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Robert Morley, 7 July 1983

Downing Street in Perspective 
by Marcia Falkender.
Weidenfeld, 280 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 297 78107 3
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... much else besides comes to a rather abrupt end on the morning of Tuesday, 16 March 1976. Harold Wilson, four times prime minister, an ambitious man who loved politics and was in the pink of health, able not only to endure but to enjoy the physical and mental strain of the highest office in the land, announced his resignation that morning. Not only Baroness ...

Dream Ticket

Peter Shore, 6 October 1983

The Diary of Hugh Gaitskell 1945-1956 
by Philip Williams.
Cape, 720 pp., £25, September 1983, 0 224 01911 2
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... defendant and Gaitskell as Treasury prosecutor. No one who has served in a Cabinet (including Mr Michael Heseltine today) would fail to recognise the reality of the problem and, given the political sensitivity of the National Health Service in the Labour Party (or of defence in the Conservative Party), its explosive potential. Bevan first fought a successful ...

Must they twinkle?

John Sutherland, 1 August 1985

British Literary Magazines. Vol. III: The Victorian and Edwardian Age 1837-1913 
edited by Alvin Sullivan.
Greenwood, 560 pp., £88.50, December 1984, 0 313 24335 2
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The Book Book 
by Anthony Blond.
Cape, 226 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 224 02074 9
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... catalogues a central interest in the 19th century, and marks another forward leap in charting what Michael Wolff twenty years ago called the ‘golden stream’ of Victorian periodical writing. More than most directories, the BLM series can be read as literary history. Each volume shows lines of development, innovation, experiment and decay. It was (probably ...

Seeing it all

Peter Clarke, 12 October 1989

The Time of My life 
by Denis Healey.
Joseph, 512 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 7181 3114 2
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... of grandeur about our post-imperial role in Asia and Africa’ which he discerned in Wilson. As Healey writes of the withdrawal from Aden: ‘All alternatives would have been worse.’ Over the British nuclear deterrent, Healey’s approach can be termed either brutally pragmatic or woefully disingenuous: either way, it did him no good in the ...


Ben Pimlott: Anthony Crosland, 3 September 1998

Crosland’s Future: Opportunity and Outcome 
by David Reisman.
Macmillan, 237 pp., £47.50, October 1997, 0 333 65963 5
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... calculating machines’. Attlee regarded theory as stuff and nonsense and Harold Wilson doused his food with HP Sauce to project a plain-man image. It was the people’s dominatrix who caused a turnaround. Pragmatic to the core, she took up philosophers she agreed with and allowed her instincts to be dignified as an ideology. Since ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 31 July 2014

... but not the last volume. He’s rewriting his own history. Apparently he didn’t even know Edmund Wilson all that well, and I don’t think Wilson much liked him.’ He said he’d read Wilson’s letters straight through, liked them very much, but still didn’t know why ...

Enemies of Promise

Angus Calder, 2 March 1989

Breach of Promise: Labour in Power 1964-1970 
by Clive Ponting.
Hamish Hamilton, 433 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12683 5
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James Maxton 
by Gordon Brown.
Fontana, 336 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 00 637255 4
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Forward! Labour Politics in Scotland 1888-1988 
edited by Ian Donnachie, Christopher Harvie and Ian Wood.
Polygon, 184 pp., £19.50, January 1989, 0 7486 6001 1
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... the political map of Strathclyde. Breach of Promise, the title of Clive Ponting’s study of Wilson’s governments of the Sixties, evokes, with its suggestion of sordid betrayal, a polarity which dominates structures of feeling within the Labour Movement. The shades of men like Maclean and Maxton whose failure in politics expressed a refusal to ...

So Caucasian

Emily Wilson: ZZ Packer, 1 April 2004

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere 
by ZZ Packer.
Canongate, 238 pp., £9.99, February 2004, 1 84195 478 0
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... group. Everyone laughs at naive Janice, who says in her hokey country accent: ‘I love me some Michael Jackson.’ Even lower down the social scale is Daphne, the poor child of a cleaning woman. She hardly ever speaks, but once wrote a prize-winning poem containing the lines: ‘You are my father, the veteran/When you cry in the dark/It rains and rains and ...

Before They Met

Michael Wood: Dr Zhivago, 17 February 2011

Doctor Zhivago 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Harvill, 513 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 1 84655 379 0
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... Reflections like these may tempt us to join the cringers; to side with Nabokov against Edmund Wilson, for example. The two men were still some seven years from their serious falling out over Pushkin, but they strongly disagreed here already. Nabokov thought Doctor Zhivago was ‘dreary conventional stuff’, and ...

Short Cuts

James Francken: The Booker Prize shortlist, 2 November 2000

... moves’, a problem for shortlisted novelists leading sedentary lives, but not for the impressive Michael Collins – author of The Keepers of Truth and a keen runner. As well as completing his novel, Collins has managed to finish a marathon. A jog through the streets of London dressed up in rhino costume wasn’t quite challenging enough for him, however: he ...


Karl Miller: Smiley and Bingham, 9 May 2013

A Delicate Truth 
by John le Carré.
Viking, 310 pp., £18.99, April 2013, 978 0 670 92279 6
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The Man Who Was George Smiley: The Life of John Bingham 
by Michael Jago.
Biteback, 308 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 1 84954 513 6
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... very spirited one, too, as it gathers speed. John Bingham, 7th Baron Clanmorris, hits the pages of Michael Jago’s biography, The Man Who Was George Smiley, as a man of whom no one had anything but good to say but who was able to describe himself fictionally as no good at anything at all. He was a patriot, a novelist, a spy-handler, and an early friend of his ...

Other Selves

John Bayley, 29 October 1987

How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... Figures’, compiled by Carol Brightman, which the reader comes on at the end of the book. Edmund Wilson, one of the Better Known figures, is referred to but has no walk-on part: that marriage is yet to be. Early days with the grandparents in Seattle are mostly a matter of books. Mother and father died of Spanish flu in 1918 on the train on which the family ...

The Road from Brighton Pier

William Rodgers, 26 October 1989

Livingstone’s Labour: A Programme for the Nineties 
by Ken Livingstone.
Unwin Hyman, 310 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 04 440346 1
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... but the virtual disappearance of senior figures in local government has passed unremarked. In the Wilson and Callaghan Cabinets there were only two or three ministers who had served as local councillors and none who had led a Borough or County Council. Local government leaders received their knighthoods and occasionally went to the House of Lords. Secondary ...


Susan McKay: Pro-­Union Non­-Unionists, 4 March 2021

... Last month​ , Michael Gove dispatched Ian Paisley Junior, the Democratic Unionist Party MP for North Antrim, with brutal indifference. Brexit was done, the DUP had been done over, and everyone could see that it was entirely the party’s own fault. On 11 February, Gove spoke from the House of Commons while Paisley Junior sat at his computer in Ballymena ...

Bevan’s Boy

John Campbell, 20 September 1984

The Making of Neil Kinnock 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 571 13266 9
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Neil Kinnock: The Path to Leadership 
by G.M.F. Drower.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 297 78467 6
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... Testament prophet from whom the more ambitious and modern-minded of his former supporters, like Wilson and Cross-man, were now anxious to distance themselves. It is a matter for argument whether by 1959 he was mellowing into a position of authority in the party: it took his death the following year to transform him into the maligned hero and inspiration of ...

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