2 July 2005
The Spectator was established in 1828, and is the oldest continuously published magazine in the
English language. The Spectator’s taste for controversy, however, remains undiminished. There is no
party line to which The Spectator’s writers are bound - originality of thought and elegance of expression are the
sole editorial constraints.
1. James Forsyth: two irreconcilable versions of Brexit are about to collide
The Brexit talks are heading for a collision before they’ve even properly started, says James Forsyth. At present, the two parties’ versions of Brexit and their views on ‘level playing field’ standards are incompatible, which means member states are beginning to plan for no deal as their central assumption. But a compromise is possible if the two sides are willing to see it — and the best thing would be for ‘Le crunch’ to happen sooner rather than later.
2. Ross Clark: the most dangerous thing about coronavirus is the hysteria
Never mind coronavirus — if we’re going to worry about an infectious disease it should be tuberculosis, says Ross Clark. The World Health Organization reports there were ten million new cases worldwide in 2018, 1.45 million deaths, and 4,672 cases in England. But hysteria about diseases isn’t really that rational. Ross argues the reason we’re so worried is that coronavirus has tapped into our deeper fears about China, as well as conveniently emerging at the end of the latest apocalyptic news cycle.
3. Alasdair Palmer: criminal gangs are growing rich on public-sector contracts
Alasdair Palmer, a former senior civil servant, reveals one of the biggest funders of organised crime in the UK: our own government. He was shocked to discover while working for the Home Office that more and more waste disposal contracts are being given to shady organisations which the police believe are involved in serious criminality. Even the NHS has given million-pound contracts to firms with dodgy records. At the moment under EU law it’s difficult to prevent firms with links to the underworld bidding for government contracts. Palmer says after Brexit, we should make CRB checks for bidding firms mandatory.
4. Antony Beevor: the cheapest, deadliest weapon
Antony Beevor has been reading, researching and writing about war in the 20th century for more than 40 years, and thought he was prepared for just about any horror. But Christina Lamb’s research into the mass rape of young women and girls in recent wars shook him to the core. He says this is the most powerful and disturbing book he has ever read, and also raises important questions about whether we should continue to describe rape as a ‘weapon of war’, when ‘a weapon of terror in conflict and ethnic cleansing’ would be more accurate.
5. Douglas Murray: how Sinn Fein got away with murder
Since Sinn Fein’s success in the Irish elections, there’s been plenty of focus on its representative Reada Cronin, who posted and shared anti-Semitic material online. But Douglas wonders if we’re missing the bigger story: Sinn Fein’s historic and continued links to the IRA. This week, Ireland’s police chief Drew Harris said what everyone in the intelligence and policing community knows — that Sinn Fein the political party is to this day still overseen by the army council of the IRA, meaning ‘the next Irish government could be led by the only party for miles — or decades — around that comes with all the advantages that can be accrued in a democracy from having your own armed assassination gang’.
6. Prue Leith: my carbon footprint should put me in jail
Call up the climate police, we’ve got a new suspect. Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith says that after spending several weeks flying from India, to Cambodia, to South Africa, her climate footprint should put her in jail. She also reveals the real bonus of turning 80: ‘On my actual birthday, a letter from the DWP arrived telling me I now qualify for an extra 25p per week. Well, an extra teabag on Sunday mornings is very welcome.’