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Wilsonia

Paul Foot

2 March 1989
The Wilson Plot: The Intelligence Services and the Discrediting of a Prime Minister 
by David Leigh.
Heinemann, 271 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 434 41340 2
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A Price too High 
by Peter Rawlinson.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 297 79431 0
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... unrewarded. My own voyage had taken me from the Wigan Alps to Bulgarian export/import statistics but had produced not a glimpse of Wilsonia. Many years later, inspired by the Spycatcher revelations, DavidLeigh of the Observer has set out on the journey once more. There is no one better qualified. All through the awful Eighties DavidLeigh has kept the flag of investigative journalism fluttering high ...
4 August 1983
British Intelligence and Covert Action: Africa, the Middle East and Europe since 1945 
by Jonathan Bloch, Patrick Fitzgerald and Philip Agee.
Junction, 284 pp., £5.95, May 1983, 0 86245 113 2
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Through the Looking-Glass: British Foreign Policy in an Age of Illusions 
by Anthony Verrier.
Cape, 400 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 0 224 01979 1
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... Glancing through the list of 131 named MI6 officers, past and present, who are ‘exposed’ in the first of these books, I noticed with mild interest that I was slightly acquainted with the wife of one of them, a certain Hubert O’Bryan Tear. The next time we met, I mentioned this fact and she laughed merrily. ‘Oh yes,’ she said. ‘Everybody knows that – at least since he retired. In fact ...

Official Secrecy

Andrew Boyle

18 September 1980
The Frontiers of Secrecy 
by David Leigh.
Junction, 291 pp., £9.95, August 1980, 0 86245 002 0
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... I felt it essential to set down this short analysis of the undemocratic, virtually oligarchic cast of mind in Whitehall because, while it is implied throughout his absorbing and well-researched book, DavidLeigh has refrained from going into the historical origins of Whitehall’s almost pathological obsession with secrecy. A young investigative journalist, with a healthy distaste for oligarchy in a ...
20 February 1997
Sleaze: The Corruption of Parliament 
by David Leigh and Ed Vulliamy.
Fourth Estate, 263 pp., £9.99, January 1997, 1 85702 694 2
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... expensive stay at the Ritz Hotel and there, to the fury of the Labour minority, the matter was left. The cover-up was carefully supervised by the Tory Whips office, in particular by two young MPs, David ‘Two Brains’ Willetts and Andrew Mitchell, whose father, David Mitchell, is also a Tory MP, and once chose Neil Hamilton to be his Parliamentary Private Secretary. The Guardian had told a bit of ...
5 November 1981
Michael Foot: A Portrait 
by Simon Hoggart and David Leigh.
Hodder, 216 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 340 27600 2
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... always been too easy for Oxford Union debaters, having decided that Labour is the right vehicle for their sympathies and ambitions, to enter directly into the upper circles of the Party. Hoggart and Leigh define Michael Foot’s class position in various ways, usually involving that much abused label ‘middle class’. Grandfather was a carpenter and undertaker, who made enough money to build a ...
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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... 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. Many a crusade has been smothered by the great big yawn of the British public. Norton-Taylor is not and never was Tam Dalyell’s or anyone else’s ...
1 January 1998
The Liar: The Fall of Jonathan Aitken 
by Luke Harding and David Leigh.
Penguin, 205 pp., £6.99, December 1997, 0 14 027290 9
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... Are we all bare-faced liars?’ The question came from Jonathan Aitken, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, in January 1994. It was put to the then editor of the Guardian, Peter Preston. The words ‘we all’ referred to Aitken himself, his wife Lolicia and his faithful Arab friend Said Ayas. The answer to the question was ‘yes’. They were all bare-faced liars, but none more so than ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Andrew O’Hagan: Lucian Freud

26 April 2012
... than forty years – from 1968 – every painting is compelled by a vision of flesh and paint as being essentially the same substance, redolent of weight and mass gone wrong, of solidity petrified. Leigh Bowery never looked as much like Leigh Bowery as he does in Freud’s paintings of him. Seeing them in one room at the National Portrait Gallery, you forget that this Blitz Club kid was once the ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: The Portraits of Angus McBean

3 August 2006
... self-projection. He was a craftsman; his prints were exceptionally well-made, strongly lit to give a clarity which stood up well to imperfect reproduction in magazines: his idea of how Vivien Leigh should look, which must have been her idea too (‘Vivien Leigh would never have anyone else’), was presented to the world in good order. And perhaps because Leigh’s face came so close to ...

The Sultan and I

Anthony Howard

1 June 1989
By God’s Will: A Portrait of the Sultan of Brunei 
by Lord Chalfont.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79628 3
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The Richest Man in the World: The Sultan of Brunei 
by James Bartholomew.
Viking, 199 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 670 82152 7
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... had been through no normal journalist’s checks, was rigorously opposed by the paper’s then news supremo, Magnus Linklater, as well as by the two members of the Observer’s investigative unit, DavidLeigh and Paul Lashmar. I added my voice to theirs, urging vigilance and caution. To no avail, however – and perhaps understandably. On Saturday, 11 January 1986, Donald Trelford, the editor of the ...
23 September 1993
Tiny Rowland: A Rebel Tycoon 
by Tom Bower.
Heinemann, 659 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 434 07339 3
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... are a few lights faintly glimmering. Anthony Howard resigned as deputy editor of the Observer when he felt the paper was becoming entirely an instrument of its owner’s business ambitions. So did DavidLeigh, the paper’s investigative reporter, who refused throughout to touch stories sourced by Rowland, even if he thought they were true. The clearest proof that all is not yet lost is this book ...

Ghosting

Andrew O’Hagan: Julian Assange

6 March 2014
... me but the book will contain new allegations.’ He spoke about another book to be published by the Guardian. He said it would come from journalists he’d worked with there. He was obsessed with DavidLeigh and Nick Davies, two of the main reporters. ‘Davies is extremely hostile to me,’ Assange said. ‘The Guardian basically double-crossed the organisation in the worst way.’ (The Guardian ...
9 September 1993
The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered 
by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise.
Element, 286 pp., £14.95, November 1992, 0 85230 368 8
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... explosive’, a favourite adjective of Eisenman and Wise’s. This notion of a scholarly conspiracy, hinted at in the text, has recently been trumpeted by the journalists Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh in The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, which is largely a popularisation of Robert Eisenman’s theories. Unsurprisingly, Baigent and Leigh contribute an effusive blurb to this book. Eisenman for his ...

Deal of the Century

David​ Thomson: As Ovitz Tells It

7 March 2019
Who Is Michael Ovitz? 
by Michael Ovitz.
W.H. Allen, 372 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 7535 5336 7
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... as the most effective operator in the motion picture business was at some point swept into the dustbin of ‘Whatever happened to … ?’ So who was he? Michael Ovitz was born in Chicago in 1946 to David, the son of Jewish Romanian immigrants. David was a liquor salesman for Seagram’s but he worked weekends too, selling patio furniture to support his family after they moved to Encino in the San ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden

1 September 1988
Olivier 
by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... by describing him as a ‘highly cerebral’ director, and amuse showbiz New York mightily with the statement that, after their star-crossed Romeo and Juliet on Broadway in 1940, Olivier and Vivien Leigh went to lick their wounds for a month in Vermont with ‘the Alexander Woollcotts’. The English period equivalent would be a month in the country with the Beverley Nicholses. Holden is sometimes ...

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