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Power and Prejudice

Michael Dummett, 7 October 1982

Now you do know 
by John Downing.
War on Want Campaigns, 80 pp., £1, December 1980, 0 905990 10 2
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... depicting the country I live in.’ This thought is very natural: it is one for which those, like Downing, who know how things are here for black people and try to communicate that knowledge, usually make no allowance. It is enormously important to grasp why the thought is mistaken. Someone may be aware that he knows very little about the workings ...

As if Life Depended on It

John Mullan: With the Leavisites, 12 September 2013

Memoirs of a Leavisite: The Decline and Fall of Cambridge English 
by David Ellis.
Liverpool, 151 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 1 84631 889 4
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English as a Vocation: The ‘Scrutiny’ Movement 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 298 pp., £57, May 2012, 978 0 19 969517 1
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The Two Cultures? The Significance of C.P. Snow 
by F.R. Leavis.
Cambridge, 118 pp., £10.99, August 2013, 978 1 107 61735 3
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... Leavis’s joyless reputation and tries to redeem it. He was one of the many students of Leavis at Downing College who went on to a successful academic career, in his case becoming a professor at the University of Kent. What makes him a ‘Leavisite’ is not so much a set of critical beliefs as a conviction that everything significant in his intellectual ...


John Naughton: On the Future of the BBC, 17 December 1992

... the notion that the BBC was conspiring to undermine the government has been received wisdom in 10 Downing Street. Mrs Thatcher’s hostility to the Corporation was unremitting and one of her advisers recently revealed that she actively contemplated privatising it. During the Falklands War the BBC’s insistence on referring to ‘British troops’ rather than ...

At The Hutton Enquiry

Daniel Soar: Hutton’s Big Top, 11 September 2003

... hand respects that – so long as the left hand does in the end pick up the pieces. And it will. Downing Street’s first-choice strategy for the outing of David Kelly – writing, semi-publicly, to the Intelligence and Security Committee to offer him as a witness – was vetoed by Ann Taylor MP, the Committee’s chairman, whose staff refused to be sent the ...

Call me unpretentious

Ian Hamilton, 20 October 1994

Major Major: Memories of an Older Brother 
by Terry Major-Ball.
Duckworth, 167 pp., £12.95, August 1994, 0 7156 2631 0
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... When John Major ascended to 10 Downing Street, the wits were at first unsure quite how to set about him. There was the obvious, the elementary ‘grey’ approach: the Burton suits, the haircut, the delicious fry-ups and so on. On this reading, Major could be presented as a drearier-than-either cross between James Stewart and J ...


Tam Dalyell: Yesterday’s News, 18 September 1986

... civil servants, not remote from her as Dugdale’s were from him, but as close as Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were to Richard Nixon. The ‘misunderstandings’ over Westlands were attributed to those civil servants such as Mr Bernard Ingham and Mr Charles Powell whom Mrs Thatcher sees many times each day. Isn’t this something we should be concerned ...
Once a Jolly Bagman: Memoirs 
by Alistair McAlpine.
Weidenfeld, 269 pp., £20, March 1997, 9780297817376
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... Time, the blustering MP for Welwyn and Hatfield would rise to sing the praises of his hero in Downing Street. Now Evans, in an interview with schoolchildren, has unburdened himself of a lifetime’s racist and sexist prejudices, crowning them with a volley of insults against his former beloved John Major. Evans’s ...

Not My Fault

John Lanchester: New Labour’s Terrible Memoirs, 17 July 2008

Speaking for Myself: The Autobiography 
by Cherie Blair.
Little, Brown, 421 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 1 4087 0098 3
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Prezza, My Story: Pulling No Punches 
by John Prescott, with Hunter Davies.
Headline, 405 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 0 7553 1775 2
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A Question of Honour: Inside New Labour and the True Story of the Cash for Peerages Scandal 
by Michael Levy.
Simon and Schuster, 310 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 1 84737 315 1
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... to sit on so that at least I could force a smile’), Prescott and his bulimia. Cherie Blair and John Prescott may not have been the most unpopular figures of Blair’s government but they were the two who had the hardest time in the press. Both spent long stretches in the contemporary equivalent of the stocks; a scarring experience, and both of them were ...

Short Cuts

Tariq Ali: So much for England, 23 January 2020

... rejection of the referendum outcome at its bubble party conference last September did them in. John McDonnell was right to take the blame for the defeat. His insistence on a second referendum was a huge strategic blunder.Johnson’s first speech as prime minister, delivered to the cameras outside Downing Street, was ...

Labour and the Bouncers

Paul Foot, 4 June 1987

Prime Minister: The Conduct of Policy under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan 
by Bernard Donoughue.
Cape, 198 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 224 02450 7
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Time and Chance 
by James Callaghan.
Collins, 584 pp., £15.95, April 1987, 0 00 216515 5
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... Minister, just before the 1979 General Election, as the two men were driving home to Downing Street in the official Rover: You know there are times, perhaps once every thirty years, when there is a sea change in politics. It then does not matter what you say or what you do. There is a shift in what the public wants and what it approves of. I ...

The Great NBA Disaster

John Sutherland, 19 October 1995

... it seemed, bombed the Serbs and blackmailed the Israelis to the peace table; Humphrey the missing Downing Street cat had been found. What the Times chose to lead with on Wednesday morning was BOOK PRICING AGREEMENT IS SHATTERED, with the explanatory sub-heading ‘Discount War Begins on Top Titles’ and an unflattering mugshot of Sir Kingsley Amis over the ...

Living with Monsters

Ferdinand Mount: PMs v. the Media, 22 April 2010

Where Power Lies: Prime Ministers v. the Media 
by Lance Price.
Simon & Schuster, 498 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84737 253 6
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... of the Sunday Times. Published in 1978, the book was subtitled with a flourish: ‘The war between Downing Street and the media from Lloyd George to Callaghan’. For 40 years and more, Margach had enjoyed the confidence of prime ministers. He was in the private sitting room of Number Ten when Ramsay MacDonald returned from the palace on resigning. He belonged ...

Tea or Eucharist?

Anthony Howard, 3 December 1992

The Faber Book of Church and Clergy 
edited by A.N. Wilson.
Faber, 304 pp., £17.50, November 1992, 0 571 16204 5
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High and Mitred: A Study of Prime Ministers as Bishop-Makers 1837-1977 
by Bernard Palmer.
SPCK, 350 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 281 04594 1
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... conception of the modern church leader – until real life played an unfair trick and produced Dr John Spong, the ultra-trendy Bishop of Newark, USA, thereby making satire almost impossible. Only John Betjeman and Barbara Pym stood gallantly with their fingers in the dyke upholding a vision of the dear old ecclesia ...


Paul Foot, 2 March 1989

The Wilson Plot: The Intelligence Services and the Discrediting of a Prime Minister 
by David Leigh.
Heinemann, 271 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 434 41340 2
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A Price too High 
by Peter Rawlinson.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 297 79431 0
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... next two, both in 1974, putting Labour back in office for another five years. His early period in Downing Street had been accompanied by a cheeky aggressiveness which infuriated Conservatives everywhere. He could not contain his enjoyment of high office. He revelled in his youth – he was only 48 when he became prime minister. He would boast that he could ...


John Lanchester: Unbelievable Blair, 10 July 2003

... a used Johnnie,’ she added – this being the name by which former members of St John’s College, Oxford, refer to themselves. We knew that because both of us were also, to use the posh term, Johnians. The LRB asked Blair to write a piece, and he did. Its left-is-best vibe makes entertaining reading now, but it’s well written and at least ...

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