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Green Pastel Redness

Colin Kidd: The Supreme Court Coup, 24 March 2022

Dissent: The Radicalisation of the Republican Party and Its Capture of the Supreme Court 
by Jackie Calmes.
Twelve, 478 pp., £25, July 2021, 978 1 5387 0079 2
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Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months that Transformed the Supreme Court 
by Linda Greenhouse.
Random House, 300 pp., £22.50, November 2021, 978 0 593 44793 2
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... Ayear​ after the Trump-inspired insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January 2021, the United States experienced a less obtrusive coup d’état: the hustled retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest of the three remaining liberals on the Supreme Court. The prematurely leaked announcement in late January took Breyer himself by surprise. But the leak wasn’t any more of a breach of constitutional decorum than the insistent lobbying that preceded the reluctant retiree’s decision ...

Smut-Finder General

Colin Kidd: The Dark Side of American Liberalism, 25 September 2003

Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History 
by James Morone.
Yale, 575 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09484 1
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... Some aspects of the American political system can seem opaque and mysterious to the outsider. In particular, the Constitution, which British journalists regularly confuse with the Declaration of Independence, is calibrated so as to correct the arithmetical simplicities of an undifferentiated popular will. The Presidential election of 2000 introduced the world not only to the vagaries of the franchise in Florida, user-unfriendly butterfly ballots, and the arcana of chad – hanging, dimpled, pregnant and penetrated – but also to the constitutionally mandated authority of the Electoral College ...

William Wallace, Unionist

Colin Kidd: The Idea of Devolution, 23 March 2006

State of the Union: Unionism and the Alternatives in the United Kingdom since 1707 
by Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan.
Oxford, 283 pp., £45, September 2005, 0 19 925820 1
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... At the time of the devolution referendum of 1997, doom-mongers feared that the Scots were about to join ‘a motorway without exits’. Separation from England seemed inevitable in the long run. En route, Scottish politics would be hampered by a systemic instability. After all, the anti-devolutionists whined, the Nationalists needed to win only once in Scottish parliamentary elections to bring about independence; to preserve the Union, the parties of the Union needed to win every time ...

Break their teeth, O God

Colin Kidd: The Trial of Sacheverell, 21 August 2014

Faction Displayed: Reconsidering the Impeachment of Dr Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Mark Knights.
Wiley-Blackwell, 132 pp., £19.99, February 2012, 978 1 4443 6187 2
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The State Trial of Doctor Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Brian Cowan.
Wiley-Blackwell, 307 pp., £22.99, November 2012, 978 1 4443 3223 0
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... The birth​ of Prince George obviates the immediate need for the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 which introduced gender equality into the line of succession. Section 2 of the Act addresses, though only in part, another outmoded form of discrimination: ‘A person is not disqualified from succeeding to the crown or from possessing it as a result of marrying a person of the Roman Catholic faith ...

The Irresistible Itch

Colin Kidd: Vandals in Bow Ties, 3 December 2009

Personal Responsibility: Why It Matters 
by Alexander Brown.
Continuum, 214 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 84706 399 1
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... Ever since the rise of Margaret Thatcher, personal responsibility has been the irresistible itch that the Conservative Party dare not scratch – at least not in public. Notwithstanding the party’s boosterish slogans of enterprise, freedom and low taxation, many of its elderly members – and some of its politicians – have long held to a more cautious ethos of middle-class respectability, restraint and downright frugality ...

Paper this thing over

Colin Kidd: The Watergate Tapes, 5 November 2015

The Nixon Tapes: 1971-72 
by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 758 pp., $35, July 2014, 978 0 544 27415 0
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The Nixon Defence: What He Knew and When He Knew It 
by John W. Dean.
Penguin, 784 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 312738 3
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Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall 
by Elizabeth Drew.
Duckworth Overlook, 450 pp., £20, August 2014, 978 0 7156 4916 9
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Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair and the Origins of Watergate 
by Ken Hughes.
Virginia, 228 pp., $16.95, August 2015, 978 0 8139 3664 2
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The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan 
by Rick Perlstein.
Simon and Schuster, 860 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4767 8241 6
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... The Watergate complex​ is a set of five buildings – three luxury apartment blocks, an office building and a hotel-office hybrid – built on the banks of the Potomac between 1963 and 1971 in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington DC. Its handy location between the centre of government and the traditional residences of Georgetown proved attractive to congressmen and members of the Nixon administration, who flocked to the new apartments ...

The End of Labour?

Colin Kidd, 8 March 2012

... The prospect before the Labour Party has changed very dramatically since the start of the year. Instead of a hard but manageable slog to overtake the Conservatives as Britain’s largest party at the next general election, Labour politicians now contemplate a dismal scene of long-term exclusion from government: from the government, that is, of the rump UK, minus Scotland ...

Sing Tantarara

Colin Kidd, 30 October 1997

Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency 
by Stephen Knott.
Oxford, 258 pp., £19.50, November 1996, 0 19 510098 0
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The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 367 pp., £25, December 1996, 1 85619 637 2
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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson 
by Joseph Ellis.
Knopf, 365 pp., $26, February 1997, 0 679 44490 4
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Slave Laws in Virginia 
by Philip Schwarz.
Georgia, 253 pp., $40, November 1996, 0 8203 1831 0
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... In his lifetime an unyielding critic of priestcraft and superstition, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) stands today at the heart of a cult which has been variously described as America’s ‘civil religion’, ‘the religion of the Republic’ and ‘American Shinto’. As individuals and families, Americans worship their own gods, or, more commonly, God in their own way: but collectively, as citizens, they learn the creed, and participate in the rituals of a sacralised American Way of Life ...

Royal Panic Attack

Colin Kidd: James VI and I, 16 June 2011

King James VI and I and His English Parliaments 
by Conrad Russell, edited by Richard Cust and Andrew Thrush.
Oxford, 195 pp., £55, February 2011, 978 0 19 820506 7
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... Since the 1960s, social historians have made enormous efforts to expand the range of history beyond the familiar cast of monarchs, courtiers and parliamentarians to recover the lives of the lower orders. ‘History from below’ has complicated and enriched the national story: witches and wet nurses, Ranters and Muggletonians, autodidacts, knitters and servants have all emerged from the shadows of neglect and condescension ...

On the Window Ledge of the Union

Colin Kidd: Loyalism v. Unionism, 7 February 2013

Belfast 400: People, Place and History 
edited by S.J. Connolly.
Liverpool, 392 pp., £14.95, November 2012, 978 1 84631 634 0
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Ulster since 1600: Politics, Economy and Society 
edited by Liam Kennedy and Philip Ollerenshaw.
Oxford, 355 pp., £35, November 2012, 978 0 19 958311 9
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The Plantation of Ulster: Ideology and Practice 
edited by Eamonn O Ciardha and Micheál O Siochrú.
Manchester, 269 pp., £70, October 2012, 978 0 7190 8608 3
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The End of Ulster Loyalism? 
by Peter Shirlow.
Manchester, 230 pp., £16.99, May 2012, 978 0 7190 8476 8
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... For God’s sake bring me a large Scotch. What a bloody awful country.’ Visiting Northern Ireland as home secretary in 1970, Reginald Maudling, whose mellow moderation verged on a slothful desire for an easy life, was understandably exasperated by the Ulster problem – but no more so than a long line of politicians, before and since. Churchill – not so easily depicted as a faint-heart – lamented in the aftermath of the First World War that, while the cataclysm had transformed the rest of Europe, the Ulster question remained as intractable as ever and politicians would once more have to pay attention to the ‘dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone ...

Coalition Monsters

Colin Kidd, 6 March 2014

In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government 
by Matthew D’Ancona.
Penguin, 414 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 670 91993 2
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... Common​ sense in British politics tends to be aligned with the wisdom of party managers: that the electorate abhors uncertainty, and is incapable of understanding either internal party divisions or Continental-style coalitions. Only very occasionally, when the whips are thwarted by force of circumstance, do the voters – and indeed a frustrated cadre of pragmatic and independent-minded politicians – escape the iron cage of partisan constraint ...

Maiden Aunt

Colin Kidd: Adam Smith, 7 October 2010

Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life 
by Nicholas Phillipson.
Allen Lane, 345 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 7139 9396 7
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Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and moral theory 
by Fonna Forman-Barzilai.
Cambridge, 286 pp., £55, March 2010, 978 0 521 76112 3
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... I’m sometimes told that the Scots don’t like Thatcherism,’ Margaret Thatcher told the Scottish Conservative Conference in 1988. ‘Well, I find that hard to believe – because the Scots invented Thatcherism, long before I was thought of.’ The Scot she meant was Adam Smith, a figure popularly identified as the founder of economics, an apostle of capitalism and honoured prophet of the new right ...

Hybridity

Colin Kidd: The Invention of Globalisation, 2 September 2004

Birth of the Modern World 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons 
by C.A. Bayly.
Blackwell, 568 pp., £65, January 2004, 0 631 18799 5
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... Globalisation presents formidable challenges for history, a discipline which is congenitally nationalist. The academic study of the past emerged during the 19th century in tandem with the rise of European nationalisms, and remains coloured by its origins. This sinister twinship wasn’t acknowledged, however, until in recent decades historians began to confront their subject’s provenance and the ways in which this early nationalist imprint had distorted its agenda and approaches ...

Gove or Galtieri?

Colin Kidd: Popular Conservatism, 5 October 2017

Crown, Church and Constitution: Popular Conservatism in England 1815-67 
by Jörg Neuheiser, translated by Jennifer Walcoff Neuheiser.
Berghahn, 320 pp., £78, May 2016, 978 1 78533 140 4
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Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy 
by Daniel Ziblatt.
Cambridge, 450 pp., £26.99, April 2017, 978 0 521 17299 8
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Edmund Burke and the Invention of Modern Conservatism, 1830-1914: An Intellectual History 
by Emily Jones.
Oxford, 288 pp., £60, April 2017, 978 0 19 879942 9
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Kind of Blue: A Political Memoir 
by Ken Clarke.
Pan, 525 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 1 5098 3720 5
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... It was​ the weirdest election of my lifetime. Theresa May, with the largest Conservative share of the national vote since Margaret Thatcher’s post-Falklands triumph in 1983, failed to secure a majority, while Jeremy Corbyn – reviled by most of his own MPs – made Labour competitive again, with a remarkable near 10 per cent swing in his favour ...

In a Frozen Crouch

Colin Kidd: Democracy’s Ends, 13 September 2018

How Democracy Ends 
by David Runciman.
Profile, 249 pp., £14.99, May 2018, 978 1 78125 974 0
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Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – And How to Fix It 
by Dambisa Moyo.
Little, Brown, 296 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 4087 1089 0
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How Democracies Die 
by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.
Viking, 311 pp., £16.99, January 2018, 978 0 241 31798 3
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Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy 
by William Galston.
Yale, 158 pp., £25, June 2018, 978 0 300 22892 2
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... A historian​ ought to know better, I suppose. But for the last decade – ever since I passed a long queue of anxious depositors outside a branch of Northern Rock in September 2007 – the idea that we might be living through our own version of the 1930s has proved irresistible. The run on Northern Rock augured a financial collapse on the scale of 1929, and has been followed by the re-emergence in the West of protectionist posturing, authoritarian politics, demagoguery and nativism, as well as the bullying land-grabs in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine ...

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