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Black Electricities

John Sutherland, 30 October 1997

The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. Vol. XXV: January-December 1850 
edited by Clyde de L. Ryals and K.J. Fielding.
Duke, 364 pp., £52, September 1997, 0 8223 1986 1
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by Thomas Carlyle, edited by K.J. Fielding and Ian Campbell.
Oxford, 481 pp., £7.99, September 1997, 0 19 281748 5
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... Pilgrim Edition of Dickens’s letters, was launched in the optimistic Sixties (the late John Butt was associated with both initiatives). As in previous volumes, about half the letters (here they number 247) are hitherto unpublished, and of the rest many are now published for the first time in their full form. There are the inevitable routine and ...


Ronan Bennett: The IRA Ceasefire, 22 September 1994

... Gerald Seymour novel and reach over to turn the radio off. Then I recognise the voice – it’s John Humphrys on Today. I concentrate. On the Falls, apparently, men with hard, cold eyes used to stare sullenly from behind the iron railings that surround the pubs and clubs, planning their next operation. It is Day One, Thursday 1 September. The IRA ...


Tim Gardam: New Conservatism, 13 June 1991

... for biography to become history, it will be interesting to see how many chapters the years alter Downing Street will comprise in any authoritative work on Margaret Thatcher, how far the Thatcherite silt will shape the river that flows beyond her. Mrs Thatcher has already proved is difficult to judge since leaving office as she was when holding it. The voice ...

Westland Ho

Paul Foot, 6 February 1986

... victim would go to the wall. In the summer, the Bank of England tried a last rescue operation. Sir John Cuckney, a ‘trouble-shooter’ from the City, was ‘put in’ as chairman to try to sort out the mess. He discovered before too long that there was an alternative to bankruptcy and receivership. The vast American conglomerate United Technologies, and its ...

Even paranoids have enemies

Frank Kermode, 24 August 1995

F.R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism 
by Ian MacKillop.
Allen Lane, 476 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 7139 9062 7
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... which his loyal followers taught English and from which, if they could, they sent their pupils to Downing College for more advanced indoctrination by the master or his acolytes. As a provincial student in the late Thirties I was scolded for impudently and prematurely imitating his voice, mimicking those apparently incontrovertible judgments, trying to master ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Kraft eats Cadbury, 7 January 2010

... firms all the time. As Tony Blair once pointed out to the French president, the electricity in 10 Downing Street is supplied by a French company. So why the fuss? Two reasons. First, there’s an election coming up, and the recession has already caused havoc in the Midlands, where Cadbury is based. Hence, no doubt, the anti-Kraft intervention by Peter ...

Captain’s Log

John Torode, 21 April 1983

Back from the Brink: An Apocalyptic Experience 
by Michael Edwardes.
Collins, 301 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 00 217074 4
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... this was no rubber-stamping process. Recommendations were frequently overturned.’ Scene: A Downing Street dinner for Mitterrand. ‘Keep up the good work, Michael,’ Lord Carrington murmured to Edwardes. Maggie’s ears pricked up. ‘So he should, he’s paid more than I am,’ she snapped. Scene: the Cabinet Room. Ministers gather to discuss a paper ...

Us and Them

Robert Taubman, 4 September 1980

The Secret Servant 
by Gavin Lyall.
Hodder, 224 pp., £5.50, June 1980, 0 340 25385 1
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The Flowers of the Forest 
by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 365 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 436 20087 2
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A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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Enter the Lion: A Posthumus Memoir of Mycroft Holmes 
by Michael Hodel and Sean Wright.
Dent, 237 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 460 04483 4
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Dorothy I. Sayers: Nine Literary Studies 
by Trevor Hall.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 9780715614556
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Milk Dime 
by Barry Fantoni.
Hodder, 192 pp., £5.50, May 1980, 0 340 25350 9
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... herself (from ‘Box 500’, which seems to mean MI5), and the hero is no sooner posted to 10 Downing Street than a grenade comes through the front door. The material is that of any hard-core thriller, and very unsympathetic it is, cold-hearted in its violence and cynical about loyalty or affection. Most modern thrillers not only use this material but ...


W.G. Runciman: Exit Blair, 24 May 2007

... minister has come to office with so little experience of government or anything else. Fettes, St John’s College, Oxford, Lincoln’s Inn and a few years on the opposition benches in the House of Commons are a preparation of limited value for going into the ring in the world of lies and violence with the likes of Dick Cheney, Gerry Adams, Vladimir ...


W.G. Runciman: Dining Out, 4 June 1998

... schoolboy could be the next prime minister doesn’t cross either of our minds. On the other hand, John Birt is suitably impressed when I tell him that I actually met the great Lord Reith on the day of his extraordinary speech in the House of Lords likening commercial broadcasting to the Black Death. It was as if I’d said to the present Chief of me Defence ...

A Falklands Polemic

Tam Dalyell, 20 May 1982

... leaders were being hounded for instant comment. Crucially, Labour’s Defence Spokesman, John Silkin, went onto the important World at One radio programme, and seemed to commit the Opposition to a belligerent reaction. Uncharacteristically, I leapt to my telephone to ask what was going on, and was calmed down by Anne Carleton, his long-term personal ...

After the Battle

Matthew Coady, 26 November 1987

by Tam Dalyell.
Hamish Hamilton, 152 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 241 12170 1
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One Man’s Judgement: An Autobiography 
by Lord Wheatley.
Butterworth, 230 pp., £15.95, July 1987, 0 406 10019 5
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Changing Battlefields: The Challenge to the Labour Party 
by John Silkin.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £13.95, September 1987, 9780241121719
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Heseltine: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Julian Critchley.
Deutsch, 198 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 233 98001 6
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... legislation designed to provide a devolved government for Scotland. But no occupant of 10 Downing Street has been the target of so relentless an onslaught at his hands as Mrs Margaret Thatcher. Now, with all the zeal of a Dickensian prosecuting attorney, he summarises the case he has deployed for so long, and sadly to so little effect. It is his ...


Simon Hoggart, 24 April 1997

Michael Heseltine: A Biography 
by Michael Crick.
Hamish Hamilton, 496 pp., £20, February 1997, 0 241 13691 1
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... as Heseltine’s eyes and ears. Nor were they rewarded for their work. When he was invited into John Major’s government, after gracefully conceding defeat in the second leadership ballot, Heseltine should have made ministerial jobs for Mates and Hampson absolute conditions of his return. He should have done the same even if privately he thought them ...
Carrington: A Life and a Policy 
by Patrick Cosgrave.
Dent, 182 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 460 04691 8
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Thatcher: The First Term 
by Patrick Cosgrave.
Bodley Head, 240 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 370 30602 3
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Viva Britannia: Mrs Thatcher’s Britain 
by Paolo Filo della Torre.
Sidgwick, 101 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 283 99143 7
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... the casualty of the Falklands War, although if blame is to be allocated, I would place it on Sir John Nott, the Secretary of State for Defence, whose policy of running down the Royal Navy (with Mrs Thatcher’s support) gave the Junta the signal it sought to embark on a bit of smash and grab. I was on the platform at the sensational meeting of the ...

Short Cuts

Norman Dombey: False Intelligence, 19 February 2004

... of the evidence presented to the Hutton Inquiry, it is entirely believable that MI6 helped 10 Downing Street to persuade the British public that there was a case for war, just as the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon was doing in the United States. After all, John Scarlett, the present chairman of the Joint ...

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