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. Penny Junor: Is slimming down the monarchy the only way to save it?
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell announcement that they are jumping ship is about much more than their personal future. It has reignited an idea that has been around for years — the Prince of Wales’s plans for a new ‘slimmed-down monarchy’. There were even reports last week that Harry had come to believe he would end up without a role in this new, lean family firm. ‘I think this is nonsense,’ says Penny Junor. ‘If they were to walk away completely, it would leave the monarchy not so much slimmed-down as emaciated… But that’s not to say that there are not fundamental questions to be faced about the future of The Firm.’ There would be downsides to downsizing. Some 3,000 of our charities have royal patrons. With fewer members of the family to go round, that number will inevitably dwindle. ‘If people are keen on simplification and a cut-back monarchy, it’s in part because they don’t understand what monarchy is for.’ For many, especially the young, the royal family are nothing more than celebrities. ‘The concept of putting duty and service before happiness is anathema to them.’
2. James Forsyth: Boris’s new target – cut violent crime by 20 per cent
‘Today, Boris Johnson is in a more powerful position than any British prime minister since Tony Blair prior to the invasion of Iraq,’ says James Forsyth. With next month’s cabinet reshuffle looming, ministers are falling over themselves to appear helpful. Johnson has set the government a target of reducing violent crime by 20 per cent, and department heads (from the Chancellor to the Home Secretary – even the Culture Secretary) are keen to show that they are committed to his plan. ‘There will still be moves in this reshuffle. But the new spirit of obedience, combined with the fairly radical changes made when Johnson first picked the cabinet last summer, means it will be more Midsomer Murders than Valentine’s Day Massacre.’
3. Liam Halligan: Can Leo Varadkar defy the odds?
On Tuesday, Leo Varadkar was forced to call an early general election after his Fine Gael party lost control of the Irish parliament. He is odds-on to lose. Recent local elections have seen the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, make headway in Dublin, reversing a decade-long trend in the capital. Until recently the Taoiseach had enjoyed a prolonged honeymoon period in the polls. ‘He won plaudits for his harder line on defending Ireland’s interest in the Brexit talks, while basking in the success of a national referendum legalising abortion.’ Yet serious controversies regarding health and housing have arisen on his watch and his party has lost its hard-earned reputation for budgetary prudence. December’s UK election has changed Varadkar’s approach. Now that Brexit is a done deal, ‘Varadkar will take a more conciliatory approach towards UK-Irish relations, trying to solve problems rather than cause them’. Will that prove popular on polling day?
4. Mary Wakefield: Save our B&Bs from the vampire squid
When Mary Wakefield and her husband were looking for a hotel in London, they found depressing rooms somehow in great demand. Mary thought it was too weird to be true and discovered that it was. Instead, she found a near duopoly has taken over online travel agencies (OTAs) as these ‘giant vampire squids of travel, are beginning to suck the life out of the small fry they claim to help’. Highlighting Booking Holidays and Expedia, Wakefield shows how a chronic lack of competition has let these OTAs think they deserve a fat slice of the hoteliers’ pie. This is killing off our B&Bs.
5. Cosmo Landesman: The truth is that helping the homeless is really boring
‘Talking to homeless people is exactly like talking to media people at a metropolitan dinner party: they just want to talk about themselves’. Cosmo Landesman was bored out of his mind when he spent Christmas day helping the homeless. In an attempt to lighten the mood, he cracked a joke about what terrible tippers the homeless were, only to be met by the fury of a young volunteer. ‘Personally, I got little out of it — and I suspect they didn’t get much out of me. But you could argue that’s how it should be. It really is not about me — or you. There’s something suspect about people like me using the misfortune of others to feel good about ourselves. So I’ll be back there next Christmas.’