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Crisis at Ettrick Bridge

William Rodgers, 12 October 1989

A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-88 
by Chris Cook.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £9.95, August 1989, 0 333 44884 7
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Against Goliath 
by David Steel.
Weidenfeld, 318 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 9780297796787
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Labour’s Decline and the Social Democrats’ Fall 
by Geoffrey Lee Williams and Alan Lee Williams.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £29.50, July 1989, 0 333 46541 5
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Penhaligon 
by Annette Penhaligon.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0501 2
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Citizens’ Britain: A Radical Agenda for the 1990s 
by Paddy Ashdown.
Fourth Estate, 159 pp., £5.95, September 1989, 1 872180 45 0
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... disgrace and departure, and then to a bitter contest for the succession with John Pardoe, gave David Steel an almost impossible task. He was 39, but looked younger, a slight figure with an easy smile, a son of the Scottish manse, neither obviously at home with scholars, like Grimond, or in London society, like Thorpe. ‘The boy ...
... manifesto that came to be known as the Limehouse Declaration. When Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and I met together that morning, we were clear in our intention: in breaking the mould of contemporary politics, we would create a new radical centre, push the Labour Party into third place, change the electoral system and usher in an era of ...

Fear and Loathing in Limehouse

Richard Holme, 3 September 1987

Campaign! The Selling of the Prime Minister 
by Rodney Tyler.
Grafton, 251 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 246 13277 9
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Battle for Power 
by Des Wilson.
Sphere, 326 pp., £4.99, July 1987, 0 7221 9074 3
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David Owen: Personally Speaking 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 297 79206 7
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... One of the principal problems of the warring generals was an inability to agree on strategy. At David Owen’s insistence, the Alliance’s election objectives were limited to achieving the balance of power. This had the apparent advantage of modest realism, but there were more substantial disadvantages. The first of these – as I can report by taking a ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Instincts

Barbara Wootton, 7 August 1980

Mrs Thatcher’s First Year 
by Hugh Stephenson.
Jill Norman, 128 pp., £6.50, June 1980, 0 906908 16 7
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A House Divided 
by David Steel.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £6.50, June 1980, 0 297 77764 5
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... What have Margaret Thatcher and David Steel in common, apart from holding the leadership of their respective political parties? Both are highly intelligent and educated persons with academic qualifications – Thatcher in chemistry and law, Steel in arts and law. Both have been called to the bar, and for both politics has been the main preoccupation of their adult lives ...

Believing in the Alliance

Keith Kyle, 19 November 1981

... We have defied the laws of arithmetic,’ declared a buoyant David Steel after he had heard the result of the Croydon, North-West by-election, ‘One plus one really does equal three.’ It is now apparent that the public opinion polls were consistently correct in showing that, while support for the Liberal Party as such remained of a traditionally modest order and support for the Social Democrats alone was a similar or even smaller percentage, backing for the two-party alliance as a third force in British politics was a wholly different matter, and promised the chance of a complete breakthrough under the existing electoral system ...

From Old Adam to New Eve

Peter Pulzer, 6 June 1985

The Conservative Party from Peel to Thatcher 
by Robert Blake.
Methuen/Fontana, 401 pp., £19.95, May 1985, 0 413 58140 3
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Westminster Blues 
by Julian Critchley.
Hamish Hamilton, 134 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 241 11387 3
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... though 20th-century Conservatives have included a few Whiggish eccentrics. The Liberal Party of David Steel bears little resemblance to it, except in some residual link with religious dissent and the geographical periphery. The old-style Labour Party inherited some Whig nostrums, especially in foreign policy and constitutional matters. The Tory ...

Born Again

Phillip Whitehead, 19 February 1981

Face the future 
by David Owen.
Cape, 552 pp., £12.50, January 1981, 0 224 01956 2
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... of his seniors, the condemnation of his critics, and the faint sniggers of academics offstage. David Owen has had his prescription for Britain patronised by Grimond and Powell, dissected by Ken Coates, and treated like a first-year undergraduate’s essay by Professor Peter Townsend. With his publishers bringing its publication forward to catch the ...

Problems for the SDP

David Butler, 1 October 1981

... the Dimbleby Lecture, Liberals argued that all Roy Jenkins had to do was to join their party. But David Steel rightly perceived a vast extra reservoir of strength for the centre that could be tapped by a new party, with none of the historic baggage of the Liberals, appealing both to Labour’s disillusioned Right and to many people with no background in ...

The Unsolved Mystery of the Money Tree

Anthony Howard: Jeremy Thorpe, 19 August 1999

In My Own Time: Reminiscences of a Liberal Leader 
by Jeremy Thorpe.
Politico’s, 234 pp., £18, April 1999, 1 902301 21 8
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... brutal, irreverent message had got through, they laughed and laughed. Unlike his two successors, David Steel and Paddy Ashdown, Thorpe was, in fact, a pretty considerable Commons performer. His natural habitat, though, was the platform and, after he became Party leader in 1967, his annual address at what was still then called the Liberal Assembly took ...

Boofy’s Bill

Alex Harvey, 18 September 1997

... reluctantly set up in 1954 by Lord Kilmuir in his previous incarnation as the Home Secretary Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe. He had assumed that the Report would silence those calling for reform and to that end appointed the ultra-respectable public school headmaster Sir John Wolfenden to chair it. When Wolfenden recommended that homosexual acts between consenting ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: 1920s v. 1980s, 17 March 1988

... have consistently displayed a capacity for division of counsel and confusion of purpose in which David Steel would have felt thoroughly at home at any time. ‘An ill-organised miscellany of view-points’ is how Paul Addison, in The Road to 1945, describes it from 1916 on. Or as Neville Chamberlain wrote in his diary for 19 October 1935, ‘our party ...

Letting it get out

Bernard Williams, 18 October 1984

Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation 
by Sissela Bok.
Oxford, 332 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 19 217733 8
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TheSecrets File: The Case for Freedom of Information in Britain Today 
edited by Des Wilson, foreword by David Steel.
Heinemann, 166 pp., £4.95, September 1984, 9780435839390
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... It is often said that the British are obsessively interested in secrecy. It is less often said how deep and peculiar this obsession is, and how much more there is to it than the well-known fact that British authorities are exceptionally secretive. Our interest is in secrecy as much as in secrets: it is the process, the practices and irregularities of keeping and revealing secrets, that concerns us ...

Diary

Tam Dalyell: Questions for Mrs Thatcher, 23 July 1987

... to me: ‘You know, we had a better reception from a Tory Foreign Secretary than we ever got from David Owen. It is galling that a Labour Foreign Secretary should treat us contemptuously, and that I, as General I Secretary of that Labour Party, should be forced to observe that we get a constructive reception from a Tory aristocrat.’ This woeful tale ...

The SDP’s Chances

William Rodgers, 23 October 1986

... Never again. The intervening period has not been entirely free of tension. On taking charge, David Owen showed a determination to distance himself from his predecessor, Roy Jenkins, and to abandon the collective leadership of the founding Gang of Four. His preference for an arm’s-length relationship with the Liberals was disturbing to a majority of SDP ...
Breaking the Mould 
by Ian Bradley.
Martin Robertson, 172 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 85520 469 9
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... Evan Luard’s Socialism Without the State, John Horam’s calls for ‘market socialism’ and David Owen’s evocation of the co-operative, decentralist element in the British socialist tradition exemplified a widespread mood, with which the old Right of the Labour Party had no more in common than had the Left. It was not as new a mood as he seems to ...

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