailer whose top ‘leader-
cab driver who takes me into the city. the Gates Foundation and Amazon’s corpo- ship principle’ is ‘customer obsession’ — but
He’s from Mexico, and his story is a rate HQ confirmed my view. good to know The Spectator strikes fear into
cameo of the vigour with which Americans The Foundation — the world’s best one of the world’s mightiest corporations.
build their own prosperity as best they can. endowed charity — offered a warm wel-
He didn’t vote because he’s still awaiting cit- come. I learned that it is not only trying to West Coast fads
izenship after many years in the US, where eliminate polio and malaria from the plan-
he owns a house that’s rising in value and his et, but also investing $400 million in bring- I observe two new consumer crazes here.
son serves in the military. But he would have ing cleaner toilets to the half of the world’s The first is rented electric scooters: Ford just
voted Republican because ‘Democrats give population that lacks safe sanitation; that’s paid $80 million for a two-year-old San Fran-
people welfare, make them lazy’. And, in a as down-to-earth as billionaire benevolence cisco start-up called Spin which operates
vivid expression of the ‘nativist’ tendency of gets and will do vastly more good than, for scooter fleets in a dozen US cities. Two other
settled immigrants to turn against those who example, Jeff Bezos’s space travel project, scooter ventures, Bird and Lime, ‘each hit
try to follow, he thinks Trump is right to rage Blue Origin. But Bezos and his company do the $1 billion valuation mark faster than any
against the caravan of would-be immigrants street-level philanthropy too: we hear much other US start-ups in history’, says the Wall
from Honduras: ‘They want to come here about Mary’s Place, a hostel that accommo- Street Journal. But if this fad reaches the UK
but they don’t want to work.’ dates 60 homeless families within Amazon’s I predict trouble: even American urbanites
Lunching with a friend in Malibu the fol- city-centre office campus, and that Bezos is who rarely walk anywhere find it tiresome
lowing day, I watch sunlight dancing on the planning to expand. to have earphone-clad riders weaving along
ocean and a sense of West Coast wellbeing sidewalks and dumping scooters randomly
surrounds us. Yet that same evening there’s Jeff’s Balls at the end of the ride, which is how the busi-
a multiple shooting in a bar at nearby Thou- ness model seems to work. We British are
sand Oaks, and 48 hours later my friend’s I had wanted to quiz Jeff personally about a nation of pedestrians, and the scooter peril
home is reduced to ash by rampaging out- how many other families around the world could be our next great irritation.
of-season wildfires. America’s prosperity might be helped if Amazon paid the same The other craze is sous vide: slow vacu-
also has dark undertones and omens. taxes as the domestic competitors it crush- um-pack cooking in water at controlled —
es, rather than employing towers full of tax and unusually low — temperatures. First I
Richer and poorer magicians to minimise the company’s global overhear two learned UCLA professors
bill. However, my hopes were disappointed. discussing it over dinner, then I find myself
I carried that thought to a conference in He was not to be found in the jungle-planted visiting ChefSteps, a Seattle start-up co-
Seattle, the handsome waterside city that is geodesic domes known locally as ‘Jeff’s founded by Chris Young — Heston Blu-
the home of Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft and Balls’ that provide a showpiece workspace menthal’s former sidekick at The Fat Duck
Starbucks — but also, we swiftly learn, of for some of his staff. But at least I gained a — who has perfected a digital water heat-
many homeless people for whom the pros- rather startling glimpse of the secretive and er called Joule that is, I gather, the iPhone
perity generated by these global corpora- defensive corporate culture he has fathered of the sous vide scene. Young’s entrepre-
tions has made local housing unaffordable. on his technologically awesome business. neurial zest is infectious and Joule is my hot
Here, too, are the world’s richest men, Bill I was still hoping to ask someone my (but never too hot) suggestion for the keen
Gates and Jeff Bezos, both now at the stage tax question at the next tour stop. This was cook’s Christmas present.
30 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
Robert Carver describes

the grisly fate of the
regimental cooks who
poisoned John Nicholson’s
Ursula Buchan discovers
that racehorses have a
fondness for rugosa rosehips
Bill Emmott hopes that one
of Japan’s 70,000
centenarians will carry the
Olympic flame in 2020
Laura Gascoigne is
charmed by Vuillard’s
paintings of his mother –
but finds her hard to spot
Ed West thinks ‘once in a
generation’ an absurdly
modest description of the
British Library’s Anglo-
Saxon exhibition
Rod Liddle has a sure-fire
way of getting rid of
unwanted guests: play them
Yoko Ono’s new album

‘Bishop Bernardo
de’Rossi’, 1505, by
Lorenzo Lotto
Martin Gayford — p50
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 31



Books of the Year

A further selection of the best and most overrated books of 2018,
chosen by some of our regular reviewers

Daniel Swift at the beginning again and work my way Tom Fort’s classic The Book of Eels, pub-
through the oeuvre. lished in 2003. Fort is narrower in scope
I feel as though I came late to the Sarah I greatly enjoyed the ruminative, gothic but deeper and, aided by what is arguably
Moss party. Nobody told me she was this travelogue The Immeasurable World: Jour- the most slippery, strange but fascinating
divided country’s most urgent novelist. Her neys in Desert Places by William Atkins fish species on Earth, he more complete-
themes: the cycles of history, male absurd- (Faber, £20). Besides the Gobi, Atkins tack- ly conjures the mysteriousness of what
ity, the forms female subversion may take, les a sliver of the fearsome 370,000-sqkm lies beneath.
in irony, sickness and sacrifice. It helps that Taklamakan. It’s a vital topic. ‘It has been
she’s absurdly topical, and that she’s funny. estimated,’ he writes, ‘that desertification Marcus Berkmann
Her new book, Ghost Wall (Granta, £12.99), affects a sixth of humankind and 70 per cent
is the shorter, spikier companion piece to of all arid areas.’ The book is as much history I read non-fiction for work and fiction for
her previous novel, The Tidal Zone. It is as travelogue. fun. This year’s discoveries for me were the
about ancient Britain and its re-enactment The welcome trend for rewriting myths spy novels of Mick Herron and the later,
in the present day, and like all the novels I’ve produced Pat Barker’s The Silence of the more abstract works of the science-fiction
loved best this year, it’s also a parable. Girls (Hamish Hamilton, £18.99), which writer Christopher Priest. Herron’s Jackson
Other parables: I was hugely moved is the Iliad from a female perspective. Lamb books are mesmerisingly good, com-
by Jesse Ball’s allegorical Census (Granta, I loved it. bining the best double, triple and quadru-
£14.99), about love and Down’s Syndrome, ple-crossing traditions of Len Deighton and
and am so glad that the austere Australian Mark Cocker early Le Carré with the mordant humour of
fabulist Gerald Murnane is getting the wide Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe novels.
attention he deserves. It has been a fishy year for me, and Charles Priest, who is now 76, has been writ-
Rangeley-Wilson’s terrific Silver Shoals: ing a lot about an invented place he calls
Sara Wheeler Five Fish That Made Britain (Chatto, £18.99) The Dream Archipelago. The Islanders
is among its highlights. The author manages (2011) is an ingenious book of short stories
I gulped down Last Stories by William Tre- to lay bare this country’s abuse of its aston- masquerading as a travelogue; The Adjacent
vor (Viking Penguin, £14.99). Up to his usual ishing former fish abundance, but without (2013) is utterly bizarre, and I may have to
stellar standard but, as we lost him two years name-calling or losing his sense of simple reread it soon to work out what it’s about;
ago, the pages sang like a threnody. Is it pos- wonder at fish as vital, vibrantly wild inhab- and The Gradual (2016) is the next novel I
sible that there won’t ever be another Tre- itants of our encircling seas and waters. intend to start, after I’ve got all this bloody
vor to look forward to? I shall have to start In turn, his book led me to reread work out of the way.
32 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
A.N. Wilson ple and tells her extraordinary story in Girl Best novel this year by a country mile
with Dove (William Collins, £14.99). Bril- is Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber,
James Pope-Hennessy’s Life of Queen Mary liantly original, funny and clever. £13.99), the work of an Irish novelist who
was the best 20th-century royal biography. has sprung from nowhere to both liter-
Hugo Vickers bought a copy as a schoolboy Nicky Haslam ary eminence and great popularity in two
and has been an obsessive royal-watcher books. Her characters are those non-existent
ever since. In The Quest for Queen Mary Foremost is Hugo Vickers’s meticulous- ‘ordinary people’, whose emotions, rela-
(Zuleika, £30),Vickers gathers up the inter- ly annotated The Quest for Queen Mary tionships and daily lives she reveals with
views and conversations with the queen’s (Zuleika, £30), and Cressida Connolly’s ele- sympathy and understanding but also cool
friends and relations, collected by Pope- giac After the Party (Viking, £14.99). Adam detachment. Brilliant.
Hennessy, which were too indiscreet to be Zamoyski refreshingly downsizes the Cor- How many biographers can entirely
included in his masterpiece. Almost every sican commander-in-chief in his Napoleon: change not one’s view of their subject but
page is a gem, but the chapter about Henry The Man Behind the Myth (William Collins, what you might call ‘the universal view,’
Duke of Gloucester must be one of the £30). New to me, but first published in 1647, and do so with carefully, calmly presented
most hilarious pieces of English prose in is Baltasar Gracián’s Pocket Oracle and the evidence? I daresay many like me, with an
our language. Art of Prudence, edited by Jeremy Robbins interest beyond the casual in Tudor history,
Two other superb royal books: Lucy (Penguin Classics, £9.99): every maxim a les- thought they had Thomas Cromwell sewn up.
Worsley’s Queen Victoria: Daughter, Wife, son for our time. Worst book of the year? Diarmaid MacCulloch has blown our view
Mother, Widow (Hodder, £25) has much of Hmmm. Perhaps Andrew Morton’s fatuous apart with his long, absorbing and exciting
the abundant charm of its author; and Franc- Wallis in Love (Michael O’Mara, £20). Thomas Cromwell: A Life (Allen Lane, £30).
es Welch’s The Imperial Tea Party (Short A masterpiece of scholarship and my read
Books, £12.99), recounting visits from the Susan Hill of the year.
Russian royal family to their English cous-
ins, is poignant and comic in equal measure. The law is endlessly fascinating, in its history, Graham Robb
rituals, manners, language and, above all, in
Claire Lowdon the people whose lives revolve, temporar- Having just binge-read seven novels by
ily or in the long term, around its practise. Haruki Murakami, I’m expecting his lat-
The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law est, Killing Commendatore (Harvill Secker,
1965–2005 by Zachary Leader (Cape, £35). by the barrister Sarah Langford (Double- £20), to be my book of the year, but I think
On his deathbed, Bellow asked a friend: day, £16.99) tells the stories of some of those I’m getting it for Christmas, so I’ll have to
‘Was I a man or a jerk?’ In the second and caught up in its complex workings. It is rivet- wait. It has received the accolade of a Class
final volume of his meticulously objective ing — and quite alarming. II: Indecent Materials rating from the Hong
biography, Leader resists the temptation to Kong Obscene Articles Tribunal.
answer that question. Instead, he gives us all Among the books I have read, I admired
the information from every angle, rewarding Éric Vuillard’s Goncourt Prize-winning
the patient reader with a multi-dimensional novel The Order of the Day (Picador,
portrait of this contradictory, conflicted, bril- £12.99), a fly-on-the-wall account, with occa-
liant, difficult human being. And although sional flights of fancy, of the part played by
this is a big book, it’s actually a miracle of captains of industry in Hitler’s rise.
compression and clarity, given the size of Olivier Rolin’s Stalin’s Meteorologist
the life. Best of all, Leader always makes (Harvill Secker, £8.99) tells the painfully
time to remind us why we’re here: for the engrossing tale of Alexey Wangenheim, a
work itself, which he quotes from generously patriotic pioneer of wind power. It is based
and with relish. Whatever you think of Bel- on the letters and drawings he sent to
low the man, you’ll find it impossible not to his wife and daughter from the Arctic gulag
agree with Leader’s moving conclusion that to which he was inexplicably banished by his
‘the fiction is his great gift — the great gift hero, Comrade Stalin.
of his life’.
William Dalrymple
Honor Clerk
In his magisterial The British in India (Allen
Three books about books. Edward Lane, £30), David Gilmour draws on more
Wilson-Lee’s The Catalogue of Shipwrecked than 30 years of research in the archives. Here
Books (William Collins, £25), the fascinating he presents an astonishing harvest from dia-
history of Christopher Columbus’s illegiti- ries, memoirs, letters and official documents
mate son Hernando, guardian of his father’s of the period, many previously unused.
flame, courtier, bibliophile and catalogu- Prostitutes and punkah wallahs, pig-stickers,
er supreme, whose travels took him to the pagoda-hunters and viceregal palaces — all
heart of 16th-century Europe. Lulah Ellen- British colonial life in India is here present-
der’s Elisabeth’s Lists (Granta, £16.99), the ed in elegant prose: 350 years of battles and
story of the author’s grandmother, whom she durbars, maharajahs’ balls, tiger shoots and
never met, improbably conjured up from the Simla shenanigans distilled in 600 pages of
books of household lists she kept as a dip- telling anecdotes and witty vignettes.
lomat’s daughter and wife — an intelligent Manaku of Guler: The Life and Work of
and moving family narrative. And, finally, a Another Great Indian Painter from a Small
life organised by books: Sally Bayley brought Hill State (Niyogi Books, £73), by India’s
herself up with the aid of Milly Molly Mandy, leading art historian, B.N. Goswamy, com-
Betsey Trotwood, Jane Eyre and Miss Mar- pletes his lifetime of labour researching
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 33

the most talented of all the families of art- And of course the Cratchits’ Christmas pud- and triumphantly proved there’s plenty of
ists at work in India in the 18th century. ding is included. life in the old form yet. Finally, A.J. Finn’s
The book closes a diptych that he opened The Woman at the Window (HarperCollins,
two decades ago with the publication of Sam Leith £12.99) took the conventions of a psycholog-
Nainsukh of Guler: A Great Indian Painter ical thriller and gave them both literary pol-
from a Small Hill State. More and more I find I look above all else in ish and real heart.
The pleasure of reading Manaku of Guler fiction for sureness of touch with sentences
derives in part from discovering the extraor- — and that was abundantly in evidence, in Richard Ingrams
dinary painting of this forgotten genius, as he different ways, in Michael Ondaatje’s War-
brings into visual form some of the most sub- light (Cape, £16.99) and in Catherine Lac- It sometimes seems as though a new Donald
tle of Indian philosophical texts; but equally ey’s short story collection Certain American Trump book is being published every week,
in Goswamy’s close reading of the images, States (Granta, £12.99). Ondaatje’s is an but we ought not to forget the pioneering
and the amount of information he manages elliptical and atmospheric hybrid of family Michael Wolff, whose Fire and Fury (Little,
to wring out of them. He notices, for exam- story and second world war spy caper; Lac- Brown, £20) was the first to give a frighten-
ple, that when Radha instructs Krishna to ey’s an often very funny collection of anx- ingly vivid picture of the leader of the free
paint her breasts with sandalwood paste, iously talky stories about people in crises of world — ‘twinkle in his eye, larceny in his
Krishna does so using his left hand: ‘Is it one sort or another. But both of them have soul’: an ignorant inattentive hoodlum who
possible,’ asks Goswamy, ‘that it was not the unmistakable stamp of knowing exact- likes to spend his evenings watching three
Krishna but Manaku who was actually ly what they’re doing. I was also struck by TV screens at once while guzzling cheese-
left-handed?’ the compressed farce and horror in the 1951 burgers. Though published this year, Wolff’s
Dutch novella An Untouched House by Wil- masterpiece now reads like ancient histo-
Andrew Taylor lem Frederik Hermans, in David Colmer’s ry, with many of the pieces swept from the
new translation (Pushkin, £7.99). board, notably the improbable figure of
Claire Fuller’s Bitter Orange (Penguin, In non-fiction, Paul Kildea’s Chopin’s Steve Bannon, self-styled ‘Trump’s brain’,
£14.99) is a beautifully written novel, mainly Piano: A Journey Through Romanticism who put the words into the President’s
set 50 years ago in a decaying stately home (Allen Lane, £20) was fascinating, even for mouth, notably his outlandish inauguration
where three youngish people play out their a musical ignoramus like me. I also tip my speech. ‘What weird shit is this?’, George
doomed hopes and sinister fantasies dur- cap to Andrew Roberts’s Churchill: Walk- W. Bush was heard to murmur. A comment
ing a long, hot summer. There are echoes of ing With Destiny (Allen Lane, £35). I’m sick that seems to sum up Trump’s regime.
Barbara Vine and Daphne du Maurier here to death of Churchill and did not welcome Tom Bower tried to be on his best behav-
and also, faint but curiously insistent, of Bar- yet another book about him, especially with iour with his biography of Prince Charles,
bara Pym. C.J. Sansom’s Tombland (Mantle, that subtitle, yet Roberts’s telling is so fresh Rebel Prince (William Collins, £20). But
£20), the seventh novel in his bestselling it utterly won me over. though he made a commendable attempt to
Shardlake series, is technically a murder see good in the heir to the throne he could
mystery. In practice, it is also an enthralling Jane Ridley not hope to dispel the impression left with
fictional account of Kett’s Rebellion, the his readers that Charles is every bit as weird
little known and even less understood 1549 Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Journals of Ken- as Trump. One can overlook, perhaps, the
insurrection. neth Rose Volume I edited by D.R. Thorpe eccentricities that Bower describes — the
Finally, if you are a fan of Mick Herron’s (Weidenfeld, £30). An insider’s account, special cushions and loo seats that accom-
wonderful Slough House spy novels, there this gossipy and acute diary will become the pany the Prince on his travels — but what is
is a Christmas treat available in the form indispensable guide to the Establishment in one to make of his belief in the ‘sacred geom-
of The Drop (John Murray, £9.99). A wry the years between 1944 and 1979. etry of the body’, or his recommendation
and elegant novella about what happens to I have enjoyed two books published in that coffee enemas could be effective in the
redundant spooks. paperback this year. Kathryn Hughes’s Victo- treatment of cancer? Bush’s words, however
rians Undone (4th Estate, £9.99), a collection crude, seem the only appropriate response.
Ruth Scurr of stunningly original and thought-provok-
ing essays about such unexpected subjects Jonathan Sumption
Because Christmas is a terrible challenge as Darwin’s beard or George Eliot’s hand.
for all who suffer from eating disorders, And Nicholas Shakespeare’s Six Minutes in As a general rule, biography is a poor way to
I am choosing Laura Freeman’s The Read- May (Vintage, £9.99) is interesting not just learn history. Concentrating on a single life
ing Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite for the story of Churchill’s incredibly unlike- oversimplifies the complex texture of events.
(Weidenfeld, £16.99). This is not a misery ly ascent to the premiership but also for the But there are exceptions, and two of them
memoir or self-help book but a joyful cel- way in which the author uses his novelist’s were published this year. One is Julian Jack-
ebration of literature and a candid account skills to write a gripping and original histori- son’s A Certain Idea of France (Allen Lane,
of how reading about other people enjoy- cal narrative. £35), the best biography of De Gaulle in any
ing real or fictional meals helped Freeman language and the latest evidence of Anglo-
recover from anorexia. James Walton Saxon domination in the field of modern
Vicarious enjoyment of food, which can French history. The other is Diarmaid Mac-
take many forms, including studying reci- My favourite novel of this year was Tim Win- Cullough’s Thomas Cromwell (Allen Lane,
pe books, obsessively watching Bake Off ton’s blistering The Shepherd’s Hut (Picador, £30), a real history to supplant the histori-
or cooking elaborate meals for friends and £14.99): a miraculously assured combination cal fictions that surround Henry VIII’s great
family without participating in them, is com- of beguiling narrative voice, wild landscape, minister. Both of these books manage to
mon among anorexics. Freeman transforms page-turning plot and characters that are study events through a life, and not the other
this into a real pathway to recovery. Invit- simultaneously archetypal and utterly indi- way round. Both are written to uncompro-
ing her readers to share picnics, feasts, good vidual. I also much enjoyed Now We Shall mising standards of scholarship by profes-
suppers and strong teas, she takes them on Be Entirely Free (Sceptre, £18.99), in which sionals who have devoted their lives to their
a quirky literary journey, from Richard Jef- Andrew Miller returned to more orthodox subject. But they know how to tell a good
fries’s Bevis to Joanne Harris’s Chocolat. historical fiction after 2015’s The Crossing story well.
34 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
Jeff Noon about an adult looking back at traumatic I found the bleak, off-beam, laugh-or-be-
childhood events and trying to work out sick spirit of the age uncannily reflected in
R.C. Sherriff, the author of the play how far they have formed (or deformed) Ben Marcus’s Notes from the Fog (Gran-
Journey’s End, also wrote a number of him into the person he has become. It’s ta, £12.99), a collection of stories that fea-
novels, all but forgotten now. This year, how- even less unusual to write a narrative that tures, inter alia, a pair of architects who
ever, Penguin Classics reprinted The Hop- moves choppily back and forth between ‘made their mark by designing large pub-
kins Manuscript (£8.99), his one attempt the wartime past and the supposedly more lic graves where people could gather and
at a science fiction story. Published in peaceful present. Yet every time we think where maybe really cool food trucks would
1939, it imagines the moon slipping out we’ve pinned down what Ondaatje is doing also park’.
of its orbit and heading towards Earth, in this novel, he somehow manages to wrig-
all seen through the eyes of Mr Hop- gle free. It’s a quite brilliant act of fictional David Crane
kins, a poultry breeder from a tiny village escapology. Why it didn’t make the Man
called Beadle. I loved this book, by turns Booker shortlist is one of the great literary This, like nearly every other for the past
funny and tragic, and filled with poet- mysteries of the year. 200 years, has been a good one for Napo-
ic descriptions of the approaching moon leon watchers. Michael Broers’s Napo-
and the changing landscape. It moves Tim Martin leon: The Spirit of the Age (Faber, £30)
between abject despair and good old- more than delivers on the promise of his
fashioned British stoicism with ease. Since I judged the Man Booker Interna- first volume; while for anyone looking
It’s worth the cover price alone for the tional prize earlier this year, it may seem for a single-volume biography, or an anti-
moonlit cricket match on the village a bit undignified to carry on shilling for the dote to Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon the
green one night before the world is due to winner, but Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights (Fitz- Great, Adam Zamoyski’s Napoleon: The
end. Magical. carraldo Editions, £9.99) is a book that Man Behind the Myth (William Collins,
deserves all the praise I can throw at it and £30) offers a pacy and characteristical-
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst more. It’s a positive constellation of wit ly unintimidated picture of how and why
and deep thought and I’ve read it so many Napoleon achieved what he did and then
Whereas some novelists seem perfectly times that bits of Jennifer Croft’s transla- succeeded in screwing it all up. Not big on
happy to carry on recycling the same old tion have shown up in my dreams. the battles, but 600-plus pages of narrative
narrative tricks, Michael Ondaatje’s War- Richard Powers’s superb eco-doorstop, history will seldom pass so easily.
light (Cape, £16.99) stood out this year for The Overstory (Heinemann, £18.99), had Also, I very much look forward to
its skill in making even the most familiar me wandering about gaping at trees for C.J. Sansom’s latest Shardlake novel,
fictional terrain seem strange and unset- months — little contemporary fiction is so Tombland (Mantle, £20), centring around
tling underfoot. It’s hardly unusual to write attentive to the non-human world — and Kett’s Rebellion.

Kensington Palace
Art, Architecture and Society
Edited by Olivia Fryman
Kensington Palace is renowned for its architecture, splendid
interiors and its royal residents. This new book thoroughly
explores Kensington’s physical beauty and its history,
presenting material drawn from archives, newspapers,
personal letters, images and careful analysis of the building.
‘This compelling upstairs-downstairs history of the ‘home
for homeless royals’ is lavishly illustrated with architectural
drawings, state beds, artworks from the Royal Collection,
and a near-psychedelic (for 1749) depiction of fireworks
over the Thames at Whitehall.’ – Apollo


Published in association with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

YaleBooks @yalebooks

the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 35


fin in a Chicago boycotted to protest against the war in Viet-


diner: ‘Torn not cut,’ nam. Bellow himself was hardly a champion
a woman tells the of this war, but he thought, if the president
waitress, so the edges invites you, you show your face.
burn a little and grow And yet on other issues he refused, as
crunchy. I’m quoting he once put it in an interview with the cri-
from memory. If it’s tis Michiko Kakutani, ‘to line up’. Especially
the job of a writer to on civil rights, which got him frequently into
offer a usable short- trouble. Leader writes carefully and thought-
hand for complex fully on tensions in Chicago between the
feelings and impres- Jewish and African-American communities.
sions — ‘the best that Bellow’s provocations fell roughly into three
has been thought and categories: the things he said because he had
said’ — then Bellow thought about and deeply studied the crisis
looks like the natural of American cities, and the culture that came
successor, only a few out of them, and wanted to utter hard truths;
hundred years late, the things he said to get a reaction; and the
to Shakespeare. things he said stupidly or worse. But it’s not
But there’s also always easy to tell them apart.
a kind of sting in such Bellow landed in hot water for a remark
praise, and the stock he made over the phone to James Atlas, who
of Bellow’s reputa- quoted it in a New York Times profile of Bel-
tion has probably low’s friend and co-teacher Alan Bloom:
fallen since his death ‘Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus? The Proust
in 2005. The second
volume of Zacha- Bellow put his kids through the misery
ry Leader’s brilliant
biography begins of several divorces and battled one of
where the last one their mothers for a decade in court
ended, with the pub-
lication of Herzog of the Papuans?’ Leader remarks: ‘Few
in 1964, and Bellow words by Bellow have done more to alienate
at the height of his liberal and academic opinion than these, or
fame. His success was to banish his fiction from college syllabuses.’
astonishing. ‘Within Bellow himself tried to give an explanation
Saul Bellow, photographed in Paris in 1982. Extraordinary literary a month of publi- for the remark, in an op-ed piece published
intelligence saw him through the mess of his own life cation, Herzog was in the Times: he was only trying to make
number one on the a distinction between literate and pre-liter-
bestseller list, sup- ate societies, of which he had been a student,
planting John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came as Leader points out, for much of his life.
Conflicted genius in From the Cold.’ This for a novel about All of this gets complicated. In culture wars,
Benjamin Markovits a semi-employed academic who wrote a everything is connected to everything else.
book about Romanticism and Christianity And yet sometimes it also isn’t, and writ-
The Life of Saul Bellow: and spent much of his time firing off letters ing fiction has a way of exposing any blind
Love and Strife, 1965–2005 to other scholars about their work. There’s spots in our view of the world. When the
by Zachary Leader something odd, noble, but also disconcerting black pickpocket in Mr Sammler’s Plan-
Cape, £35, pp. 784 about a literary writer who reaches the top of et silently exposes his genitals to the old
the pops by sticking to his esoteric tunes. But Jewish hero, it’s hard to see this as a com-
Boxing writers sometimes try to make com- ‘money kept rolling in’ — including $371,350 plex account of a complex racial situation.
parisons across weight groups. They used for the paperback rights to Augie March and (I don’t think the pickpocket gets a line
to say, for example, that Floyd Mayweath- Herzog. ‘Guys, I’m rich,’ Bellow told his of dialogue in the whole book.) And yet
er was the best pound-for-pound fighter in friend Mitzi McClosky. He was riding a wave. that’s exactly how the Times’s own review
the world. Saul Bellow for many years has One of the oddities of Herzog is that he characterised it by giving him a voice:
had the reputation of the best page-for-page seems much older than he really is — and ‘Silently, underlining the message with
writer. Every paragraph has something that Bellow himself was still shy of 50 when the his eyes only, the Negro says in effect: the
arrests you: an image, an insight, a line of novel came out. Yet you can already see in contest is unequal. Give it up.’ (In a curious
dialogue, or a moral dilemma. both book and man the terms according to twist of fate, the reviewer, Anatole Broyard,
This is the kind of thing: ‘My broth- which he was in danger of becoming dated, was himself mixed race, and at least by some
er picked me up by the trustful affections or losing touch. On civil rights, on the war accounts ‘passed off’ as white for much of his
as one would lift up a rabbit by the ears.’ in Vietnam, on Israel, he found himself drift- life.) Mr Sammler’s Planet won a National
The sentences flow, both natural and vivid. ing away from the literary liberal consensus. Book Award in 1971, Bellow’s third.
Bellow can capture the moment’s peace of During the various students protests at the For a writer who specialised in deep
a commercial traveller, sitting in the garden University of Chicago in the 1960s, Bellow sympathies, Bellow could run short, not
of his lover’s rented apartment: tended to take the administration line. He just in his fiction but in his life. He put his
He breathed in the sugar of the pure morning. also showed up at President Johnson’s White kids through the misery of several divorc-
He heard the long phrases of the birds. House Festival of the Arts in the summer of es and spent a decade of his life battling
No enemy wanted his life. 1965, which other writers, such as Philip Roth his third wife, Susan, in court, without
Or tell you how to eat an English muf- (a friend and follower) and Robert Lowell, much regard for the poison leaching from
36 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |

this legal conflict into the family ground- being issued by a small, now-defunct press,
water. And yet Leader’s biography is an
You couldn’t make it up Edinburgh has gained a cult following in
attempt to address another kind of failure Alex Preston recent years, driven by the success of Chee’s
of sympathy — of Bellow’s previous biog- second novel, the gaudy and expansive The
rapher, James Atlas, who knew his subject How to Write an Autobiographical Queen of the Night. The publishing scene at
and let the work be coloured by his personal Novel: Essays the time that Edinburgh was being written
feelings (not to mention his own ambitions). by Alexander Chee was dominated by misery memoirs, the lit-
Leader’s portrait manages to be both sub- Bloomsbury, £9.99, pp. 280 crit landscape by new ideas about trauma
tle and even-handed. Bellow could be a real and recovered memory. It feels like these
jerk, but he could also be a decent colleague, Edinburgh two come together in Chee’s tale of Fee,
a generous teacher, a conscientious by Alexander Chee a Korean American choirboy, aged 11 at the
reader, a lively father and a thoughtful friend. Bloomsbury, £9.99, pp. 228 book’s start, who is abused at singing camp,
And part of the pleasure of the biog- tormented by guilt for not preventing the
raphy is the light it shines on some of the Orhan Pamuk, writing about Vladimir abuse of his friend Peter, and then, years
work. Leader writes well about the books Nabokov’s masterful memoir Speak, Mem- later, dredges up recollections of this abuse
themselves — not just on their biographi- ory, noted that there was a particular ‘thrill’ when he develops an obsessive interest in
cal sources but on their virtues and liter- for the writer who calls ‘something whol- one of his students.
ary faults. Characters from Bellow’s life ly autobiographical fiction, something There are repeated references in Edin-
kept recurring in his fiction (even if, as his wholly fictional autobiography’. When burgh to mythology, both Japanese and
last wife, Janis Bellow, warns, ‘Biographers, Nabokov did this, Pamuk said, it changed Greek, and particularly to tales of metamor-
beware; Saul wields a wand, not scissors’). ‘the secret centre of the story’. The fertile phosis and transformation. We understand
But you also see the way his human failings interplay of fact and fiction animates a pair that this is what abuse does to the victim;
show up in the work. His vivid depictions of of books by the Korean American author that there is always a before and an after, the
women sometimes get in the way of more Alexander Chee: one a collection of essays, shadow-presence of the child who wasn’t
natural relations with them. And the char- the other Chee’s debut novel, published in molested walking alongside the one that was.
acteristic Bellovian narrator, articulate but the US in 2001 but appearing in Britain for It’s painful to read the early scenes of Fee’s
also a little goofy, dreamy and out of it, in the first time. abuse, but much of that pain comes from
need of what he calls ‘reality instructors’, There’s something strangely nostalgic the fact that Chee doesn’t shy away from
is a front that conceals the determination about reading Edinburgh (it’s set in Maine; showing how much the newly pubescent Fee
of the author to get his own way. Bellow the title is a reference to a book that features enjoys some aspects of the abuse, the way
tended to imagine himself in his fiction as in the novel). Written in the early 1990s and that, necessarily, early sexual encounters —
something related to but other than what originally rejected by 24 publishers before even ones as horrifying as these — provide
he was. Instead of the famous, wealthy, blueprints for our adult desires.
world-travelling Nobel Prize-winning nov- Edinburgh is a fine first novel, but the
elist, for example, he figured himself as an reason behind its reappearance is the pub-
academic, or botanist, or musicologist, and lication of Chee’s heartfelt, writerly essays,
the displacement partly accounts for some- many of which detail the strange gesta-
thing missing in his portraits of each: the tion of his debut. In a piece towards the
decent mediocrity of ordinary lives.
But the biography also gives glimpses of
The perfect end of the collection, called ‘The Guard-
ians’, Chee writes of teaching a class about
Bellow’s extraordinary literary intelligence,
shaping and seeing him through the mess of
Christmas present stereoscopic narratives — stories presented
from multiple viewpoints — to his creative
his own life. Bellow’s fourth marriage, to the Treat a loved one – or yourself – to a writing students. This idea of being pre-
Romanian mathematician Alexandra Iones- year’s supply of incisive political commentary, sented with competing accounts of a single
cu Tulcea, failed partly, Leader writes (quot- unmissable book and arts reviews and event is a familiar literary trope, but reading
ing one of the many interesting and subtle the wittiest cartoons in Britain, all Edinburgh alongside essays about it is an
insights of the writer’s children), ‘because she within the pages of The Spectator obscurely compelling experience, as if the
was not going to take care of him... on a deep author were whispering in your ear as you
level the attachment was not strong enough’
And we’ll send you read his book. We are granted privileged
to see him through the final stages. And in A bottle of Pol Roger champagne or a access to the ‘secret centre’ of the story,
fact his last marriage — his fifth — to one Spectator Aspinal wallet, worth £60 witnessing the sublimation of autobiogra-
of his former students, Janis Freedman, turns phy into fiction, the mysterious process of
out to have been his happiest — and did the All for just £99 enchantment by which Chee turns the cha-
heavy labour that he needed it to do. Apart (Saving 58% off the cover price) otic facts of his ruined childhood into the
from anything else, their relationship made elegant, emblematic fiction of Fee.
Ravelstein possible, his last great work, based TO ORDER: Chee describes Edinburgh as a palin-
on the life of Allan Bloom, published when ode, an exculpation for a historical sin. As
Bellow was 85. 0330 333 0050 quote code A362 a young man in New York, he appeared in
UK offer only
Leader’s two-volume biography is an a film about gay life called Sex Is… In it,
astonishingly detailed and thoughtful record Chee spoke flippantly of the abuse he suf-
of an important life. American kids playing fered, as ‘an education, even a liberation’.
football in the street tell each other to ‘go Edinburgh is a 228-page refutation of this
long, go deep’, before hurling a pass down- claim, picking through the aftermath of the
field. Leader goes long and deep here, using abuse, showing the repercussions echoing
Bellow as a kind of supersensitive canary down the years. It’s interesting that Hanya
to guide us down the mines of 20th-century Yanagihara, the author of A Little Life, was
culture wars. And whatever else you think one of the editors that turned down Edin-
of him, the guy could sing. burgh. Reading Chee’s debut and essays
38 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
‘Attack on the Sealkote mutineers by General Nicholson’s Irregular Cavalry, 1857.’ Illustration by Charles Ball

together has an impact not unlike that of couldn’t. He remitted £100 of his salary back cooks were strung up from the nearest tree
Yanagihara’s novel — the sense that you’ve home to help with his brother’s education. with no further ado.
been plunged deeply into the pain of anoth- He was captured during the first Afghan War Nicholson found his apotheosis during the
er, that you, too, simply by this contact, have and was treated brutally, enduring the terri- Sepoy Revolt of 1857. He formed a Moveable
been changed. It’s not a pleasant reading ble experience of being the first to discover Column, comprised mainly of Punjabis and
experience, but it’s a powerful one. his brother Alexander’s body, murdered and frontier tribesmen out for loot, and marched
mutilated, the genitals severed and placed on Delhi, where during the storming of the
in the mouth. After Afghanistan, the iron city he was shot, possibly by one of his own
Iron in the soul entered Nicholson’s soul. He never trusted or men, and died aged 34. Apotheosis is right —
believed any Indian ever again. for even in Nicholson’s lifetime, a group of
Robert Carver He was certainly brave and dashing, and Indian fakirs had decided that he was a god,
was revered and admired by his men; but
Cult of a Dark Hero: he was disliked for his arrogance and sneer- Flogging and hanging were Nicholson’s
Nicholson of Delhi ing contempt by many of his fellow officers.
by Stuart Flinders Nicholson believed that India was a barba- tools of pacification. The Victorians
I.B. Tauris, £25, pp. 320 rous land and that God had called upon the saw him as noble and chivalrous
British to civilise it by forcibly stamping out
‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with crime and disorder. His watchwords were and they would worship him. He had them
a beastly religion’, said Winston Churchill as duty and honour. He was not only a highly flogged for blasphemy, but the cult of Nikal
prime minister in 1942, to his secretary of state effective leader of Indian soldiers but also Seyn lasted into the 21st century.
for India, Leo Amery. a rough and ready administrator in the newly This is the first life since Hesketh Pear-
Like John Nicholson, Churchill had sol- conquered Punjab. son’s 1939 hagiography, The Hero of Delhi.
diered on the subcontinent as a young man, His direct interventions to arrest and pun- Stuart Flinders has gone back and exhumed
and both men saw fighting on the North-West ish miscreants made a strong impression. a great deal of original material, including let-
Frontier. Nicholson was a career officer in Within a year he had reduced a region sunk ters and diaries. He takes a more critical view
the East India Company army. ‘I dislike India in anarchy to peace and order by brutal, vio- than Pearson, but nonetheless still accepts
and its inhabitants,’ he said as a young man, lent methods. Flogging and hanging were many of Nicholson’s qualities as admirable.
and never changed that opinion. Duty, obli- Nicholson’s tools of pacification. For the mid- His conclusion is much the same as Pearson,
gation and a career kept both men in a coun- Victorians he was viewed as a chivalrous hero, whom he quotes: rebellions and mutinies in
try they loathed; the graves of more than brave, noble, self-sacrificing. Modern histori- all armies are put down with great severity.
two million Britons in India demonstrate ans are less complimentary: ‘An imperial- Nicholson was brutal certainly, but territories
that it was not simply a place to get rich ist psychopath’, claims William Dalrymple; are only won and held by main force. As long
in, but a place, too often, to die in at an Ronald Hyams calls him ‘a homosexual as the British empire was regarded as a good
early age. paedophile bully’. thing, Nicholson was seen as a hero. Since the
Nicholson was a fundamentalist evan- ‘I am sorry I am late, gentlemen, but 1960s the zeitgeist has flowed against such
gelical Protestant from Ulster, the descend- I have been hanging your cooks,’ Nichol- men, and unsurprisingly he has been wide-
ant of lowland Scots immigrants. His mother son told the officers in his mess one evening. ly criticised. Well-researched and very read-
was a widow and he had many siblings. ‘If A poison plot had been discovered. The cooks able, Flinders’s book is as fair and balanced
I could earn £200 a year there, I would come had refused to drink the soup and a pet mon- a biography of this contentious figure as we
back to Ulster,’ he wrote to his mother. But he key, force-fed the broth, died in agony. The are likely to see.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 39

tures a particular native or


garden plant — elderflow-

er, roses, pinks, foxgloves,
bluebells, for example — so
there is unity of a kind. (Sev-
eral of these chapters were
originally aired on Radio 3’s
The Essay.) Botanical mis-
cellanies are not thin on the
ground but few, if any, offer
prose as cultured, scrupu-
lous and engaging. Anyone
who can connect a portrait
of the members of the Som-
erset House Conference in
1604 with bluebells, or who
knows of an early draft of
Milton’s poem ‘Lycidas’,
deserves respect.
As Professor Stafford
reminds us, Charles Darwin
wrote that nothing gave him
more satisfaction in his sci-
entific life than making out
the meaning of the structure
of primroses. We all know
A river of green topiary cascades down the terrace steps at West Dean. he studied earthworms,
Cotoneaster horizontalis covers the wall on the right Galapagos finches and bar-
nacles but, as Ken Thomp-
son makes clear in Darwin’s
Most Wonderful Plants:
Jones, set throughout the book, are of Darwin’s Botany Today (Profile Books,
Gardening books unsurpassable quality and aptness; on £10.99), he spent just as much time inves-
the strength of them alone, £40 is cheap tigating how climbing plants twine, orchids
Other men’s flowers at the price. and primroses are pollinated, and insects
Ursula Buchan The work of the West Dean gardeners is are trapped by sundews, when formulat-
intensely precious because it is in an almost ing his theories of evolution. Dr Thompson
There are probably no more gifted pro- extinct tradition. Garden designers since — plant biologist, Daily Telegraph column-
fessional gardeners in England than Jim the war have necessarily turned away from ist and writer of popular science that even
Buckland and Sarah Wain, husband and that tradition, attempting instead to lay out I can understand — both demystifies Dar-
wife and joint head gardeners at West imaginative gardens appropriate to their
Dean in Sussex. On the verge of their shrunken size and the shortage of good pro- Henry Cecil, the racehorse trainer,
retirement, after 27 years of effecting fessional gardeners. No one in this country planted rugosa roses round his fillies’
a renaissance in the gardens and grounds of has been more influential in developing
this country house arts centre (bequeathed a more practical aesthetic than John yard because they liked eating the hips
by Edward James), the couple have Brookes, who died in March, just as A Land-
described their work and achievements in scape Legacy — part memoir, part work ret- win’s botanical research and describes mod-
At West Dean: The Creation of an Exemplary rospective — was published by Pimpernel ern scientific discoveries that expand or
Garden (White Lion, £40). Press (£40). confirm his conclusions. This is Darwin for
The lucid, educated text, written by This tour d’horizon of his projects across a dummy, with a sense of humour and an
Jim and overseen by Sarah, is, mercifully, the world and across the decades since enquiring mind.
no empty exercise in heart-tugging nostal- 1960, points to the ways in which design You won’t need an enquiring mind for
gia but an unsentimental account of hard- has evolved, and amply demonstrates why The Generous Gardener: Private Paradises
won practical experience in a multi-faceted, Brookes was for so many years an enor- Shared (Pimpernel Press, £30), a compila-
forward-looking horticultural enterprise, mous influence on both private and pub- tion of Sunday Times articles by Caroline
where precise care, elevated standards, lic garden making. We are fortunate that Donald, since the book consists of shortish
close teamwork, attention to aesthetics he lived to complete this book, for he was interviews with famous or rich people (as
and grindingly hard work have combined an inspired teacher and mentor as well as a well as a few well-known garden designers),
to make West Dean a potent lure to paying designer, and every page, with its plans, ele- some of whom live abroad and a number of
visitors. The demonstration of long-estab- vations and photographs, underscores not whom are dead.
lished, exquisite skills — particularly in only his expertise but his powers in com- It is pleasant to think of busy, impor-
glasshouse and orchard — practically brings municating it. tant people finding consolation and res-
tears to the eyes of a trained gardener like An even more accomplished commu- pite in their gardens and, in truth, the rest
me. (How I should love to have worked at nicator is Fiona Stafford, whose The Brief of us have an unconquerable weakness for
West Dean.) Moreover, this book presents Life of Flowers (John Murray, £20) is gawping at our betters. However, in my
a touching, because thoroughly understat- a description of the botany, lore and litera- experience, celebrities don’t necessarily
ed, picture of a very close and enduring ture of some common flowers, shot through have much to offer the gardening reader,
partnership. The photographs by Andrea with her own memories. Each chapter fea- since they often pay other people to do the
40 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
sweaty stuff and even sometimes the vision long-winded prose one usually associates ly Eisner was shot dead (by a right-wing
thing as well. These articles have appeared with German history books by German terrorist) on his way to tender his resig-
over the past 15 years, so Donald has help- historians. Many of the proponents wrote nation. This gratuitous assassination gave
fully provided short updates and, in the hal- extensively and eloquently about their him a posthumous popularity he’d never
lowed tradition of celebrity interviews, they experiences, and Weidermann draws heav- achieved during his lifetime, and lent his
accentuate the positive: the one concerning ily on these first-hand accounts to great utopian uprising a new, albeit shortlived,
the wife of a ‘successful property financier’ effect. By favouring impressionistic report- lease of life. Hitler was among the 100,000
with a garden in Kent, reads: age over background detail, his narrative is mourners who attended Eisner’s funeral,
Her husband has since departed for pastures
sometimes a bit confusing, but it gives the wearing a red armband, as a soldier in the
new, but, on the plus side, it gives her more reader a vivid sense of what it actually felt Soviet army of the Bavarian Free State.
time both for gardening and for her new inter- like to live through this exhilarating and If anything, the politicians who suc-
est: stitching. terrifying time. ceeded Eisner were even more unworld-
Weidermann clearly sympathises with ly. Ernst Toller had been condemned by
That apart, there are things to enjoy Eisner and his fellow dreamers, but like all psychiatrists as ‘a severe hysteric with
in this book, in particular the unpreten- good journalists he delights in pointing out a pathological addiction to making him-
tious keenness of Jim Carter and Imelda the absurdities of their brave new world. self seem interesting’. Gustav Landau-
Staunton, the Lancastrian self-restraint of One of Eisner’s principal bugbears, non- er, his commissioner of Enlightenment
Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and the old-school sensically, was the proletarian appetite for & Public Instruction, was more interest-
charm of the late Lord Carrington. I am kitsch cabaret, as opposed to highfalutin ed in reciting poetry than enacting legis-
glad I now know that the late Sir Henry drama. ‘Politics is as much an art as paint-
Cecil, the racehorse trainer, planted rugosa ing pictures or composing string quartets,’ Like a Teutonic Haight-Ashbury,
roses round the fillies’ yard, because they he declared, airily. Inevitably, his beloved
liked eating the hips. I’ve got the rugosas all workers didn’t share his elevated vision. As Munich was soon flooded with all
right — I’m just a bit short of racehorses. the German poet Ricarda Huch observed, sorts of cranks and do-gooders
Eisner was merely an abstract moralist —
a hopeless highbrow sorely ill-equipped lation. ‘Let each discharge his duty, and
A brief glimpse of utopia for the brutal Realpolitik of government. a general happiness will alleviate each
‘Criticism and theory make neither a good individual trouble,’ he declared, quoting
William Cook ruler nor a good artist,’ she remarked, Goethe. Doctor Franz Lipp, the people’s
astutely. ‘One has to be able to do it.’ delegate for foreign affairs, had a morbid
Dreamers: When the Writers Took When elections were finally held, fear of telephones, and was declared insane
Power, Germany 1918 Eisner’s Independent Socialists polled after sending a telegram to the Pope com-
by Volker Weidermann a pathetic 2.5 per cent. Farcically, tragical- plaining that Karl Hoffmann, the lead-
Pushkin Press, £16.99, pp. 253 er of Bavaria’s government in exile, had
taken the key to the lavatory with him
Today Munich is a prosperous and peaceful The White Sparrow when he’d fled.
place — Germany’s most affluent, attrac- Like a Teutonic Haight-Ashbury,
tive city. Wandering its leafy avenues, lined Munich was soon flooded with all sorts
with handsome apartments and shiny Towards the end and sightless of cranks and do-gooders. ‘Some believe
new BMWs, it’s hard to picture anything she woke up to swear that the root of all evil is eating cooked
remotely revolutionary happening here. she’d seen a white sparrow food, others the gold standard, others
However, exactly 100 years ago this cosy non-porous underwear,’ wrote Toller,
bastion of conservatism was overrun by shaking off drops of rain despairing of the torrent of quackery his
one of Europe’s most unlikely revolutions, under the photinia. colleagues had unleashed. Like monkeys
led by an idealistic theatre critic called Tonight, clearing our garden, typing Shakespeare, they chanced upon
Kurt Eisner. For a British equivalent, imag- a few worthwhile schemes. Landauer abol-
ine a socialist insurgency led by Kenneth I glimpse the crestfallen ghost ished corporal punishment in schools
Tynan. Of course, like all well-intentioned of a robin, — pretty progressive for 1919. He also
revolutions, it was doomed to fail. its red breast drained abolished homework, arguing (correct-
For several chaotic months, Eisner’s ly) that it made schoolteachers lazy. Sil-
Free State of Bavaria teetered between to a white affront, vio Gesell’s economic theories inspired
tragedy and farce, before succumbing to its stillness lit John Maynard Keynes. Yet for every good
a vicious counter-revolution led by the by the first spill of dusk, idea, there were numerous bad ones, most
Freikorps, the violent forerunners of notably draconian assaults on savings
Adolf Hitler’s brownshirts. Yet while adding a touch of make-believe and private property. When the Freikorps
Hitler’s unsuccessful Munich Putsch has to forked-up roots, marched into town, they met insufficient
become a staple of school history books, the hole they leave; resistance. It turned out that the proletari-
Eisner’s (briefly) successful power grab has at didn’t want to live in a socialist paradise
been virtually forgotten. Volker Weider- a delicate beat after all.
mann’s dramatic book brings the turbu- as though warmth still clings In the resultant bloodbath, around
lent events — and, above all, the frenzied to the thin white bands 1,000 people were slaughtered. This set the
atmosphere — of that bizarre interregnum moral tone for Hitler’s Munich Putsch a
back to life. of slipped-off rings: few years later, and, ultimately, the Third
Thankfully for the general reader, impossibilities Reich. Whatever their failings (and there
Weidermann is a journalist rather than an and their possible wings. were many), at least Eisner’s dreamers
academic, and so this is a compact and col- meant well, which is more than can be said
ourful account, with the breathless pace of for the sadistic Freikorps. ‘Civil war is vio-
war reporting rather than the ponderous, — John Levett lence of the most potent kind; moderation
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 41

is stupidity,’ wrote Manfred von Killinger, David Garrick

a Freikorp (and later a Nazi member of in Shakespeare’s
the Reichstag) in his memoir, Serious & Richard III,
Humorous Incidents from Putsch Life. Tol- painted by
ler escaped and fled to America. ‘You can- Francis Hayman
not just avoid reality when it is different
from what you wished it to be, and excuse
yourself by saying: that was not what I
intended,’ he reflected, sadly, wisely, in his
memoir, I Was a German. He committed
suicide in 1939.

Riots in the stalls

Ian Kelly
The Birth of the Modern Theatre:
Rivalry, Riots and Romance in the
Age of Garrick
by Norman S. Poser
Routledge, £24.99, pp. 208

The age of Garrick, Norman Poser, a law

professor, insists, gave us much of what
we take for granted today in the theatre:
‘naturalistic’ acting, and, as Dr Johnson
remarked, the very idea of the business of
acting as a profession. Hence this book’s
portentous title. Its curtain raiser trumpets
themes of fame, personality, interiority and
cultural self-knowledge, but regrettably
Poser’s main show offers a trawl through
anecdotes in a style and structure more
wooden than the monopedal comic actor
Sam Foote’s peg leg. GETTY IMAGES

Naturalism in acting, it is often said,

originated in this era. But it’s a subject as
large as it’s slippery. There is limited source
material on what the style was really like, theatres. He is good on the largely forgot- Augustan London was ‘due to the celebrity
and there is no obvious chain of apostol- ten Actors’ Strike of the 1740s, and on the of Garrick and a few others’. That is highly
ic delegation to be found, as Poser asserts, important ‘Irishness’ of the British thea- questionable. It took another two genera-
from Garrick through to Stanislavski, let tre in this period — and on theatre-going tions for an actor to be knighted; and the
alone to ‘Marilyn Monroe, Al Pacino and as an experience — where anecdotes pile term ‘celebrity’ was unknown to Garrick or
Hilary Swank’. up into a sort of theory-of-audience, giv- his famous friends.
As Lord Fellowes recently remarked, ing a greater sense of why riots were not And minor errors abound. Susannah Cib-
every generation, no matter how it repines only tolerated but almost encouraged. ber did not face an ‘adultery lawsuit’ per se
the passing of old times, believes two However, he presents no evidence to sup- from Theophilus Cibber; he sued her lover,
things of itself: that it has worked out port his assertion that these riots were as was standard. ‘Rule Britannia’ was written
a better way to parent and a better way to a symptom of the ‘seething cauldron of class for a theatrical masque, as part of Thomas
act. That’s always wrong. The point is to resentment, even hatred’ in London, and he Arne’s Alfred; Rosaline is an offstage char-
try to work out what might have changed may well be wrong: riots began as often as acter in Romeo and Juliet; and Cannons, not
and when and why. The power and meta- not in the more expensive seats. Cannon, Park, is almost certainly not where
phorical heft of theatrical art is its eva- He is also wrong to impose a modern Foote lost his leg, which in any event is some
nescence — it exists for that moment and sensibility on ‘the habit of young rakes 60 miles from London, not 12. He probably
that audience. Quoting the musical Ham- [invading actresses’ dressing rooms] with lost his left leg, not his right.
ilton or referencing Angelina Jolie in the impunity’, which fundamentally misunder- Our guide to the past looks unsteady on
body of the text, while showing a suit- stands the economy — actual and sexual his raked stage. Somewhere buried under
able enthusiasm for the performing arts, — of 18th-century society. The interesting the palimpsest of half-recorded perfor-
isn’t enough to understand these changes issue is the way a prurient regard into the mance memories, somewhere under the
and that audience. Much better to turn to private lives of ‘stars’ was traded in the larrikin story of the boy from Dr John-
the novel, or indeed to the portraiture of economy of fame itself — something very son’s school in Lichfield and the first mod-
Garrick’s friend Reynolds, or the works familiar to the selfie generation but born ern metropolis, just as it begins a discussion
of the French philosophes with which Gar- exactly of this period. with itself about personality and about
rick was familiar, to discuss what might Poser goes further afield elsewhere, sug- what is funny and true and honest, can be
have been the burgeoning sense of interi- gesting that the main reason that acting found the genesis of modern acting and
ority and how it was represented. gained the status of the other liberal arts, the ongoing importance of modern thea-
Poser evidently loves London and its such as painting, music and literature, in tre. But not here.
42 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
The reinvention Tristan
of a nation for Chris and Sylvia
Bill Emmott
O Corbière, poet of heart confused with beer,
Japan Story: In Search of
a Nation, 1850 to the Present Windy-paws patting at the solid houses
by Christopher Harding Where we lie comfortably with our spouses,
Allen Lane, £25, pp. 504 Insomniac tyrant of the hypnosphere
When Japan hosts the Rugby Union World Teasing us with unfathomable jokes,
Cup next year, and still more so the sum- The flavours of forgotten turns of phrase,
mer Olympics in 2020, all eyes will be on its Fuzzy but never wuzzy, you amaze
omotenashi (hospitality), perhaps its tech-
nology, certainly its efficiency, but there Us cyclists with your backward-turning spokes.
will be little thought of symbolism. Not so
for the 1964 Tokyo games, when the Olym- Forsaken Mormon, seaman up the creek
pic flame was carried up its last 160 steps
by a 19-year-old named Yoshinori Sakai, In Paris, booby, hatch’d beside the Seine,
who had been born, near Hiroshima, on And flying nowhere, following your beak
the day the atomic bomb was dropped. Into the sinful villages of the plain,
‘Atom Boy’ bore twin messages: that
Japan had been a victim of an unbeliev- Inspire us with your arbitrary pique,
able horror; and that it was now reborn as Inflate us with the gusts of your disdain.
a modern, democratic state.
The running theme of Christopher
Harding’s elegantly written and compel- — Alistair Elliot (1932–2018)
ling history of Japan’s past century and a
half is that of competing narratives, which
bring with them a sense of a country bat-
tling to forge, or perhaps preserve, its iden-
tity as it emerged from a two-century-long to take on the West at its own games, and For example, although Harding says
period of prosperous, peaceful but tech- of Japan as a special, superior place, excep- quite a lot about religion’s role during
nologically backward isolation. A cultural tional since time immemorial. He sees the Japan’s early emergence into the world
historian at the University of Edinburgh, country as one that was buffeted by huge during the late 19th and early 20th centu-
Harding traces these stories not just in social, economic and political changes, and ries, in the postwar period he finds space
events and in politics, but in poems, novels, which often responded by reaching back, to include only one of the country’s ‘new
films, philosophy and even psychotherapy. religions’. This was the small Aum Shinri-
As such, his focus is largely on those who Japan’s 70,000 centenarians kyo doomsday sect which in 1995 killed
were critical of, or alienated by, the course 12 people on the Tokyo underground using
the country was taking at various times. This are a new but central part of the sarin nerve gas and whose leader, Shoko
brings in some familiar characters, such as modern nation’s identity Asahara, was finally executed in July.
the quixotic novelist-patriot Yukio Mishi- This was certainly a noteworthy and
ma, who in 1970 staged a futile and pathet- sometimes through invented traditions, for horrifying event, but to cite it in isolation
ic coup d’etat which ended in his ritual, anchors of Japaneseness (such as the Shinto is a bit like describing modern American
stomach-cutting suicide. There are also col- religion and the revived role of the emper- religion just by reference to Kool-Aid and
ourful protestors and malcontents whose or) so as to hold the nation fast. the 1978 Jonestown Massacre. The far big-
names have been largely forgotten, includ- This approach, of using culture and psy- ger and politically influential Soka Gak-
ing a teacher, Hideko Kageyama, known chology as the backdrop for history and kai doesn’t even merit a mention in Japan
as ‘Japan’s Joan of Arc’, who in 1885 chronology, ends up being a lot stronger Story, despite having millions of adher-
became the first woman in modern Japan on answering ‘why?’, ‘when?’ and ‘where?’ ents and, through its allied political party
to be imprisoned for political activism when than ‘how?’. There is much fine detail of Komeito, forming a key part of the current
caught carrying explosives to Nagasaki for a what happened and what was said and writ- governing coalition.
revolutionary movement. ten about it, but too little analytical expla- National identity is a slippery idea, as
We also, however, meet other, more nation or comparative context from other we see in every attempt to pin down Brit-
refreshing souls, such as the pair Harding countries or times. ishness, Frenchness or indeed Japanese-
frames the book with: Heisaku Kosawa, On the book jacket is an effusive quote ness. But it is built, as Harding says, out of
who from the 1920s onwards blended Bud- from Neil MacGregor, which makes per- the stories we tell about ourselves. In 2020,
dhism with Freudian psychotherapy; and fect sense once the reader sees that Japan when the great festival of youth and sport-
the novelist Harumi Setouchi, who became Story closely resembles the former Brit- ing prowess comes back to Tokyo after 56
the elderly Kosawa’s patient in the 1960s, ish Museum director’s great shows, wheth- years, the biggest untold story will be that
and now lives as a Buddhist nun under the er on Germany or the history of the world of ageing. How fitting it would be if this
name of Jakucho Setouchi. in 100 objects. It is an often intriguing and time the Olympic flame were to be carried
The main narratives that Harding thought-provoking patchwork, connected by one of Japan’s 70,000 centenarians, a
believes were in competition during the by a clear narrative, but at times notable for new but central part of modern Japan’s
turbulent 20th century were those of Japan what it misses out and at risk of feeling shal- identity. Perhaps the steps to the urn could
as Asia’s first successful moderniser, able low on some issues. be replaced by an escalator.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 43


Pirates on parade
Horatio Clare explores the fact – and fiction – of piracy

vast there, scurvy dogs! For a nation RPGs — impoverished tactics compared

loon pants? His earrings, bee-eater gold?
founded on piracy (the privateer Sir with those of Blackbeard and John Roberts, His sash of vermillion, shining like sillion?
Francis Drake swelled the excheq- whose mere appearance was often enough Where have you seen Jack Sparrow
uer by raiding the Spanish, who were in no to win. ‘We heard them on the radio, scream- before? From the train, beside the tracks. In
doubt that he was a pirate), it is appropri- ing,’ the seafarer repeated. His ship was the trailer park; in the lay-bys and the horse-
ate that Britain should give the international within electronic earshot. The screamers, the drawn caravans of old children’s books. He
archetype of the pirate his language. crew, might easily have been his shipmates. is a Roma gypsy, or ‘land-pirate’ as they were
The language of the Victoria & Albert’s The shooters were not the wolfish freemen called in the 17th century.
exhibition A Pirate’s Life for Me at the of the age of sail but ex-fishermen, almost The ‘pyrate’ was introduced to the world
Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is certainly fathers and family men, their by ‘Captain Charles Johnson’, who may
a banquet of humour and doggerel. Wheth- options annihilated by war, state collapse have been Daniel Defoe, in his A General
er you arrive a slipperslopper sea-cook, and the plunder of fishing grounds by fleets History of the Robberies and Murders of the
reeking of Havanas, or pushing treasures hailing from happier lands. As the film Cap- Most Notorious Pyrates, published in 1724.
in a pram, you will stare at walls, speak in tain Phillips documents, what is worse than This was the book that first press-ganged
tongues and smile. piracy, now, are the conditions that create it. readers into knowledge of Blackbeard,
These master (and mistress) mariners of ‘Slash bang wallop! Waving a sword and Israel Hands and Calico Jack. Also of Anne
yore have their grappling hooks deep in the shooting is a good way of getting people to Bonny and Mary Read, which left read-
psyche of maritime nations. In their infan- ers, unlike the curators of this exhibition,
cies, modern states needed pirates. The The greatest pirate ever was Ching in no doubt as to the wonder and ferocity
Barbarossa brothers scourged the Mediter- Shih. Widowed, she took over and of female pirates. R.L. Stevenson and J.M.
ranean from a base on the North African expanded her husband’s fleet Barrie devoured their copies and scribbled
littoral. Their regency of Algiers became out their own fleets.
the first corsair state until Suleiman the listen to you, but what really impresses peo- But mental pictures did not sate mass
Magnificent made Khidr Barbarossa grand ple is keeping your gun nice and shiny…’ markets. So all hail Howard Pyle, admiral of
admiral of the Ottoman fleet. French cor- cautions a notice in the V&A. My inner American illustration, whose glowing grape-
sairs — licensed privateers — inflict- mother smiled. Dirt is a worthy foe. shot of sketches, paintings and portraits tore
ed magnificent damage on rival nations, The show begins in a gorgeous space: low through the printed media of 1880s Ameri-
retarding British trade after the Glorious tables, puzzles, treasure maps, clues. Blue and ca, co-opting the Roma into service as west-
Revolution; French kings received a third mauve and parrot-hung, Balthazar’s Bazar is ern culture’s most glamorous villain. The
of the booty. open from 10 a.m, no licensee in sight, serv- post-impressionist pirate Van Gogh was
You find few such stories here. Instead, ing minors. Behind the bar there’s a secret a fan of Pyle’s work writing: ‘He strikes me
parrots, ships’ dogs, cats and monkeys, passage. It teases you into its second space, a dumb with admiration.’
swords and antique firearms. This is what lovely dock, where a Lego schooner tilts and Pyle’s America knew pirates. The US
kids love, as well as the lawlessness and the rides. One Golden Hind-like beauty is slyly navy was formed in response to horrendous
silly words. And as we grow, it sticks. I hon- augmented with a wind turbine astern the tribute and ransom demands from the Bar-
our the Jolly Roger’s signifieds: fun, freedom main mast, ensuring parents pay attention. bary states. The minister to France, Thomas
and mischief. Actual pirates, who I have also But where does the archetypal pirate Jefferson, sanctioned annual million-dollar
encountered on my travels, are different. actually come from? payoffs from 1786 (each representing 10 per
‘We heard screaming,’ a sailor said, in Sure, Brits (and Belgians: take a bow, cent of Federal revenue in 1800). As presi-
the Bay of Suez, as we were ferried off our Hergé, Red Rackham, Captain Haddock dent, Jefferson halted payments in 1801. Two
container ships to land and safety. Recent- and your translators and publishers, Michael Barbary wars later, British and Dutch ships
ly, before armed guards were routine on Turner and Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper) gave supported victorious American squadrons,
vessels in the Red Sea, pirates fired from him his tongue. bombarding Algiers in 1816.
skiffs at ships’ bridges with assault rifles and But whence our popinjay’s colours? His Seawolves, rovers and marooners: they
44 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
‘He strikes me dumb


with admiration.’
Van Gogh on
Howard Pyle’s pirate

have shaped the ways we picture and name The greatest pirate who ever lived was exhibition, is an ugly gap in its smile.
ourselves, from Tiny Rowland to Red Adair. Ching Shih. Widowed, she took over and Few of our children will become pirates,
The attractions of pirate life were mul- expanded her husband’s fleet. With more hopefully, but there is much that they can
tiple. Ships were not over-crewed, so con- than 1,500 ships she controlled more of learn from sea-gypsies. Pirates prized hon-
ditions were better than in the navy; the South China sea than the PRC does our, statutes (their ‘articles’), courage,
management structures resembled a coop- now. She beat the Chinese, British and panache and innovation. One feels sure that
erative (give or take a lunatic captain); but Portuguese navies, was offered peace in Britannia could find work for them now.
your chances of ending up with a parrot, a 1810, married her first mate and retired.
lover and a chest of doubloons were similar That she is invisible, and that her sea-sis- A Pirate’s Life for Me is at the V&A
to an author’s of winning the Booker. ters are insignificant presences in the V&A Museum of Childhood until 22 April 2019.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 45

‘The Laden Table’, c.1908, by Édouard Vuillard

ment district. Before being left a widow with (1900), these intimate pictures are a radi-
Exhibitions three children, she had prudently invested cal departure from the usual French fin-de-
All about his mother in a small business producing dresses and siècle celebrations of woman as love object,
made-to-measure corsets for a fashion-con- let alone sex object. They’re a celebration of
Laura Gascoigne scious petit bourgeois clientele. With her ‘her indoors’ from a filial perspective: images
seamstress mother and daughter Marie — of female domestic industry and the atmos-
Maman: Vuillard & Madame coincidentally known as Mimi — among her phere in which it was wrapped — an atmos-
Vuillard employees, Mme Vuillard was a multitask- phere Vuillard had breathed since childhood.
Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, He was still living at home, aged 61, when
until 20 January 2019 We recognise the figure of Maman, his mother died in 1928. The homes changed
sewing, cooking, cleaning: a domestic as one small rented flat was exchanged for
Fin-de-siècle Paris was not just the art capital goddess worshipped by her son another but the domestic routines continued
of the world, it was also the fashion capital. uninterrupted, the women sewing around
In 1901, 300,000 Parisians were employed in ing materfamilias, managing the workshop the dining-room table while the man of the
the rag trade, and one of them was Édouard and the household while supporting her son house painted in his ‘bedroom studio’. We
Vuillard’s mother. Édouard in his artistic ambitions. recognise the same pieces of furniture —
Stout, sensible and self-sufficient, Mme Édouard returned the favour by featur- the dining table, straight-backed chairs and
Marie Vuillard was no Mimi out of La ing his mother in more than 500 paintings, large armoire, its mirror complicating the
Bohème, embroidering flowers in a draughty of which a small selection is on show at Bir- fiddly perspectives of the cramped spaces.
garret. She was the independent patronne of mingham’s Barber Institute in a charming Above all, we recognise the figure of
a dressmaking atelier — more of a couture exhibition marking the 150th anniversary Maman, sewing, cooking, cleaning, dishing
flat, admittedly, than a couture house, oper- of his birth. Centring on the Barber’s own out parental advice, tending the sick — if not
ating out of rented apartments in the gar- ‘Madame Vuillard Arranging her Hair’ centre stage, then on the periphery of vision,
46 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
a comforting presence glimpsed through felt Manze tugging back on the reins — acous-
doorways, part patronne, part skivvy;
Music tic chaos being the only alternative.
a domestic goddess worshipped by her son. Britten’s Blackadder Against that was the intense concentra-
With their keyhole views of women in tion of the orchestral sound, the fearless,
confined spaces, Vuillard’s small interiors moment powerfully characterised solo playing of the
feel closer to the Dutch Golden Age than Richard Bratby subsidiary chamber ensemble (five Liver-
to French post-impressionism, but unlike pudlians, seven Hanoverians) and some of
the patterned surfaces in Dutch paint- RLPO & NDR Radiophilharmonie/ the warmest, most beautifully controlled
ings — the tiles and rugs — his patterning Manze singing I’ve heard in four decades of listen-
is pretty much wall-to-wall. Between the Liverpool Cathedral ing to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
wallpaper, carpets, upholstery and fabrics chorus. Everyone present rose to the level
worn by his women there is barely a chink. Bournemouth Symphony of the occasion. The soprano soloist Susanne
Everything feels wrapped in a familial fug. Orchestra/Karabits Bernhard sang from the pulpit, and when
More air is let into lithographs such as ‘The Lighthouse, Poole her voice wheeled, glowing, over the whole
Cook’ (1899), a proto-kitchen-sink image ensemble you could believe you were listen-
of his mother drying up; the paintings, by ‘What passing-bells for these who die as cat- ing to a masterpiece.
comparison, are thick with smudges repli- tle?’ We’ve heard a lot, lately, of the knell You’re not, though — are you? I honestly
cating the muzziness of memory. You have that tolls through the opening bars of Ben- can’t decide about the War Requiem. ‘Noth-
to get in close to unlock the puzzle and even jamin Britten’s War Requiem, and at Liver- ing can please many, and please long, but just
then you can’t always tell what’s what. The pool’s Anglican cathedral it was played on representations of general nature’: sure, and
‘Two Seamstresses in the Workroom’ (1893) actual church bells. The Royal Liverpool people certainly respond to the piece. There
are as well camouflaged as tropical fish on Philharmonic Orchestra’s percussionist must have been some 2,000 audience mem-
a coral reef. Graham Johns has had a set specially cast, bers on their feet at the end of this perfor-
There’s nothing voyeuristic about these and as he struck them video screens relayed mance. But still, there’s that feeling of being
images. Vuillard is an insider, not a voyeur; the moment all the way down the cathedral’s lectured by a firm but faintly disapproving
his women are almost part of the furniture. length. The orchestra was a one-off, assem- emotional manipulator — and that the con-
A revealing entry in his journal records his bled half-and-half from the RLPO and the clusion towards which we’re corralled by
NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover (the all those portentous trumpets and artfully
Vuillard was still living at conductor Andrew Manze holds positions in framed chunks of Wilfred Owen is as pre-
home, aged 61, when his both cities), and this was a major civic occa- scribed as any primary-school project. It’s
mother died in 1928 sion, attended by gold chains of all sizes and become classical music’s answer to Blackad-
preceded by speeches from city worthies. der Goes Forth, simultaneously unchallenge-
reaction on waking to find his mother among In truth, though, you could whistle ‘The able and troublingly simplistic.
the familiar furnishings of his bedroom: ‘In Frog Chorus’ in Liverpool Cathedral and it’d Other acts of musical commemoration are
the middle of all these objects I was aston- still inspire awe. Giles Gilbert Scott’s immense available, and to be fair the classical music
ished to see Maman enter in a blue peignoir structure doesn’t so much echo the music per- world has made some effort to find different
with white stripes. The arrival of Maman was formed within it (though that echo is as vast as perspectives. The BBC Philharmonic is play-
surprising — a living person.’ everything else) as absorb and transfigure it. ing Musik für Orchester by Rudi Stephan
Some pictures hint at stories. ‘The Chat’ Stand on the corner of Gambier Terrace and (who died in the war), Andrew Davies has
(1893), which shows his sister in her wedding Upper Duke Street and the cathedral erupts recorded Bliss’s Morning Heroes — a pro-
dress blushing into her corsage as Maman from the sandstone gorge of St James’s Cem- to-war requiem from 1930 whose haunted
delivers the dreaded last-minute sex talk, etery as if the rock itself is thrusting towards search for meaning in loss feels as sincere as
could be a scene from one of the suffocat- heaven. Construction started in 1904 when Britten feels contrived — and last year The
ing symbolist dramas for which Vuillard was Liverpool was the second port of the Empire. Spectator’s Alexandra Coghlan surveyed
designing sets at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre. By the time it was finished, the city had been recordings of Vaughan Williams’s Dona nobis
The soon-to-be marital bed leering in the reduced to the butt of glib jokes. Yet there it pacem for Radio 3.
background plays as important a role as the stands, this stupendous physical affirmation of In Poole, where the Bournemouth Sym-
two figures. Beds take centre stage in other faith and endurance: perhaps the last building phony Orchestra’s Ukrainian chief con-
pictures: a sickbed in ‘The Lullaby’ (1894), in in European history to be started in the full ductor Kirill Karabits saw his own country
which Maman watches over a feverish Mimi; knowledge that it would take more than one invaded not in 1914 but in 2014, they’ve
a deathbed in ‘Woman near Bed’ (c.1893), lifetime to complete. commissioned a song cycle from Mark-
where she keeps vigil over a hump of bed- Can Britten really measure up against Anthony Turnage. Testament sets Ukrainian
ding that possibly conceals her dying mother. that sort of conviction? Manze and his com- poets to music of such transparent diatonic
In the late 1890s Vuillard acquired bined Anglo-German forces solved the prac- clarity that you might not at first realise that
a hand-held Kodak. A few of the hundreds tical problems of performing in the cathedral it was by Turnage. He’s woven Ukrainian
of photographs he took of his mother — as well as I’ve ever heard. Discreet electron- folk songs into the score: pairs of woodwinds
who printed the photos from negatives in ic enhancement never really imposed itself lament in close harmony and a solo flute
a soup bowl — are in the show. In the last between performers and audience and Manze trails birdsong across the eloquent vocal
one, taken in the year of her death, she is even managed to keep the combined Hanno- lines, sung with understated expression and
towelling her feet after a bath. The pose ver and Liverpool boys’ choirs together with wine-dark tone by Natalya Romaniw.
could be from a drawing by Degas, except the orchestra over a distance of what looked The final song deals harrowingly with
that the model is 89 and bald, her shrunk- like about 50 metres. As for the interpretation: recent events, and tastes all the more bitter
en body dwarfed by the high ceiling of the well, the cathedral enforces its own terms, and for being so lucid, and so obviously without
spacious apartment her successful son can soloists Benjamin Appl and Ed Lyon com- any musical agenda other than compassion.
now afford. As an image, it is too intimiste pensated, understandably enough, with fierce The BSO, whose strings were sombre, sin-
for comfort. Vuillard didn’t paint it, but only over-articulation. At the moments (such as ewy and utterly Slavic, played Testament as
eight years earlier he confessed to his first the first climax of the ‘Libera Me’) where the if it were as much of a classic as the Britten.
biographer: ‘Maman, c’est ma muse.’ music seems to demand furious abandon, you Give it time.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 47

Games without frontiers: a scene from Red Dead Redemption 2

groundbreaking 2010 open-world western last throes of death, and the guttural nois-
Gaming video game, has been described as ‘unprec- es it made as it departed were sufficiently
The good, the bad edented’, ‘landmark’ and ‘a masterpiece’. harrowing that my dog (my genuine, on-
It has been greeted with the sort of rev- the-sofa lurcher, not the canine compan-
and the ugly erent praise usually reserved for the lofti- ion the game gives you in order further
Nick Hilton est of high culture, despite being marketed to divest you of any need for interactions
almost exclusively to teenage boys with £50 outside the game) started barking at the
Red Dead Redemption 2 to burn. The game revels in the kitschiest screen. It is a gameworld in which cruelty
Rock Star Games of North American landscapes, the per- is commonplace.
fect metaphor for the poetic mundanity of Right and wrong, good and evil; for all
Every era has its western. For 30 years, the gun-slinging, blood-soaked violence of
from The Big Trail through to The Search- You face the choice of whether to beat the western, the moral poles have remained
ers, John Wayne reigned supreme across to death, strangle or free a man you’ve consistent. If the hero’s family has been
American cinema, a dispenser of justice captured (I beat him to death) murdered, his vengeance is justified. If
forged on the battlefields of the Civil War. the hero is defending an underclass from
Then, from the 1960s, John Ford’s foun- death. In short, it is a good game that knows marauders, his acts of butchery are excus-
dations were mixed with Italian influenc- it’s a good game. able. If the hero is fighting a man who has
es to create the brutal anti-heroes of the But it’s also a game of such attritional murdered a child in the opening scene, then
spaghetti westerns. After that, the western violence as to stop those not totally inured he’s allowed to choke him with a harmoni-
began to feel old-fashioned, and started to in their tracks. This is the western as envis- ca. Those are the rules.
be lampooned in films such as Blazing Sad- aged by McCarthy, not Ford. Within the Our hero here — by no means the Man
dles and Three Amigos for its reliance on first stretch of gameplay you’ll dispatch a with No Name — is Arthur Morgan, a
archetype and cliché, before, at the close of dozen combatants with pistol and rifle, loot simmering avatar of masculine disaffec-
the century, Cormac McCarthy reinvented corpses, lasso and hog-tie fleeing enemies tion. When Clint Eastwood was honoured
it as something sparse, literary and realistic. and, in a particularly gruesome sequence, with a lifetime achievement award by the
And now, this era’s western takes that one face the choice of whether to beat to death, American Film Institute, he remarked that
step further. strangle or free a man you’ve captured. (I his character in the Dollars Trilogy ‘had no
Red Dead Redemption 2, the eagerly opted to beat him to death.) At one point name, so we could fill in our own’. Morgan
anticipated sequel to Rockstar Games’s you are encouraged to fillet a deer in the is no such cipher. He is a gruntingly verbose
48 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
outlaw with a personality so far from my The stray figures that populate the Auto franchise, in which players could
own neuroticism that he remained a stran- world of Red Dead Redemption do not murder prostitutes, waterboard enemies
ger, even when I repeatedly switched from trouble our sympathy in such ways. Though and pull out their nails if need be. There’s
the third-person perspective, which lingers the landscapes of the game edge closer to been no GTA game for the eighth genera-
behind Morgan, to the first-person, where photorealist facsimiles of the Northwest- tion of consoles since the fifth instalment
all that’s present in your field of vision are ern United States — and though the game was published in 2013, and there are no
his gnarled hands, the loop of a lasso, or the is considered to be one of the biggest writ- sequels on the horizon, with the company
glint of a revolver. And yet when I’m hit- ing tasks in literary history — passers-by focusing on Red Dead Redemption and
ting that O button and Morgan’s (my) fist still recur with the repetitious inscrutabil- a new spy franchise. While GTA was a criti-
is connecting with teeth, causing the con- ity that made ‘…but then I took an arrow cal and commercial triumph, it is hard to
troller to shudder with excitement, the dis- to the knee’ one of the internet’s favour- see how it could be published in 2018 with-
tance evaporates. ite memes. So the player is not much vexed out diluting the atopia that game theorist
What can the world of Red Dead by the prospect of violence against the McKenzie Wark describes as ‘a safe haven
Redemption offer that is new, other than men and women of the American fron- in which to enact the problem of being…
the chance to act as the settler of scores, but without the oppressive stakes of one’s
the dispenser of rough justice? It emerges There is no moral cake to be had here own life on the line’.
back into the pop-cultural zeitgeist hot on at all, as I blow a farrier’s head off Better, then, to add the distance of histo-
the heels of HBO’s big-budget adaptation just to test my new shotgun ry. Just as a dragon immolating prisoners of
of Michael Crichton’s Westworld, where a war in Game of Thrones doesn’t hark back
billion-dollar theme park based on the Wild tier, almost universally labelled ‘Stranger’. to napalm bombs in Vietnam, so the relent-
West gives tourists the chance to rape and There is no moral cake to be had here at all, less gun violence of Red Dead Redemption
murder their way through a horde of almost as I blow a farrier’s head off just to test my doesn’t carry the weight of the Pittsburgh
sentient robots. The show sets up an ethi- new shotgun. shooting. Still, it is unsettling to play a game
cal question — is violence against almost The first-person shooter has always where the mechanics focus so much on
sentient robots really violence — but the had this question hanging over it, from bringing it closer to the tedium of real life
moral ambiguity is quickly undermined by Doom and Half-Life through to Halo and — from cleaning saddles to cooking rab-
revelations about the development of AI. Call of Duty. Is it just a means of letting bits on a campfire — while permitting an
It is also a romping, bloody yarn. The cake off steam? Or is there something unset- unexamined streak of savagery. So, the real
is had and eaten as we are invited to sym- tling about the ease with which we resort question posed by the modern western is:
pathise with the robots while at the same to inhuman violence? Rockstar Games, how close can we get to the act of violence
time revelling in the carnage and the sight which developed Red Dead Redemption, before we get squeamish? And if we never
of sexy, naked replicants. was also responsible for the Grand Theft flinch, what then?

‘Beyond superb!
The performances,
the choice of
repertoire, the
venues... all perfect
in my opinion!’
Martin Randall Festival participant in 2017

Photo: Gabrieli, performing at ‘Music

in the Cotswolds’ 2018, ©Bill Knight.

Contact us: The J.S. Bach Journey 13–19 May 2019

West Country Choral Festival 7–11 July 2019
+44 (0)20 8742 3355 Music Along the Danube 31 August–7 September 2019 Sacred Music in Santiago 26 or 28 September–2 October 2019
The Thomas Tallis Trail 1–3 November 2019
ATOL 3622 ABTA Y6050 AITO 5085 Opera in Southern Sicily 5–11 November 2019

the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 49


worked closely with the future president

Radio on his campaign. ‘My God it was exciting,’
Sounds of war he recalled. ‘He was extraordinarily hand- Face time
some… that great smile… people were fall-
Kate Chisholm ing over themselves to shake hands.’ Martin Gayford
Tydings was at the White House when
Amid all the remembrance, Radio 3 came news that JFK had been shot reached Lorenzo Lotto: Portraits
up with a simple yet effective way of reflect- Washington. Even now, he cannot recall National Gallery, until 10 February 2019
ing on war’s impact. Threaded throughout that day without becoming emotional. ‘It
the day on Sunday were ‘sonic’ memorials, was hard to believe this could happen to You can, perhaps, glimpse Lorenzo Lotto
three minutes of silence, or rather opportu- us, to America,’ he said. ‘It was just so trag- himself in the National Gallery’s marvel-
nities to stop and reflect. Not the music of ic, so tragic for the country.’ When Lyndon lous exhibition, Lorenzo Lotto: Portraits. At
a requiem mass, or a lonesome bugle, but B. Johnson was sworn in as president, all the base of an altarpiece from 1541 a gag-
the sounds of those places where the worst of us were crying. ‘He shouldn’t have been gle of paupers stretch their arms up in hopes
battles in recent history — from Antiet- sworn in.’ of receiving the charity being handed out
am in America (during the Civil War) to From Truman to Trump (produced by by Dominican friars above. One of these, a
Huaihai (between the Kuomintang and Bob Howard) was recorded just in time bearded, red-robed man, is supposed to be
communists in China) via the Somme, Stal- as Tydings died in October. He visited the a self-portrait.
ingrad and Afghanistan — were played out. troops in Vietnam as the senator for Mar- If that is the case, it was a characteristic
Allan Little introduced each pause in the yland. It convinced him that the war was place to put himself. Lotto (1480/1–1556/7)
day’s schedule, explaining in the barest out- wrong: little children, he recalled, were was an intensely pious man and, in later life,
line what happened, how many were killed, waving the American flag, but none of poverty-stricken. But the most unusual point
who was fighting whom, what the place of ‘our people’ could speak Vietnamese. He about this picture is that for the rest of the
desolation looks like now, before we were worked very closely with Robert Kennedy crowd of indigents he made studies from life
left with just the sound of crickets hum- and knew him ‘like a twin’. His assassina- of genuine poor people (and noted the model-
ming, birds singing, wind blowing through tion was, if anything, ‘more crushing’ than ling fee he paid them in his book of accounts).
sun-bleached grass. JFK’s, Tydings said, because Bobby would Few other Italian Renaissance artists would
In Kent, beneath the white cliffs, the have stopped the war in Vietnam much have striven so hard for verisimilitude.
Battle of Britain is remembered each year, sooner if he had become president. Nixon Like Caravaggio more than half a cen-
the first major air battle in any war. The would have been ‘blown away’. Watergate tury later, Lotto seems to have been an artist
Last Post faded out as the sound of the would never have happened. who preferred to work as much as possible
aircraft looming overhead grew louder We also discovered that Mar-a-Lago from life. The results he got could be star-
and louder. We could picture the men on (now owned and presided over by Donald tlingly close to photography. His portrait
Trump) was built by Tydings’s grandmoth- of ‘Bishop Bernardo de’ Rossi’ (1505) (see
The sound of gunshot, as it burst er. ‘It’s not a happy thought,’ says Tydings. p31) is an amazingly exact account of the fall
into my kitchen, assaulted not just the Stranger still was his revelation that Trump of light across this man’s soft features, deli-
ears but the stomach has also taken over the family crest award- cately picking up each fold of skin, the moles
ed to Tydings’s grandfather by the Col- along the line of his chin and the indentation
board, trapped in a metal cylinder, deaf- lege of Heralds after he had served as an at the point of his nose.
ened by the noise of the engines, the rattle American diplomat at the Potsdam confer- Lotto, though erratic, was at his best a
of gunfire. Off the coast of Denmark, 8,000 ence in 1945 alongside President Truman. truly great painter of human individuals. But
seamen lost their lives in the Battle of Jut- The crest now adorns Mar-a-Lago with its he also painted portraits not just of people
land, their bodies now at rest at the bot- original inscription, ‘Integritas’, changed to but of things. The untidy desk in the double
tom of the sea along with the 25 ships that ‘Trump’. Friends offered to pay the legal portrait of ‘Giovanni Agostino della Torre
were destroyed. We could hear the barren fees for Tydings to take Trump to court, and his son, Niccolo’ is a careful depiction of
loneliness of that bleak coastline; the salt- but he refused. ‘Don’t get in a to-do with real bureaucratic clutter, down to the white
laden spray hitting the microphone, the a skunk.’ inkstand spattered with drops of black.
eerie wailing of the wind like a chorus of There’s much to deplore about the Time and again Lotto focuses sharply on
grief. No words were necessary. This was money being spent on the new BBC app, a single item such as this humble office uten-
storytelling through sound alone, evoking BBC Sounds, because it can only mean that sil or one of the Anatolian rugs he painted
all the emotions that remembrance of war vital money is being taken away from pro- so memorably that they’ve been given the
arouses. In Helmand province, the silence duction, especially of plays, the vital blood name ‘Lotto’ carpets. One of these, and sev-
was punctuated by gunshot, shocking in its of BBC radio. But it’s proving to be a real- eral other oddments including a 16th-centu-
physical impact as it burst into my kitch- ly useful tool for navigating the burgeon- ry dress, are included here for purposes of
en, assaulting not just the ears but punch- ing audio scene as podcasts compete with comparison.
ing the stomach. The war still goes on in broadcast programmes for our attention. By However, he was not simply a realist. In his
Afghanistan after 17 years, Little reminded chance I caught sight of a replay of a drama work there was a strange crossover between
us. ‘How do you memorialise a war that’s first broadcast in 1999, replayed on 4 Extra the human and the holy, with the result that
not yet over?’ and now available on the Sounds website. several religious paintings pop up unexpect-
On the World Service, Naomi Grimley Encore by Nan Woodhouse is a clas- edly in this exhibition. In the first room there
was in conversation with 90-year-old Joe sic two-hander starring Timothy West and is a beautiful early altarpiece from 1506 show-
Tydings, a close confidant of John F. Ken- Julia McKenzie as a couple trying to get ing ‘The Virgin in Glory with Saints Anthony
nedy and his brother Robert. Tydings was together again after five years of separa- Abbot and Louis of Toulouse’. But the Mary
born into the American political aristocracy, tion. They’re also ageing actors in need of in this altarpiece is not the standard represen-
his grandfather sent to Russia to foster rela- a good part. Why not devise their own two- tation, but stolid and middle-aged with a faint-
tions with Stalin. As a young man Tydings hander? West and McKenzie give a master- ly disapproving air.
joined the Young Democrats, booked JFK class in microphone acting, razor-sharp and Scholars argue that this is a portrait of
as a speaker and became ‘a big fan’. He timed to perfection. Caterina Cornaro, a Venetian woman who
50 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
‘Portrait of a


Young Man
with a Book’,
c.1524–6, by
Lorenzo Lotto

became Queen of Cyprus by marriage and Not only do his saints look like portraits, It is not hard to decode. This expensive-
lived at Asolo, the little town in the Veneto for on occasion his portrait sitters pretended to ly dressed fellow with a fine beard clearly
which the altarpiece was painted. At the time, be saints too. ‘Friar Angelo Ferretti’ (1549) wanted to be shown brooding on love and
this notion would have verged on the blas- is vividly characterised: intense and a little death, and was possibly in mourning. In
phemous, but it rings true. In fact, the saints, haggard. But a butcher’s cleaver is embed- other cases, Lotto’s symbols are more puz-
especially the elderly Anthony Abbot with his ded in his cranium and a large dagger pro- zling. Why, for example, is a green lizard
jutting, pointed beard, look like portraits, too. trudes from his chest. This was because rearing up beside more rose leaves on the
The picture is fantastically naturalistic Ferretti wanted to identify, as we say these desk of another melancholy young man
but simultaneously bizarre and awkward. days, as St Peter Martyr, a Dominican painted between 1530 and 1532? Art histo-
The Madonna hovers inertly in midair a inquisitor assassinated in 1252. rians are still wondering about that.
few feet above the ground, too heavy to Lotto’s clients often acted out a private In 1895 Bernard Berenson claimed Lotto
rise further. It’s easy to see why Lotto was allegory or drama, though not necessarily a as the most modern of all Renaissance art-
overshadowed by his younger rival Titian, in sacred one. In one of the finest, the anon- ists: ‘His spirit is more like our own.’ More
whose great ‘Assumption’ of a decade later ymous sitter fixes us with a sad look, his than a century later, that still feels true —
the Virgin sweeps heavenward with superb right hand resting on a table top. Beneath not just in the naturalism with which he
brio. That kind of grand composition was his fingers are rose petals, and nestling depicted his subjects, their anxieties and
beyond Lotto, whose work didn’t please among them is a beautifully painted min- melancholies, but also in the weird ways they
sophisticated Venetian tastes. iature skull. want to present themselves.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 51



Brought to book
Ed West
Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms:
Art, Word, War
British Library, until 19 February 2019

‘The barbarians drive us to the sea, the sea

drives us to the barbarians; between these
two means of death we are either drowned
or killed.’ So wrote the British monk Gild-
as in his 6th-century proto-polemic On the
Ruin of Britain, recording the arrival of the
hated ‘Germans’ to the island. Bad news for
the Britons, but fantastic for visitors to the
British Library, now running perhaps the
most significant exhibition of recent times,
Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.
Historians dislike the term ‘Dark Ages’,
but by any measurement western Europe
saw a collapse in living standards, literacy,
population, trade and significant cultural
output from 500 ad. Yet that only makes the
flame that appeared all the more striking,
and the exquisite art so inspiring.
The first thing that greets you is a small
figurine called ‘Spong Man’, dating to the 6th
century and unearthed at a pagan burial site

The next time these great treasures are

reunited we’ll all be as obscure as the
Egberts and Ethelwulfs of the world
in Norfolk. Carved on to the lid of an urn, he
looks like a middle-aged man sat down in his
chair contemplating his worries. Spong Man King David with his musicians: a page from the
represents a quite mysterious, distant world Vespasian Psalter, 8th century
and the page only lights up with the arrival of
Christianity from 597, which brought with it
the written word and institutionalised learn- than war, but then the Anglo-Saxons, along the far east today with slogans like ‘Ham-
ing. It was in far-off Northumbria where this with the Irish, had perhaps the most exten- burger friend’.
culture burned brightest, King Oswald bring- sive vernacular literature of the early medi- A slightly tedious idea that has followed
ing over Irish churchmen to Christianise eval era. And yet the metalwork is also coverage of this exhibition is that it puts paid
the kingdom, with the priory at Lindisfarne captivating. The serpentine Sutton Hoo belt to those stupid Brexiteers and their notions
founded by St Aidan; the gorgeous Lindis- buckle and the pectoral cross from the Staf- of Anglo-Saxon exclusivity. It’s a straw man
farne Gospels was one result. fordshire Hoard must have been intensely no one serious has suggested, certainly not
Nearby Monkwearmouth-Jarrow monas- prized once. the archaic English themselves. They called
tery gave us Bede and his Ecclesiastical His- The Hoard dates from the 7th centu- the Germans ‘the Saxons overseas’ in recog-
tory of the English People, completed in 731. ry, perhaps to the period of Mercia’s still- nition of their kinship, and felt a strong con-
Remarkably these items can now be viewed pagan king Penda, who killed Oswald in nection to Rome, which had its own Schola
in the same room alongside the Codex Ami- battle. Within a few decades the Midlands Saxonum, from about 700. Indeed, so inti-
atinus, an absolutely gigantic bible made at kingdom was ascendant, a time of growing mately did Anglo-Saxons feel part of a wider
Jarrow but taken to Rome as a gift in 716 by Frankish influence as Europe’s collapsed Christian world that they invented a word
St Ceolfrith, an enormous undertaking that trading routes began to open up. King Offa for it — ‘Kristintumr’, or Christendom.
killed him. The oldest surviving bible in Latin, was a contemporary of Charlemagne, and The story culminates with West Saxon
it later ended up in Florence although its ori- numerous works such as the Utrecht Psalter dominance, and that most famous of early
gins were by now forgotten. Indeed, in the reflect growing Frankish-Anglo-Saxon col- Englishmen, Alfred the Great. As a child
frontispiece the dedication to ‘Ceolfrith of the laboration, the genesis of a long love-hate Alfred had been taken to Rome with his
English’ was erased and replaced with ‘Peter relationship. The tiny Mercian coins also father and he became a scholar-king; even
of the Lombards’, and the great act of plagia- show an increased awareness of the inher- the gorgeous Alfred Jewel, found in Somer-
rism was uncovered only in modern times. Just itance of Rome, one displaying Offa’s wife set in 1693, is now thought to be for pointing
a metre or so away is the St Cuthbert Gospel, in the old imperial style. Another coin has at text. After Alfred had saved Wessex from
found in the saint’s coffin and the oldest west- Offa Rex and ‘There is no God but Allah’ in Viking conquest, England was united under
ern European book still in one piece. Arabic, which would have been as meaning- his grandson Athelstan, a largely forgotten
This exhibition contains more words less to Mercians as English T-shirts sold in leader who was also an obsessive bibliophile.
52 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
He is shown here in the oldest image of an David Attenborough did sound so authori-
English king, holding a book. tative — and was David Attenborough — THE LISTENER
There is so much to see here — I haven’t because now and again the heretical thought
Yoko One: Warzone
even mentioned Beowulf — and the British occurred that if Dynasties had been on Chan-
Library’s pitch that this is a ‘once in a genera- nel 5, with an actor narrating, you might have
tion’ exhibition seems absurdly modest. The wondered about its reliability. (Not since
next time these great treasures are reunited Walking with Dinosaurs have I spent so much
we’ll all be as obscure as the Egberts and time inwardly shouting ‘But how do you
Ethelwulfs of the world, alas; but perhaps know?’ at the screen.) Was it definitely true,
that is all just Anglo-Saxon understatement. for example, that after his post-beating return
David deliberately hid from the troop how
wounded he was and ended up ‘fooling them
Television all’? For that matter, wasn’t the whole narra-
tive a bit too suspiciously shapely?
Monkey business Happily, in the meantime, the David-
James Walton related double entendres continued,
reaching a climax in the making-of-the-pro-
gramme section at the end. ‘David is very,
The opening episode of BBC1’s Dynasties very charismatic. He reminds me of Marlon
— the new Attenborough-fronted series Brando,’ said a camera operator — while, Grade: A+
from the Natural History Unit — intro- according to a scientist of chimp behaviour, Ooh, you can have some fun with
duced us to ‘a territory ruled by a strong and ‘David has been alpha for almost double this when the unwanted guests
determined leader: an alpha male known [the time] we’ve seen with other alphas. He’s swing by this Christmastide. These
as David’. Despite what you might think, been challenged a few times but he’s been are the ‘greatest hits’ of a serially
though, this wasn’t a reference to the Nat- able to hang on.’ indulged caterwauling loon with
ural History Unit itself, but to a troop of Surprisingly — or maybe not — some of the political disposition of a spoiled
chimps in Senegal, whose power struggles David’s tactics were much the same as those seven-year-old, redone to make
unfolded on Sunday in an almost Shake- we saw in Inside the Foreign Office (BBC2, them even worse than they were
spearean way. Thursday), where the permanent under-sec- before.
As ever, Sir David started by demonstrat- retary Sir Simon McDonald began by explain- So, put on ‘Why’ as you hand
ing that he can still handle a spot of location ing Britain’s need for alliances once it became around the cocktails and the seasonal
shooting, in this case bellowing a few lines apparent we could no longer rule alone. canapés. Trumpeting elephants, angry
from a jeep speeding across the African The series is based on ‘a year of unprec- crows, an ominous synth and Yoko
savannah. But after that, he was again con- edented access’ to its subject, which, as howling ‘Why? Whhhhhhhhhhhhy?
tent simply to supply an authoritative voice- usual, appears to involve a trade-off. On the Wok Wah Wheeeeeeeee! Ag ag ag
over and the occasional joke. one hand, there’s well, that unprecedented ag ag! Whhhhhhy?’ Like a
When we joined the chimp troop, the access. On the other, this is clearly the For- particularly angry and talentless
simian David’s leadership was already under eign Office as it would like to be seen: moral, Diamanda Galas.
attack from two whippersnappers called ever-competent and unexpectedly diverse. But don’t let a smile give the
Luther and Jumpkin. The threat was serious ‘I’m not the lesbian ambassador,’ said our game away as this unendurable,
enough for David’s close-ups to show him woman in Kiev. ‘I’m an ambassador who pretentious garbage resounds
looking alternately worried and calculating; happens to be gay.’ around the room. Instead, flip to
and for him to form an alliance with an older So it was that we watched Britain lead- ‘It’s Gonna Rain’. ‘You say life is a
male by grooming him with affecting ten- ing the world in the fight against Russian bowl of cherries, you give me a bowl
derness. (‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch perfidy and for human rights in Burma. of pits. Try not to step on your eggs.’
yours,’ the non-simian David duly chuck- Even Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary Look your brother-in-law in the
led.) This initially seemed to work — until during filming, was on his best behaviour, face and say: ‘I think there’s a lesson
David was so badly beaten up by his rivals departing from the script only when he sug- in that for all of us, Bob, especially
that the following morning he appeared to gested to his advisers on Syria that ‘we must at Christmas.’ Then skip forward
be dead. Fortunately, in perhaps the pro- accept that our plan, that Assad must go, has to ‘Teddy Bear’. ‘I saw a little girl.
gramme’s most memorable moment, and totally failed’. Crying. She said she lost her teddy
certainly its most unashamedly theatrical, Nonetheless, it was the suave Sir Simon bear. Oh then I can get you another
we then saw him twitch a toe, open an eye, who stole the show, with his habit of mak- one. NO NO NO NO oh NO. It was
drag himself to his feet and set off to reclaim ing unambiguous declarations that he’d then MY teddy bear.’ And nod your head
his kingdom. qualify in a way that left them considerably meaningfully.
He succeeded too — so much so that less unambiguous. (I think my favourite was, Trust me, the guests will be gone
Luther was soon begging for a forgive- ‘The ends don’t justify the means. But we even before Yoko has observed, on
ness he never received: at which point you need to be sometimes more flexible about ‘Where Do We Go From Here’, that
half-expected him to be offered the chimp the means than we first thought.’) there are ‘cats on the hill, ready to
equivalent of a bottle of whisky and a pearl- Still, for a master diplomat he did rath- kill’. You probably won’t even have
handled revolver. Before long, David’s re- er give the game away towards the end. His to hear her shrieking about ‘Woman
established status meant that the females knack at dinner parties, he told us, is to leave Power’ (‘Men flashing their guns and
were flashing their swollen privates at him people feeling they’ve heard some genuine- balls’).
just like in the old days. Even so, he decided ly confidential material — until they look You can take the album off,
that he needed more alliances if he was to back later and realise they haven’t really. keeping it handy for when the
stay on top. For all the incidental pleasures along the neighbours drop round later.
Needless to say, all this made for a spectac- way, this was exactly the effect of Inside the — Rod Liddle
ular watch. Yet, it was possibly just as well that Foreign Office.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 53

Animal magic: Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

I did do some homework in that the main Scamander vs Grindelwald plot,

Cinema I watched the first film. It is set in the 1920s, but also many subplots that are themselves
You’ve lost me before Harry has even been born, so there’s subplotted and further subplotted. None
none of the usual crew, although I don’t of the strands is ever allowed to build up
Deborah Ross think this film sucks because Ron Weasley a head of steam and some characters seem
isn’t in it. Our hero is now Newt Scaman- pointless. Newt now has an assistant, Bunty,
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of der (Eddie Redmayne), a ‘magizoologist’ who appears to be in love with him, but she
Grindelwald who carries a bottomless suitcase filled with disappears after one scene.
PG, Nationwide fantastical beasts. I did love the beasts, and I started by giving this the benefit of the
would give anything to own a Murtlap. (Very doubt — it was my fault for not knowing
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald cute, even if it does bite.) Directed by David enough — but now I’m veering more towards
is the sequel to the Harry Potter prequel Yates with a screenplay by Rowling, this film the overly labyrinthine, plain-mess theory.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The film just doesn’t tell a clear story. Instead,
and either J.K. Rowling’s plots are now so J.K. Rowling’s plots are now so it jumps constantly from set piece to set piece
labyrinthine she makes your average John labyrinthine she makes your average without ever offering any through line or
le Carré look like Noddy, or I failed to put John le Carré look like Noddy time to get to know a character. (Bunty, was
in sufficient homework, or it’s a plain mess. it something we said?) It’s still visually deli-
Whichever, I hadn’t a clue what was happen- takes off where that film left off so it’s essen- cious, admittedly, but where’s its sense of
ing most of the time. tially Newt’s continuing battle against Grin- humour? The romance between Jacob Kow-
I like the whole Potter industry well delwald the dark wizard, played by Johnny alski (Dan Fogler), a muggle, and Queenie
enough, but I can’t say I’m a superfan. Depp with one opaque, red-rimmed eye (Alison Sudol), who is magic, provided the
I don’t even have an opinion on wheth- although that may be the least of his prob- heart of the first film, and quite a few laughs,
er Dumbledore is gay or not, which is the lems these days. so what does Rowling do with them here?
surest sign of non-superfandom. But while This is mostly set in Paris, for no good Right at the beginning, the couple break up.
a film should cater to those in the know, it reason, with occasional cuts to Hogwarts There is also no proper conclusion.
should also be open to all, surely. Or maybe and Jude Law as a younger Dumbledore, Instead, it just sets it up for the next film,
it’s like the Pirates of the Caribbean or Bond now so stylish he looks as if he’s stepped out which in turn will set it up for the next film,
franchises, and coherence just doesn’t mat- of a menswear spread in GQ. (If I had an which in turn will set it up… and so on and
ter any more? opinion I’d go with gay, definitely.) There is so on, probably until the end of time.
54 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
simple and hilarious. Apart From That is a other than his daft conception of himself
Theatre short dialogue written at a time when mobile as a servant of justice. He’s like a medie-
This will end badly phones were new. Two lovers exchange gos- val Andrew Adonis, a harmless and slight-
sip while their connection keeps breaking up. ly snobbish busybody with a strong ascetic
Lloyd Evans Pinter’s gift for oblique off-kilter conversa- streak who likes to meddle in other people’s
tion is perfectly suited to this set-up and he lives because it lends his existence an air
Pinter Three invests the phrase ‘I lost you’ with a surpris- of purpose. Sancho Panza (Rufus Hound)
Harold Pinter Theatre, until 8 December ingly ambiguous tenderness. But like most of breaks the fourth wall and indulges in ‘now-
his sketches, and many of his plays, the piece then-boys-and-girls’ patter that belongs in
Don Quixote lacks a proper conclusion. a pantomime. When in character, he plods
Garrick Theatre, booking to His best attempt comes in a 1959 skit around after Don Quixote like an amused
2 February 2019 about a factory strike. The boss is bemused gap-year student hired to prevent an autistic
by his workers’ refusal to manufacture pensioner from harming himself.
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything machine tools. ‘What do they want to make Director Angus Jackson seems to have
Bush Theatre, until 24 November instead?’ ‘Trouble,’ says the foreman. Not twigged that this isn’t grown-up materi-
a great joke but Lee Evans delivers it with al and he distracts the audience with bun
Pinter Three appeals to opposite poles of the a comic force it doesn’t quite deserve. His fights, squirtings of water and games of catch
play-going spectrum. The birdbrains like me acrobatic clowning is the best thing in Pinter played between actors positioned around
will enjoy the music-hall sketches while the Three. I can imagine Allen and Greig, both the auditorium. At press night, the crowd
goatee-strokers will have fun pretending gifted comedians, watching Evans from the affected to be entertained by these circus
that Pinter’s deadly earnest memory plays wings and wondering why they missed out antics. It might be better to market this as a
are worth seeing. Watching the first piece, on the fun and lumbered themselves with family show for the under-tens.
Landscape, is like receiving a jigsaw puz- Pinter’s cryptic piffle. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is an
zle in instalments. Two characters, Duff and Cervantes’s Don Quixote has an inex- investigation into millennials and it purports
Beth, speak to us without acknowledging plicable charm and sincerity that doesn’t to take their side. Inadvertently, it highlights
each other. Maybe they’re married. Maybe easily translate to the stage. The RSC’s ver- their worst characteristics. Cosseted by over-
they aren’t. Duff, played by Keith Allen, is a sion starring David Threlfall is handsomely indulgent parents, today’s twentysomethings
barking, aggressive know-all who works as designed but dramatically weightless. Threl- expected adult life to be a paradise of fun
a chauffeur. Tamsin Greig’s Beth is a prat- fall, near-invisible behind an avalanche of jobs, rising incomes, cheap homes and social
tling Irish scullery maid who witters on snowy whiskers, blunders around Spain justice. They feel let down. But this pessi-
about ‘having a baby’ with a lover who may attacking windmills, butchering sheep by mistic show compounds their problems by
be Duff, or an unseen chap named Sykes, or accident, settling village feuds, fighting low- offering no vision or hope, just a fatalistic
energy jousts with undangerous opponents eye roll. It ends with a bizarre foul-mouthed
I can imagine Allen and Greig and propositioning a man disguised as a challenge to the young. ‘Live ya lives I fuck-
watching Lee Evans’s acrobatic damsel. But who cares about any of it? The in dare ya!’ All right, Mr Angry, they’re
clowning enviously from the wings foolish knight has nothing to win or lose doing their best.

someone else. Without that unsolved puz-

zle, the script is just a long sliver of garru-
lous reminiscence located in the days when
a pint of beer cost two shillings and three-
pence (12¼p).
A Kind of Alaska places the same actors The Croissant
in another fatuous brainteaser. Allen plays
Dr Hornby whose amnesiac patient Debbie After the croissant, as I finger-sweep
(Greig) accuses him of sexual molestation.
Doc Hornby responds to her allegations the fallen flakes into a heap, the small
with a careless Jimmy Savile shrug. Debbie savings of breakfast, I recall
indulges in 15 minutes of fragmented jabber the words of Mark: ‘They gathered up
whereupon the nonchalant medic announc-
es: ‘You’ve been asleep for 29 years.’ A pity twelve baskets of the fragments that remained.’
he didn’t mention that earlier. Enter Deb-
bie’s sister Pauline (Meera Syal), whom she Time to go through the notebooks, brush
hasn’t seen since childhood. Debbie is sur-
prised by her sister’s breasts and she coyly the dandruff out, choose from the windfalls,
asks if Pauline is their middle-aged aunt. and rearrange the window. This might be
This is funny, sort of, but Debbie’s roly-poly the last collection. I should make them see
chitchat is maddening to sit through because
she doesn’t know who she is. As always, Pint- a geyser rising, not a casual flush.
er lacks a strong finish.
The sketches are better. Girls is a crazed Feel for the eggs in the henhouse.
rant played at 100 mph by the amazing Tom
Edden. He plays a hyperventilating academ- Look in the hedge where Chuckie liked to nest.
ic who’s fixated by a female student whom I’ve got the butter and the runny cheese.
he overheard mentioning that girls like to be Harness the gelding while I pick some pears,
spanked. His obsessive analysis of her cas-
ual remark conceals an obvious and rather Let’s drive to market jingling, at our best.
touching sexual passion for her. It’s brilliant, — Alistair Elliot (1932–2018)
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 55

Watling Street
By Patrick West

ll roads lead to Rome, the say- inga Stræt, a name eventually extended to

ing goes. Well, all roads except for the entire road. The pathway had by then
the Roman road of Watling Street, achieved legend as the avenue on which
which at one end takes you to Dover Boudica was defeated in 60 or 61 ad. It
(Dubris) and at the other Wroxeter (Viro- later came to mark the south-west border
conium) in Shropshire. of Danelaw. St Augustine used it on his way
I was always only vaguely aware of this to Canterbury, as did pilgrims to the city’s
thoroughfare but the name began, in recent cathedral, who returned wearing badges of
years, to nag on my weekly visits to Canter- Thomas Becket as a sign that they had made
bury (Durovernum Cantiacorum). When their virtuous journey. It is thus assumed
approaching the city centre from the station, that it was also the path taken by Chaucer’s
I would see a street sign bearing the name on pilgrims from Southwark.
the side of a branch of Boots. It took some Watling Street fell into disuse thereafter
time to dawn on me that this was the very The defeat of Boudica is believed to and only in the 18th century did it resume
same Watling Street I had been told about in have been fought on Watling Street its role as a thoroughfare, when a toll system
school history classes. The street sign in Can- was established throughout England. By
terbury isn’t unique, though: ‘Watling Street, invaded. Aulus Plautius, conqueror of Kent, the 20th century, most sections of Watling
EC4’ is affixed to a wall a few minutes’ walk also proceeded to straighten the grassy dirt Street had been transformed into modern
from London Bridge station. path for the purpose of conveying his sup- roads, although some parts had fallen into
Strictly speaking, Watling Street isn’t plies and material of war from the Continent. disrepair. ‘A disused stretch of old Watling
a Roman Road, as the trackway was first From Shropshire, one tributary continued on Street, a road which has been unaccount-
used by the pre-Celtic and then the Celtic the historical route to the tip of north-west ably neglected and is actually dangerous for
inhabitants of Britain. The author of St Paul Wales, while another headed north, past fast motor traffic, is to undergo long over-
in Britain (1861), R. W. Morgan, recalled: Hadrian’s Wall to Pictish Scotland. due widening from St. Albans,’ reported
‘From Dover to Holyhead ran the Brit- Its English name derives from the Country Life in November 1936.
ish Causeway, constructed by Dynwal and Anglo-Saxons who settled in St Albans Today, that part of Watling Street has
his son, Beli the Great, 400 bc, called Sarn (Verulamium) after the Romans had gone. become the A5, while the section between
Wyddelin, or the Irish Road.’ They were a tribe named the Waeclingas, Dover and Canterbury is the A2. Along the
Watling Street came to be associated with who dubbed the place Wætlingaceaster. By A2 travels the National Express coach route
the Romans since they were the ones who the 9th century the road passing through 007, after which Ian Fleming, resident of St
paved it, beginning in 47 ad, soon after they the settlement had become known as Wæcl- Margaret’s Bay, named his secret agent.

56 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |

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As the flowers were laid next to her
grave, the only utterance from the vicar
was: ‘The rabbits will feast well tonight’
— Dear Mary, p69

includes that awful frog Marshal Foch), was the best and always will be — but the
High life and had not taken such revenge on Ger- modernists leave me cold, as does their
Taki many following the ceasefire 100 years ago, architecture and their fiction. A great poet
we would not have seen the horrors of the who died tragically in a car accident back in
second world war and the atomic bombs 1957 was the South African Roy Campbell,
dropped on the Japanese. Wilson was seen and so said T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas.
as a saviour of mankind. The little Prince- Campbell was no sandal-wearing fruit-juice
ton professor’s imagination soared and he drinker, as George Orwell described left-
believed himself to be Alexander the Great. ies in The Road to Wigan Pier. He fought
He bloviated and virtue-signalled end- on my side in Spain, so crappy Bloomsbury
less meaningless bromides and managed types shunned him. Which means he was
to impose such terrible terms on the Ger- lucky. His ‘Horses on the Camargue’ and
New York mans that it is a wonder it took as long as 20 ‘Autumn’ are wonderful and expose the
A little Austrian count was born to my years before they came back for revanche. double standards the left practises every-
daughter last week in Salzburg, early in the Wilson also subjected the defeated Ger- where and on every level. Plato would have
morning of 9 November, becoming my third mans back home to his punitive ideas. War been shunned because he would have seen
grandchild. Through modern technology, I resisters went straight to the pokey despite through them.
was flooded with pictures of a blond, fuzzed the fact that not many Americans wished So there you have it: a quiet week, a new
and pink baby boy less than a day old. The to get mixed up in a European war. Isola- little count, and now I’m bored and need to
mother of my children, who was flying in tionism became a good word after the little leave the rocker and hit the nightspots with
from Gstaad, did not make it on time, which prof messed up. Thank God he had a stroke some young you-know-what. Yippee!
was just as well. Like most women, she tends and his wife ran the country for the rest of
to overreact where babies are concerned. his term.
Unlike us tough guys, who tend to hit the I suppose that the Wilson bum was the Low life
bottle and celebrate instead. first globalist, and now another little man,
And speaking of the fair sex, Lionel Macron, a little frog actually, is telling us Jeremy Clarke
Shriver is some columnist, the best Ameri- how we should all be nice little globalists
can writer by far, and she has sure got the and let little frogs and German Hausfraus
#MeToo phonies down to a tee. We’re lucky run our lives. All I know is that their road
to have her. The one I’m angry at is Mary will lead to the kind of endless immigra-
Wakefield, who only now tells us that some tion conflicts that their predecessors caused
women do fantasise about Greek tycoons. in the Middle East because they thought
But when a real-life Greek tycoon — OK, they knew better. Let everyone and every
mini tycoon — had her in his sights, she ran country decide what is best for them, says
like a Saudi who is facing equal odds. grandfather Taki, and don’t let the Macrons,
Never mind. I’ve been in love with Mary Junckers and Merkels of this world tell us The monument to this French village’s war
for so long that I forgive her. Grandfathers they know best. They don’t, but the Hungar- dead is a plain white stone block with the
are forgiving types, and I don’t mind it when ians, the Poles and the Italians do. Sure, the head of a grizzled old French infantryman
my friends sometimes call me granddad in unelected ones will call them fascist, just as chiselled on top. His big capable hands are
nightclubs and embarrass me in front of they will say that Brexit was not democratic. gripping the block’s edge, as though he is
younger women. The first time someone But look who’s talking: the unelected crooks peering intently over the parapet of a trench.
called me a grandfather I wasn’t one, and of Brussels and the unread hacks of the New On Sunday we assembled around him to
he was on his knees when he said it. I had York Times. Puleez, give me a break, as they honour the 53 local men, from a population
put him there with a foot sweep. It hap- say in Brooklyn Heights. of 1,800, who lost their lives in the first world
pened long ago in Athens and the genuflect- As the Taki family expands, I have to war. Schoolchildren queued at a microphone
ing young man was Greek. I was driving to look to higher things in order to inspire to sing out their names. A ladies choir sang
karate and had made an illegal right turn. the troops. Getting drunk in nightclubs, a plangent song about Verdun. The state bell
He was on his motorcycle and I almost and sometimes even getting into fights, is tolled for 11 minutes. The major made an
crashed into him. I stopped and apologised undignified at my age, however enjoyable it interminable speech in the rain. Everybody
but he came towards me like Orlando Furio- might be. So I’ve been reading some poet- sang the Marseillaise.
so. So I foot swept him, then jumped into the ry to calm me down as I sit on my rock- Around 300 people turned out (beneath
car and drove off. ‘Come back, you cowardly ing chair dreaming of kicking sand into about 100 umbrellas) from a winter popula-
old granny,’ he yelled at me. I was laughing the face of someone disgusting like Philip tion the same size as it was 100 years ago.
so much I almost crashed again. Green. The collection Facing the Persians A regular soldier with a machine gun and
I suppose that old age demands some by my friend and Speccie reader Ian A. a rakish beret patrolled vigilantly, his eyes
gravitas, but I love life too much, and girls Olson was a start. Inspiring stuff. The poem peeled for Islamist terrorists. Apart from the
even more, ever to act my age. Perhaps if ‘Bright Ribbons’ ditto. Olson is a hell of a final singing of the rousing national anthem,
old men such as Woodrow Wilson had not poet and people should get his book. I’ve this young man and the peering poilu were
taken themselves so seriously (and that read some poetry along the way — Keats the only military notes. No medal-boasting
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 61

veterans were present; the only uniforms to piously honour the innocent, manly and Merkel, to the Paris commemorations. Mr
were those of the fire brigade. Otherwise it courageous first world war dead when the Putin appeared to be the only adult. Beside
was all anoraks flapping in the squalls. The social divisions engendered by the more him, everyone else was behaving like hys-
prevailing atmosphere was light-hearted, recent occupation are still festering. And I terically narcissistic teenagers. Or so it
I would say. People on the outer fringes can sympathise. It must be awfully difficult, seemed to me, walking past the screen with
chatted and smoked and at the slightest especially for the youth, to have one’s coun- my empty glass and returning with it full.
provocation — the trendy teacher failing to try overrun by young Nazis, then contained Mrs Macron seemed to think she was
control his daft children, for example — eve- by these Nazis’ elderly fathers and grand- hosting a charity fashion gala for all her
ryone laughed. fathers with a little help from their friends powerful new friends and she was quite
Yet one wondered. One wondered espe- among the occupied. drunk with happiness. The proprietress of
cially about the small plaque that had been After the ceremony, we went to a local the bar we were in was drunk too, but on red
fixed to the monument comfortably within bar. On the huge high-definition TV screen wine. She must have spotted an urgency in
living memory dedicated to ‘Nos glorieux inside they were showing President Macron my drinking behaviour because she laughed
martyrs de la Résistance’. Five names are (looking thin and strained and mad) wel- hideously and mimed injecting heroin into
inscribed on it: Albert Benzo, Jean Gauti- coming other world leaders, including Pres- her forearm with a syringe every time every
er, Félix Maille, Léon Gérard and Gabriel idents Trump and Putin and Chancellor time I went to the bar for another.
Philis. The plaque is modest, the lettering
less well done. The circumstances of the
deaths of Léon Gérard and Gabriel Philis
are these.
In June 1944 a Maquis group calling
itself Battaglia (after two brothers execut-
ed by the Germans) established itself on
the Bessillon, which is a mountainous rock
overlooking the village. Battaglia was sup-
plied and controlled by French communists.
Someone grassed. German soldiers, plus If 2018
a company of ‘auxiliaries’ (many of whom
were local Frenchmen), surrounded the
Students at Manchester University have scrubbed Kipling’s poem ‘If’
At the Paris commemorations, from a wall in the School of Oriental Studies because they claim it is ‘racist’.
Mr Putin seemed to be
the only adult If you can stay in bed when all around have been up hours,
Bessillon. These auxiliaries brought with Vote Green and march to save the planet
them ten hostages taken from the local But can’t switch off a light or shut a bloody door against the draught;
prison, among them 54-year-old Gabriel If you don’t go ten minutes without a sugar snack and fizzy drink,
Philis, the respected secretary to the town
mayor. The ten had been rounded up and And turn vegan ’cos you can’t stand cruelty to eggs,
imprisoned over the previous three days Give up breakfast cornflakes for you can’t be arsed to wash a bowl;
on suspicion of supporting the Battaglia Eat burgers and thrill-seeking mashups all day long,
group. The auxiliaries used them as porters
to carry ammunition boxes to the mountain From personalised plates;
summit. The Maquis group was quickly liq- Still operate your iPhone while wiping your bum
uidated: the hostages — job done; thanks, And take 2,000 selfies in a week;
lads — were summarily shot. Local man
Léon Gérard, 33, a resistance organiser, If you are into Me first and body image
had run up the mountain to warn them, but Wear lingerie as apparel:
too late. He also was shot and died in agony Nude bodysuits, overly distressed denim, graphic T-shirt profanity Califuk
three hours later.
Locals recovered the massacred bod- And gawp out from behind oversized round opticals;
ies and ceremoniously and ostentatious- If not a square inch of your whitewashed frame is undefaced by bilious tattoos
ly interred them two days afterwards. The Nor any protrusion left unpierced, un-ringed
telephone lines from the village were cut
beforehand to prevent any more grassing. If you stream Bebe Rexha, Ariana Grande, Calvin Harris, Jonas Blue and Zane
Today there is a rue Gabriel Philis and And call these music;
a rue Léon Gérard. On VE Day the mayor If you can tell your quinoa from your acai and your poke
was assassinated, shot in the head as he
walked along a road, and everyone knows Retreat to your safe space where no one can offend you,
who did it. We know the assassin’s son by Enjoy the degree course as your Personal Development Journey
sight. Newcomers like me are darkly warned Studying Equestrian Psychology or Ethical Hacking
not to enquire too deeply about the goings-
on during the second world war, however, Receive counselling when you heard someone ate calves’ liver;
because it’s none of our business. Make of your life a Perpetual Infantilisation,
So one did wonder, during last Sun- Then you’ll be a snowflake my dearie.
day’s commemorations around the monu-
ment aux morts, who had stayed away. Also
what a useful, even fun, distraction it was — Peter Mullen
62 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |
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_ 01206 713560
sending your calves for re-education you’re
Real life going to be on the verge of poking someone
Melissa Kite in the face with your cane. So I left a seat’s Susanna Gross
space between us.
The nurse was telling everyone how the
gastrocnemius (calf) muscles work, with a It’s no surprise that so many bridge players
view to understanding how incorrect walk- are computer programmers or systems ana-
ing techniques lead to tight calves, which lysts; it’s an ideal game for those who excel
impact on the feet producing problems at logic and puzzle-solving. But at the highest
such as bunions. level, a strong imagination is what really gives
It was, on the face of it, rather embar- you the edge. Certain players have an extraor-
rassing. But I don’t think our bunions were, dinary ability to visualise their opponents’
Left at the Dementia Café, right at the Sleep actually, the result of our own recalcitrant cards, put themselves in their shoes, and then
Office, past the Spiritual Care Centre… tightness, for we all looked rather fit, apart persuade them to go wrong. It’s a rare gift that
This was my journey through the ground from the old woman leaning on her cane. elevates the game almost to an art form.
floor of my local hospital until I came to No. I think the reason we were there Artur Malinowski, the manager of TGR’s
the physiotherapy department where the was that some management consultant had rubber bridge club, is one such player. Dur-
Calf Stretching Education Group was discovered an algorithm proving that if the ing a recent high-stake game, he pulled off
being held. NHS stops doing bunion ops and starts this coup against two formidable opponents,
Hospitals are very different places now- doing calf stretching education groups it Robert Sheehan and Gunnar Hallberg:
adays from the forbidding buildings of my can save millions of pounds.
childhood where doctors and nurses in And so after a lengthy lecture about Dealer North Game all
starched uniforms used to attempt to cure how to walk, we were told to take off
people. our shoes in order to practise on the calf zQ8 6
Now they host Costa Coffee shops and stretching boards. yQJ 3
M&S mini food halls and art exhibitions At this point, the old lady stormed very XJ 9 6
along the walls, which you peruse in spite of slowly out, grunting something about how wJ 8 3 2
yourself as you pass these marvellous new she really had to get on — with hobbling on
departments. You wonder what happens at her bunions, presumably. z 8 7 z 2
the Dementia Café and the Sleep Office The rest of us removed our shoes and N
y 10 8 6 2
y AK9 7 5 W E
and the Spiritual Care Centre. stood on the boards and two nurses — for
X8 4 S X KQ 7 5 2
But mostly you get the feeling that another had appeared — now explained
healthcare has evolved to be about empow- the finer points of calf stretching. w A 10 7 4 wQ 9 5
ering people to feel good about dying. They really were lovely, these nurses.
No more starched, old-fashioned curing. z AK J 6 5 4 2
Hospitals provide education, enlighten- Hospitals provide education, y4
ment, spiritual guidance and a good cap- enlightenment, spiritual guidance X A 10 3
puccino. and a good cappuccino w K6
They offer you the opportunity to take
control of your condition, to pick up your They were polite, sweet, pretty and end-
infirmity and, well, run with it. If you can lessly patient. When one of the women West North East South
run. wouldn’t stop talking about her feet, the Pass pass 4z
I ran all the way down the corridor past lovely nurses just kept smiling and being pass pass pass 
the Sleep Office and the Spiritual Care polite and sweet long after the rest of us
Centre because I was ten minutes late for had decided we wanted to stick her feet Robert (West) led the yA, then switched
the Calf Stretching Education Group. where the sun didn’t shine. But these nurses to the X8. Gunnar played the XQ and Artur
It had taken a while to check my car in went on being sweet. Sweet about her feet. won. Next he played z A and a spade to
to the car park by typing my registration They were sweet about my feet too. dummy’s zQ. Gunnar discarded the y10 —
on to a screen. Then, once I got to the phys- They couldn’t have shown more forbear- a clear suit preference signal for diamonds.
io department, I had to check myself in on ance in helping me learn how to stand on The only legitimate chance of making 4z is
another screen. a calf stretching board. I was impressed. I to play towards the wK, hoping East has the
And by then the group had started. A have not felt this welcome in a hospital for wA — as anyone else would. But Artur felt
receptionist came off the phone and told a long time. sure West held the ace: otherwise East would
me to follow her. After a while of us walk- Finally, the lead physio wound the ses- surely not have encouraged diamonds.
ing past rooms and her saying ‘Oo, I don’t sion to a close by declaring: ‘So, do this for Was there anything to be done? Putting
know, I think it might be in here, but then three months and your condition will be East on play was hopeless: he would inevitably
again I don’t think it is’, I decided to just resolved.’ switch to a heart and Artur would be left with
fling open the door to a small gymnasium. ‘You mean I won’t have a bunion any- two club losers. But what if he put West on play
‘Calf Stretching?’ I asked a nurse sitting more?’ I asked. and somehow persuaded him to cash the wA?
in front of a whiteboard as three women ‘No, you’ll still have a bunion,’ she said. After a moment’s thought, this is how he did it:
and one man sat on plastic chairs in front ‘Oh. So resolved in what sense?’ I asked. he played the yQ from dummy and discarded
of her looking marooned. ‘Resolved as in not any worse.’ the X10! Robert now assumed he had started
‘Yes!’ she said, welcoming me in. I went ‘Great!’ I said, and I almost meant it. with XA10 and three low clubs. A diamond
to sit in the second row next to an old lady I have not been cured of my bunion in a switch would therefore be fatal: Artur would
leaning on a walking cane who looked mur- clean, tidy, well-run hospital by courteous, ruff the XK, return to dummy with a trump,
derous. friendly staff. and discard two clubs on the yJ and X9. And
I imagine if you get to a grand age and And in the current climate, I am rating so he cashed the wA and played another club
your GP responds to you being crippled by that experience as excellent. — handing Artur his contract.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 65

Chess Competition
Paradise mislaid Headline in here
Raymond Keene Lucy Vickery
World champion Magnus Carlsen missed Diagram 1 In Competition No. 3074 you were invited to
several chances to win with black in the first submit a scam letter ghostwritten by a well-
game of his title defence, currently WDkDWDrD known author, living or dead.
continuing in London. Falling for a scam is costly and tedi-
A black win right at the start is by no 0WgWDWDW ous (and more easily done than you might
means ultimately a match winner, but is
rather like breaking serve in the first set of
W0pDWDW0 think), but the comedian James Veitch
found a silver lining when he decided to
the Wimbledon final. DW0WDW1W engage with his persecutors: the ensuing
Alexander Alekhine, in 1927 against José
Capablanca and again Vassily Smyslov in
WDWDP0WD correspondence — lengthy, labyrinthine and
often hilarious — went on to form the basis
1957 against Mikhail Botvinnik, both went DPDPDQDP of a popular TED talk and book.
on to seize the supreme title after black
wins in game one. PDPDKDWH It was a tricky assignment, judging by
the smallish postbag, but you made some
In this case, Carlsen built up a dominating
position after some highly original opening
DWDWDRDW clever choices of author whose prose style
strategy and an inspired temporary pawn lent itself well to the art of phishing: poor
sacrifice and now came the time to reap the spelling (Molesworth via Geoffrey Willans);
Diagram 2
harvest. apparently outlandish claims (Kafka). The
WDWDWDrD winners, printed below, earn £25 each.
Caruana-Carlsen: World Championship,
London (Game 1) 2018; Sicilian Defence 0kgWDWDW Dear Supporter of Justice
W0pDWDWD Someone has been telling lies about Mr. A. He has
been taken in, to his great exasperation, for
(see diagram 1)
Here Carlsen played 34 ... h5 but 34 ... DW0WDWDW questioning on a subject about which he knows
nothing. He had intended to go out in the evening
Qe5, with the intention of invading on the
queenside dark squares, would have led to a
WDWDP0W0 — despite the snow falling, it was a pleasant walk
— when his freedom was arbitrarily curtailed.
winning position as White has no way to DP)PDQDP Despite his protestations, has he been listened to?
organise his defences, e.g. 35 Qh1 Qc3 36 Rc1
Rg3 37 Nf3 b5! and ... c4 will follow ripping PDWIW$WD On the contrary, he has been sedulously ignored.
Has he perhaps misunderstood the gravity of his
White apart on the queenside. DWDWDN1W predicament? Has he offended anyone? It is a bad
dream! Since his arrest, the experience of which he
(see diagram 2) found both troubling and yet trifling, he has had a
Carlsen now played 38 ... Be5. Instead he run of luck which would tax the most decent and
Diagram 3 honest individual. The only way to assist Mr. A. is
should have capitalised on the advance of the
to provide him with a decent Advocate. You can
h-pawn to h4, which enables the thrust 38 ...
Rg3. After 39 Nxg3 hxg3 40 Re2 Qa1 the
WDWDWDrD help by donating to his JustGiving page at www.
white queen and rook are hemmed in by the 0kDWDWDW Thanks in advance.
Bill Greenwell/Franz Kafka
pawn duo on f4 and g3 and his queenside will
Felicitations from the Holy Land,
DW0WgWDW Where I, the sole survivor from a band
(see diagram 3)
Carlsen now played 39 ... Qg7, missing his WDWDP0W0 Of mercenary soldiers stashed away
Much booty; and concealèd it shall stay
last chance to maintain a serious advantage.
He should play 39 ... b5, planning ... b4
DP)PDQDP Until a boat’s procured to sail me home.
I found your name within the Domesday tome,
softening up the queenside dark squares PDKDW$WD A family respected and adored;
after which Black will quickly obtain a And honest — one I wish to share my hoard
decisive attack. White is unable to defend
DWDWDN1W Of riches with, for gems and jewels and gold
against this plan. In England can be fortunately sold.
We’ll partner up, and since we’re men of wit,
I’m offering a fifty-fifty split.
PUZZLE NO. 532 To hire the needed boat, tonight, my man

Black to play. This is a variation from Carlsen-

rDb4WDkD Will visit to initiate our plan;
And once you’ve paid the thirty noble toll,
Caruana (Game 2), London 2018. White has 0pDWDp0W For secrecy, I urge you burn this scroll.
Paul A. Freeman/Chaucer
forked the black bishop and queen. How should
Black react? Answers to me at The Spectator by
Tuesday 20 November or via email to victoria@ 1WDnDWDW You may curse me for a whoreson scurvy knave
and there’s many would agree — though pot, There is a prize of £20 for the first
correct answer out of a hat. Please include a postal
PDNDWGWD kettle, say I — but as an old sea-cook who once
sacrificed a leg in mortal combat for his country’s
address and allow six weeks for prize delivery. DW)W)WDW sake, I swear on the life of my parrot, Captain
Flint being dearer to me than a host of my fellow
Last week’s solution 1 Qh5
WDQDB)P) humans, that what follows is a true tale.
Last week’s winner Ray Fisher, DWDRDRIW I have in my possession (do not be asking how
or why), a treasure map of sworn veracity, marked
Buxton, Derbyshire
with the spot where the spoils of piracy have been
buried. Its history is stained with blood and shame,
66 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |

but its value is inestimable, and can do

redeeming good. Crossword
Be my ally in this mission, and like good
Christian men we shall turn evil into good, and
2385: R and R
Silver into gold. A mere hundred guineas for
needful outlay will bring me post haste to your
by Pabulum
G.M. Davis/Robert Louis Stevenson The theme is two historic peo-
ple who were contemporar-
On occasions of this kind my duty to ies. Unclued lights give their
communicate becomes a pleasure. I have nothing forenames, places of birth and
to declare but the genius of fortune that has death and occupations. A geo-
smiled on you. To lose someone is of course a graphical feature (5) linking
misfortune but misfortunes seldom travel empty the two will appear in the com-
handed. A relative whom you may not know has pleted grid and must be shaded.
bequeathed to you, in the dearth of closer Elsewhere, ignore an apostro-
beneficiaries, a sum of surprising magnitude, a phe. The solutions at 22 and 27
sum that will supply you with all you have ever share the same two unchecked
desired to live gloriously beyond your present letters.
means. The truth is never simple and in your case
has involved months of research; but the truth is Across
you are now worth millions. From a woman of no 4 Harmless wag recast an
importance, perhaps, you will take your place economic principle
among the wealthy of the world. A prompt return (11, two words)
is needed and I request you complete the details 11 Eating away, in love indeed
below. I cannot overstress the importance of being with empty oarsman (7)
early with your reply. 14 Sarah acquires seemingly 5 Thong emir’s worn (4) 42 Alto and treble perhaps
Frank McDonald/Oscar Wilde good old watch (5) 6 Old aristo from Spain men make good (4)
16 Papa gets behind in start to like (4) 43 Couple caught out bank (4)
Dere Deserving Resipient, river race (5) 7 Holiday dresses – see-
My late uncle, the Duke of Lagos, hav left me 19 Many ships fighting lass through? (7) A first prize of £30 for the
£50 million! Of course, he is only an uncle by boards (7) 8 Slander involves brilliant first correct solution opened on
marridge; a true Molesworth hav no Nigerian blud 21 Strange duke colonel (murderer?) (7) 3 December. There are two
in his vanes. But he hav made one stippulashun: whipped lasher (4) 10 Grain harvest, one runners-up prizes of £20. (UK
I must give half of it to 25 Deserving Resipients, 24 Insect sting upset (4) garnered by an Omani? (7) solvers can choose to receive the
chiz! So I hav selekted you to reseeve a million 25 I’m inspiring liberal peer to 15 Stunner shed tears … (5) latest edition of the Chambers
smackers. (My grate frend Peason sa ‘Give me a house Amerind (7) 17 … when old Alun largely dictionary instead of cash —
million, then’, but I tell him that sumone who is a 32 Roué playing bubbly changed, becoming ring the word ‘dictionary’.)
weed and uterly wet canot be considered a music (7) vegetative (7) Entries to: Crossword 2385,
Deserving Resipient.) 34 Astronomer loves radio 18 Person in need of P45 The Spectator, 22 Old Queen
To cover my leegal and other costs, plese put telephony (4) was this (4) Street, London SW1H 9HP.
£100 in a sealed enverlop and drop it in the hole 36 Rare mineral, very devil to 20 Plants spaniel Please allow six weeks for
in the hollow tree just outside St. Custard’s Skool. screw in (7) destroyed (7) prize delivery.
Once I hav reseeved this poultry sum, I send you a 38 Note cruel tyrant cycling (4) 22 Pater’s worried (3)
letter orthorising your clame. To get yore million, 39 Muslim jurist nearly left 26 Larvae in river woman
just present it to my lawyers, Messrs Sue, Grabbit after typical bigot crosses (5)
and Runne. advanced (7) 27 Copy of recording
41 Poet’s place in heaven tenor cut (3) Address
Brian Allgar/Geoffrey Willans
being Bluegrass State (5) 28 Sweet Patsy (4)
Dear ___, 44 Plump little boys planted 29 Hairstyle in fashion? Of
Want more than your share before anybody else small tree (5) course (7)
has any? Me too. Signing up to the enclosed Get 47 Bertie twice has female 30 Letter consisting of note
Rich Quick Scheme has this to be said for it: it’s flyer round for drink about chemical element (7)
better than squandering the rest of your morning (7, two words) 31 Granny’s wonderful cotton
gurning your Narcissus Metamorphosing Into Down cloth (7)
Methuselah face into the shaving mirror or trying 1 Eat, gobbling almost every 35 About fifteen tangled
to chisel that unfeasibly hard white substance from item of food (7) ropes (6) Email
the roof of your hungover mouth with toothpicks. 2 Kris possibly has use no 37 Horlicks cross theologian
Don’t bother reading the small print which, like longer for pebbled fabric (6) imbibed (6)
the internal combustion engine or a wife, you don’t 3 Pole receiving second 40 Tunnel in Qatar leads to all
need to understand for it to work. The car and the heart (5) nine air terminals (5)
girl, even the yacht if you can stomach seasickness,
are waiting. Too good to be true? Well, somebody
has to get rich and, as I already am, why not you? SOLUTION TO 2382 : A POINTED REMARK
All you’ve got to lose is the ridiculous conviction
that things this good don’t happen to you. Illogical,
The quotation is 10/11/39. Remaining unclued lights are
considering this one just has.
all daggers.
Adrian Fry/Kingsley Amis
First prize G. Snailham, Windsor
NO 3077: SHAKESPEAREAN SONNET Runners-up Lynne Gilchrist, Willoughby,
New South Wales; Kevin Bentley, Anglesey
You are invited to submit a sonnet with the
name of a Shakespearean character hidden
in each line. Please email entries to lucy@ by 28 November. Only three
entries each per competitor, please.
the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 67

education ‘experts’, including some defeating tactic if their object was to

No sacred cows conservatives. Sam Gyimah, a higher demonstrate how open-minded they
Academics who dare education minister, told vice-chancel- are. However, he did manage to find
lors that, ‘Our best universities are one willing to go on the record: an
not speak their names not ivory towers. Still less are they historian at King’s College London
Toby Young “left-wing madrassas”, as one contro- called Jon Wilson. ‘Behind this issue
versialist chose to describe them.’ there’s a right-wing agenda,’ Wilson
I wish I had been exaggerating, but said, explaining why his left-wing col-
when eminent academics are forced leagues didn’t want to be interviewed.
hen I first read about plans to go to these lengths to protect col- ‘What people who complain about

W for a new academic period-

ical called The Journal of
Controversial Ideas, I got the wrong
leagues from the career-ending con-
sequences of expressing heterodox
views, even the most sanguine observ-
the lack of viewpoint diversity mean
is that their conservative views are no
longer dominant.’
end of the stick. Fantastic news, I er has to admit there’s a problem. A tad implausible you might think,
thought, particularly when I saw the ‘I think all of us will be very happy given that conservatives haven’t been
distinguished group of intellectuals if and when the need for such a jour- dominant on campus for at least 75
behind it. They include Jeff McMa- nal disappears, and the sooner the years. But Flinders then revealed that
han, professor of moral philosophy at better,’ Professor McMahan told the Wilson was a leader of the outrage
Oxford; Peter Singer, the well-known BBC. ‘But right now in current condi- mob that went after Oxford histo-
Australian philosopher; and Frances- tions something like this is needed.’ rian Nigel Biggar last year for call-
ca Minerva, a bio-ethicist at the Uni- McMahan was being interviewed ing for a measured reappraisal of our
versity of Ghent. An authoritative for Monday’s Radio 4 documentary colonial past. Any suggestion that the
magazine bearing the imprimatur of University Unchallenged, about the empire was not an unalloyed evil is
these distinguished free-thinkers is lack of viewpoint diversity in British heresy among ‘woke’ historians and
a great way to persuade other, less higher education. Matthew Flinders, a Wilson helped to organise a letter-
celebrated academics to stick their politics professor, interviewed a cross- writing campaign that saw Biggar
heads above the parapet and publish section of academics in the social condemned by more than 170 other
essays that dissent from groupthink. sciences and humanities. They con- academics. Listening to Wilson deny
Then I spotted an important firmed that there is a left-wing bias in that the left tries to stifle intellectu-
detail: all the material will be pub- their fields, but some queried wheth- al debate reminded me of a commu-
lished pseudonymously. That’s er that means other political views nist apologist from the Cold-War era
right — the contributors won’t use are suppressed. After all, hasn’t the claiming the Soviet Union was the
their own names. Far from a cause academy always skewed left? Noah most democratic country in the world.
for hope, this is confirmation of my Carl, a research fellow at Cambridge Flinders concluded by saying that
worst fears. The Maoist intolerance who has studied this phenomenon, he found the idea of a new academic
of anyone who dares to challenge the Any told Flinders that the imbalance has journal where dissenters like Nigel
‘woke’ orthodoxy has reached such a suggestion recently got a lot worse. Until about Biggar can publish articles under
pitch that the only way to persuade 15 years ago, left-of-centre academ- pseudonyms rather depressing, and
non-conforming intellectuals to con-
that the empire ics outnumbered those on the right it’s hard to disagree. Still, at least it
tribute to public debate is to guaran- was not an by two to one; at the last general elec- will make it impossible to deny that
tee they won’t be identified. unalloyed tion, it was more like seven to one. free speech is under threat in Brit-
When I described universities as evil is heresy Interestingly, Flinders had diffi- ain’s universities.
‘left-wing madrassas’ in a Sunday culty persuading any hard-left aca-
paper earlier this year, I was accused among ‘woke’ demics to talk to him and suspected Toby Young is associate editor of
of being alarmist by various higher historians an organised boycott — a rather self- The Spectator.


68 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |

to City. This personally doesn’t both- series of bold decisions and daz-
Spectator Sport
Time to waste,
er me much, as long as they carry on
playing the sort of football they play,
A zling selections by chief selector
Ed Smith have put English cricket in
which is the best ever seen in this a strong position, long-term as well
money to burn country. Better than Ferguson’s, bet- as in the current series in Sri Lanka.
Roger Alton ter than the Arsenal Invincibles. And anyone with any lingering
Rules are rules, though, and will doubts should have heard the huge-
the football world love City as they ly impressive interview with Keaton
should? It’s hard to tell and they cer- Jennings at the weekend. Smith kept
arvellous team, the All tainly didn’t pull a capacity crowd to faith with him in the summer when

M Blacks, of course. But they

certainly know how to
waste some time. Here are some
Wembley for a league game against
Spurs. Still, all that money can go to
maintaining Mikel Arteta’s precision
batting was so difficult for everyone
and has been amply rewarded. It is
no surprise that Jennings was head
things you may want to do when the haircut and building up Pep Guardio- boy at school. He is dignified and
New Zealand forwards are making la’s collection of cashmere cardigans. clearly very resilient, and could easi-
their way to a line-out with a one- City still have to deliver in Europe ly be a future England captain unless
point lead and the clock running before they can be judged truly great, his batting collapses completely. And
down: change your energy supplier, but make no mistake: the demolition if that happens, he can always try
clear those clogged winter gutters or, of United in the Manchester derby Strictly Come Dancing.
for the more adventurous, nip out to last weekend was a big moment. Not I fear for Graeme Swann in Black-
Santa Pod Raceway in Bedfordshire just because of City’s excellence, pool, though: fine mimic he may be,
and do a quarter of a mile in a drag- but because the slow decline of José but the triple Ashes winner could
racing car. Either way, those mighty Mourinho was brought into focus. have his work cut out to get through
Kiwi forwards won’t have moved far. You used to get the sense that play- on Strictly this week. There is lit-
ers were automatically galvanised by tle that top-class cricketers seem to
uch to the annoyance of some him, would run till they dropped and enjoy more than a good Strictly run
M big footballing beasts like Bay-
ern Munich, Manchester City appear
were a tight unit against the rest of
the world. It doesn’t seem like that
and this engaging finger spinner has
certainly had my vote every week so
to have been channelling away mil- any more. His teams look slack and far. Yet whether a pair of shocking
lions of pounds in funding from confused, almost mutinous, and he pink shorts can guarantee survival
owner Sheikh Mansour so as to beat doesn’t seem to have time for his without the tabloids monstering his
the Financial Fair Play rules. (It’s no Manchester own people, which was never the dance-off rivals remains to be seen.
coincidence that the leaks came via City are case in his first seasons at Chelsea. But come on, Swanny. Remember
Der Spiegel, a German news maga- playing the The force of his charisma had a lot to Australia 2010-11, when you helped
zine.) But we know that City’s spon- do with his power, and it has mostly England take the Ashes with those
sors are owned by the Abu Dhabi
best football worn away now, to the point where three innings victories and, more
royal family, as is the stadium, and as ever seen in Mourinho seems petty and faintly memorably, invented the sprinkler
is more or less everything connected this country ridiculous. It’s a pity. dance. You can do it.


wife has never met. Neither of us elegant blanket of these was Tabasco sauce and one gallon
desired his company. I suggested draped over her coffin. The of water onto the floral blanket,
perhaps we choose another date, canon who celebrated the Mass remembering to protect your eyes
but feathers were ruffled. Mary, commented repeatedly on their when spraying, and to wash your
what would you suggest? beauty. A day later we buried my hands afterwards. Rabbits dislike
— Name and address withheld mother in Sussex. The flowers the taste of hot sauce.
travelled safely and, as they were
A. It would appear that, in laid next to her grave, the only Q. Apropos T.L.’s letter about the
declining to accommodate this utterance from the vicar was ‘The dangers of dancing barefoot, I
Q. A difficult couple of our extra friend, you secretly wanted rabbits will feast well tonight’. recently attended a wedding and
acquaintance always object to play the couple at their own Mary, what is the etiquette on was surprised to see a large box
to other guests at dinner and game and punish them for their sneaking back to the graveyard of (new) flip-flops being loaded
can be very rude to them. In previous rudeness to your friends. to save the flowers from the into a car destined for the dinner-
consequence, we have fallen into However, the tease has backfired. churchyard vermin? Should I dance venue. I was told it is now
a pattern of dining at each other’s Life is too short to lose friends, have sneaked back at dead of de rigueur for these to be provided
houses in London, just the four particularly difficult ones, who night by the light of a ghostly so that those in precipitous heels
of us. They are sticklers for what are often the most interesting. You moon? Like most gardeners, Mum can dance safely once their shoes
they see as correct behaviour. have made your point so move would not have liked the idea of have been removed.
Last week, however, we were quickly on and issue another the rabbits chomping away as she, — L.H., Cornwall
told, the day before we were due invitation before things fester. hopefully, ascended heavenwards.
to host, that they had a friend — N.C., Stanton St. Bernard A. Thank you but party hosts will
staying the night; could they bring Q. My mother died recently. find roll-up, disposable ballet
him along? This was someone I At her requiem in London, I A. You might have sneaked back pumps at £1.50 a pair online; in
vaguely knew, but had not seen arranged to have flowers, seasonal in broad daylight and sprayed a safety terms, a superior option
for 20 years, and someone my and full of autumn colour. An rabbit-repelling solution of 1 tbsp to flip-flops.

the spectator | 17 november 2018 | 69


Semites? One? Two? Three? 0.5 of This leads to some rage over reserva-
Food a paragraph? tions, as Jews tend to treat kosher res-
Nova kosher For Jews, threat means, inevitably, taurants as their own home and are
renaissance. It is what comes next. amazed that they cannot get a table
Tanya Gold Jews know their duty. Most Jews. Not in their own home thanks to having
Jewdas, the ‘radical voices for the so many relatives whom they hate.
alternative diaspora’, who invited It used to be a branch of Giraffe, in
Corbyn for Passover. They practise which I remember a lurid and very bad
their cod shtetl schtick like Rosen- Sunday lunch. Tish, of course, should
crantz and Guildenstern trapped in be in Hampstead, not Belsize Park, but
Fiddler on the Roof, but they are real- an Israeli restaurant opened in Hamp-
ly hack Marxists who have watched stead last year and the market can’t
too many Tarantino films. We eat bear so much Jewish solidarity.
in our own defence, always, and we Tish is calm, considering it is really
won’t be stopped now. Why would we, an agonised political meeting dis-
ish is a new grand café in Bel- when the glory of being Jewish is real- guised as a grand café that has gone

T size Park, north London, but

kosher. There are not really
enough Jews to fill a kosher restau-
ly the extent to which it annoys peo-
ple? (I never said it wasn’t insane.)
So, you can’t get a table at Tish
kosher due to political fragmentation.
It is finely wrought, with high ceil-
ings to contain the babble and icy
rant in London, and they tend to fall for solidarity. Tish is as busy as a blue walls and mad blue chairs with
into dust, like the ten tribes, and the Momentum meeting filled with accu- pink flowers. It’s a Jewish homage to
temple. 1701, the unwise and subtle Tish is as sations that Jews — sorry, Zionists the Wolseley, and that is no bad thing.
restaurant by Bevis Marks synagogue, busy as a — have subverted British democra- The food is better than Bloom’s or
has gone; Bloom’s in Golders Green Momentum cy for their own ends. Because, with- 1701, which is the weirdest name
has gone, too. Most British Jews aren’t out Jews and their media — yes, that I have yet heard for a restaurant.
kosher because chicken without but-
meeting filled means me — Corbyn would look Bloom’s was too bad, and 1701 too
ter isn’t worth having, even if you do with claims pretty bloody electable. (Pause for good; haute cuisine feels wrong for
believe that bushes speak and people that Jews have laughter.) And to say otherwise is a people always on the move. Our most
want to kill you. Mostly, the food will subverted smear made up by Jews. Jews like me. famous bread — the matzah cracker
kill you. But not always. That is, very busy. If Corbyn were to — was invented while running away.
The north London restaurant most democracy for walk in, he’d be attacked. And eaten. And then we wrote a book about it,
favoured by Jews is Oslo Court, which their own ends Without butter. Which is a shame. which did quite well.
is actually a specialist in seafood, plus I eat scrambled eggs and sweet
cream cakes. Oh Jews! What do you bagel toast. My companion eats tomato
want — really? Or we go to Fischer’s and pepper casserole. It is the least we
on Marylebone High Street which, can do in a country fond of mindless
although a pre-war Austrian tribute acts of solidarity; both are excellent.
café without Nazis (and very good So, I recommend Tish and look for-
too), isn’t kosher either. But it does ward to seeing Sadiq Khan there soon.
serve a wondrous Wiener schnitzel. Because not everyone is monstrous.
These are raging times. How many Sometimes it just feels that way.
paragraphs should I give it before I
call Jeremy Corbyn and his cohort Tish, 196 Haverstock Hill, London
of appalling child zombies anti- ‘There’s loads of kids around — is it half term?’ NW3 2AH. Tel: 020 7431 3828.


In the annual dictionary wars to constituents, one calls out from he spoke gammon – rubbish or
nominate words of the year, in the back that Gregsbury’s cant, a meaning in use since the
the hope of attracting publicity, remarks ‘savoured rather too 18th century. It developed from
Collins has made single-use its much of a “gammon” tendency’. gammon meaning an accomplice
first choice for 2018. But of more ‘The meaning of that term – who distracts the victim of a
interest is its second choice: his essential selfishness and gammon,’ said Mr Gregsbury, ‘is crime, such as one who ‘jostles up
gammon. It is used by Twitter corruption’. unknown to me. If it means that I to a Man, while another picks his
trolls and other supporters of I’m afraid the people at the grow a little too fervid, or perhaps Pocket’ (1718).
Momentum to signify ‘a male, dictionary have completely even hyperbolical, in extolling Gammon and patter meant
middle-aged and white, with misunderstood what they read. I my native land, I admit the full criminal or similar jargon.
reactionary views, especially one suspect they picked this up from a justice of the remark. I am proud Gammon and spinach meant
who supports Brexit’. His face piece by Jonn Elledge in the New of this free and happy country. My nonsense, as in the nursery rhyme
resembles ham. Statesman in May, later publicised form dilates, my eye glistens, my collected in 1807: ‘With a rowly
Collins said that in Nicholas by the Guido Fawkes blog. breast heaves, my heart swells, my powly, Gammon and spinnage, O
Nickleby (1838), ‘Dickens used In Nicholas Nickleby, Mr bosom burns, when I call to mind heigh, said Anthony Rowly.’ So,
the word gammon to describe a Gregsbury is a pompous MP her greatness and her glory.’ to the claim that in 1838 gammon
large, self-satisfied, middle-aged with ‘a tolerable command of Dickens didn’t mean that meant ‘a pompous reactionary
man who professes an extreme sentences with no meaning Mr Gregsbury was a gammon male’, I say: ‘That’s all gammon.’
patriotism in large part to disguise in them’. At a meeting with or looked like one. He meant — Dot Wordsworth

70 the spectator | 17 november 2018 |

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