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The Comic Strip

Ian Hamilton, 3 September 1981

... but think how enfeebled it would be without the ‘dirt’. As Rick Mayall (on the Comic Strip bill as one half of a duo called Twentieth Century Coyote) patiently explained to me: ‘The rhythm – that’s one of the reasons why we swear a lot on stage. The rhythm of the thing is very careful – the laugh has to come just right. It’s almost poetic ...

What is Labour for?

John Lanchester: Five More Years of This?, 31 March 2005

David Blunkett 
by Stephen Pollard.
Hodder, 359 pp., £20, December 2004, 0 340 82534 0
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... figure in this transformation. But he is not alone. His key colleague is, also obviously, Gordon Brown, with whom there are – Old Labour stalwarts dreaming of a New Jerusalem after the Blair to Brown handover, please note – plenty of personal differences but almost no ideological ones. And then there are the figures ...

Two Poems

John Ashbery, 31 July 2008

... not to imagine the loss. I think, though I can’t be sure, that all this is being added to my bill. Woe betide us! We shall never pay, though, not in a million years. Everything is promise. Too late we acted outside the rhymes required, honest, God-fearing, ass-wearing blokes eager to accept the hand that fate had dealt us and play with it. Now, ...

The Destruction of the Public Sphere

Ross McKibbin: Brown v. Cameron, 5 January 2006

... That the next general election will be fought by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Leader of the Opposition David Cameron we do know; but how it will be fought we don’t, in part because the present prime minister will not disclose when he intends to go. Furthermore, both Cameron and Brown are in some senses, but for different reasons, unknown quantities ...

What Is Great about Ourselves

Pankaj Mishra: Closing Time, 20 September 2017

The Retreat of Western Liberalism 
by Edward Luce.
Little, Brown, 240 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 4087 1041 8
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The Fate of the West: Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea 
by Bill Emmott.
Economist, 257 pp., £22, May 2017, 978 1 61039 780 3
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The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics 
by David Goodhart.
Hurst, 256 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 84904 799 9
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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 143 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam 
by Douglas Murray.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, May 2017, 978 1 4729 4224 1
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... post-1989, the noisiest celebrations of liberalism, democracy, free markets and globalisation. Bill Emmott, the former editor of the Economist, writes that ‘the fear now is of being present at the destruction' of the ‘West’, the ‘world’s most successful political idea’. Edward Luce, for example, a Financial Times columnist based in ...

‘Wisely I decided to say nothing’

Ross McKibbin: Jack Straw, 22 November 2012

Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor 
by Jack Straw.
Macmillan, 582 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 4472 2275 0
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... liberal. On the other hand, though he was no longer home secretary when the Freedom of Information bill was passed in 2005, he did his level best to obstruct it, and even the weakened legislation that went through is too strong for his liking. And then there is crime and terrorism. Straw suggests that under the rather fuddy-duddy Tory home secretaries of the ...

Limits of Civility

Glen Newey: Walls, 17 March 2011

Walled States, Waning Sovereignty 
by Wendy Brown.
Zone, 167 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 1 935408 08 6
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... for one whose kingdom was not of this world. In Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, Wendy Brown notes that walls symbolise the will to closure. As inherited tracts of masonry, they recall bygone enmities, but also mark the limits of civility. Yet the revealed will to close down politics, being itself political, is self-defeating. Antigone in ...

Rut after Rut after Rut

Thomas Jones: Denis Johnson’s Vietnam, 29 November 2007

Tree of Smoke 
by Denis Johnson.
Picador, 614 pp., £16.99, November 2007, 978 0 330 44920 5
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... rotor blades, then suddenly obliterated by a salvo of incendiary bombs: green and blue turning to brown then exploding in an inferno of orange and black, as the camera begins a slow pan to the right before the scene fades into a close-up of Martin Sheen’s upside-down face. In Coppola’s film, it takes precisely a minute for heaven to be turned into ...

Judges and Ministers

Anthony Lester, 18 April 1996

... judicial élite is not to be trusted to decide the questions which would arise if we had a modern Bill of Rights, broadly defining the limits of state power. Conor Gearty subscribes to the same view. There have been, and no doubt always will be, prejudiced, arrogant and cantankerous judges whose fallible judgments and ignorant dicta can be cited to prove the ...

Preacher on a Tank

David Runciman: Blair Drills Down, 7 October 2010

A Journey 
by Tony Blair.
Hutchinson, 718 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 09 192555 0
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... He faced two serious and determined enemies during his time in Downing Street: al-Qaida and Gordon Brown. One, he concluded, represented a force so strong and rooted that it had to be uprooted and destroyed, since confrontation was inevitable; the only question was when and how. The other had to be contained, because stepping over the line would have been ...

At Auckland Castle

Nicola Jennings: Francisco de Zurbarán, 4 June 2020

... Prado) and the Martyrdom of St Serapion (now at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut).As Jonathan Brown puts it in the catalogue that accompanied the touring exhibition, Zurbarán was ‘an opportunist, a canny businessman, an efficient manager of a productive workshop’. By the 1640s, he and at least five assistants were producing several series of ...

Free speech for Rupert Murdoch

Stephen Sedley, 19 December 1991

... and unconstitutional conduct of her three governments to push a written constitution and a Bill of Rights to the head of the political agenda. The radical authoritarianism of the Eighties has finally convinced a majority of people that our constitution and freedoms have the reality, as well as the splendour, of the emperor’s new clothes. For the ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Voices from Beyond the Grave, 20 November 2008

... in the confines of his study, mugging before the mirror in order to perfect the rascally sneer of Bill Sikes or the effeminate moue of Old Mr Turveydrop. He was not alone in this, if you bear in mind the solo thespian flights of Bruce Chatwin. A woman in Italy with whom Chatwin used to stay remembers an afternoon when the maid came running ...

Let’s consider Kate

John Lanchester: Can we tame the banks?, 18 July 2013

... on banking, known as the Vickers Commission, and then to incorporate its findings into the banking bill that is currently making its way through Parliament. At the same time Parliament was conducting its own inquiry into banking standards. This led to an interim report on HBOS, published in April, and a final report, which came out in June. It would be hard to ...


W.G. Runciman: Dining Out, 4 June 1998

... but it isn’t on for three reasons: first, a lame-duck government couldn’t get a constitutional Bill through the Commons; second, they need the backwoodsmen to get their current legislation passed without hassle; third, the punters don’t give a toss. Suggests I write to the Times, to which I reply that I wrote to the Prime Minister precisely because I ...

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