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Ponting bites back

Tam Dalyell, 4 April 1985

The Right to Know: The Inside Story of the ‘Belgrano’ Affair 
by Clive Ponting.
Sphere, 214 pp., £2.50, March 1985, 0 7221 6944 2
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... Contrary to the impression formed in some quarters, I do not know Clive Ponting well. Apart from a three-hour meeting in the presence of Brian Raymond, his remarkably gifted and industrious solicitor, in the early autumn of last year, I have never had a proper conversation with him. And that meeting related to the issue of whether I should lend my voluminous files and records of letters – some thirty-two boxes which would have taken up a large part of a pantechnicon – since he found himself in the position of having to defend himself without access to the Ministry of Defence records ...

Easter Island Revisited

Tam Dalyell, 27 June 1991

A Green History of the World 
by Clive Ponting.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 352 pp., £16.95, May 1991, 1 85619 050 1
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... honesty in government, had been landed in the shit. It was at that moment that I heard the name of Clive Ponting for the first time. During 11 long days at the Old Bailey, luck was with us. Ponting’s solicitor, Brian Raymond, was resourceful. Merlyn Rees agreed to be a witness, and most effective he was. The jury was ...

The Thing

Alan Ryan, 9 October 1986

Whitehall: Tragedy and Farce 
by Clive Ponting.
Hamish Hamilton, 256 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 241 11835 2
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On the Record. Surveillance, Computers and Privacy: The Inside Story 
by Duncan Campbell and Steve Connor.
Joseph, 347 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 7181 2575 4
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... These two books have very different targets. Ponting assaults the entire political and administrative apparatus, retail and in gross, while Campbell and Connor go for the army of snoopers and data-gatherers. What they share is a thought which would have shocked a previous generation of political commentators – the thought that the British Civil Service is absolutely not to be trusted, that the ‘mandarin’ element provides next to no restraint on the politician’s standing inclination to mistake self-interest for the national interest, and that ‘confidentiality’ has become a cloak for a political and administrative unwillingness to answer to the wretched public ...

Getting it right

Tam Dalyell, 18 July 1985

The Ponting Affair 
by Richard Norton-Taylor.
Cecil Woolf, 144 pp., £5.95, June 1985, 0 900821 74 4
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Who Killed Hilda Murrell? 
by Judith Cook.
New English Library, 182 pp., £1.95, June 1985, 0 450 05885 9
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... Without Richard Norton-Taylor of the Guardian, there would be no Belgrano affair, and doubtless Mr Clive Ponting OBE would be plying his way, ever upwards, in the Ministry of Defence. This is no exaggeration. Simply a statement of fact. I am in a position to know. However right Paul Rogers, Lee Chadwick, Arthur Gavshon and I may have been, the fact is that without the sustained interest of Guardian readers, and, in my case, the Labour Party up and down the country, there was no way which the professors of Belgrano Studies, as David Frost has christened us, could have carried on ...

Lord Cardigan’s Cherry Pants

Ferdinand Mount: The benefits of the Crimean War, 20 May 2004

The Crimean War: The Truth behind the Myth 
by Clive Ponting.
Chatto, 379 pp., £20, March 2004, 0 7011 7390 4
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... dysentery or typhoid for every one who was killed in battle. Such is the familiar story and Clive Ponting tells it with verve and clarity. The Crimean War may lack the exuberance and wit of Cecil Woodham-Smith’s The Reason Why (1954), but instead it puts the war in its geopolitical context, reminding us not only that this was the largest ...

Against the Current

Paul Rogers: British Sea Power, 6 February 2020

... we continue to indulge in delusions of post-imperial grandeur, best summed up some years ago by Clive Ponting when he suggested that the real reason the navy needs an aircraft carrier is so that it has a large enough deck for the Royal Marines Band to beat the retreat at sunset in some tropical ...

Garbo & Co

Paul Addison, 28 June 1990

1940: Myth and Reality 
by Clive Ponting.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £15.99, May 1990, 0 241 12668 1
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British Intelligence in the Second World War. Vol. IV: Security and Counter-Intelligence 
by F.H. Hinsley and C.A.G. Simkins.
HMSO, 408 pp., £15.95, April 1990, 0 11 630952 0
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Unauthorised Action: Mountbatten and the Dieppe Raid 1942 
by Brian Loring Villa.
Oxford, 314 pp., £15, March 1990, 0 19 540679 6
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... that ultimately the war would be won and the evils of Nazism destroyed for ever. Now for the Ponting version, in which there is more than a hint of autobiography. At an impressionable age, Ponting explains, he was captivated by Churchill’s war history. But later he began to discover discrepancies between ...

Keeping mum

Stephen Sedley, 2 March 1989

The Spycatcher Trial 
by Malcolm Turnbull.
Heinemann, 228 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 434 79156 3
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Reform of the Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911: Government White Paper 
HMSO, 16 pp., £2.60, June 1988, 0 10 104082 2Show More
Official Secrets Bill 
HMSO, 14 pp., £3, December 1988, 0 10 300989 2Show More
Security Service Bill 
HMSO, 8 pp., £2.60, November 1988, 9780103007892Show More
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... of criminality – by which is meant a recasting of Section 2 to make sure that the next Clive Ponting does not escape. I do not know whether this stratification of style is found in other countries, but in Britain it has the peculiar advantage of corresponding to the stratification of social power and prestige and to the differentiation of ...

Hobnobbing

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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... Tisdall for sending a not especially sensitive document to the Guardian, and the persecution of Clive Ponting over the Belgrano, both left an unpleasant taste in many mouths, as the jury showed when they acquitted Ponting. The older, traditional Tories think Heseltine is too nouveau. At Oxford, he thought the ...

Diary

Glen Newey: Life with WikiLeaks, 6 January 2011

... by the next freebooting blatherskite. But they are. Previous whistle-blowers like Ellsberg and Clive Ponting acted as lone individuals, opening cans of worms that had come to their notice while in official employ. WikiLeaks institutionalises such acts of individual conscience, as a kind of anti-Ministry of Truth. This will always go down like a rat ...

Subduing the jury

E.P. Thompson, 18 December 1986

... Vetted juries returned acquittals in the ‘Anarchists’ (1979), Cyprus signalmen and Clive Ponting cases. Perhaps they were put on their mettle to show that they were not cat’s-paws of the Crown? We may take the point of expectations further than that. Because jury selection in England has been procedurally abbreviated, the dominant ...

Diary

Tam Dalyell: The Belgrano Affair, 7 February 1985

... which could only have come from inside a Department – as in the case of what came to me from Clive Ponting. A careful look at Michael Heseltine’s lengthy broadcast evidence shows what exactly was taking place in the Whitehall stratosphere during the month in which Hilda Murrell was murdered. On 6 March Denzil Davies wrote to the Prime ...

Diary

Tam Dalyell: Nuclear Power after Chernobyl, 5 June 1986

... not acting on ministerial instructions, but out of the same kind of anger at being abused that Clive Ponting displayed. To name them would be to put their careers in jeopardy. What I can say is that the source is at the very heart of Whitehall, is exceedingly unlikely to have fabricated such information and was in a position to know. It is simply not ...

What is this Bernard?

Christopher Hitchens, 10 January 1991

Good and Faithful Servant: The Unauthorised Biography of Bernard Ingham 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 202 pp., £14.99, December 1990, 0 571 16108 1
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... enmeshed himself in the net that would choke him by agreeing to the hounding of Sarah Tisdall and Clive Ponting, and by not deploring Ingham’s remark, made to the Meeting of Information Officers (MIO) on the eve of Ponting’s trial at the Old Bailey, that the case should be heard by Judge Jeffreys. Nor had he ...

Subversions

R.W. Johnson, 4 June 1987

Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... We also need to make a comprehensive move towards more open government in the manner discussed by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee in Freedom of Information … Freedom of the Invididual?, a new collection of essays edited by Julia Neuberger. Three newspapers are currently being sued and two others prohibited from carrying ...

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