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... When I hear talk, as I have done recently, of another review of the Diplomatic Service, nothing occurs to me. This paralysis is induced by a premonition of intolerable tedium. Such a review, I suspect, would be a replay of what happened a decade ago in the Think Tank review: an exercise in evasion designed to conceal more than to illuminate Britain’s real problems ...

Capability Bevin

George Walden, 2 February 1984

Ernest Bevin: Foreign Secretary 1945-1951 
by Alan Bullock.
Heinemann, 896 pp., £30, November 1983, 0 434 09452 8
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... One of the more dismal scenes in English literature comes in Gissing’s Henry Rycroft (itself a pretty depressing book), where a labourer on a spree is driven out of a restaurant because he is intimidated by the formalities which go with the food. He ends by wrapping the lot in a newspaper and bolting. Bevin completely lacked class-consciousness – in the crabbed sense of the term, though he took a natural pride in his humble origins ...

Huff and Puff

John Sutherland, 3 October 1996

We Should Know Better 
by George Walden.
Fourth Estate, 231 pp., £9.99, September 1996, 1 85702 520 2
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All Must Have Prizes 
by Melanie Phillips.
Little, Brown, 384 pp., £17.50, September 1996, 0 316 88180 5
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... off. None the less, each one has the answers. Of the two, the politician’s is by far the better. Walden’s one idea is that Britain has a segregated school system which nobody, for their own disreputable reasons, will talk about – except George Walden, who for the last year or two has talked about nothing ...

What’s it all for?

Mary Kaldor, 15 August 1991

Statement on the Defence Estimates: Britain’s Defence for the Nineties 
HMSO, 157 pp., £8, July 1991, 0 10 115592 1Show More
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... Cold War would enable Western countries to reduce their defence efforts drastically. Tories like George Walden, in a celebrated speech to Chatham House (published in the London Review of Books), suggested that Britain’s international position had been ‘artificially inflated’ by the Cold War and that Britain would ‘be forced to spend less time ...

Diary

Richard Wollheim: On A.J. Ayer, 27 July 1989

... system, modest in all except their cultural ambitions, readers of, say, the New Statesman and George Eliot, who craved philosophy. Furthermore the media were willing to recognise their existence. In 1951 Stuart Hampshire produced a small book on Spinoza. Spinoza was, through his associations with 19th-century dissent, the philosopher designed to appeal to ...

Oque?

John Bayley, 30 November 1995

Byrne 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 150 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 0 09 179204 5
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... become, like sport, a specialised affair, and Burgess himself is taken seriously along with it. George Walden, chairman of this year’s Booker Prize, quoted Burgess as a contemporary sage, whose dictum on what a good novel should be like was given as a guideline to his judging panel. Such a novel should leave in the mind ‘a sort of philosophical ...

So Amused

Sarah Rigby: Fay Weldon, 11 July 2002

Auto da Fay 
by Fay Weldon.
Flamingo, 366 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 9780007109920
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... throws books at unsuspecting children; and, most disturbingly, the weeping ghost in the Saffron Walden house she shares with her mother and sister in early adulthood. This ghost’s presence is powerful: the cat seems to stare and hiss at it and when Weldon is alone with her baby one night, it so terrifies her that she is unable to leave the bedroom to get ...

Prodigals

John Sutherland, 19 August 1982

A Prodigal Child 
by David Storey.
Cape, 319 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02027 7
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The Prodigal Daughter 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 447 pp., £7.95, July 1982, 0 340 27687 8
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Ralph 
by John Stonehouse.
Cape, 318 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 224 02019 6
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The Man from St Petersburg 
by Ken Follett.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 241 10783 0
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The Patriot Game 
by George Higgins.
Secker, 237 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 0 436 19589 5
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... the Admiralty) aims to ‘bring Russia on a plate’ to the Allies. To this end he has the Earl of Walden treat with the visiting Prince Orlov about negotiable bits of the Balkans. Russian anarchists dispatch Feliks Kschessinsky (mercifully called Feliks throughout) to assassinate Orlov. As usual in Follett’s fiction, the struggle resolves itself into a ...

Short Cuts

Christian Lorentzen: ‘Anyone but Romney’, 23 February 2012

... Dukakis and Paul Tsongas. Romney lived in a mansion in Belmont, a town between Cambridge and Walden Pond with nothing but mansions; in the era of NWA I recall another boy being teased for being ‘straight outta Belmont’. In our imaginations, it was the softest, whitest, richest place in the world, and a Belmont leveraged-buyout artist was easy to vote ...

Who won the Falklands War?

Edward Luttwak, 23 April 1992

One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander 
by Admiral Sandy Woodward and Patrick Robinson.
HarperCollins, 359 pp., £18, January 1992, 0 00 215723 3
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... the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are fatally trapped. George Walden’s Tory Reform Group pamphlet of 1990, ‘Blocked Society’ – blocked by the ‘national vice of deference to irrational institutions, obsolete political structures and absurdist conventions’ – could have been unblocked at long ...

Washed White

Michael Rogin, 10 June 1993

The Rites of Assent: Transformations in the Symbolic Construction of America 
by Sacvan Bercovitch.
Routledge, 424 pp., £40, November 1992, 9780415900140
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Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America 
by Garry Wills.
Simon and Schuster, 315 pp., £17.99, April 1993, 0 671 76956 1
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... survived the death of Puritanism. Carrying along nationalist historians like the Jacksonian George Bancroft, American Renaissance writers such as Hawthorne and Melville, and political leaders like Lincoln, the sacralisation of the United States created ‘the single most cohesive culture in the modern world’. Americans share not a common middle-class ...

Diary

Nicholas Penny: At the races, 6 February 2003

... let me in without a ticket once the first race was underway. Ancient names such as Lord Howard de Walden, exotic ones such as the Aga Khan, captured my imagination, which had previously been engrossed by Sir Reginald de Cobham, whose effigy, with its helm and Saracen’s head, scarred with venerable graffiti, lay in Lingfield parish church and whose name ...

Look over your shoulder

Christopher Hitchens, 25 May 1995

... pitches and with different timbres, this refrain has been part of the Joe McCarthy movement, the George Wallace campaign and every Republican surge from Nixon to Gingrich. (But let’s not be too partisan about it; the rhetoric evolved from the days when the Ku Klux Klan and the Southern Democratic Party were each other’s official and provisional ...

Family History

Miles Taylor: Tony Benn, 25 September 2003

Free at Last: Diaries 1991-2001 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 738 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 09 179352 1
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Free Radical: New Century Essays 
by Tony Benn.
Continuum, 246 pp., £9.95, May 2003, 9780826465962
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... moral reminders from Labour Party history. Benn’s father led the Liberal defection from Lloyd George in 1924, and stood up in Ramsay MacDonald’s ill-fated Cabinet to argue against dole cuts in 1931. Michael died as the brave new postwar world of the UN and the welfare state was taking shape. The diaries also record Benn’s obsessive love affair with ...

How bad are we?

Bernard Porter: Genocide in Tasmania, 30 July 2014

The Last Man: A British Genocide in Tasmania 
by Tom Lawson.
Tauris, 263 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 1 78076 626 3
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... kindly. One famous proclamation (reproduced in Lawson’s book) was issued in 1830 by Governor George Arthur in comic-strip form, and showed, in its last frame, an Englishman being hanged for shooting a native (though there’s no evidence that I’ve seen that this ever happened). The problem was that Britain didn’t have the means to enforce ...

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