Ben Pimlott

Ben Pimlott was from 1998 the Warden of Goldsmiths College, London. His books include Labour and the Left in the 1930s (1977), and biographies of Hugh Dalton (1985) and Harold Wilson (1992). He died in 2004.

Über-Tony: Anthony Crosland

Ben Pimlott, 3 September 1998

Why is Tony Crosland one of the few Old Labour heroes that nobody mocks? Keir Hardie, G.D.H. Cole, Stafford Cripps, Gaitskell, even Nye Bevan, have become the subject of New Labour locker-room ribaldry. Yet to describe yourself as a ‘Crosland socialist’ still carries meaning. Maybe it is because of that sardonic smile, and an uneasy feeling that, if he were alive today, he would be doing the mocking. For if much of the Crosland canon seems dated, there remains a core which has increased in relevance with the passage of time. Such, at any rate, is the theme of David Reisman’s two volumes of intellectual biography and analysis – the most careful and thought-provoking exegesis yet to appear.’‘

Tony and Caroline

Ben Pimlott, 26 November 1987

Give me chastity and continence, prayed the youthful Augustine, but do not give it yet. Perhaps the young Tony Benn, slithering up the greasy poll, made similar entreaties. For this, his fascinating first volume of diaries, is the story of an attractive, vital, boundlessly energetic young man having the egocentric time of his life without a thought for the morrow, except to move onwards and upwards. ‘I did not, at that time, have a real socialist understanding of the structure of our society,’ he writes in the Foreword. ‘That came as a result of my experiences over many years.’ Hence these are to be seen as ‘the diaries of a socialist-in-the-making’. What they read like, however, are the diaries of an effective politician on the make.


Crosland Aloft

3 September 1998

My review of David Reisman’s books on Tony Crosland was intended to save a political hero from the myth-makers. Christopher Price (Letters, 1 October) misinterprets the piece and adds to the obfuscating myth. It also caricatures what I wrote. In particular, I did not conclude that the auth or of The Future of Socialism was a ‘hopeless minister’, as Price suggests. On the con trary, I presented...

Sterling Crises

3 December 1992

Assessing my biography of Harold Wilson, R.W. Johnson asserts that ‘one of Pimlott’s central judgments is that Wilson was right to resist devaluation’ (LRB, 3 December). That is a serious misreading: my actual opinion, made clear in the book, is the opposite. I go to some lengths to explain Wilson’s obsessive concern to defend the exchange value of the currency, which can be traced back to...

Tony and Caroline

26 November 1987

SIR: Alas, in my review of Tony Benn’s diary (LRB, 26 November) I exaggerated his prowess as a record-keeper by a factor of ten. Regular diary-keeping for four decades suggests a far-from-paltry total of approximately 14,000 entries – not 140,000, which was the figure given.

Bus Lane Strategy: London Governments

Tristram Hunt, 31 October 2002

It’s unlikely that Sidney Webb features in Tony Blair’s pantheon of political heroes. It would, in fact, be difficult to think of a less likely match for Tony and Cherie than Sidney...

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Paul Addison, 11 May 1995

For every one book or article on the Conservative Party, there used to be ten on Labour and the Left. Lacking as they were in sympathy for Toryism, most academics seemed also to lack curiosity...

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So much was expected

R.W. Johnson, 3 December 1992

On 4 July 1934 Harold Wilson, an 18-year-old schoolboy waiting to go up to Oxford, proposed to Gladys Baldwin, the pretty young typist he’d first seen playing tennis only three weeks...

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British politics at the moment seem curiously provisional. The failures of the present government are so gross and obvious that hardly anyone, even its nominal supporters, attempts to defend it...

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Maximum Embarrassment

David Marquand, 7 May 1987

As the Labour Party continues to unravel, it becomes more and more obvious that the follies and misadventures which have plagued it during the last few months can be understood only against the...

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Darling Clem

Paul Addison, 17 April 1986

British history is very English: written mainly by the English and about England. But Trevor Burridge is a Welshman by birth and a citizen of Canada. He teaches at the French-speaking University...

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Hello, Fred

David Marquand, 21 March 1985

Hugh Dalton was a Member of Parliament for 35 years, a minister for 12, a Front-Bencher for 30 and a member of the Labour Party National Executive for 25. In the Thirties, as Ben Pimlott shows in...

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A future which works

Michael Ignatieff, 30 December 1982

It is not easy to make sense of the trade unions. ‘Suicidal’, ‘mindless’ and ‘atavistic’ are, to be sure, epithets of wilful incomprehension, but even those...

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