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Dignity and Impudence

Oliver Whitley, 6 October 1983

A Variety of Lives: A Biography of Sir Hugh Greene 
by Michael Tracey.
Bodley Head, 344 pp., £15, September 1983, 0 370 30026 2
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... system of thought.’ The reader will find all these items in the identikit portrait which Michael Tracey constructs. Greene was good to work for, and with, above all because he liked diversity among his associates. We were each perfectly free to weave our own views into a harmonious system of thought, if we wanted to, while he relied on his ...

In Cardiff

John Barrell: Richard Wilson, 25 September 2014

... currently staging a large loan exhibition of the Welsh ‘father of English landscape’, Richard Wilson, curated by Martin Postle and Robin Simon. It is a magnificent show, the first on this scale for more than thirty years. It will be at Cardiff until 26 October, and it is accompanied by a sumptuous catalogue, the fullest, most faithfully reproduced ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inherent Vice’, 5 February 2015

Inherent Vice 
directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
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... great performances here from Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson. Phoenix is Doc Sportello, the private detective. His vast sideburns and crumpled denims make him look like a sheriff who has strayed from the old West and gone further west. Gone to pot too, as we might say, although he says he doesn’t do serious drugs ...

Digging up the Ancestors

R.W. Johnson, 14 November 1996

Hugh Gaitskell 
by Brian Brivati.
Cohen, 492 pp., £25, September 1996, 1 86066 073 8
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... well with a party which has always seen itself as a crusading organisation. And after that? Harold Wilson was the most successful Labour leader, winning four elections, but the recent spate of admiring biographies cannot rescue him from ignominy. The whole point of Wilsonism, after all, was to box and fox through the burning minute. It is hardly surprising ...

Lessons for Civil Servants

David Marquand, 21 August 1980

The Secret Constitution 
by Brian Sedgemore.
Hodder, 256 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 340 24649 9
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The Civil Servants 
by Peter Kellner and Lord Crowther-Hunt.
Macdonald/Jane’s, 352 pp., £9.95, July 1980, 0 354 04487 7
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... wrong with it. After all, an institution which manages to upset Mr Tony Benn, Lady Falkender, Mr Michael Meacher, Mr Joe Haines, the editor of the Spectator and the sub-editors of the Daily Express cannot be all bad; and from there it is a small step to conclude that it must be all, or nearly all, good. The step is a dangerous one, however, and readers of ...

Private Lives

Ray Monk, 22 November 1990

... raincoat. It was originally published in Wittgenstein: Sein Leben in Blidern und Texten, edited by Michael Nedo and Michele Ranchetti, with the caption: Wittgenstein mit dem Freund Ben Richards in London. In the article I dismiss as absurd the idea that this picture proves what Steiner takes it as proving. I do so on the grounds that, having met Ben ...

Real Thing

John Naughton, 24 November 1988

Live from Number 10: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television 
by Michael Cockerell.
Faber, 352 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 571 14757 7
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... the classic British style of ‘sympathetic’ interviewing – as practised, for example, by Michael Aspel, Miriam Stoppard or Jimmy Young – has an ancient lineage. Eden’s problem was not so much that he thought he was terrific on TV (though he did), but that he saw television as essentially a kind of megaphone for the Government. So it was with the ...

Subversions

R.W. Johnson, 4 June 1987

Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... by George Brown to get MI5 to spy on their left-wing opponents within the Party in 1961, and Wilson’s use of MI5 against the seamen’s strike in 1966. Meanwhile the successive defections of Maclean, Burgess and Philby not only created an atmosphere of hysterical anti-Communist mole-hunting within the service but led to American threats to withdraw ...

Poetry is a horrible waste of time

Frances Wilson: Thomas Lovell Beddoes, 28 October 1999

Thomas Lovell Beddoes: Selected Poetry 
edited by Judith Higgens and Michael Bradshaw.
Carcanet, 116 pp., £8.95, June 1999, 1 85754 408 0
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... books returned to the shelves). Beddoes would have been relieved to know that Judith Higgens and Michael Bradshaw have included none of The Improvisatore in their new and revised selection of his poetry. From The Brides’ Tragedy we get only highlights, but enough to see Beddoes’s developing skill as a poet. The intensity of his imagery and the often ...

Family History

Miles Taylor: Tony Benn, 25 September 2003

Free at Last: Diaries 1991-2001 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 738 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 09 179352 1
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Free Radical: New Century Essays 
by Tony Benn.
Continuum, 246 pp., £9.95, May 2003, 9780826465962
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... a hair’s breadth of becoming deputy leader of the Party. Opinions differ, but a Party led by Michael Foot and Benn would probably have seen a mass defection of MPs to the SDP. As it was, Benn’s failure paved the way for Neil Kinnock’s purge of the Militant Left, as well as the crucial policy switch from renationalisation of key industries to ...

Short Cuts

Chris Mullin: Michael Foot, 25 March 2010

... Of all the many tributes to Michael Foot it was David Cameron who hit the nail on the head. He was, Cameron said, ‘almost the last link to a more heroic age in politics’. In appearance, and demeanour, Foot resembled an Old Testament prophet. An impression which, in later life, his shock of white hair, the passion of his delivery and the magnificence of his rhetoric served only to enhance ...

Up the Garden Path

R.W. Johnson: Michael Foot, 26 April 2007

Michael Foot: A Life 
by Kenneth O. Morgan.
Harper, 568 pp., £25, March 2007, 978 0 00 717826 1
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... One day in 1993, I found myself on a bus in Oxford with Michael Foot. He looked shambolic even by my standards – donkey jacket, stick, long hair all over the place. But nobody minded. You don’t often see leading politicians on a bus and passenger after passenger came up to say hello. He smiled and was the soul of friendliness ...

A Falklands Polemic

Tam Dalyell, 20 May 1982

... when Parliament was sitting, I believe there might have been a different gut reaction. Once Michael Foot had struck an attitude, ‘loyalty to Michael’ became an element in a situation where the notion of actual gunfire in the South Atlantic was surrealist fantasy. People had some vague scenario, at worst, of a ...

Keeping Left

Edmund Dell, 2 October 1980

The Castle Diaries 
by Barbara Castle.
Weidenfeld, 778 pp., £14.95, September 1980, 0 297 77420 4
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... and sense of fun, less than the most listened-to member of Cabinet. The man she admires most is Michael Foot, while transmitting her satisfaction at his gradual education in the responsibilities of government, and consequent adoption of policies very different from those advocated in savage criticism of Barbara Castle in the late Sixties. But he, above ...

Tam, Dick and Harold

Ian Aitken, 26 October 1989

Dick Crossman: A Portrait 
by Tam Dalyell.
Weidenfeld, 253 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79670 4
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... it is a great deal deader in this segment of the population than in any other. That the Attlee and Wilson governments had such a heavy complement of Oxbridge intellectuals owed as much to the fact that deference still existed at the grass roots of the Labour Party in the Thirties and Forties as it did to the willingness of graduates to put themselves ...

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