The Common Touch

Paul Foot

  • Hanson: A Biography by Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe
    Fourth Estate, 336 pp, £20.00, September 1994, ISBN 1 85702 189 4

This is a story of a hero. The Times described him as the ‘first and the finest’ of all the heroes of the Golden Age of Thatcherism. Margaret Thatcher had a penchant for ‘swashbuckling’ entrepreneurs, especially ones with Northern accents. When she first met James Hanson, his gentle Yorkshire lilt fascinated her almost as much as his millions. She assumed, as Harold Wilson had several years previously, that Hanson was typical of the self-made man, the hard-working puritan who started at the bottom and worked twenty hours a day until he achieved fame and fortune. Like Wilson, Hanson came from Milnsbridge, Huddersfield, but his origins were not quite as humble as his accent might suggest. ‘The same entrepreneurial spirit that led Mary Hanson to expand her transport business in 1846 – when she began to haul wool and other goods across the Pennines to Manchester on packhorses – pulsed through the veins of her great-grandsons,’ Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe write without a trace of irony.

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