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. Isabel Hardman: Watson vs Corbyn. Tom Watson has a plan to remove Jeremy Corbyn: his new strategy is to destabilise the Labour leader’s team until they all resign of their own accord. Having repaired his standing among previously Blairite MPs, Watson wants to set up a group to rival Momentum and rally moderate members against the leadership. And with a potential election in the autumn, he can’t afford to delay.
2. Nick Robinson: I underestimated Boris. ‘I ought to confess to a lifetime of underestimating Boris,’ writes Nick Robinson in his Spectator diary. ‘It no doubt has something to do with recalling his shambolic, though never anything other than hilarious, speeches when we clashed at the Oxford Union in the early 1980s. A lot has been written about the impact on our national life of my generation at Oxford. I was recently asked to give the address at my college’s gaudy. We should all take pride in our achievements, I told [my fellow graduates] — “such as the banking crisis, the loss of faith in politics, the era of Fake News”. My message to them is my message to our next prime minister. We can, we must, do better. But will we?’
3. Max Pemberton on Babylon’s GP app. Our Health Secretary has made ‘digitising the NHS’ one of his top priorities, writes NHS psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton. Matt Hancock has championed Babylon Health, an app that offers a GP consultation via your mobile phone. But, Max says, his own experiences — of wrong diagnosis and wrong treatments — shows the app has major flaws. And what’s more, it may drain GPs away from surgeries and increase pressure on the NHS.
4. Trevor Kavanagh on press freedom. MPs and journalists were rightly horrified at the Met’s Assistant Commissioner threatening to prosecute editors who publish government leaks, writes Sun columnist Trevor Kavanagh. But where were these champions of press freedom during Operation Elveden, when innocent journalists were facing jail for publishing Whitehall leaks? ‘We cannot rely on MPs’ synthetic outrage to guarantee [the survival of media freedom].’
5. Liam Halligan: Varadkar’s backstop failure. Leo Varadkar gambled hard on the backstop, teaming up with Brussels to play hardball with the border. But his strategy has backfired, with a real chance of the no-deal Brexit that Dublin fears most. It’s time for the Taoiseach to admit the gamble has failed — and work with the incoming British prime minister to solve the problem.
6. Lionel Shriver: Britain needs a free speech law. Trump’s ‘go home’ tweet might be inflammatory and ill-judged, writes Lionel Shriver, but at least he won’t be prosecuted for ‘hate speech’ — like he might in Britain. Britain has tried its best to legislate niceness, but the project has failed: with women being prosecuted for stating facts like ‘women don’t have penises’. It’s time for Britain to follow the American example and enshrine free speech in law.
7. James Forsyth on Boris’s cabinet strategy. Boris Johnson is the opposite of a micromanager, writes James Forsyth. As London mayor — and Spectator editor — his instinct was to hire talented people and let them get on with it. If this approach is to work in Downing Street, it must mean picking the best ministers for the job, whichever faction of the party they represent and whether or not they might be a future leadership contender. ‘It has become a tradition for incoming prime ministers to promise to restore cabinet government: Boris might just do it.’