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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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... Kinnock distinguished himself with a rousing speech against joining on the sole ground that Heath was in favour. After a few early contributions, he largely ignored the House of Commons (his lack of experience there is only now a handicap): instead he concentrated on building a reputation in the party in the country, speaking in practically every ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Instincts

Barbara Wootton, 7 August 1980

Mrs Thatcher’s First Year 
by Hugh Stephenson.
Jill Norman, 128 pp., £6.50, June 1980, 0 906908 16 7
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A House Divided 
by David Steel.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £6.50, June 1980, 0 297 77764 5
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... That is the basis of Steel’s strategy. After the General Election of February 1974 Edward Heath, faced with the prospect of heading a minority government, discussed with the then Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe the possibility of some sort of coalition. But Steel reports that it was ‘the almost universal opinion’ of Liberal MPs that no such offer ...

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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... detail, Dick’s are by far the best. This is not to say that they are the most truthful – Roy Jenkins has declared that Barbara’s are more accurate. Nor does it mean that they give the most effective picture of how it was to be there. They are simply the best read, and by a long, long way. What is extraordinary about the Crossman diaries, and ...

Aldermanic Depression

Andrew Saint: London is good for you, 4 February 1999

London: A History 
by Francis Sheppard.
Oxford, 442 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 19 822922 4
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London: More by Fortune than Design 
by Michael Hebbert.
Wiley, 50 pp., £17.99, April 1998, 0 471 97399 8
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... on a scale that would have gladdened the ruralist heart of a Richard Jefferies. Five years ago, Roy Porter still diagnosed ‘a downward spiral of infrastructural and human problems that will prove hard to halt’. Yet now, when London has slipped way down the table of city-sizes and tours round the eerie magnificence of the Foreign Office induce a Venetian ...

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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... by Honderich to disallow books by all practising politicians, were it not that he does include Roy Hattersley and Gordon 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 ...

He knew he was right

John Lloyd, 10 March 1994

Scargill: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
HarperCollins, 296 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 300 05365 7
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... Gates, near Birmingham, during the miners’ strike of 1974, widely credited with destroying the Heath Government. Mass picketing by miners at Saltley, supported on the crucial day of closure by several thousand demonstrators from Birmingham, succeeded in closing the gates of an important coke depot. Scargill has given a vivid account of that day in later ...

Grand Old Sod

Paul Driver: William Walton, 12 December 2002

The Selected Letters of William Walton 
edited by Malcolm Hayes.
Faber, 526 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 571 20105 9
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William Walton: Muse of Fire 
by Stephen Lloyd.
Boydell, 332 pp., £45, June 2001, 9780851158037
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William Walton, the Romantic Loner: A Centenary Portrait Album 
by Humphrey Burton and Maureen Murray.
Oxford, 182 pp., £25, January 2002, 0 19 816235 9
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... to Britten about the premiere of Peter Grimes, he is also shooting off a note to the copyist Roy Douglas asking: ‘Did you see or hear “Grimy Peter”?’ Asperities about fellow composers are in plentiful supply. Tippett was another admired colleague/bugbear. To Douglas in 1945 he describes him as ‘arse over tippett’; to Walter Legge in 1975 he ...

The King and I

Alan Bennett, 30 January 1992

... by reading some of the medical history that was being published in the Eighties, particularly by Roy Porter. Michael Neve and Jonathan Miller separately suggested that the madness of George III would make a play, and Neve lent me The Royal Malady by Charles Chenevix Trench, which is still the best account of the King’s illness and the so-called Regency ...

Fiery Participles

D.A.N. Jones, 6 September 1984

Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... of political action topography has its place. There was a difference between Hounslow, a wild heath of gibbets, enclosures and a cavalry barracks, and Windsor, a seat of royal authority. David Bromwich will take the point about Windsor, for he has an excellent discussion of Burke’s Tory eulogy of Windsor, explaining why Hazlitt liked it so much and how ...

Back to Runnymede

Ferdinand Mount: Magna Carta, 23 April 2015

Magna Carta 
by David Carpenter.
Penguin, 594 pp., £10.99, January 2015, 978 0 241 95337 2
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Magna Carta Uncovered 
by Anthony Arlidge and Igor Judge.
Hart, 222 pp., £25, October 2014, 978 1 84946 556 4
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Magna Carta 
by J.C. Holt.
Cambridge, 488 pp., £21.99, May 2015, 978 1 107 47157 3
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Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015 
by Nicholas Vincent.
Third Millennium, 192 pp., £44.95, January 2015, 978 1 908990 28 0
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Magna Carta: The Making and Legacy of the Great Charter 
by Dan Jones.
Head of Zeus, 192 pp., £14.99, December 2014, 978 1 78185 885 1
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... remained law well into the 19th century. Nine clauses survived the Victorian tidying up, until Roy Jenkins in 1965 set up the Law Commission, which carried out a further winnowing. Even today we still have Clause 40 about not selling, denying or delaying justice, and Clause 39, that no free man is to be imprisoned or dispossessed ‘save by the lawful ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... of plays that we had next to no chance of seeing; the house adverts by the subversive estate agent Roy Brooks that my brother read aloud (‘The décor is revolting … rain drips sadly onto the oilcloth … sacrifice £3500’). As Jeremy Lewis observes, it was a remarkably handsome newspaper, much more spacious in its page layouts and crisper in its ...

Big Boss in Fast Cars

Neal Ascherson: In Brezhnev’s Room, 24 February 2022

Brezhnev: The Making of a Statesman 
by Susanne Schattenberg, translated by John Heath.
I.B. Tauris, 484 pp., £30, November 2021, 978 1 83860 638 1
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... the Order of Lenin at the end of the year. ‘What attracted so many people to Brezhnev,’ wrote Roy Medvedev, later a dissident who had no reason to like him, ‘was his softness, the lack of the usual hardness and cruelty associated with party bosses of the time, a kindness that sometimes also came at the expense of business.’ He detested the old ...

Making It Up

Raphael Samuel, 4 July 1996

Raymond Williams 
by Fred Inglis.
Routledge, 333 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 415 08960 3
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... given great prominence in Inglis’s text. They are printed, apparently, verbatim (though Stephen Heath, Lisa Jardine and others have protested they are garbled), and are treated as though they were primary sources. Yet the quotations are oddly at variance with the interpretation they are supposed to support, and seem often to serve as tokens of authenticity ...

The Age of EJH

Perry Anderson: Eric Hobsbawm’s Memoirs, 3 October 2002

Interesting Times: A 20th-Century Life 
by Eric Hobsbawm.
Allen Lane, 448 pp., £20, September 2002, 0 7139 9581 5
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... this picture is strangely lopsided. A movement that counted revolutionaries like Serge or Trotsky, Roy or Mariategui, Sneevliet or Sorge, not for romantics? For that matter what of Mao, for better or worse a somewhat larger figure in the history of Communism than any of the loyal European functionaries or militants to whom we are introduced ...

Operation Backfire

Francis Spufford: Britain’s space programme, 28 October 1999

... rocket motors were testfired at Spadeadam in Cumbria; polite MOD policemen would step out of the heath and turn you back if you tried to motor towards the installation on days when the ground was shaking. Smaller engines filled the air with the sound of ripping linen, titanically magnified, at a converted gun emplacement on the coast of the Isle of ...

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