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Walter Scott’s Post-War Europe

Marilyn Butler, 7 February 1980

Walter Scott and the Historical Imagination 
by David Brown.
Routledge, 239 pp., £9.75, August 1980, 0 7100 0301 3
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... process, the first portrayer of society in terms that Adam Smith might and Karl Marx did approve. David Brown makes the academic case admirably. He begins by modestly disclaiming originality: he is developing insights put forward by others in recent years, and only applying them more carefully to a selection of the major novels. This is a service which ...

Brown and Friends

David Runciman, 3 January 2008

... Gordon Brown, like all prime ministers, like all politicians, like all of us really, is over-reliant on the advice of a small group of people he thinks he can trust. In Brown’s case, these tend to be men who once worked as juniors in his office, having been hand-picked at a very young age ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Climate Change, 5 April 2007

... the last issue, climate change has made one of its periodic appearances in the headlines, with David Cameron and Gordon Brown each making announcements about what he will do when in office. This amounts to a green beauty contest, with the public in the position of the pen-sucking judges. Cameron first. The Tory leader ...

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 ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: The Dirtiest Player Around, 9 October 2013

... writing in the Mail, thinks the way to understand Damian McBride’s relationship to Gordon Brown is by analogy with the Third Reich. McBride didn’t need to take direct orders from his boss because he already understood the violence that Brown wished on his enemies. The underling was working towards the ...

At the David Parr House

Eleanor Birne: There are two histories here, 7 November 2019

... just as ordinary from the outside as the rest, it is open – two days a week at least – as the David Parr House, after its one-time owner. The narrow hallway is dark; your eyes have to adjust to the dimness. A half-circle of stained glass above the front door lets in some light, but it’s quickly absorbed by the ...

Credibility Brown

Christopher Hitchens, 17 August 1989

Where there is greed: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain’s Future 
by Gordon Brown.
Mainstream, 182 pp., £4.95, May 1989, 1 85158 233 9
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CounterBlasts No 3: A Rational Advance for the Labour Party 
by John Lloyd.
Chatto, 57 pp., £2.99, June 1989, 0 7011 3519 0
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... are of an age, and both have backgrounds in a harder Left than the one they now espouse. Gordon Brown was one of the convenor/editors of the Red Paper for Scotland in the early Seventies, and John Lloyd saw the inside of the Communist Party before helping to found a pro-European Marxist tendency at about the same time. Rather touchingly, he uses the chorus ...

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 ...

Diary

Tam Dalyell: Argentina in 1984, 6 September 1984

... place are four Meko 140 frigates and four Meko 360 destroyers powered by Rolls-Royce engines, David Brown gearboxes and Decca navigation equipment: all made by us, though ordered before April 1982 after Cecil Parkinson, in his incarnation as Minister of State at the Board of Trade, had gone to Buenos Aires and eulogised the Junta for coping with ...

Look…

David Runciman: How the coalition was formed, 16 December 2010

22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition 
by David Laws.
Biteback, 335 pp., £9.99, November 2010, 978 1 84954 080 3
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... Australians), they seem to have been unembarrassable. Yet that’s not how it worked over here. David Laws’s 22 Days in May, which recounts the negotiations that preceded the formation of the coalition government from the inside, explains how it happened that in our case the winners actually ended up winning. Hardly surprisingly, it’s not that Lib Dem ...

Brown Goo like Marmite

Neal Ascherson: Memories of the Fog, 8 October 2015

London Fog: The Biography 
by Christine Corton.
Harvard, 408 pp., £22.95, November 2015, 978 0 674 08835 1
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... were growing more frequent and denser. Their colour began to darken from the yellow of sulphur to brown and even black, as the load of soot particles thickened. An act summoning furnace-masters to modify steam engines and induce them to consume their own smoke was ineffective. Once again, Parliament was addressing the less important source, but – with ...

Don’t blame him

Peter Brown: Constantine, 22 April 2015

Constantine the Emperor 
by David Potter.
Oxford, 368 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 19 975586 8
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... Milan. Over the 17 centuries since then, theologians, historians and even novelists, including Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code, have claimed that a change for the worse in the quality of Christianity (the kind of change an earlier age would have ascribed to supra-natural agents like the Devil or the Antichrist) can be personified in this rather flashy Roman ...

Educating the Utopians

Jonathan Parry: Parliament’s Hour, 18 April 2019

The Oxford Handbook of Modern British Political History, 1800-2000 
edited by David Brown, Robert Crowcroft and Gordon Pentland.
Oxford, 626 pp., £95, April 2018, 978 0 19 871489 7
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... to pretend that these underlying concerns don’t need addressing.There were​ precedents for David Cameron’s decision to go to the people in June 2016: there have been 13 referendums in various parts of the UK since 1973; the Victorian deference to a parliamentary elite has gone, and with good reason. What was indisputably poor statesmanship was the ...

Liars, Hypocrites and Crybabies

David Runciman: Blair v. Brown, 2 November 2006

... better than anyone the new rules of political fabrication. He comprehensively outmanoeuvred Gordon Brown in Manchester by being truer both to himself and to the spirit of contemporary politics in the way he stretched the truth. Blair was sincere in the lies he told. Brown, by contrast, came across as a straightforward ...

This Way to the Ruin

David Runciman: The British Constitution, 7 February 2008

The British Constitution 
by Anthony King.
Oxford, 432 pp., £25, November 2007, 978 0 19 923232 1
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... for deciding when scheming for party political advantage becomes ‘unconstitutional’. Gordon Brown would probably not be in the mess he currently is if the timing of elections was excluded from routine political calculation. When Brown flirted with calling an election last autumn, in order to take advantage of a ...

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