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There is only one Harrods

Paul Foot, 23 September 1993

Tiny Rowland: A Rebel Tycoon 
by Tom Bower.
Heinemann, 659 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 434 07339 3
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... take over the Observer and Today newspapers, was once denounced by a Tory Prime Minister, Edward Heath, as ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’. Tom Bower has now written books about both men which prove both charges a hundred times over. Maxwell was so infuriated by Bower’s book that he spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to stop it appearing and ...

This Way to the Ruin

David Runciman: The British Constitution, 7 February 2008

The British Constitution 
by Anthony King.
Oxford, 432 pp., £25, November 2007, 978 0 19 923232 1
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... Does Britain need a written constitution? Of course it does, which is why, as Anthony King points out at the start of this readable and illuminating book, it has one already. Whatever its detractors might think, Britain is not some folkloric society governed according to immemorial custom on the nod and the wink of the people in the know ...

Holding all the strings

Ian Gilmour, 27 July 1989

Macmillan. Vol. II: 1957-1986 
by Alistair Horne.
Macmillan, 741 pp., £18.95, June 1989, 0 333 49621 3
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... possess the factual knowledge to make his excursions, as Michelin would say, vaut le voyage. Ted Heath, he tells us, has never been ‘renowned as convivial company’. Has he ever dined with Mr Heath, one wonders? Francis Pym is criticised for ‘publishing a bitter book of self-justification’ immediately after being ...


David Runciman: Thatcher’s Rise, 6 June 2013

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography. Vol. I: Not for Turning 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 859 pp., £30, April 2013, 978 0 7139 9282 3
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... that she was a politician. She had survived a near death experience as education secretary in the Heath government, when her decision to scrap free milk in primary schools for children aged seven and over made her for a while the most unpopular politician in the country (‘Milksnatcher’). It had been a grisly time and had tested even her energy and ...

Lacan’s Mirrors

Edmund Leach, 2 July 1981

The Talking Cure: Essays in Psychoanalysis and Language 
edited by Colin MacCabe.
Macmillan, 230 pp., £20, February 1981, 0 333 23560 6
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... that has nothing whatever to do with this book.Although it appears in a series (edited by Stephen Heath and Colin MacCabe himself) in which the titles suggest all the latest Marxist, Feminist and Structuralist Paris fashions, the actual contents of this exercise, where they are comprehensible, seem to me to be distinctly old hat. Most of the essays are ...

After the Battle

Matthew Coady, 26 November 1987

by Tam Dalyell.
Hamish Hamilton, 152 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 241 12170 1
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One Man’s Judgement: An Autobiography 
by Lord Wheatley.
Butterworth, 230 pp., £15.95, July 1987, 0 406 10019 5
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Changing Battlefields: The Challenge to the Labour Party 
by John Silkin.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £13.95, September 1987, 9780241121719
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Heseltine: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Julian Critchley.
Deutsch, 198 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 233 98001 6
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... task force. Much of the anger in John Silkin’s posthumously published book is directed against Anthony Wedgwood Benn. Labour’s internal wars of the late Seventies are refought here, culminating in the 1981 election for the Party’s deputy leadership, in which Silkin stood as standard-bearer for the non-Bennite Left. Although he was eliminated in the ...

Tony and Caroline

Ben Pimlott, 26 November 1987

Out of the Wilderness: Diaries 1963-67 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 592 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 09 170660 2
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... of the mid-Sixties. In those days socialism did not feature – even in the rhetoric. True, Anthony Crosland, Benn’s mentor and former tutor, had used the word in the title of a famous book in 1956. By the time this section of diary opens, however, it had gone right out of vogue. In the run-up to its most important postwar election victory, Labour’s ...

Harold, row the boat aground

Paul Foot, 20 November 1986

Memoirs 1916-1964: The Making of a Prime Minister 
by Harold Wilson.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 214 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2775 7
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... working-class audience to a delirium of delight. He laughed at the new technocratic Tory leader, Heath, just as he laughed at the ‘ancestral voices’ of Heath’s predecessor, the 14th Earl of Home. The whole place resounded to his humour and his confidence. It was the high peak of British social democracy. Wilson’s ...

Whitehall Farce

Paul Foot, 12 October 1989

The Intelligence Game: Illusions and Delusions of International Espionage 
by James Rusbridger.
Bodley Head, 320 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 370 31242 2
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The Truth about Hollis 
by W.J. West.
Duckworth, 230 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7156 2286 2
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... of Commander Crabb – shows exactly how seriously the Intelligence gang takes prime ministers. Anthony Eden, who was then prime minister, gave specific instructions that there was to be no intelligence surveillance of Bulganin and Khrushchev, in the course of their celebrated visit to Britain. At once, MI5 ordered the bugging of the suite at Claridge’s ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1989, 11 January 1990

... some hotel.’ It takes me a time to realise that she is not talking about her treasured copies of Anthony Burgess but her social security books. 12 March. Names of the Albanian Football Team. The Interpreter: Ilir Agolli. The Manager: Shyqri Rrelli. The Goalkeeper: Blendi Nallbani. 2 April. Hotel Terminus, Marcel Ophuls’s documentary on Klaus ...

Just off Lexham Gardens

John Bayley, 9 January 1992

Through a Glass Darkly: The life of Patrick Hamilton 
by Nigel Jones.
Scribner, 408 pp., £18.95, December 1991, 0 356 19701 8
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... world. In his time he was a genuine odd man out, rather in the sense in which his admirers, Anthony Powell and Angus Wilson, were to be in theirs. At this distance we can see how dependent on a faith most of the ‘black’ novels of the Thirties – whether by comedians like Waugh or gloom merchants like Greene and Mauriac – really were. Both ...

Through the Grinder

Graham Coster, 8 February 1996

The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 523 pp., £17.50, November 1995, 0 241 13504 4
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... for a walk through the empty town, got a drink at an empty bar, then went back to my room to read Anthony Burgess’s autobiography.’ The next day, having decided to catch the ferry across to Sardinia, ‘I bought a croissant and a cup of coffee, and then climbed to the fort and walked along the cliff path and found a warm rock and read my Burgess book, and ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... the Liberal cause at the Punch table. John himself had been at Eton with Alan Pryce-Jones, Anthony Powell, Eric Blair and Cyril Connolly, who, we are told, stood at the door of his room in the Sixth Form Passage asking, ‘Well, Johnny Lehmann, how are you this afternoon?’ While he was at Trinity his sister Rosamond published her first novel, Dusty ...

Grand Old Man

Robert Blake, 1 May 1980

The Last Edwardian at No 10: An Impression of Harold Macmillan 
by George Hutchinson.
Quartet, 151 pp., £6.50, February 1980, 0 7043 2232 3
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... from Disraeli, just as Attlee descended from Campbell-Bannerman, Gaitskell from Gladstone, Mr Heath from Peel. Disraeli was the greatest leader of the opposition in all history. Harold Macmillan never had to play that part, but who can doubt how good he would have been if the task had fallen his way. Mr Macmillan’s career, like that of everyone who gets ...

In Praise of Middle Government

Ian Gilmour, 12 July 1990

Liberalisms. Essays in Political Philosophy 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 273 pp., £35, August 1989, 0 415 00744 5
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The Voice of Liberal Learning: Michael Oakeshott on Education 
edited by Timothy Fuller.
Yale, 169 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04344 9
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The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott 
by Paul Franco.
Yale, 277 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04686 3
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by Ted Honderich.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £16.99, June 1990, 0 241 12999 0
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... Brown. Much the same happens with work by non-politicians. Two very good non-extremist studies, Anthony Quinton’s The Politics of Imperfection and Noel O’Sullivan’s Conservatism, appear, but they are almost alone. Norton and Aughey’s Conservatives and Conservatism is well beyond Honderich’s ken. Even Lord Coleraine’s right-wing For ...

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