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Staying in power

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 7 January 1988

Mrs Thatcher’s Revolution: The Ending of the Socialist Era 
by Peter Jenkins.
Cape, 411 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 224 02516 3
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De-Industrialisation and Foreign Trade 
by R.E. Rowthorn and J.R. Wells.
Cambridge, 422 pp., £40, November 1988, 0 521 26360 3
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... Some of his colleagues are already saying it. Looking almost smooth – the Prime Minister, Peter Jenkins reports, has had occasion to tell him to ‘get a haircut’ – Nigel Lawson reassured his audience at the Mansion House in the autumn that revenues were high and the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement could soon be reduced to about a billion a ...

‘Turbot, sir,’ said the waiter

E.S. Turner, 4 April 1991

After Hours with P.G. Wodehouse 
by Richard Usborne.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £15.99, February 1991, 0 09 174712 0
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... surnames) was the Grand Old Man’s own choice as Wodehouse scholar. Back in the Fifties Herbert Jenkins wanted someone to write about the Wodehouse oeuvre. ‘It had not been Wodehouse’s idea that there should be a book assessing his place in English literature, but he had said, in effect: “If you must, try this chap Usborne.” It would have given me ...

Boofy’s Bill

Alex Harvey, 18 September 1997

... forgotten figure, rarely given the credit for the change in the law that he brought about – Roy Jenkins usually gets the praise. Known as Boofy, Arran was a red-faced, white-haired little man who seemed to be in a permanent flap, and spoke rapidly with many a what, what punctuating his scattered thoughts. His column in the Evening News, ‘Lord Arran ...
... 1981, and the launch of the 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 ...

So much was expected

R.W. Johnson, 3 December 1992

Harold Wilson 
by Ben Pimlott.
HarperCollins, 811 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 00 215189 8
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Harold Wilson 
by Austen Morgan.
Pluto, 625 pp., £25, May 1992, 0 7453 0635 7
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... On 4 July 1934 Harold Wilson, an 18-year-old schoolboy waiting to go up to Oxford, proposed to Gladys Baldwin, the pretty young typist he’d first seen playing tennis only three weeks before. Gladys (who later came to prefer her second name, Mary) was somewhat bemused, particularly since Harold, already, in Pimlott’s words, ‘cheerful, boastful, absurdly sure of himself and confidently planning the future’, went on to tell Gladys that he intended to become an MP and, ultimately, prime minister ...

William Rodgers reads the papers

William Rodgers, 19 February 1987

The Market for Glory: Fleet Street Ownership in the 20th Century 
by Simon Jenkins.
Faber, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 571 14627 9
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The End of the Street 
by Linda Melvern.
Methuen, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 413 14640 5
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... revenue, the company was vested in trustees. But the press as a whole had no such luck. As Simon Jenkins has reminded us, the great proprietors bought and sold their newspapers for power, prestige and, they hoped, money. The brothers Harmsworth launched the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror while Scott was wrestling with Home Rule for Ireland and the Boer ...

Über-Tony

Ben Pimlott: Anthony Crosland, 3 September 1998

Crosland’s Future: Opportunity and Outcome 
by David Reisman.
Macmillan, 237 pp., £47.50, October 1997, 0 333 65963 5
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... them ‘desiccated calculating machines’. Attlee regarded theory as stuff and nonsense and Harold Wilson doused his food with HP Sauce to project a plain-man image. It was the people’s dominatrix who caused a turnaround. Pragmatic to the core, she took up philosophers she agreed with and allowed her instincts to be dignified as an ideology. Since ...

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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... has reinforced Labour’s chronic debility, so far the SDP has been able to thrive upon it. Roy Jenkins talked of an experimental aircraft in adumbrating the idea of a centre party in the early summer of 1980: a ‘dangerously caricaturable analogy’, as he admits in a retrospective comment in The Rebirth of Britain. He said then that it ‘might well ...

Into the Second Term

R.W. Johnson: New Labour, 5 April 2001

Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Hamish Hamilton, 434 pp., £17.99, September 2000, 0 241 14029 3
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Mandelson and the Making of New Labour 
by Donald Macintyre.
HarperCollins, 638 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 00 653062 1
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Mo Mowlam: The Biography 
by Julia Langdon.
Little, Brown, 324 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 316 85304 6
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Ann Widdecombe: Right from the Beginning 
by Nicholas Kochan.
Politico’s, 302 pp., September 2000, 1 902301 55 2
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The Paymaster: Geoffrey Robinson, Maxwell and New Labour 
by Tom Bower.
Simon and Schuster, 272 pp., £17.99, March 2001, 0 7432 0689 4
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The Future of Politics 
by Charles Kennedy.
HarperCollins, 235 pp., £17.99, September 2000, 0 00 710131 7
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... were failures, that Labour never managed to become ‘the natural party of government’ as Harold Wilson wished, and that this was reflected in its failure ever to get elected for two full terms. Traumatised by four successive defeats, Blair wanted above all to make Labour electable and then to secure those two full terms. This would demonstrate that ...

A Talented Past

Linda Colley, 23 April 1987

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. I: Survey 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 400 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. II: Constituencies 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 704 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. III: Members A-F 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 852 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. IV: Members G-P 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 908 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. V: Members P-Z 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 680 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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... appeal for the more serious-minded of its personnel. The project was championed in the past by Harold Macmillan and is protected now by the enthusiasm of men such as Roy Jenkins and Robert Rhodes James. But why should those of us who are excluded from this desirable club at Westminster want such an extended work of ...

Demob

Robert Morley, 7 July 1983

Downing Street in Perspective 
by Marcia Falkender.
Weidenfeld, 280 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 297 78107 3
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... this and much else besides comes to a rather abrupt end on the morning of Tuesday, 16 March 1976. Harold Wilson, four times prime minister, an ambitious man who loved politics and was in the pink of health, able not only to endure but to enjoy the physical and mental strain of the highest office in the land, announced his resignation that morning. Not only ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... his speeches. ‘Lazy? Lazy?’ Bevan responded to a sneer about the laziness of his colleague Roy Jenkins: ‘How can a boy from Abersychan who acquired an accent like that be lazy?’ From Princess Margaret comes a comment on the moribundity of the London Season: ‘Every tart in London can get in.’ Kynaston appreciates the respect for working-class values ...

Seeing it all

Peter Clarke, 12 October 1989

The Time of My life 
by Denis Healey.
Joseph, 512 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 7181 3114 2
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... to cadge American weapons on the cheap. ‘At one stage in our discussions,’ Healey reveals, ‘Harold Wilson got so discouraged that he suggested selling our Polaris submarines back to the United States.’ Instead, in the Seventies, Polaris was eventually updated with Chevaline – a commitment inherited from the Heath Government which Healey now regrets ...

Scoutmaster General

Peter Clarke, 24 September 1992

Tony Benn 
by Jad Adams.
Macmillan, 576 pp., £20, July 1992, 0 333 52558 2
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The End of an Era: Diaries, 1980-1990 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 704 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 09 174857 7
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... him the Scoutmaster General. This was, of course, the golden age of another Congregationalist, Harold Wilson. Though his much misunderstood resignation from the Attlee Government in 1951 had identified him as a Bevanite, Wilson spent most of the following decade trying to build bridges with the Gaitskellite leadership, whose doctrinal debates about the ...
Who Framed Colin Wallace? 
by Paul Foot.
Macmillan, 306 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 333 47008 7
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... to wonder, glumly, how far one can trust anything the British press writes about Ireland. In 1972 Harold Wilson met with IRA leaders in Dublin, and the next year the Northern Ireland Minister, Willie Whitelaw, made similar contacts. This utterly shocked opinion in every officers’ mess in Ulster – and in MI5, who took over intelligence operations there ...

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