Ian Gilmour

Ian Gilmour edited the Spectator in the 1950s when Karl Miller, the founding editor of the LRB, was its literary editor. He became a Conservative MP in 1962 and was Lord Privy Seal for the first two years of the Thatcher government. A Tory ‘wet’, he wasn’t sympathetic to her policies and regretted not resigning before she could sack him. His books include Dancing with Dogma: Britain under Thatcherism (a picture of Gilmour and Thatcher dancing together can be found on the cover of the LRB of 9 July 1992) and The Making of the Poets: Byron and Shelley in Their Time. He died in 2007.

Europe or America?

Ian Gilmour, 7 November 2019

When his book, ‘This Blessed Plot’, came out in 1998, Hugo Young said that it was ‘the story of fifty years in which Britain struggled to reconcile the past she could not forget with the future she could not avoid’. Ian Gilmour reviewed the book in the ‘LRB’ of 10 December 1998. What he says seems apposite.

The​ first political misjudgment was an almost...

Dingy Quadrilaterals: the Profumo Case

Ian Gilmour, 19 October 2006

Profumo was of course inexcusably wrong to have told a lie in his personal statement. But of all the lies that have been told in Parliament both before and since, Jack Profumo’s denial of any ‘impropriety’ with Miss Keeler was surely one of the most trifling. Indeed the whole Profumo imbroglio was utterly trivial, and had Hugh Gaitskell still been alive, it would probably never have emerged. George Brown, Labour’s deputy leader, thought the party ‘ought to keep out of this’. But, as he had shown over the Bank Rate Tribunal, Harold Wilson did not possess that sort of sensitivity or scruple.

Vote for the Beast! the Tory Leadership

Ian Gilmour, 20 October 2005

John Stuart Mill labelled the Conservatives ‘the stupid party’. They have certainly been stupid since 1997, and one wonders if their stupidity will persist. But a related and more interesting question is: ‘Are the Conservatives any longer a serious party?’ A serious party can be one of two things. It can, like the Greens, be concerned with only one issue or one group of issues. Its members are not hoping to form a government – they know they are never going to do that – but they believe the presence of some Greens in Parliament, Brussels and local government will help them publicise the issues they believe to be the most important and induce the government to do something about them.

‘There never was such a Woman!!!’ Emily Cowper (later Palmerston) wrote of her sister-in-law, Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Cowper was not being complimentary. She later described Caroline as being ‘more termagant than ever’. Such disparagement of the woman, who in 1812 had a notorious affair with Byron and was married to a future prime minister, was not confined to the...

‘Johnson wrote The Lives of the Poets,’ Elizabeth Barrett Browning grumbled, ‘and left out the poets.’ She exaggerated, of course, but a book of that title which omitted Chaucer and Shakespeare, Spenser and all the Elizabethans, Donne and nearly all the Jacobeans, while including a host of nonentities, such as Pomfret, Stepney, Dyer, Smith, Duke and King, was at the...

Hail, Muse! Byron v. Shelley

Seamus Perry, 6 February 2003

Ian Gilmour’s deft and learned book is concerned with the lives of Byron and Shelley up to the morning on which Byron woke up and found himself famous. The poets weren’t to meet for...

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Ian Gilmour is one of the most leftwing figures in British politics: a feat he has achieved by not moving. He remains upright amid the ruins of a Keynesian political economy while the two major...

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Ian Gilmour could scarcely have timed the publication of this book better. The last few weeks really have been a Marxist ‘conjuncture’: a heightened moment when social realities can no...

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Not Many Dead

Linda Colley, 10 September 1992

Ian Gilmour is a distinguished and highly intelligent example of a once rare species: he is a Conservative with a cause. Unfortunately for him, however – and perhaps for the rest of us as...

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Leaving it alone

R.G. Opie, 21 April 1983

Sir Ian Gilmour has written a splendid book about a splendid subject. The question he asks is: ‘How did Monetarism capture the Conservatives?’ It is a genuine mystery, and also a very...

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