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Dashing for Freedom

Paul Foot, 12 December 1996

Full Disclosure 
by Andrew Neil.
Macmillan, 481 pp., £20, October 1996, 0 333 64682 7
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... journalist of his generation.’ ‘Oh yeah,’ Murdoch said, ‘and who would that be?’ ‘Andrew Neil of the Economist’ was Burnet’s reply. What is our source for this extraordinary conversation? The aforesaid Andrew Neil, on page 25 of this book. Though he immediately describes Burnet’s assessment as ...

Beyond Discussion

Neal Ascherson, 3 April 1980

The Last Word: An Eye-Witness Account of the Thorpe Trial 
by Auberon Waugh.
Joseph, 240 pp., £6.50, February 1980, 0 7181 1799 9
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... and stated that a gunman had shot his dog and attempted to shoot him on Porlock Moor. The gunman, Andrew Newton, said he had been hired to murder Scott, and the prosecution tried to link the shot on Porlock Moor with a group of Liberals, con-men and bon viveurs who were endeavouring to protect Thorpe against Scott’s allegations. In the course of the ...

Reasons for Being Nice and Having Sex

Andrew Berry: W.D. Hamilton, 6 February 2003

Narrow Roads of Gene Land: The Collected Papers of W.D. Hamilton. Vol. II: The Evolution of Sex 
by W.D. Hamilton.
Oxford, 872 pp., £50, January 2001, 0 19 850336 9
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... recognition it deserved. The catalyst was the publication in 1975 of the Harvard ant expert E.O. Wilson’s Sociobiology. Although it was primarily about animals (especially social insects such as ants), Wilson had also ventured boldly into human territory, settling firmly for nature in the face of the nature-nurture ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: A Shameful Year, 8 January 2004

... doesn’t seem very long since I did the same for Roy Jenkins. At Bodley I’m overtaken by A.N. Wilson, who’s brought his gown in a Sainsbury’s bag, though it’s part of Roy Jenkins’s legacy that gowns are no longer required on such occasions. This doesn’t stop many of the voters swishing about in them for the benefit of their families, who are ...

Into the Second Term

R.W. Johnson: New Labour, 5 April 2001

Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Hamish Hamilton, 434 pp., £17.99, September 2000, 0 241 14029 3
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Mandelson and the Making of New Labour 
by Donald Macintyre.
HarperCollins, 638 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 00 653062 1
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Mo Mowlam: The Biography 
by Julia Langdon.
Little, Brown, 324 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 316 85304 6
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Ann Widdecombe: Right from the Beginning 
by Nicholas Kochan.
Politico’s, 302 pp., September 2000, 1 902301 55 2
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The Paymaster: Geoffrey Robinson, Maxwell and New Labour 
by Tom Bower.
Simon and Schuster, 272 pp., £17.99, March 2001, 0 7432 0689 4
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The Future of Politics 
by Charles Kennedy.
HarperCollins, 235 pp., £17.99, September 2000, 0 00 710131 7
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... Mowlam remain outside. David Trimble was astonished but that’s how it always is with New Labour. Andrew Rawnsley records how the momentous decision that Britain would not join the euro during the current Parliament was taken. Aware of the increase in Euroscepticism from Philip Gould’s focus groups and daily readings of the Sun and the Mail, Gordon ...

Official Secrecy

Andrew Boyle, 18 September 1980

The Frontiers of Secrecy 
by David Leigh.
Junction, 291 pp., £9.95, August 1980, 0 86245 002 0
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... caretaker Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, never got to hear what happened and Sir Harold Wilson, when he came to power, was told nothing of this fail accompli for three years, and then in so veiled a way that his memory had to be jogged in the eventual scandal of 1979.’ At a time when dissatisfaction with an outmoded Official Secrets Act is largely ...

Kelpers

Claude Rawson, 17 June 1982

St Kilda’s Parliament 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 87 pp., £3, September 1981, 0 571 11770 8
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Airborn/Hijos del Aire 
by Octavio Paz and Charles Tomlinson.
Anvil, 29 pp., £1.25, April 1981, 0 85646 072 9
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The Flood 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £3.95, June 1981, 0 19 211944 3
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Looking into the Deep End 
by David Sweetman.
Faber, 47 pp., £3, March 1981, 0 571 11730 9
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Independence 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 28 pp., £5, December 1981, 0 907540 05 8
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... in the light of episodes concerning, Scottish writers, mostly of the 18th century: Tannahill, John Wilson of Greenock – and, in ‘Green Breeks’, a famous anecdote of Scott’s boyhood is subjected to an extremely deft and somewhat mean-spirited reversal. The volume as a whole gives a sense of substantial and sensitive gifts embarrassed by a strange ...

Too early or too late?

David Runciman, 2 April 2020

... for someone to blame, so they blamed the president.In that year’s presidential election Woodrow Wilson lost the state of New Jersey, where he had once been governor. The biggest swings against him came in the counties nearest the shore, where the switch of allegiance was comparable to the turn against Herbert Hoover at the nadir of the Great Depression. In ...

Not Quite Nasty

Colin Burrow: Anthony Burgess, 9 February 2006

The Real Life of Anthony Burgess 
by Andrew Biswell.
Picador, 434 pp., £20, November 2005, 0 330 48170 3
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... and loathing, which is chiefly a warped form of embarrassment about one’s former admiration. Andrew Biswell’s new biography, which generously allows Burgess’s friends and enemies to speak in their own voices, flushes out the worst aspects of Lewis. It presents Burgess’s life with a sobriety and care that are at once admirable and slightly ...

Quiet Sinners

Bernard Porter: Imperial Spooks, 21 March 2013

Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire 
by Calder Walton.
Harper, 411 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 00 745796 0
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... access to closed papers in order to produce official histories. One of them was Christopher Andrew, who employed Walton to help him with The Defence of the Realm (2009), about MI5. Suddenly, one kind of conspiracy story – official plots and cover-ups – became acceptable. So Walton can now assert at the end of his book, without doing much damage to ...

Diary

John Jones: Iris, Hegel and Me, 18 December 2003

... I’ve been basking in a warm glow from A.N. Wilson’s recent book about Iris Murdoch* – I mean its way of holding Plato and Kant not quite on a level with each other but far above everyone else except Hegel, about whom more later, in its account of her attention to the classical masters. This is a big merit, and a needful one because others, including her official biographer, have been at fault here ...

Dogface

Ian Hamilton, 28 September 1989

Wartime: Understanding and Behaviour in the Second World War 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 330 pp., £15, September 1989, 0 19 503797 9
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War like a Wasp: The Lost Decade of the Forties 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 241 12531 6
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... popular films featuring notable individual male characters as Goodbye, Mr Chips, Citizen Kane, Wilson, Casablanca and Henry V.’ This is ‘coverage’, and we feel that his heart is not quite in it. It would appear that, when writing about his war, Fussell finds it difficult to spread himself around. As he once testified, he is ‘really a pissed-off ...

Very Nasty

John Sutherland, 21 May 1987

VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov 
by Andrew Field.
Macdonald, 417 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 356 14234 5
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... Field has evidently been forbidden to quote from Simon Karlinsky’s edition of The Nabokov-Wilson Letters (1979), thus fatally impoverishing his account of the author’s most important literary relationship. (Karlinsky, incidentally, has his little say about Field’s ‘enormous blunders’ in the preface to his volume.) Not to put too fine a point ...

Not Mackintosh

Chris Miele, 6 April 1995

‘Greek’ Thomson 
edited by Gavin Stamp and Sam McKinstry.
Edinburgh, 249 pp., £35, September 1994, 0 7486 0480 4
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... and have close parallels in the work of more prosaic Glaswegian architects, such as Charles Wilson, whose Free Church College of 1855-7 also features a portico raised above a high base and highlighted by towers. What distinguishes Thomson from even his most talented contemporaries, such as John Burnet Sr, or the Gothically inclined J.J. Stevenson, is ...

Triumph of the Termites

Tom Nairn: Gordon Brown, 8 April 2010

The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Viking, 802 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 670 91851 5
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What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown?: How the Dream Job Turned Sour 
edited by Colin Hughes.
Guardian, 294 pp., £8.99, January 2010, 978 0 85265 219 0
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Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown 
by Christopher Harvie.
Verso, 206 pp., £8.99, February 2010, 978 1 84467 439 8
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... and Alistair Darling flee London as Parliament quakes against the background of a setting sun. Andrew Rawnsley’s The End of the Party is less dramatic: we see Brown, Mandelson and Blair in a morning-after sprawl; Brown’s big toe sticks out of his sock. The Guardian compilation reminds readers how high expectations were when Brown took over. ‘Master ...

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