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The Spectator February 9, 2019

Every week The Spectator is packed with opinion, comment and analysis about politics, arts and books. We lead the way on the great issues of the day, from political scandals to social trends. What you read in The Spectator today becomes news elsewhere in the weeks to come. We have the best columnists on Fleet Street, from Charles Moore, Rod Liddle, Matthew Parris and Alexander Chancellor to James Forsyth, the best-con

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access_time4 min.
the power of giving

The British are said to be among the most generous people on earth. When it comes to ordinary people scraping together pennies to give to children’s hospitals or donkey sanctuaries, this is unquestionably true. Yet when it comes to wealthy individuals using large slices of their fortunes to make transformative donations to institutions such as universities and schools, we are a long way behind America. Where are the Carnegies, the Rockefellers? We do have wealthy donors, but they are generally on a much smaller scale, and quite often feel inclined to make their donations anonymously, as if it were an embarrassment to be seen to be acting with generosity. The donation of £100 million to Cambridge University by one of its Natural Sciences graduates, David Harding, will hopefully prove to be a…

access_time1 min.

Zoe Strimpel is a historian of modern dating. She is the author of two books, including The Man Diet: One Woman’s Quest To End Bad Romance. On p22, she writes about sex and dating apps. Ed Zotti writes about Chicago’s polar vortex on p27. He is the recently retired ‘editor and confidant’ of Cecil Adams, the pseudonymous author of the Chicago Reader’s Straight Dope column. Isabel Hardman is assistant editor at The Spectator and author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians. On p51, she explains her love of cold-water swimming. Rose George, who writes about women’s lives in China on p35, is the author of Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Mysterious, Miraculous World of Blood. Dennis Duncan is a research associate at Oxford’s Centre for the Study of the Book, and is…

access_time3 min.
portrait of the week

Home Theresa May, the Prime Minister, went off to Brussels again to talk about ‘alternative arrangements’, for which parliament had voted, to the Irish backstop in her EU withdrawal agreement, which parliament had rejected. First she gave a speech in Northern Ireland, saying: ‘There is no suggestion that we are not going to ensure in the future there is provision for this insurance policy… the backstop.’ Lord Trimble (once an Ulster Unionist, now Conservative), the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, said he was ‘exploring’ the possibility of a legal challenge to May’s deal on the grounds that it undermines the Belfast Agreement of 1998. The coroner for Northern Ireland said deaths from counterfeit versions of Xanax, an antianxiety drug not prescribed in the NHS, had doubled from 26 in 2017;…

access_time4 min.

here is no other country in the ‘Tworld, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much,’ enthused the great French couturier Christian Dior. ‘I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture. I even love English cooking.’ And that was in the 1950s. If pre-sales for the V&A’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams are any indication, the English seem super keen to return the love. Though I say so myself, this is a stunning exhibition, from the post-war New Look — condemned by Stafford Cripps for its anti-austerity ethos (a rather different Labour party in those days) — to the clean, sculptural chic of Maria Grazia Chiuri. Perhaps the popularity is down to the need for some Brexit-induced escapism — a dream world of Normandie gardens, Versailles picnics,…

access_time5 min.
the tories are a party in search of policies

‘What would a Conservative manifesto say on Brexit?’ Many Tories consider this question a slam-dunk argument against an early election. But the party’s predicament is actually much worse. It is easier to work out what their manifesto would say on Brexit than on a whole host of other issues. The Tories are relatively united on Brexit, for the moment. Only eight of the party’s MPs voted against Sir Graham Brady’s amendment last month which authorised Theresa May to seek ‘alternatives’ to the backstop. So this would be the Tory position in a pre-Brexit election. In an immediate post-Brexit contest May would presumably seek a vague mandate to negotiate the best possible future relationship, leaving open what precisely that is. But what about everything else? Here it is much harder to see what…

access_time5 min.
the spectator’s notes

I am in a small minority in turning off the news when it is not about Brexit. The slow, agonising process fascinatingly brings out what people in public life really think. Do they care about representative government, or not? My estimate is that 60 per cent of the House of Commons do — while differing about exactly how to apply the principles — and about 40 per cent are perfectly indifferent, seeking their own personal or ideological advantage. By the standards of most legislatures in history, this is a more impressive proportion than people recognise. Matthew Parris (2 February) attacks those who warn that failing to leave the EU would cause civil unrest:‘…there is something deeply unConservative about this tack. A proper Conservative does not pray in aid of his argument…