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What did Cook want?

Jon Lawrence: Both ‘on message’ and off, 19 February 2004

The Point of Departure 
by Robin Cook.
Simon and Schuster, 368 pp., £20, October 2003, 0 7432 5255 1
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... 1998, amid rumours that his job was being lined up for one of New Labour’s rising stars such as Jack Straw or Peter Mandelson, Cook may indeed have been thinking hard about escape routes to the European Commission or the Scottish Parliament, but that doesn’t mean he was already a busted flush. He did, after all, survive another five years – and ...

‘Kek kek! kokkow! quek quek!’

Barbara Newman: Chaucer’s Voices, 21 November 2019

Chaucer: A European Life 
by Marion Turner.
Princeton, 599 pp., £30, April 2019, 978 0 691 16009 2
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... Chauntecleer is noisily pursued by the household dogs and every beast in the barnyard: ‘Jakke Straw and his meyne/Ne made nevere shoutes half so shrille/ Whan that they wolden any Flemyng kille.’ Jack Straw had been a rebel leader, while the Flemish immigrants who competed with London merchants were among their ...

Mirror Images

Jenny Diski: Piers Morgan, 31 March 2005

The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade 
by Piers Morgan.
Ebury, 484 pp., £17.99, March 2005, 0 09 190506 0
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... undemanding exemplars of legends. At one party he is quite near to someone who might just count: Jack Nicholson. He asks Fergie (the former Duchess of York) how he can get talking to the ‘superstar’. Don’t tell him you’re a journalist, says Fergie, better say you’re something interesting like a bank robber. Our compulsively cheeky ...

Make it more like a murder mystery

Eleanor Birne: The life and death of Stuart Shorter, 19 May 2005

Stuart: A Life Backwards 
by Alexander Masters.
Fourth Estate, 295 pp., £12.99, April 2005, 0 00 720036 6
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... was that Wyner and Brock’s convictions were a political gesture intended to show how serious Jack Straw was going to be about the war on drugs. The campaign was very active. I remember being confronted on the escalator at Holborn with a fly poster emblazoned with John Brock’s face – a face I hadn’t seen in more than ten years. The campaigners ...

Spiritual Rock Star

Terry Eagleton: The failings of Pope John Paul II, 3 February 2005

The Pope in Winter: The Dark Face of John Paul II’s Papacy 
by John Cornwell.
Viking, 329 pp., £20, February 2005, 0 670 91572 6
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... was eager to gain intellectual distinction, and was once a phenomenologist, which is a little like Jack Straw turning out to be a former neo-Hegelian. Phenomenology, which seeks to reconstruct the world from within lived experience, is about the last kind of philosophy Wojtyla should have gone in for, given that lived experience was scarcely his strongest ...

After the May Day Flood

Seumas Milne, 5 June 1997

... of the deportation order against the adopted Nepalese, Jay Khadka, by – of all people – Jack Straw. Within a few days, hospital closures had been suspended, as had the privatisation of High Street post offices. None of it earth-shattering, much of it largely symbolic, but combined with the shifts in government style and culture, the initial ...

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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... would hardly have begun. Perhaps it was all that briefing she got from her political adviser, Jack Straw. But the predominant feeling round the Cabinet table was often: will she ever stop? And so, because Harold Wilson could deny her nothing, and Cabinet would do anything to stop her talking, she won again and again. Admittedly, she was helped by the ...

Nayled to the wow

Tom Shippey, 7 January 1993

The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer 
by Derek Pearsall.
Blackwell, 365 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 1 55786 205 2
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A Wyf ther was: Essays in Honour of Paule Mertens-Fonck 
edited by Juliette Dor.
University of Liège, 300 pp., June 1992, 2 87233 004 6
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Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of 14th-Century Texts 
by Paul Strohm.
Princeton, 205 pp., £27.50, November 1992, 0 691 06880 1
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... joke of it, though a joke which implies actual presence at murder – killing the Flemings (which Jack Straw and his men did right by Chaucer’s childhood home) was nothing like as noisy as the hue and cry raised after the fox and Chauntecleer. Critics like to see Chaucer commenting on political issues, at least in his minor poems: ‘In my ...

‘The Sun Says’

Paul Laity, 20 June 1996

... Labour with being the friend of the criminal. Not to be outdone, the Shadow Home Secretary, Jack Straw, has responded with attacks on squeegee merchants and beggars. And now the Tories have announced their latest law and order initiative: a war against ‘yob culture’. At the same time as it calls for a stronger state to solve the problem of ...

A Bear Armed with a Gun

David Runciman: The Widening Atlantic, 3 April 2003

Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order 
by Robert Kagan.
Atlantic, 104 pp., £10, March 2003, 1 84354 177 7
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... all it owes to the freedom fighters that came from the United States of America and everywhere’. Jack Straw took up the theme, declaring: ‘Britain is also a very old country. It was founded in 1066 – by the French.’ Colin Powell had to concede that ‘America is a relatively new country,’ before going on to remind his audience that ‘it is the ...

More ‘out’ than ‘on’

Glen Newey: Chris Mullin’s Diaries, 27 August 2009

A View from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin 
by Chris Mullin.
Profile, 590 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 1 84668 223 0
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... to serve the author. He is straight, decent, in an old-fashioned way. When ministers like Jack Straw and Charlie Falconer, as well as Blair, cuss in the salons of power, he flags his discomfort (‘a chandelier swayed gently’). His decency overlays some of the double-mindedness. Mullin lauds the material improvements on Wearside under Labour ...

Will we notice when the Tories have won?

Ross McKibbin: Election Blues, 24 September 2009

... safest of potential reforms, might get something, but even that is improbable. The announcement by Jack Straw (who else?) that the government would propose an 80 per cent or 100 per cent elected House of Lords, which might be achieved in 12 to 15 years, indicates just how little importance is attached to constitutional reform. The unforgivable failure of ...

Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson, 2 April 2020

The State of Secrecy: Spies and the Media in Britain 
by Richard Norton-Taylor.
I.B. Tauris, 352 pp., £20, March 2019, 978 1 78831 218 9
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... at. In the aftermath of 9/11, he and other journalists refused to take seriously the assurances of Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, that Britain had taken no part in America’s lawless rendition of prisoners to secret sites and had had no idea that many of them were tortured there. The truth, published by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security ...

Murder in Mayfair

Peter Pomerantsev, 31 March 2016

A Very Expensive Poison: The Definitive Story of the Murder of Litvinenko and Russia’s War with the West 
by Luke Harding.
Faber, 424 pp., £12.99, March 2016, 978 1 78335 093 3
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... and an exotic palm from the Canary Islands. It’s all rather English pastoral. The girls sport straw boaters … North of the square you find Grosvenor Street and a row of fashionable 18th-century Georgian townhouses. This was once the abode of earls, lords, admirals and the odd poet … The location radiates ...

The Tax-and-Spend Vote

Ross McKibbin: Will the election improve New Labour’s grasp on reality?, 5 July 2001

... One is that ‘Tory issues’ – crime, law and order, asylum – do not do it much good. That Jack Straw should have been booed and jeered by the police during the campaign merely confirms what Labour should always have known: that it will never satisfy that lobby, and there is little point in trying. The Conservative failure to move the electorate ...

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