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On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move

13 September 2018
Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... that billows her sleep, her name, Drugged under judgment, waned and – bearing daggers And balances – down the lampless darkness they came, Moving like women: Justice, Truth, such figures.‘Figures’ rhymes, of course, with ‘daggers’, but the rhyme is weak, almost faint, suggesting no sure-footed conclusion. Those two final words puzzled me. How ...

Parkinson Lobby

Alan Rusbridger

17 November 1983
... meagre inches of pious editorial. Writing in the Guardian three days after the story broke, Peter Jenkins talked of ‘the practical question of what should be done about the Fleet Street heavy mob bivouacking in Hertfordshire and Wiltshire, the Prime Minister pursued wherever she goes not by lobby correspondents but by crime reporters’. That, indeed, was ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode

24 February 1994
The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... his teacup in a very refined way, though his partly averted face is aggressively tense. Clive Jenkins is a smiling serpent, Muggeridge has an accusing face and defensive hands. Betjeman, looking amusingly miserable, is on his knees. Among the bull’s-eyes are Robin Day, Ian Paisley, David Owen, Douglas Hurd, Kenneth Baker, David Mellor, ...


W.G. Runciman: Slums, Unemployment, Strikes and Party Politics

23 June 1988
... the experts. But the conclusion of Sean Glynn, in a recent volume of papers edited by himself and Alan Booth under the title The Road to Full Employment,* is that ‘it can be said with reasonable confidence that unemployment in the 1980s has been much worse than during the inter-war period and has reached levels comparable with the 1930s peak.’ Some will ...

Opera Mundi

Michael Neve

1 December 1983
Out of Order 
by Frank Johnson.
Robson, 256 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 86051 190 1
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Frank Johnson’s Election Year 
by Frank Johnson.
Robson, 192 pp., £6.95, October 1983, 0 86051 254 1
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by Bernard Levin.
Cape, 264 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 224 02114 1
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Poem of the Year 
by Clive James.
Cape, 79 pp., £4.95, November 1983, 0 224 02961 4
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The Original Michael Frayn 
by Michael Frayn.
Salamander, 203 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 907540 32 5
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... while, in his account of election year 1983, he seems deliberately underimpressed by Roy Jenkins holding Glasgow Hillhead, as he had been when Jenkins took it in the first place. It is the facetiousness that annoys. Is John Pilger really so dreadful? Can the Stephen Waldorf affair be taken lightly? Does Johnson ...
15 May 1980
Tariff Reform in British Politics 
by Alan Sykes.
Oxford, 352 pp., £16, December 1979, 0 19 822483 4
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... it was a strange, anarchic, self-destructive phase. Much new light is shed on these mysteries by Alan Sykes’s fascinating new book, which covers the 1903-13 period. He traces again the now familiar story of Joseph Chamberlain’s crusade for tariff reform, which captivated the party faithful and captured the party machine between 1903 and 1905. In ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011

5 January 2012
... young Latvian who’s unsmiling but an excellent carpenter and Eugene, much jollier and from New Zealand who has supervised it all. Walking round the job this evening R. is shocked to discover in the bathroom above the bath a crudely made wooden cross. He takes this to be the work of Max who, scarcely out of his teens, already has two children and is, I ...

Great Fun

John Bayley

22 January 1987
by Patricia Meyer Spacks.
Chicago, 287 pp., £9.25, November 1986, 0 226 76844 9
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The Bonus of Laughter 
by Alan Pryce-Jones.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 241 11903 0
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... as a focus for speculation. Gossip and speculation go together. Anthony Powell’s narrator, Nick Jenkins, has the engaging habit of pondering, on our behalf, the possible implications of others’ behaviour. Surmise and romance go together, putting fascination in the place of knowledge. In Edith Wharton’s novel The House of Mirth Lawrence Selden sees Lily ...


Simon Hoggart

24 April 1997
Michael Heseltine: A Biography 
by Michael Crick.
Hamish Hamilton, 496 pp., £20, February 1997, 0 241 13691 1
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... been insulted for their intellectual shortcomings. One (possibly apocryphal) story about Roy Jenkins illustrates the point. He’d been persuaded by a Welsh colleague to hobnob with some of the lads. ‘Buy ’em a drink, Roy. They’ll always remember your kindness and they’ll be flattered you sought them out.’ So ...
3 March 2016
... went to work for a corporation that had benefited from their policies. The former health secretary Alan Milburn, for example, is on the payroll of several companies involved in private healthcare and is currently working for Cameron as the chair of his Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. It was not just the Iraq War that was responsible for the ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust

19 July 2018
Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... single passage of her book, she argues that the famous scene in which Powell’s narrator, Nick Jenkins, takes Jean Templer in his arms – in the back of a car, speeding through night and snow along the Great West Road, past the neon sign where a bathing belle ‘dives eternally through the petrol-tainted air’: the opening embrace of the principal ...


Alan Bennett: Where was I in 1987?

10 December 1987
... Mr Gorbachev going to be on Blankety Blank?’ Oxford, 14 March. To Oxford to cast my vote for Roy Jenkins as Chancellor. Only 9.30, but the line of voters is already round the Sheldonian and the atmosphere that of a cocktail party. The average voter is about my age, tall and armed with a beaming wife, both determined to make a day of it. Never was there such ...

The Reshuffle and After

Ross McKibbin: Why Brown should Resign

25 May 2006
... apparatus of the state. But the extent to which this status has been exploited varies. Roy Jenkins used it to demonstrate a completely different ideology from that of the present government. Douglas Hurd, the last effective home secretary, made little attempt to exploit the Home Office for electoral mobilisation. The rot began with Michael Howard, who ...
20 April 1989
One of Us: A Biography of Margaret Thatcher 
by Hugo Young.
Macmillan, 570 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 333 34439 1
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... Heath. It was also something of a shock to hear that she had toyed with the idea of inviting Roy Jenkins back from Europe to be Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1979. Otherwise it is pretty much the story as we know it: one can, reading Young, get the feeling that one is reading ten years of the Guardian again. It is very much a political correspondent’s ...

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