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... there were times when it seemed that identities became almost interchangeable: Vermeer becoming Bill Coldstream – or perhaps it was the other way round – Constable finding room at his elbow for Lawrence’s first teacher Maurice Field. Cézanne, of course, was an ideal father – and an ideal self. It was the depth and drive of this fantasy that ...

Closed Material

Nicholas Phillips, 17 April 2014

... it effectively, and the others agreed that this was generally the position. Lady Hale and Lord Brown, however, appeared to accept, at least on one reading of their judgments, that if the closed material was so cogent that it appeared incapable of rebuttal, Article 6 could be satisfied even if the suspect had no knowledge of the nature of that material. The ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Diary

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 ...

‘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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Sydney’s Inferno

Jonathan Coe, 24 September 1992

The Last Magician 
by Janette Turner Hospital et al.
Virago, 352 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85381 325 7
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Vinland 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 232 pp., £14.95, July 1992, 0 7195 5149 8
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... the range of sympathies must be much more than usually flexible. And in some ways Lucy fits the bill. She’s a one-time private schoolgirl who sheds her snobbish attitudes following a youthful encounter at a railway station with another girl who spits at her for being a ‘prissy little fancy-pants cunt’. The ease with which she discards her former ...

The Family Biden

Christian Lorentzen, 6 January 2022

... in Ben Schreckinger’s The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power (Little, Brown, £25) are to do with Trump and his coterie of goons rather than the Bidens themselves. The contrast is between shameless fraud and sadism on the one hand, and shamefaced venality and bumbling on the other. When the contents of a laptop allegedly belonging ...

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 ...

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