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After Smith

Ross McKibbin

9 June 1994
... Like many others I have been puzzled by the reaction to JohnSmith’s death. It was reported as though it were at least that of a prime minister, and his funeral was, as the BBC noted, in effect a state funeral. The decision of both the BBC and ITV to double the ...

Mighty Merry

E.S. Turner

25 May 1995
The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Eleven Volumes, including Companion and Index 
edited by R.C. Latham and W. Matthews.
HarperCollins, 267 pp., £8.99, February 1995, 0 00 499021 8
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... Anyone who has ever settled down to read The Holy Bible in Pitman’s Shorthand, or even Three Men in a Boat in the same form, will have a mild idea of the task which faced the Cambridge graduate JohnSmith (a sizar, married with one child) when in 1819 he was hired to decipher the six volumes of Samuel Pepys’s diary on which Magdalene College had sat for over a century. Smith did not know the ...

Here we go

Peter Clarke

21 October 1993
... So far the Nineties have given us the politics of bewilderment. It all began with John Major becoming Prime Minister, to his own apparent bewilderment, in November 1990; since when his performance has, by general consent, become increasingly bewildering. The Labour Party was bewildered ...

Glittering Fiend

Ian Hamilton: John​ Berryman

9 December 1999
Berryman's Shakespeare 
edited by John​ Haffenden.
Farrar, Straus, 396 pp., $35, February 1999, 0 374 11205 3
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John​ Berryman’s Personal Library: A Catalogue 
by Richard Kelly.
Lang, 433 pp., £39, March 1999, 0 8204 3998 3
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... In one of John Berryman’s more lucid dream songs (No. 364), there is amusing reference to the reading habits of Henry, the song sequence’s screwed up protagonist: O Henry in his youth read many things he ...
19 November 1992
... the subsequent formation of the Liberal Party, though it took twenty years of faltering manoeuvres to accomplish, entailed a Parliamentary union between Peelites like Gladstone and Whigs like Lord John Russell. The Gladstonian Liberal Party, which was to dominate Victorian politics, was conceived in the Ayes lobby that night in 1846: it was their baby. When the baby grew up, it duly encountered its ...
22 November 2012
Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor 
by Jack Straw.
Macmillan, 582 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 4472 2275 0
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... partly because it was anachronistic, partly because he decided it hadn’t mattered much to the Labour Party’s founding fathers anyway. (Both things are more or less right.) It is probably because JohnSmith, who led the party from July 1992 until his death in 1994, would not be prematurely enrolled in New Labour that the depiction of him here is so bleak. The man who might have led Labour to ...

How to Escape the Curse

Wendy Doniger: The Mahabharata

8 October 2009
The Mahabharata 
translated by John Smith.
Penguin, 834 pp., £16.99, May 2009, 978 0 14 044681 4
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... P.C. Roy translation’, attributed to the publisher, Pratap Chandra Roy (who was made a CBE), and Ganguli’s name was unknown. The curse is working (as Anna Russell used to say of Wagner’s Ring). JohnSmith, earlier the author of a fine translation and study of the medieval Hindi Epic of Pabuji, is the latest to take up the challenge. He may escape the curse because his version is incomplete ...

The Luck of the Tories

Ross McKibbin: The Debt to Kinnock

7 March 2002
Kinnock: The Biography 
by Martin Westlake.
Little, Brown, 768 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 316 84871 9
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... the operation of demand and supply and the price mechanism is a generally satisfactory means of determining provision and consumption,’ had to be modified to meet the objections of people like JohnSmith. A pillar of the old Right of the Party, a man still rooted in its traditions, Smith didn’t feel that Labour had to start all over again. Kinnock became increasingly irritated with people who ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: ‘Scouting for Boys’

4 March 2004
... his two readerships, of boys playing at men, of men playing at being boys.’ All kinds of play are, well, at play in Scouting for Boys: playing at being soldiers; putting on plays (the story of JohnSmith and Pocahontas, for example); and, of course, playing up, playing up and playing the game. During the siege of Mafeking, the Boer commander, General Snyman, invited the British to a game of ...
31 October 1996
Possible Dreams: A Personal History of the British Christian Socialists 
by Chris Bryant.
Hodder, 351 pp., £25, July 1996, 0 340 64201 7
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... JohnSmith was ‘one of them’. Tony Blair is ‘one of them’. And so are Chris Smith and Jack Straw and half the Shadow Cabinet and many more on the backbenches including Frank Field, that one-man think-tank of the Labour Right. ‘They’ are the Christian socialists, architects of ...

At the Foundling Museum

Brian Dillon: Found

10 August 2016
... the foreground. Dean has reversed the fragment so that it looks like a photographic negative, the scene resembling the darkling approach to the vampire’s castle in Nosferatu. The artist-filmmaker JohnSmith exhibits a short stick that his father used over several decades to stir paint; its end has been sawn off to reveal thirty or so concentric rings of dried paint, going all the way back to the ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: John​ White’s New World

5 April 2007
... John White is famous for the drawings he made in the late 1580s which record aspects of the North American littoral: its geography, its inhabitants, their dress, customs and dwellings, and the birds ...

Medes and Persians

Paul Foot: The Government’s Favourite Accountants

2 November 2000
... represented by Ernst and Young, sued Touche Ross; over BCCI, Touche Ross sued Ernst and Young and Price Waterhouse. Over Atlantic Computers, Price Waterhouse sued Touche Ross. Over Wallace Smith, KPMG sued Coopers and Lybrand. Over London United Investments, Price Waterhouse sued KPMG. Over Polly Peck, Touche Ross sued Coopers and Lybrand. Poor Coopers and Lybrand was in the soup more than ...
9 December 1999
The Autobiography 
by John​ Major.
HarperCollins, 774 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 00 257004 1
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In Office 
by Norman Lamont.
Little, Brown, 567 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 316 64707 1
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... for a short time and then reviled, so the conventional wisdom in October 1990 was that the ERM was a fine thing (our entry was acclaimed by the whole of the press as well as by Neil Kinnock and JohnSmith): a view which held until, roughly, September 1992, when the conviction grew on all sides that it had been a colossal mistake. Few will argue with John Major’s asssumption that the 1997 election ...


John​ Lloyd: Split Scots

25 June 1992
... of Donald Dewar, the shadow Scottish Secretary of State, recoils from. A fight may be in the offing. On the other hand, if the next leader of the party is to be – as now seems the case – JohnSmith, that would set the seal on the dominance of Scots in the Labour leadership. Smith is generally seen as a pragmatist, a punishing debater and a quick learner: less obviously, he is a man whose ...

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