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The Illiberal Hour

Mark Bonham-Carter, 7 March 1985

Black and White Britain: The Third Survey 
by Colin Brown.
PSI/Heinemann, 331 pp., £22.50, September 1984, 0 435 83124 0
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... a result which none of us would have foreseen. The third survey, Block and White Britain by Colin Brown, was published recently, the bulk of the fieldwork having been done in 1981/82. The author sees his main task as providing a factual base for discussion and understanding, and he is concerned to explain the methods which he followed in composing ...

Brown v. Salmond

Colin Kidd: The Scottish Elections, 26 April 2007

... Edinburgh University Student Publications and edited by the university’s student rector, Gordon Brown. Brown did not succumb to nationalism, of course, but he attempted to reformulate the Labour agenda to take account of Scotland’s national peculiarities. The Red Paper had an immediate impact on party politics. In 1976 ...

Some of them can read

Sean Wilsey: Rats!, 17 March 2005

Rats: A Year with New York’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants 
by Robert Sullivan.
Granta, 242 pp., £12.99, January 2005, 1 86207 761 4
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... Waterfront’, the mother of all New York rat pieces, by the great reporter Joseph Mitchell: The brown rat is hostile to other kinds; it usually attacks them on sight. It kills them by biting their throats or by clawing them to pieces, and, if hungry, it eats them … All rats are vandals, but the brown is the most ...

Getting on

Patricia Craig, 17 September 1987

The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 226 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 7195 4385 1
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The Upper Hand 
by Stuart Hood.
Carcanet, 186 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 85635 719 7
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Dreams of Dead Women’s Handbags 
by Shena Mackay.
Heinemann, 160 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 434 44044 2
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... the Gaedhaltacht areas of Donegal, out of apprehension about its Anglicising effect. George Mackay Brown’s Orkney is an unfamiliar, off-shore locality in which everything seems a little richer through being both concentrated and chancy. How long can its distinctive character survive? It was endangered as long ago as the last quarter of the 19th century, the ...

The Irresistible Itch

Colin Kidd: Vandals in Bow Ties, 3 December 2009

Personal Responsibility: Why It Matters 
by Alexander Brown.
Continuum, 214 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 84706 399 1
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... possesses the greatest allure for social conservatives. However, as the philosopher Alexander Brown shows in Personal Responsibility, the subject is more slippery than politicians imagine. How should society determine whether someone’s circumstances mean that they are deserving of its support rather than its condemnation? The philosophical ...

Triumph of the Termites

Tom Nairn: Gordon Brown, 8 April 2010

The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Viking, 802 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 670 91851 5
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What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown?: How the Dream Job Turned Sour 
edited by Colin Hughes.
Guardian, 294 pp., £8.99, January 2010, 978 0 85265 219 0
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Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown 
by Christopher Harvie.
Verso, 206 pp., £8.99, February 2010, 978 1 84467 439 8
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... covers. A sad, thoughtfully dithering photo of the prime minister fronts What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown? The cover of Christopher Harvie’s book features a cartoon from the Independent: an apocalyptic lightning flash strikes and anoints David Cameron, while Brown and Alistair Darling flee London as Parliament quakes ...

Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: How the Homing Pigeons Lost Their Way, 12 December 1996

... worse, their fathers, and most elderly people use it up in the act of becoming their children. Colin Osman is a retired gentleman who lives in Cockfosters. His plumage is white and grey; his eyes are fast-moving; and his body is wonderfully puffed-up and proud. Mr Osman has devoted much of his life to the sport of pigeon-racing, just as his father did, and ...

Around Here

Alice Spawls: Drifting into the picture, 4 February 2016

... The museum is mottled still, and there are moments when everything seems to emerge in purple and brown, and the thin branches of the trees make a haze against the blank sky. The sensation – of the painting imposing itself on reality – must be like Wordsworth’s experience of two consciousnesses, or like the turn, as John Sturrock describes it in The ...

Cumin-coated

Colin Burrow: Two Novels about Lost Bellinis, 14 August 2008

The Bellini Card 
by Jason Goodwin.
Faber, 306 pp., £12.99, July 2008, 978 0 571 23992 4
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The Bellini Madonna 
by Elizabeth Lowry.
Quercus, 343 pp., July 2008, 978 1 84724 364 5
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... the lady herself was no longer young, but well past the age of childbearing, and that her narrow brown face had the finely quilted texture that you see on the faces of ageing women in hot countries. Her robe was leaden black and the dress beneath was neither blue nor red, but a souring white. Yet it was not this that had troubled me. No, my discomfort ...

‘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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... of which was too much even for Parliament, and did a lot to damage the reputation of the Blair and Brown governments. After the 2001 election Blair decided that Robin Cook was insufficiently on message and replaced him with Straw, which meant that Straw was in the Foreign Office throughout the Iraq War. It would be testing for any autobiographer to explain ...

Growing up

Dinah Birch, 20 April 1989

Passing on 
by Penelope Lively.
Deutsch, 210 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 233 98388 0
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The man who wasn’t there 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 158 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 86068 891 7
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The Sugar Mother 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 210 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 670 82435 6
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Give them all my love 
by Gillian Tindall.
Hutchinson, 244 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 09 173919 5
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Storm in the Citadel 
by Kate Saunders.
Cape, 293 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 224 02606 2
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... her than the supposedly defiant Phil, who is chiefly interesting as a speculation on what William Brown might have been like if he’d ever been allowed to reach adolescence (‘Basically, I jus’ eat fish and chips’). Passing on speaks persuasively about the echoing spaces of remembrance, and the sad contractions of a life in which we all find ourselves ...

Mother One, Mother Two

Jeremy Harding: A memoir, 31 March 2005

... To think back at all is to fall quickly, almost instinctively, on two names – Colin, the name of my adoptive father, and Maureen, the name of my adoptive mother – and on the significant word ‘adopted’, which has the weight of a name. Appended to this little trio of terms, like an intake of breath at the end of a short annoucement, is the nameless presence of the ‘birth mother’, as she’s mostly called by adoption experts: the first mother, that’s to say, also the eternal mother-in-waiting ...

Through Plate-Glass

Ian Sansom: Jonathan Coe, 10 May 2001

The Rotters’ Club 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 405 pp., £14.99, April 2001, 0 670 89252 1
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... He is happy to admit to the various and necessary time-saving devices, back-scratchings and brown-nosings that other writers do their best to disavow. At the end of What a Carve Up! (1994) Coe acknowledges the work of Frank King, and writes: ‘the only repayment I can offer him is to recommend that readers make every effort to seek out these and other ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Men (and Women) of the Year, 14 December 1995

... must have been picked some time ago. The ‘outstanding achievement’ prize goes to General Colin Powell, and will be presented by Barbara Walters. The ‘humanitarian’ award goes to Diana Spencer and will be presented by Henry Kissinger. In other words, a single well-placed grenade could remove the whole beating heart of the international celebrity ...

Maiden Aunt

Colin Kidd: Adam Smith, 7 October 2010

Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life 
by Nicholas Phillipson.
Allen Lane, 345 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 7139 9396 7
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Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and moral theory 
by Fonna Forman-Barzilai.
Cambridge, 286 pp., £55, March 2010, 978 0 521 76112 3
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... market – was playful rather than integral to his message. The co-architect of New Labour, Gordon Brown, went a few steps further, attempting to rehabilitate Smith, not without some plausibility, as a proponent of ‘the helping hand’. In part this manoeuvre was prompted by local piety, for Brown was brought up and has ...

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