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After Smith

Ross McKibbin, 9 June 1994

... Like many others I have been puzzled by the reaction to John Smith’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 ordinary length of their evening news broadcasts on the day of his death could be put down to the social democratish inclinations of the programmers, but the speed with which the coverage had to be assembled suggests that it was more instinctive ...

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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... in a Boat in the same form, will have a mild idea of the task which faced the Cambridge graduate John Smith (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 system of shorthand ...

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 to lose the General Election of 1992, which it had counted on winning ...

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 gutted the Columbia – the Cambridge libraries – Widener – Princeton – the British Museum – the Library of Congress but mostly he bought books to have as his own cunningly, like extra wings ...

Maastricht or no Maastricht

Peter Clarke, 19 November 1992

... 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 own midlife crisis. In 1886 it was the Liberal Party which ...

‘Wisely I decided to say nothing’

Ross McKibbin: Jack Straw, 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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... Party’s founding fathers anyway. (Both things are more or less right.) It is probably because John Smith, 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 victory, thus bypassing the possibility of a Blair ...

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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... determining provision and consumption,’ had to be modified to meet the objections of people like John Smith. 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 resisted the ...

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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... name was unknown. The curse is working (as Anna Russell used to say of Wagner’s Ring). John Smith, 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: though it spans the entire text, he has translated only 11 ...

On the Defensive

Ross McKibbin, 26 January 1995

Social Justice: Strategies for National Renewal. The Report of the Commission on Social Justice 
Vintage, 418 pp., £6.99, October 1994, 9780099511410Show More
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... it comes from the heart of the political élite itself. The Commission was instigated by the late John Smith and conducted its work under the auspices and with the assistance of the Institute of Public Policy Research. The Institute also published the important working papers which preceded the Report. The Commission was carefully not tied to the Labour ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: ‘Scouting for Boys’, 4 March 2004

... are, well, at play in Scouting for Boys: playing at being soldiers; putting on plays (the story of John Smith 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 cricket. Baden-Powell replied that first he had to finish ...
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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... John Smith 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 New Labour, ready to provide the movement with the ethical foundations which seem sorely missing ...

At the Foundling Museum

Brian Dillon: Found, 10 August 2016

... resembling the darkling approach to the vampire’s castle in Nosferatu. The artist-filmmaker John Smith 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 grey-green of 1950s kitchen cabinets. This would be a ...

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, plants and animals found there. Seventy-five of White’s drawings, along with navigational instruments, maps, books and relics of 16th-century exploration are on show in A New World, an exhibition at the British Museum until 17 June ...

Medes and Persians

Paul Foot: The Government’s Favourite Accountants, 2 November 2000

... 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 once over its not altogether distinguished accountancy of ...

Very Old Labour

Ross McKibbin, 3 April 1997

... merely pretending. Much of this ‘renewal’ had, of course, been achieved by Neil Kinnock and John Smith, while the numerical and political decline of the unions, together with a change in the composition of the electorate and the Labour Party’s membership, made ‘renewal’ much easier and, at least to some extent, necessary. Nevertheless, Mr ...

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