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Anthony Howard

Anthony Howard retired in 1999 from editing the obituary pages of the Times.

Jeremy Thorpe

Anthony Howard, 19 August 1999

Jeremy Thorpe has long been the non-person of modern British politics. Never mind that 25 years ago he attained for the then stand-alone Liberal Party more votes (over six million) than Paddy Ashdown achieved for the by now merged Liberal Democrats (five and a quarter million) at the last general election. Discretion, if not sheer political cowardice, decreed that his faintly saturnine presence should be air-brushed out of any contemporary history of Britain’s third party. The man who at one moment seemed set to inherit the mantle of Lloyd George became instead a kind of gruesome ghost haunting any Liberal feast.

Monopoly Mule

Anthony Howard, 25 January 1996

Evening newspapers are an endangered species. When I started out as a journalist in 1958, there were not only three in London but three in New York as well. Today each of these cities can boast just one, with Washington, since the death of the Washington Star in 1981, possessing none at all. It is, therefore, a bold and defiant moment to produce an elaborate house history of one of the few survivors of a declining newspaper art-form – at least in the English-speaking world.

Tea or Eucharist?

Anthony Howard, 3 December 1992

‘We asked for bread, and you gave us a stone’: the cry that rang out from the gallery of Church House, Westminster, after one of the earliest debates over women’s ordination nearly twenty years ago demonstrates that even in Church politics you should never despair. The mills of God may grind slowly but they grind exceeding sure, or so those who fought for so long for the introduction of women priests into the poor old battered ecclesia anglicana may now feel entitled to claim.

Journos de nos jours

Anthony Howard, 8 March 1990

The late James Cameron always liked to claim that the only male company in which he felt at home was that of his fellow journalists. They offered him, he wrote in his autobiography, ‘the conversational shorthand of completely common understanding’. Nor was his in any way an exceptional reaction. The existence across the world of various favoured journalistic watering-holes – sometimes grandly known as Press Clubs, more usually simply hotel bars with squatters’ rights established – is one proof of that. Never mind that they tend to be drab places: their defiant survival into the age of the Amex Gold Card is evidence of the herd instinct of the newspaper trade.’

Murder in the Cathedral

Anthony Howard, 7 December 1989

The most revealing moment at the recent meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod occurred during an impromptu speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr Robert Runcie was speaking against an amendment urging the Church to delay re-submitting its Clergy (Ordination) Measure to Parliament until ‘after the next Parliamentary General Election’. The point at issue concerned not women priests but the anomalous position of divorced candidates for the Ministry – anomalous because, although current clergy can be divorced and continue in their calling, no one under the present rules can be ordained if he has either been divorced or, indeed, is married to a divorced person. On the occasion of his winding-up speech it was not, however, the merits of the argument that concerned the Archbishop. He was preoccupied solely with the unwisdom of the proposed delaying tactic. ‘It would seem to me,’ he declared in that hesitant but oddly effective manner of his, ‘that this amendment depends on certain assumptions about the date of the next election, which I would regard as hazardous, to use a wholly neutral phrase.’’

The Sultan and I

Anthony Howard, 1 June 1989

The first time I became anything more than routinely conscious of the existence of that faintly ludicrous figure, the Sultan of Brunei, was in December 1985. Until around then – as Lord Chalfont obligingly mentions in the course of a work that can otherwise only be compared with The Lives of the Saints – the general view (endorsed not only by a public opinion poll but by me as well) was that the Sultan’s kingdom was ‘somewhere in the Middle East’, possibly even ‘one of the Gulf Emirates’. If nothing else, the simultaneous appearance of these two highly contrasting biographies serves to emphasise what a serious lapse of knowledge that had been on my part. James Bartholomew’s, it is true, qualifies as an almost satirical study, but it would hardly have much point if its subject was not already an identifiable character in the international cast of the rich and the super-rich.’

This summer some five hundred bishops of the Anglican Communion will converge on Canterbury. They will have come to attend the 12th Lambeth Conference – as these gatherings are still called, though they have long since ceased to meet at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s London Palace on the south side of the river. This year’s Lambeth Conference, like the one in 1978, will take place on the Canterbury campus of the University of Kent – with the bishops sleeping on cork mattresses in student bedrooms and enduring cafeteria self-service at every meal except dinner.’

Christopher Hitchens states a prosecution case

Christopher Hitchens, 25 October 1990

On 22 February 1965, the fifth month of Harold Wilson’s first ministry, Richard Crossman recorded the following in his Diaries of a Cabinet Minister: Then Harold Wilson raised the issue of...

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Alternative Tories

José Harris, 23 April 1987

No political transformation of the past hundred years has been more profound and far-reaching than the change in the canons by which British statesmen are judged. In the late 19th century it was...

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