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Europe or America?

Ian Gilmour, 7 November 2019

... struggled to reconcile the past she could not forget with the future she could not avoid’. Ian Gilmour reviewed the book in the ‘LRB’ of 10 December 1998. What he says seems apposite. The​ first political misjudgment was an almost universal overestimate of Britain’s postwar power and status. Nearly all the politicians and leading civil ...

No thanks to the liberal revolution

Ian Gilmour, 9 July 1992

The Economic Legacy 1979-1992 
edited by Jonathan Michie.
Academic Press, 384 pp., £25, March 1992, 0 12 494060 9
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The Godley Papers: Economic Problems and Policies in the 1980s and 90s 
by Wynne Godley.
New Statesman and Society, £2
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Full Employment in the 1990s 
by John Grieve Smith.
Institute for Public Policy Research, 68 pp., £7.50, March 1992, 1 872452 48 5
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... For thirty years after the war Britain had full employment, stable (if slow) growth, low inflation, and a welfare state that was widely admired. And it was common ground that governments could and should provide those things. Since the mid-Seventies, all that has changed. The norm for unemployment has risen five or sixfold from about half a million to nearly three million; growth is slow and uneven, inflation is stubbornly higher than in the early post-war period; the provision of public services has markedly deteriorated; and new disparities in the distribution of income and wealth have opened up ...

Little Mercians

Ian Gilmour: Why Kenneth Clarke should lead the Tories, 5 July 2001

... Throughout the four years between its two landslide defeats, the Conservative Party was intent on pleasing itself and its ultra-rightist supporters in the press, with the predictable and much-predicted consequence that it pleased nobody else. Its long orgy of self-indulgence began immediately after the 1997 election, when the Parliamentary Party rejected Kenneth Clarke as its next leader ...

Monetarism and History

Ian Gilmour, 21 January 1982

... Soon after they have ensnared their young victims, the Moonies brainwash them, I am told, into hating their parents and families. Other Californian cults may do the same. The British Conservative Party is a long way from California, and it is still some way from being a cult: yet in recent years odd things have been happening to the Conservative Party ...

Second Last Leader

Ian Gilmour, 7 June 1984

Another Heart and Other Pulses: The Alternative to the Thatcher Society 
by Michael Foot.
Collins, 220 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 00 217256 9
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... The Labour Party was born in 1900, and died in 1983. There can be argument over the exact date of its death. Some may maintain that it did not die until about 1990, others that electorally it died in 1980 or even earlier. There will be similar controversy over the role of Michael Foot: did he lead it to its death or did he just accompany it? Was he one of the physicians who killed it, or was he merely the undertaker? The most remarkable feature of Labour’s history is not its short life, but its striking lack of success during that life ...

Gentlemen and Intellectuals

Ian Gilmour, 17 October 1985

Balfour: Intellectual Statesman 
by Ruddock Mackay.
Oxford, 388 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 19 212245 2
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Austen Chamberlain: Gentleman in Politics 
by David Dutton.
Ross Anderson Publications, 373 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 86360 018 2
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... In 1903 Winston Churchill said that if the Conservatives adopted protection, the old Conservative Party would disappear, and something like the American Republican Party would probably take its place. Churchill was wrong, in that the Conservative Party had already largely disappeared – not for the last time. By the end of the 19th century the disintegration of the Whigs had led to the Conservative Party’s becoming for the first time in its history the natural choice of the wealthy; the Party already resembled the Republican Party in the United States and was near to being dominated by a single interest, the rich ...

Poor Man’s Crime

Ian Gilmour, 5 December 1991

The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the 18th Century 
by Peter Linebaugh.
Allen Lane, 484 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 7139 9045 7
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... Whatever may have happened recently to the Communist regimes Eastern Europe, Marxist historiography seems alive and defiant. Lenin’s tomb may be under threat, but the historical certainties of Marxism lie undisturbed. ‘Broadly speaking,’ Peter Linebaugh tells us, ‘the English Revolution was a conflict among three social forces. The bourgeoisie, led by Oliver Cromwell and organised in Parliament, aroused the English proletariat to make war against Charles I, the High Church and the aristocracy ...

Vote for the Beast!

Ian Gilmour: The Tory Leadership, 20 October 2005

... John Stuart Mill labelled the Conservatives ‘the stupid party’. They have certainly been stupid since 1997, and one wonders if their stupidity will persist. But a related and more interesting question is: ‘Are the Conservatives any longer a serious party?’ A serious party can be one of two things. It can, like the Greens, be concerned with only one issue or one group of issues ...

‘Spurious’ is the word we want

Ian Gilmour, 28 November 1996

Diplomacy and Disillusion at the Court of Margaret Thatcher 
by George Urban.
Tauris, 206 pp., £19.95, September 1996, 1 86064 084 2
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... This book tells how the author fell in and out of love with Margaret Thatcher. Although George Urban found her ‘an attractive lady’, with ‘the movements, the legs and walk of a young woman’, his love affair was wholly ideological. Urban, who is or was on the extreme right, was attracted by ‘the great spirit that animated her policies in many areas’; and he greatly admired her ‘galvanisation of the British people at a time of accelerating decline’; yet it was her attitude to foreign policy which chiefly excited his passion ...

Excepting the Aristocratical

Ian Gilmour, 23 March 1995

Marriage, Debt and the Estates System: English Landownership 1650-1950 
by John Habakkuk.
Oxford, 786 pp., £65, September 1994, 0 19 820398 5
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... Lawyers have seldom had a good press. According to Shelley’s father-in-law, William Godwin, a lawyer could ‘scarcely fail to be a dishonest man’, though that, he added, was ‘less a subject for censure than regret’. Shelley’s friend and biographer, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, being himself a barrister, could not go quite so far, but his verdict was almost as sweeping: the most profound ignorance is ...

Diary

Ian Gilmour: The Terminal 5 Enquiry, 19 March 1998

... I am off to the exotic – in name – Ramada Hotel, Heathrow to give evidence at the Public Inquiry into the British Airport Authority’s application to build a fifth terminal there. The words ‘fifth terminal’ are misleading. Terminal Five would be the third largest airport in Europe, exceeded in size only by the present-day Heathrow and Frankfurt ...

Holding all the strings

Ian Gilmour, 27 July 1989

Macmillan. Vol. II: 1957-1986 
by Alistair Horne.
Macmillan, 741 pp., £18.95, June 1989, 0 333 49621 3
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... Macmillan’s premiership started at near rock bottom, with his party in disarray following the Suez debacle – it was not at all certain that the Government would last more than a few weeks. It reached its peak with his towering victory in the 1959 General Election, and it stayed for a time on a fairly high plateau, until economic troubles and deflation, the sacking of a third of his Cabinet, the failure of Britain’s application to join the Common Market, and the Profumo case, sent his fortunes down almost to where they had been in 1957 ...

Supermac’s Apprenticeship

Ian Gilmour, 24 November 1988

Macmillan 1894-1956 
by Alistair Horne.
Macmillan, 537 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 333 27691 4
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... Harold Macmillan reversed the normal progression. Few young men are pompous; that comes later. Pomposity overtook Macmillan when he was still young; long before he was old he had shed all traces of it. The young are seldom boring; as a young man Harold Macmillan was a bore, and in time he became supremely entertaining. In manner and style people usually change little after early middle age, and then seem increasingly old-fashioned ...

In Praise of Middle Government

Ian Gilmour, 12 July 1990

Liberalisms. Essays in Political Philosophy 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 273 pp., £35, August 1989, 0 415 00744 5
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The Voice of Liberal Learning: Michael Oakeshott on Education 
edited by Timothy Fuller.
Yale, 169 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04344 9
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The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott 
by Paul Franco.
Yale, 277 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04686 3
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Conservatism 
by Ted Honderich.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £16.99, June 1990, 0 241 12999 0
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... The collapse of the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the dire condition of the Soviet Union have left Socialism almost irredeemably discredited. Understandably, the recent Labour policy document tactfully avoided the subject. Such reticence is of course nothing new. Unlike Continental parties, even the old ILP kept ‘Socialist’ out of its title to avoid offending the workers; and the Labour election programme of 1929, largely drafted by Tawney, did not mention the word ‘socialism ...

The Way Forward

Ian Gilmour, 25 October 1990

The Economic Limits to Modern Politics 
edited by John Dunn.
Polity, 274 pp., £35, July 1990, 0 7456 0827 2
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... In Britain, oppositions do not win general elections; the economy occasionally wins one for them. To prevent it doing so, governments in the second half of a Parliament devote much of their energy to ensuring that on election day the voters will feel prosperous and the economy look healthy. Such a political and economic miracle entails much dumping of dogma and convictions ...

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