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William Rodgers: Party Conference Jamboree, 25 October 1990

... to be taken seriously and relying on a single performance by Jo Grimond, Jeremy Thorpe or David Steel to give them whatever credibility they could earn. It was Labour that faced the real problem. Defeat for the leadership – often following a bitter row – saddled it with policies unacceptable to its own MPs and profoundly unattractive to the ...

1966 and all that

Michael Stewart, 20 December 1984

The Castle Diaries. Vol. II: 1964-70 
by Barbara Castle.
Weidenfeld, 848 pp., £20, October 1984, 0 297 78374 2
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... times have changed, incidentally: Hattersley bobs up all over the place in these pages, and David Steel gets a couple of footnotes, but Margaret Thatcher, Neil Kinnock, David Owen and Arthur Scargill make no appearance.) Mrs Castle was generally rated a highly effective departmental minister, and from these ...

Only Lower Upper

Peter Clarke: The anti-establishment establishment Jo Grimond, 5 May 2005

Liberal Lion: Jo Grimond, a Political Life 
by Peter Barberis.
Tauris, 266 pp., £19.50, March 2005, 1 85043 627 4
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... politics, then? Not exactly. ‘He was his party’s most fertile ideas man at Westminster since David Lloyd George, perhaps since Gladstone,’ Barberis blurts out in his final section, almost as though he has just thought of it, reassuring himself by adding: ‘That is what he was – an ideas man, not a political philosopher or even the careful crafter of ...

Nanny knows best

Michael Stewart, 4 June 1987

by Michael Leapman.
Unwin Hyman, 217 pp., £11.95, May 1987, 0 04 440006 3
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The Thatcher Years: A Decade of Revolution in British Politics 
by John Cole.
BBC, 216 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 563 20572 5
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Thatcherism and British Politics: The End of Consensus? 
by Dennis Kavanagh.
Oxford, 334 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 827522 6
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The New Right: The Counter-Revolution in Political, Social and Economic Thought 
by David Green.
Wheatsheaf, 238 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 7450 0127 0
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... Kinnock out of the script for good. He is a young man – at 45, four years younger even than David Owen and David Steel; and the electoral college system, with its 40 per cent trade-union weighting, makes him reasonably invulnerable to coups from left or right. As long as he wants to go on leading the Labour Party ...


Tony Blair: Thatcherism, 29 October 1987

... a year ago unknown in Britain and today unknown throughout the world. The other part, under David Owen, is being re-launched as the political wing of Sainsbury’s. At the Labour Conference there was little rejoicing over the demise of the Alliance: instead, the Party engaged in a self-critical assessment of its own part in bringing about a decade of ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Admirer

Ian Aitken, 21 November 1991

Time to declare 
by David Owen.
Joseph, 822 pp., £20, September 1991, 0 7181 3514 8
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... the hobnailed boot can be wielded with just as much delicacy and skill as the épée, once said of David Owen that the Good Fairy who attended his birth had generously bestowed upon him the three qualities of charm, intelligence and good looks. He is then reported to have added: ‘What a pity that the Bad Fairy made him a shit.’ This is a pretty cruel thing ...

Famous Four

R.W. Johnson, 30 November 1995

SDP: The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party 
by Ivor Crewe and Anthony King.
Oxford, 611 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 19 828050 5
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... reduced in scale. In hindsight, the only figure who commands one’s unequivocal admiration is David Steel. Steel was shrewd enough to want the Four to found their own party rather than join the Liberals. He somehow jollied along the grandee Jenkins, made friends of Williams and Rodgers and, incredibly, even ...

Stainless Steel Banana Slicer

David Trotter, 18 March 2021

Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form 
by Sianne Ngai.
Harvard, 401 pp., £28.95, June 2020, 978 0 674 98454 7
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... amplify the ambivalence we feel in the face of the mere commodity: ‘from the stainless steel banana slicer to the cryptocurrency derivative, our very concept of the gimmick implies awareness that, in capitalism, misprised things are bought and sold continuously.’ We recognise gimmicks when we see them because they at once over and underperform to ...


Christopher Ricks, 22 November 1990

Bloomsbury Dictionary of Dedications 
edited by Adrian Room.
Bloomsbury, 354 pp., £17.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0521 7
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Unauthorised Versions: Poems and their Parodies 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 446 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14122 6
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The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 407 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 571 14470 5
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... a prophylactic distance. The SDP/Liberal Alliance is judged to have ‘foundered on the pique of David Steel and the pride of David Owen’: it is not clear why a note to this effect had to be appended to this other parody of Woddis’s, for the parody itself implies as much. Or as little, since there are those of us ...
British Social Attitudes: The 1987 Report 
edited by Roger Jowell, Sharon Witherspoon and Lindsay Brock.
Gower, 260 pp., £28.50, October 1987, 0 556 00740 9
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Educational Opportunity and Social Change in England 
by Michael Sanderson.
Faber, 164 pp., £3.95, September 1987, 9780571148769
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Wealth and Inequality in Britain 
by W.D. Rubinstein.
Faber, 167 pp., £3.95, August 1986, 0 571 13924 8
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AProperty-Owning Democracy? Housing in Britain 
by M.J. Daunton.
Faber, 148 pp., £3.95, September 1987, 0 571 14615 5
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The Government of Space: Town Planning in Modern Society 
by Alison Ravetz.
Faber, 154 pp., £3.95, August 1986, 9780571145683
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... to diverge sharply from Owenite positions – a trend which underlines the damaging effect of David Owen’s manifest preference for the Conservatives over Labour during the 1987 Election. Most interesting of all is the attempt to measure the strength of commitment to their party by each party’s followers. This confirms, what some political scientists ...

A Time for War

Peter Clarke, 21 October 1982

The Rebirth of Britain 
edited by Wayland Kennet.
Weidenfeld, 275 pp., £12, October 1982, 0 297 78177 4
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Claret and Chips 
by Hugh Stephenson.
Joseph, 201 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 7181 2204 6
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... us – but he has made it his stock-in-trade. It does not make for intimacy of collaboration, as David Owen recognised in coining the soubriquet ‘le Roi lean Quinze’. The point about the grand manner is that it only really comes off in context, when the level of events rises to match it. They laughed at Macmillan, until he became prime minister, and at ...

Bevan’s Boy

John Campbell, 20 September 1984

The Making of Neil Kinnock 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 571 13266 9
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Neil Kinnock: The Path to Leadership 
by G.M.F. Drower.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 297 78467 6
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... Students’ Union at Cardiff (where his wife Glenys was a full-time NUS official) Kinnock, like David Steel, whose beginnings in the Student Representative Council at Edinburgh were very similar, is a standard-bearer of the Sixties generation of student politicians. But NUS politics, different entirely from the debating-society politics of the Oxbridge ...


David Craig, 22 January 1998

... muscle-fibre, nerve-end, Blood-vessel, vein-valve, lymph-gland, cancer-nodule ... The steel beak is sure. It feels and knows. The hit is imminent. This programme cannot stop. The invisible brain distils its brilliant ...

At the Met

David Hansen: Richard Serra, 30 June 2011

... some roadworks: a guy in a front-end loader was laying down a line of inch-thick, six-foot-long steel plates. He would pick up a stack of half a dozen in his bucket, then reverse while raising the lift arms, so that the rectangles fell neatly end to end. It was balletic; it was a card trick; it was industrial. It was totally Richard Serra. The artist ...

The Last Column

Hal Foster: Remnants of 9/11, 8 September 2011

... There is a hangar at JFK Airport – Hangar 17 – where, until recently, about 1200 pieces of steel and other objects from the World Trade Center site were warehoused. In the frenetic days after the attacks, these remains were selected as tokens of 9/11, so that they might be dispersed to memorials around the US, foremost among them the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero, which opens on the tenth anniversary of the event ...

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