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The SpectatorThe Spectator

The Spectator

April 20, 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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51 Issues


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out of the ashes

‘Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of centuries,’ wrote Victor Hugo in Notre-Dame de Paris. ‘The man, the artist, the individual, is effaced in these great masses, which lack the name of their author. Human intelligence is there summed up and totalised.’ The foundation stone of the cathedral of Our Lady of Paris was laid 850 years ago, but it was the work of generations, and took 200 years to complete. It soon became one of the greatest churches in Christendom and, as such, was ripe for desecration by the Jacobin fanatics of the French Revolution. In 1793, its altar was torn out in a ceremony that was too grotesque even for Robespierre. Napoleon reinstated Notre Dame as a cathedral in order to have himself crowned there, but…

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James Tooley has been involved in setting up low-cost private schools in Ghana, India, Nigeria and north-east England. He reappraises Philip Larkin on p18.Jane Torday writes about food, gardening and social history. Her recent book is a memoir based on letters from her father, Roger Mortimer. She writes about the influence of the Two Fat Ladies on p20.Jason Burke wrote the first major study of al-Qaeda, and his most recent book is The New Threat: The Past, Present, and Future of Islamic Militancy. He looks at the life and legacy of Saladin on p30.Sue Prideaux, who writes about Karl Ove Knausgaard and Edvard Munch on p36, has written major biographies of Munch and Strindberg. Her most recent book is I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche.Allan Massie, who reviews a…

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portrait of the week

HomeAlthough the latest date for Brexit had been postponed by the European Council until Halloween, 31 October, the government had to confront the prospect of holding elections to the European parliament on 23 May if parliament would not agree to Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement before then. Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said that May should go before those elections, which ‘would be a disaster for the country. What are you going to say on the doorstep — vote for me and I’ll be gone in three months?’. Nigel Farage launched his Brexit party. The House of Commons went into recess until 23 April, St George’s day.Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, entertained an audience in the United States with his analysis of the 2016 Conservative leadership contest: ‘Michael…

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I travel back from London with the St Matthew Passion filling my head, after the moving performance from the Elysian Singers and Royal Orchestral Society under Sam Laughton at St James’s Piccadilly. Why does that last chord send shivers down the spine? The dark instrumentation, the sense that it is not an ending but a beginning, that this shadow-filled saraband will repeat itself for ever? Or is it just the story — surely one of the greatest narratives in all literature, in which nothing is redundant and yet everything is said? I arrive home with the chord still in my head, C minor with a B natural thrust like a sword into its heart. It foretells the week ahead. I devote the rest of the day to my report for…

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the brexit backlash

One of the oddities of this parliament has been that, despite everything, the government has remained ahead in the polls up to now. But the political price of failing to pass a deal and leave the EU is now becoming apparent. Labour is ahead, Nigel Farage is back, and the right is split again. In the past month, Tory support among Leave voters has fallen by 20 per cent.In normal circumstances, such numbers would extinguish any hopes of a fourth term for the Tories. But Labour’s own divisions over Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s political weaknesses mean that this isn’t necessarily the case.A big argument is taking place within the Tory party about the correct response to the situation. One camp argues that the party needs to define itself more clearly…

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the spectator’s note

This week, the Wolfson History Prize announced its shortlist. It is always worth drawing attention to, precisely because it is not attention-seeking. Neither ‘woke’ nor stuffy, the prize is simply interested in serious history. This year’s list of six ranges in terms of subject from birds in the ancient world and building Anglo-Saxon England, through maritime London in the age of Cook and Nelson, to Queen Victoria and India (a love affair in which the two never met), Oscar Wilde, and the quest for justice after Nazi persecutions. It being Holy Week, I am wondering what would happen if all the four Gospels were on the Wolfson shortlist. Obviously they would be attacked for their lack of ‘diversity’, and Momentum would no doubt point out that at least three of…