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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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... because she had much more reason to be frightened of the voters. And luckily, being politicians (and Australians), they seem to have been unembarrassable. Yet that’s not how it worked over here. DavidLaws’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 ...

Short Cuts

David​ Runciman: Shuffling Off into Obscurity

4 May 2016
... DavidLaws​ ’s memoir of his time in government ends with everything in tatters: he has lost his seemingly safe seat, his party has gone from being a full partner in government to having the same number of ...

Two Poems

David​ Harsent

22 June 2006
... darkness and sweat The all-night pharmacy, a ladder climbing to meet . . . Usury, murder, pi-dogs, whores, prisons, a creeping sea-fret, muggings, beggars, the blind, blind beggars, bad odour, bad laws A guitar, the tree, the streetlamp, the hangings In the space between two tall chimneys, a single star Thank you The key to my door is in the usual place ...

Masses and Classes

Ferdinand Mount: Gladstone

17 February 2005
The Mind of Gladstone: Religion, Homer and Politics 
by David​ Bebbington.
Oxford, 331 pp., £55, March 2004, 0 19 926765 0
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... months, the Liberal Democrats have rediscovered retrenchment and reform and begun to shuffle away from the vapid tax-and-spend policies they had drifted into. Their new spokesmen – Vincent Cable, DavidLaws and Mark Oaten – are the first prominent Liberals since Jo Grimond who could seriously claim to be heirs of the Grand Old Man. Political commentators point out that parties make such shifts ...

Progressive, like the 1980s

John Gray: Farewell Welfare State

21 October 2010
... Though few anticipated the agreement, it is not difficult to understand why David Cameron and Nick Clegg should have made a bargain to share power. By forming a coalition Cameron secured protection from his mutinous right wing, while Clegg became the pivotal player in British ...

Thirty-Five States to Go

David​ Cole: America’s Death Penalty

3 March 2011
Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition 
by David​ Garland.
Oxford, 417 pp., £21.99, September 2010, 978 0 19 959499 3
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... human rights, the US has more than 3250 men and women on death row. It’s tempting to chalk this disparity up to American exceptionalism, but that’s more a slogan than an explanation. And as David Garland points out in Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition, on this and many other matters of criminal justice, the United States is not so much a single nation as a ...

Whose Nuremberg Laws?

Jeremy Waldron: Race

19 March 1998
Seeing a Colour-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race 
by Patricia Williams.
Virago, 72 pp., £5.99, April 1997, 1 86049 365 3
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Colour Conscious: The Political Morality of Race 
by Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann.
Princeton, 200 pp., £11.95, May 1998, 0 691 05909 8
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Race: The History of an Idea in the West 
by Ivan Hannaford.
Johns Hopkins, 464 pp., £49.50, June 1996, 0 8018 5222 6
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... that curse as God’s judgment on injustice. Part of what’s wrong with one generation’s wickedness is that it blights the future for later generations: ‘Woe betide those who enact unjust laws, depriving the poor of justice, plundering the widow and despoiling the fatherless! What will you do when called to account? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your children ...

How stripy are tigers?

Tim Lewens: Complexity

18 November 2010
Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity and Policy 
by Sandra Mitchell.
Chicago, 149 pp., £19, December 2009, 978 0 226 53262 2
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... too, is a complex business. Mitchell sometimes overstates the degree to which traditionally minded philosophers have assumed that all sciences are, or should be, like physics. Reflecting on laws of nature, she writes: ‘The search for universal, exceptionless laws, for example, was taken by 19th-century British philosophers . . . to be the goal of scientific investigation, as they ...

Cosmic Inflation

David​ Kaiser: The Future of the Universe

6 February 2014
Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe 
by Lee Smolin.
Allen Lane, 319 pp., £20, April 2013, 978 1 84614 299 4
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... Mach exhorted his fellow physicists in the early 1880s to recognise that all was not well with their discipline. Two hundred years earlier, Isaac Newton had bequeathed to them a remarkable system of laws which made it possible for them to describe – and predict – the motion of everything from an apple falling from a tree near Woolsthorpe to the orbit of the Moon around the Earth. When Mach was ...

Pastiche

Norman Stone

21 July 1983
The Invention of Tradition 
edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger.
Cambridge, 320 pp., £17.50, March 1983, 0 521 24645 8
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... One of Arnold Toynbee’s Laws was that, in any civilisation, mannered imitation of the past was a Bad Thing: he chose the Poles’ decision to reconstruct the Old City of Warsaw after 1945 as an instance, and would have much ...

Allegedly

Michael Davie

1 November 1984
Public Scandal, Odium and Contempt: An Investigation of Recent Libel Cases 
by David​ Hooper.
Secker, 230 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 436 20093 7
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... the reputation, should be dented. Such thoughts, in the head of a tyro reporter, were of course naive. But the central point of this episode still stands. It relates to the uncertainty of the libel laws. Nobody had much idea then, and nobody in a similar case would have much idea now, what the outcome of a libel action taken by Beecham would have been. The law in general is full of surprises, even ...
6 March 2014
In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government 
by Matthew D’Ancona.
Penguin, 414 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 670 91993 2
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... party most of whose leadership cadre seem just as happy as the Tories with laissez-faire political economy. Should​ the voters have known better? The modestly obscure Orange Book of 2004, edited by DavidLaws, later briefly chief secretary to the Treasury in the 2010 coalition, with contributions from Clegg, Vince Cable and Chris Huhne, did stress free market and non-statist solutions to problems of ...

Not God

David​ Lindley

30 January 1992
Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science 
by Michael White and John Gribbin.
Viking, 304 pp., £16.99, January 1992, 0 670 84013 0
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... only purpose is to wind up the clockwork and then stand aside), it is not at all clear how comprehensive a theory of everything would have to be to leave no toehold for religion. Even if all the laws of physics are found and neatly linked together, and even if these laws dictate that the universe must have the shape and appearance we see it to have, one can still ask why these laws and not some ...
15 November 1984
... David Peterley’s Peterley Harvest was first published on 24 October 1960. The book had a curious history and, shortly before publication, stories began to appear in the press declaring it to be an ...

One Foot on the Moon

Uri Avnery: Israel’s Racist Laws

25 June 2009
... that anyone applying for Israeli citizenship must declare loyalty to ‘the Jewish, Zionist and democratic state’, and undertake to serve in the army or a civilian alternative. Its sponsor is David Rotem of Israel Is Our Home, who also happens to be chairman of the Knesset law committee. A declaration of loyalty to the state and its laws is reasonable. But loyalty to the Zionist state? Zionism ...

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