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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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... despised the very notion of the ‘long term’. Nobody tries to make a case for James Callaghan, Michael Foot or Neil Kinnock as candidates for the pantheon and some of the devotion to the late John Smith derives, no doubt, from a desperate endeavour to find a leader of note somewhere. Hence this book. ‘Hugh Gaitskell was the grandfather of Tony ...

It’s a riot

Michael Ignatieff, 20 August 1981

‘Civil Disturbances’: Hansard, Vol. 8, Nos 143-144, 16 July 1981 – 17 July 1981 
HMSO, £80Show More
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... riots. In the adjournment debate on ‘Civil Disturbances’, MPs as far apart as Joan Lestor and Michael Heseltine agreed that the speeches had transcended party politics. Of course there were exceptions. No Tory MP joined Stuart Holland and John Fraser in their criticism of the Police in Brixton, and no Labour MP supported Winston Churchill’s call for an ...

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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... upset. Aside from Berlin, the only thinkers to survive Gray’s bombardment without a scratch are Michael Oakeshott and Karl Popper. Gray even pays Oakeshott the compliment of quoting him twice: ‘In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor ...

Old Verities

Brian Harrison, 19 June 1986

The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Discourse and Narrative Form 1832-1867 
by Catherine Gallagher.
Chicago, 320 pp., £23.25, September 1985, 0 226 27932 4
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Victorian Prison Lives: English Prison Biography 1830-1914 
by Philip Priestley.
Methuen, 311 pp., £14.85, October 1985, 0 416 34770 3
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The Old Brown Dog: Women, Workers and Vivisection in Edwardian England 
by Coral Lansbury.
University of Wisconsin Press, 212 pp., £23.50, November 1985, 0 299 10250 5
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‘Orator’ Hunt: Henry Hunt and English Working-Class Radicalism 
by John Belchem.
Oxford, 304 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 19 822759 0
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... simple remedies and evangelical tone. But her confident certainties are echoed on the other side: Michael Foot condemns her for praising Victorian values ‘without even a passing comprehension of the human suffering and indignity which the mass of our people had to endure in that pre-democratic age’. The term ‘Victorian’ is used purely ...

Short Cuts

Chris Mullin: Corbyn the ‘Collaborator’, 8 March 2018

... strikingly similar to the one about Corbyn, serialised a book by a KGB defector alleging that Michael Foot had been on the Soviet payroll when he was leader of the Labour Party in the early 1980s. Foot sued and received damages and an apology, although this hasn’t stopped the allegation being repeated since his ...

The Road to Goose Green

Paul Rogers, 15 September 1983

... next day. Having gained strong support from most of the Labour Party, and especially its leader Michael Foot, the Thatcher Government was able to continue and enhance its plans for a military response, the first units of the task force sailing for the South Atlantic two days later. For the first two Weeks after the task force sailed, the great majority ...

All Antennae

John Banville: Olympic-Standard Depravity, 18 February 1999

Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind 
by David Cesarani.
Heinemann, 646 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 434 11305 0
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... is an account of a strange and shocking encounter between Koestler and Jill Craigie, the wife of Michael Foot. One morning in 1952 Craigie had driven Koestler around Hampstead Heath on yet another of his house-hunting expeditions, which degenerated into a pub crawl, though Craigie drank only ginger beer. Afterwards Koestler bullied Craigie into making ...

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 ...

Eating people is right

Paul Delany, 21 February 1985

Modern Times 
by Peter York.
Heinemann, 128 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 434 89260 2
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Face Value: The Politics of Beauty 
by Robin Tolmach Lakoff and Raquel Scherr.
Routledge, 312 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 7100 9742 5
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... politicians are turned into actors. They have got to choose an image, and then ‘project’ it. Michael Foot insisted on looking like what he is – ‘the corduroy, the wool tie, the academic’s white hair’ – and was duly run off the court by ‘the warrior queen ... her hair lacquered into Britannia’s golden helmet’. In modern times, York ...


A.J.P. Taylor: No doubt I am old-fashioned, 1 April 1982

... There is another question on which I am out of line, this time in disagreement with my old friend Michael Foot. Five 20th-century prime ministers and one non-premier (Joseph Chamberlain) have statues in the lobby of the House of Commons: Balfour, Asquith, Lloyd George, Churchill and Attlee. The inclusion of Joseph Chamberlain seems rather odd unless it ...

Goodness me

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 26 October 1989

Margaret, Daughter of Beatrice: A Politician’s Psycho-Biography of Margaret Thatcher 
by Leo Abse.
Cape, 288 pp., £13.95, September 1989, 0 224 02726 3
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... it were able to tell us why some people don’t acquire narcissistic personality disorders. Kind Michael Foot, the only living politician to escape Abse’s criticisms, has said – the quote is on the dust-jacket – that Margaret, Daughter of Beatrice is ‘an extremely important political book’; and that no doubt is how Mr Abse would like his ...

Up to Islip

Rosalind Mitchison, 2 August 1984

An Old Man’s Diary 
by A.J.P. Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 155 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 241 11247 8
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... skating companion, even the chance to get into practice so as to do 18 miles on skates and four on foot in a short day. The boast from 1940 brings home how much I have in common with A.J.P.T. But that remark is hardly justified. He is a master of words, and a masterly combiner of evasiveness and paradox. Modern political history gives full scope for both, and ...

The Anti-Candidate

Ross McKibbin: Jeremy Corbyn, 8 October 2015

... is probably unique in his lack of conventional qualifications for the job. George Lansbury and Michael Foot, the former Labour leaders he most resembles, had been cabinet ministers; Foot was Callaghan’s deputy in the 1976-79 government. Corbyn’s lack of conventional qualifications, however, is the reason he ...

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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... advantage of being the first in the field. Since he (or rather, his selfless literary executor, Michael Foot) shook off the chains of conventional Cabinet secrecy and got volume one into print, there have been successors. Every minister knew, at the time when all these notebooks and tapes were being compiled round poor old Harold Wilson’s Cabinet ...

Europe could damage her health

William Rodgers, 6 July 1989

The Challenge of Europe: Can Britain win? 
by Michael Heseltine.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79608 9
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... as long as a Conservative government was in power. A handful of rebels was neither here nor there. Michael Heseltine’s extended tract is a measure of how far, under Mrs Thatcher, this expectation remains unfulfilled. The Prime Minister’s abrasive relations with Britain’s European partners have been one of the characteristics of her period in office. For ...

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