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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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... 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 ...

Tony and Caroline

Ben Pimlott, 26 November 1987

Out of the Wilderness: Diaries 1963-67 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 592 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 09 170660 2
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... emblem. The party which Morrison and Gaitskell had fashioned in the Fifties, and which Wilson inherited, was a Keynesian, welfarist party with modest redistributive aims. Its radicalism was not directed towards the working class, whose actual existence was beginning to be doubted by sophisticated progressive opinion, influenced by theories of ...

Stormy Weather

E.S. Turner, 18 July 1996

Passchendaele: The Untold Story 
by Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson.
Yale, 237 pp., £19.95, May 1996, 0 300 06692 9
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... time to wait for the so-called ‘untold story’ of Passchendaele. Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson are Australian historians who tell us, a little loftily, that ‘Great War studies have yet to escape their protracted adolescence.’ Their adult investigation is reminiscent of those relentless inquiries into scams carried out by district auditors, or ...

Labour and the Bouncers

Paul Foot, 4 June 1987

Prime Minister: The Conduct of Policy under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan 
by Bernard Donoughue.
Cape, 198 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 224 02450 7
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Time and Chance 
by James Callaghan.
Collins, 584 pp., £15.95, April 1987, 0 00 216515 5
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... it represented were not the only enemies of the elected government. Like Joe Haines, Harold Wilson’s adviser in the first part of the 1974-1979 Labour Government, Bernard Donoughue finds plenty of important people lurking in the background to defend the existing order from any levelling which the Labour Government might threaten. He reveals that in ...

Late Developer

Paul Foot, 22 February 1990

Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-1976 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £20, October 1989, 0 09 173775 3
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... left adds enormously to the value of Tony Benn’s Diaries. His contemporaries Dick Grossman and Barbara Castle have also published diaries. Others have written autobiographies. All are full of evidence of the impotence of office. Even Denis Healey in his recent popular autobiography admits that the notorious ‘IMF cuts’ in 1976 were probably based on a ...

Off with her head

John Lloyd, 24 November 1988

Office without Power: Diaries 1968-72 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 562 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 09 173647 1
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... is not hard to guess what this hard-boiled gathering – Bob Mellish, Denis Healey, Tony Crosland, Barbara Castle, Roy Jenkins, Jim Callaghan among them – made of that. Fifteen years later, Benn showed me his father’s election handbill and made the same point – one he must have made to hundreds of others. Where Thatcher rose up the English class ladder ...

Christopher Hitchens states a prosecution case

Christopher Hitchens, 25 October 1990

Crossman: The Pursuit of Power 
by Anthony Howard.
Cape, 361 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 0 224 02592 9
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... On 22 February 1965, the fifth month of Harold Wilson’s first ministry, Richard Crossman recorded the following in his Diaries of a Cabinet Minister: Then Harold Wilson raised the issue of Anthony Howard. He has just been appointed by the Sunday Times to be the first Whitehall correspondent in history, looking into the secrets of the Civil Service rather than leaking the secrets of the politicians ...

Lincoln, Illinois

William Fiennes, 6 March 1997

All the Days and Nights: The Collected Stories 
by William Maxwell.
Harvill, 415 pp., £10.99, January 1997, 1 86046 308 8
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So Long, See You Tomorrow 
by William Maxwell.
Harvill, 135 pp., £8.99, January 1997, 9781860463075
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... night here in what the Michelin described as an ‘hôtel simple, mais confortable’. Harold and Barbara Rhodes make an identical journey in Maxwell’s 1961 novel The Chateau – Michelin now refers to the hotel as ‘simple mais assez confortable’. The Chateau is typical of Maxwell’s writing in its almost pathological reluctance to have things ...

Tea or Eucharist?

Anthony Howard, 3 December 1992

The Faber Book of Church and Clergy 
edited by A.N. Wilson.
Faber, 304 pp., £17.50, November 1992, 0 571 16204 5
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High and Mitred: A Study of Prime Ministers as Bishop-Makers 1837-1977 
by Bernard Palmer.
SPCK, 350 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 281 04594 1
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... Bishop of Newark, USA, thereby making satire almost impossible. Only John Betjeman and Barbara Pym stood gallantly with their fingers in the dyke upholding a vision of the dear old ecclesia anglicana as it once was. A.N. Wilson’s anthology, however, rides nobly to their rescue. It is a wonderfully evocative ...

Scoutmaster General

Peter Clarke, 24 September 1992

Tony Benn 
by Jad Adams.
Macmillan, 576 pp., £20, July 1992, 0 333 52558 2
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The End of an Era: Diaries, 1980-1990 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 704 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 09 174857 7
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... the Scoutmaster General. This was, of course, the golden age of another Congregationalist, Harold Wilson. Though his much misunderstood resignation from the Attlee Government in 1951 had identified him as a Bevanite, Wilson spent most of the following decade trying to build bridges with the Gaitskellite leadership, whose ...

Demob

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 ...

Up the Garden Path

R.W. Johnson: Michael Foot, 26 April 2007

Michael Foot: A Life 
by Kenneth O. Morgan.
Harper, 568 pp., £25, March 2007, 978 0 00 717826 1
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... Foot’s marriage to Jill Craigie. Although Craigie wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea – not Barbara Castle’s, for a start – she was clearly a wonderful partner for Foot, but Morgan can’t stop there: ‘The Labour Party cherishes its great partnerships – Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Douglas and Margaret Cole, the Callaghans, the Kinnocks, the ...

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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... well with a party which has always seen itself as a crusading organisation. And after that? Harold Wilson was the most successful Labour leader, winning four elections, but the recent spate of admiring biographies cannot rescue him from ignominy. The whole point of Wilsonism, after all, was to box and fox through the burning minute. It is hardly surprising ...

Diamond Daggers

Stephen Wall, 28 June 1990

Death’s Darkest Face 
by Julian Symons.
Macmillan, 272 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 333 51783 0
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Vendetta 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 281 pp., £12.99, June 1990, 0 571 14332 6
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Gallowglass 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 296 pp., £13.99, March 1990, 0 670 83241 3
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... problem has been worked out, there’s not often much point in going back over it – as Edmund Wilson almost said, who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd afterwards – but good examples of the form have other attractions. They usually seem to owe their durability to elements in them that are gratuitous, strictly speaking. The sleuths don’t really need all ...

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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... 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 ...

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