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Nerds, Rabbits and a General Lack of Testosterone

R.W. Johnson: Major and Lamont, 9 December 1999

The Autobiography 
by John Major.
HarperCollins, 774 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 00 257004 1
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In Office 
by Norman Lamont.
Little, Brown, 567 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 316 64707 1
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... was a fine thing (our entry was acclaimed by the whole of the press as well as by Neil Kinnock and John Smith): a view which held until, roughly, September 1992, when the conviction grew on all sides that it had been a colossal mistake. Few will argue with John Major’s asssumption that the 1997 election was lost on ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: John White’s New World, 5 April 2007

... John White is famous for the drawings he made in the late 1580s which record aspects of the North American littoral: its geography, its inhabitants, their dress, customs and dwellings, and the birds, plants and animals found there. Seventy-five of White’s drawings, along with navigational instruments, maps, books and relics of 16th-century exploration are on show in A New World, an exhibition at the British Museum until 17 June ...


John Lloyd: Split Scots, 25 June 1992

... offing. On the other hand, if the next leader of the party is to be – as now seems the case – John Smith, that would set the seal on the dominance of Scots in the Labour leadership. Smith is generally seen as a pragmatist, a punishing debater and a quick learner: less obviously, he is a man whose political ...

The End of Labour?

Colin Kidd, 8 March 2012

... as party leader also felt constrained to observe the Home Rule commitments of his predecessor, John Smith. Of course, once devolution had been achieved, matters were simpler: as members of a UK-wide party, Labour politicians in the new Scottish Parliament were expected to follow the party line dictated by Blair from London, notwithstanding the ...

Mondeo Man in the Driving Seat

Ross McKibbin: Blair’s Government at Mid-Term (1999), 30 September 1999

... approach to the political system and ‘modernisation’, the Blair Government is much more like John Major’s than people have noticed. The attack, both rhetorical and actual, on local government, and particularly on local education authorities, continues. Thus the fate of grammar schools is now to be decided by ‘parents’ – that is, by people whose ...


Randolph Quirk, 25 October 1979

Collins Dictionary of the English Language 
by P. Hanks, T.H. Long and L. Urdang.
Collins, 1690 pp., £7.95
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... and Lawrence Urdang move from one dictionary house to another. Oxford (with R.W. Burchfield and John Sykes) is comparatively stable. When work began on the new Collins, Paul Procter and Della Summers were young conductors under impresario Urdang, and they later moved on to make dictionaries for Longman. Patrick Hanks was recruited to complete the Collins ...

Very Old Labour

Ross McKibbin, 3 April 1997

... merely pretending. Much of this ‘renewal’ had, of course, been achieved by Neil Kinnock and John Smith, while the numerical and political decline of the unions, together with a change in the composition of the electorate and the Labour Party’s membership, made ‘renewal’ much easier and, at least to some extent, necessary. Nevertheless, Mr ...

Wolves in the Drawing Room

Neal Ascherson: The SNP, 2 June 2011

... of its best and brightest – Robin Cook, Douglas Alexander, Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, even John Smith – had stayed in Scotland to lead the party and the devolved government at Holyrood? Only Donald Dewar took the train back north and became first minister of Scotland in 1999. It would be good to think that ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: Tony and Jeremy, 20 April 2017

... was abrogating the sovereignty of the people. Not only was the entire Labour shadow cabinet under John Smith opposed to such a view, so too was a group that included Corbyn, Dennis Skinner and Bernie Grant. ‘It disoriented me a bit,’ Benn writes, ‘because you don’t like to go against your own people.’ Still, Benn felt he had no choice but to ...

Notes on the Election

David Runciman, 5 March 2015

... Davis not muffed his lines is almost as tantalising as the question of what might have happened if John Smith had lived. Davis’s campaign had been showing signs of weakness, but the conference speeches decisively shifted the narrative, turning him into the politician who had over-reached and Cameron into the natural-born leader. A Davis-led Conservative ...

Third Way, Old Hat

Ross McKibbin: Amnesia at the Top, 3 September 1998

... Labours’. The Old Labour Party which Mr Blair inherited, which we might call the Kinnock-Smith Party, was one variety, and it differed from Tony Benn’s variety as it did from the Wilson-Callaghan variety. That Party in turn differed significantly from Attlee’s, which differed even more from Ramsay MacDonald’s. And so on. We could ...

Mares and Stallions

Tom Wilkie, 18 May 1989

Games, Sex and Evolution 
by John Maynard Smith.
Harvester, 264 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 7108 1216 7
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... think of asking the question. And it turns out that sex is a very big problem for biologists, as John Maynard Smith explains in one of the most readable essays of this book, an essay that he has simply entitled, ‘Why sex?’. Maynard Smith is an emeritus professor of biology at the ...

The natives did a bunk

Malcolm Gaskill: The Little Ice Age, 19 July 2018

A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America 
by Sam White.
Harvard, 361 pp., £23.95, October 2017, 978 0 674 97192 9
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... the Jamestown site, believes this ‘is where the British Empire began’ – but then, recalling John Seeley’s famous dictum, this was to be an empire acquired ‘in a fit of absence of mind’ rather than as the result of state-sponsored design. The Virginia Company’s leaders, in England and America, were baffled, not least by the humid ...

Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher

John Gray: The Tory Future, 22 April 2010

The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 446 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 7456 4857 6
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Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection 
by Peter Snowdon.
Harper Press, 419 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 00 730725 8
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... himself into running something like a campaign when competing for the leadership with Iain Duncan Smith and been ready to appear more tractable on Europe; if David Davis had moved decisively in the immediate aftermath of Michael Howard’s resignation or been a more fluent speaker; if Howard had offered Cameron the shadow chancellorship or George Osborne had ...

Say what you will about Harold

Christopher Hitchens, 2 December 1993

Wilson: The Authorised Life 
by Philip Ziegler.
Weidenfeld, 593 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 297 81276 9
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... been debated for decades whether Wilson resigned on this matter, along with Aneurin Bevan and John Freeman, because of the principle of National Health, or because of the more ancient principle of reculer pour mieux sauter. And it’s hard to blur this choice, but Ziegler has a clumsy try at the task. Prescription charges, on the one hand, Gaitskell’s ...

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