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Institutional Hypocrisy

David Runciman: Selling the NHS, 21 April 2005

Restoring Responsibility: Ethics in Government, Business and Healthcare 
by Dennis Thompson.
Cambridge, 349 pp., £16.99, November 2004, 0 521 54722 9
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NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Healthcare 
by Allyson Pollock.
Verso, 271 pp., £15.99, September 2004, 1 84467 011 2
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Brown’s Britain 
by Robert Peston.
Short Books, 369 pp., £14.99, January 2005, 1 904095 67 4
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... In an essay entitled ‘Hypocrisy and Democracy’ in his wonderfully measured new collection, Dennis Thompson quotes Judith Shklar, who described the politics of anti-hypocrisy as an ‘unending game of mutual unmasking’, in which everyone is bound to lose. Because democracy is a system of government that institutionalises distrust, as the price we ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Mary Whitehouse’s Letters, 20 December 2012

... life’.The commentary on these infuriating and laughable letters by the book’s editor, Ben Thompson, is considered and witty. He conceives of Whitehouse, delightfully, as a constant background hum over her three decades of public life, like the presence of ‘John Cale’s viola in the Velvet Underground song “All Tomorrow’s Parties”’. It’s a ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton, 5 November 1981

Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... Kitchener, Haig, Montgomery – and Private Crimp? What is the British Army like today? Dennis Barker has been given the freedom of the service, at home and abroad, but instead of beginning at the beginning (recruitment of officers and men) and taking us through selection, training, service and philosophy, he has employed all the artistry of a ...

Fiction and the Poverty of Theory

John Sutherland, 20 November 1986

News from Nowhere 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 403 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 241 11920 0
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O-Zone 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 469 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 241 11948 0
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Ticket to Ride 
by Dennis Potter.
Faber, 202 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780571145232
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... brought about the desired upsurge. An older generation of Marxists (led by the unvanquished E.P. Thompson) have counter-attacked with the ‘poverty of theory’ and continued to assert the validity of a traditional British socialist heritage going back at least to the 17th century. All this is given full play in Caute’s narrative. Richard Stern is a young ...

The Tell-Tale Trolley

Stefan Collini, 8 September 1994

Townscape with Figures: Farnham, Portrait of an English Town 
by Richard Hoggart.
Chatto, 205 pp., £16.99, June 1994, 0 7011 6138 8
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... one nagging uncertainty. Hoggart and Williams are a natural comparison, though Williams and E.P. Thompson, the third side of the familiar triangle, are the more discussed, partly because of their greater prominence as left intellectuals. Since Williams’s death in 1988 there has been a small industry of writing about him, both in Britain and ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... manufactured look. (He had, in fact, changed it by deed poll from William Guinneach Gunn to Thompson William Gunn – Thompson was his mother’s maiden name.) It was clear, too, that he enjoyed his own style, his wit, his urge to dismiss what was dull and cautious, to celebrate what was dangerous and alive. This was ...

Land of Pure Delight

Dinah Birch: Anglicising the Holy Land, 20 April 2006

The Holy Land in English Culture 1799-1917: Palestine and the Question of Orientalism 
by Eitan Bar-Yosef.
Oxford, 319 pp., £50, October 2005, 0 19 926116 4
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... occasionally threw up comparable visions. ‘In No Strange Land’, a religious lyric by Francis Thompson, sees the traffic of Jacob’s ladder pitched ‘betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross’, and Christ walking on the water ‘not of Genesareth, but Thames’. In general, however, nonconformity remained the most fertile source. ...

The Grey Boneyard of Fifties England

Iain Sinclair, 22 August 1996

A Perfect Execution 
by Tim Binding.
Picador, 344 pp., £15.99, May 1996, 0 330 34564 8
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... Fabian’. The blonde receptionist who looks like ‘the South African television star Michaela Dennis’. The drunken dentist, medieval in technique, who drops the names of Sixties ephemerals Peter and Gordon. The lay-by killer who reels off a bill of Western stars and wears a black glove in homage to Shane. The Rochester police sergeant from In the ...

Isle of Dogs

Iain Sinclair, 10 May 1990

Pit Bull 
by Scott Ely.
Penguin, 218 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 14 012033 5
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... I was left, at the finish, with a feeling of nostalgia for the psychopathic ‘humour’ of a Jim Thompson or the more exuberant culture spread of Charles Willeford’s Cockfighter. Fate should hurt, it should embrace more than a spoiled romance. The affair at the heart of this novel must be with ‘Alligator’, the stinking pit bull, the sunken mud ...

Across the Tellyverse

Jenny Turner: Daleks v. Cybermen, 22 June 2006

Doctor Who 
BBC1Show More
Doctor Who: A Critical Reading of the Series 
by Kim Newman.
BFI, 138 pp., £12, December 2005, 1 84457 090 8
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... a writer could do more with a Dalek would be to unite him with Basil Fawlty. Except that the dying Dennis Potter went further, maybe, when he called John Birt, the BBC’s then director-general, ‘a croak-voiced Dalek’ in 1993. Much expectation surrounded Doctor Who’s return last year, into an industry that has changed vastly since he went away. Mark ...

What are we telling the nation?

David Edgar: Thoughts about the BBC, 7 July 2005

Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC 
by Georgina Born.
Vintage, 352 pp., £10.99, August 2005, 0 09 942893 8
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Building Public Value: Renewing the BBC for a Digital World 
BBC, 135 pp.Show More
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... space, not just for Edge of Darkness, but for Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff (1981), Dennis Potter’s sexually provocative and formally challenging Singing Detective (1986) and Richard Eyre’s film of Charles Wood’s anti-Falklands Tumbledown (1988). When a newly aggressive ITV, freed from its franchise limitations by the 1990 Act, decided to ...

The Cadaver Club

Iain Sinclair, 22 December 1994

Original Sin 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 426 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 571 17253 9
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Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 1 85619 507 4
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The Hidden Files: An Autobiography 
by Derek Raymond.
Warner, 342 pp., £5.99, December 1994, 0 7515 1184 6
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Not till the Red Fog Rises 
by Derek Raymond.
Little, Brown, 248 pp., £15.99, December 1994, 0 316 91014 7
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... without breaking the skin. Red Fog has all the modest desperation of the best American pulps, Jim Thompson, David Goodis. Depression literature. Orphan books written to be abandoned. Dream logic without the luxury of revision. Even the cover illustration is pastiche Gold Medal: it doesn’t illustrate anything in the book, but gloats over a top-heavy ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... interests them isn’t the rood loft or the pews carved and dated 1641. They are on the trail of Thompson, the woodworker of Kilburn who always carved a mouse on his handiwork. Some of the pews are his, done in the Forties or Fifties, so somewhere here will be a mouse and they scuffle along the pews looking for it. Rather a silly quest, I ...

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