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They don’t even need ideas

William Davies: Take Nigel Farage ...

20 June 2019
... the record for the most unpopular leadership duo ever, breaking the record set by Thatcher and Michael Foot in December 1981. The roots of this disillusionment extend back many years, well before the 2016 referendum. Many have highlighted the role played by the 2009 expenses scandal. Nevertheless, a plebiscite does particular violence to the faith on which ...

Rising above it

Russell Davies

2 December 1982
The Noel Coward Diaries 
edited by Graham Payn and Sheridan Morley.
Weidenfeld, 698 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 297 78142 1
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... was boredom. Most people were interesting first time round. ‘Wednesday 9 July 1941: Lunched with Michael Foot, whom I liked very much. He hated and hates Chamberlain even more than I. His views, though a trifle too leftist, are sound.’ But they did not turn out to be permanently palatable. ‘Friday 3 October 1952: After dinner we watched a political ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Francis Hope, and Tom and Vic

15 March 1984
... word, come to think of it, sprang unbidden to the lips about half-way through the first act of Michael Hastings’s play Tom and Viv, now showing at the Royal Court. The play purports to be an account of T. S. Eliot’s first marriage, to Vivien Haigh-Wood, and I had been pretty well put off it by Peter Redgrove’s letter to the TLS: ‘if Eliot’s ...
24 February 1994
The Kenneth Williams Diaries 
edited by Russell Davies.
HarperCollins, 827 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 00 255023 7
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... just behave with politeness – for the rest – she’s had it.’ In his biography of Williams, Michael Freedland gives a fuller account of this incident. He explains the basis of the sketch – two spies complaining about the uselessness of their technical gadgetry – and quotes Fenella Fielding: ‘We both had death pills. I would die first leaving him ...

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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... since she seems not to have had a ghost, unlike John Prescott, who was ventriloquised by Hunter Davies; Michael Levy credits a journalist friend, Ned Temko, for his ‘invaluable help, talent and patience’. You certainly don’t hear the Cherie described by Michael Levy, ‘every bit ...

What are they after?

William Davies: How Could the Tories?

8 March 2018
... things apply to Johnson, but a Venn diagram of these various characteristics would also include Michael Gove, Douglas Carswell, Daniel Hannan and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The result of these disparate characteristics is a comfortable familiarity with the myths and rituals of the British state, but a blasé indifference to the impact of policy. As Ian Jack pointed ...
5 May 1988
Regulating the City: Competition, Scandal and Reform 
by Michael Clarke.
Open University, 288 pp., £25, May 1986, 9780335153817
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Regulating fraud: White-Collar Crime and the Criminal Process 
by Michael Levi.
Tavistock, 416 pp., £35, August 1987, 0 422 61160 3
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... the extraordinary sums of money involved,1 were quickly followed by the prosecution in Britain of Michael Collier. Chairman of Morgan Grenfell, the largest securities firm in the City of London, for making an instantaneous profit of £15,000 on the purchase of shares in a company he knew was about to be taken over. A steady series of cases involving ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest

22 March 2018
TheShakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... of its inhabitants was proven, in the words of James I’s attorney-general for Ireland, Sir John Davies, by their stubborn and perverse refusal to ‘plant any gardens or orchards, enclose or improve their lands, [or] live together in settled villages or towns’. The Irish rebels, according to Davies, were ‘wild and ...

Blame it on the boogie

Andrew O’Hagan: In Pursuit of Michael Jackson

6 July 2006
On Michael Jackson 
by Margo Jefferson.
Pantheon, 146 pp., $20, January 2006, 0 375 42326 5
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... Since being acquitted of child molestation charges last summer, Michael Jackson has been hanging out in Bahrain, enjoying the hospitality of the ruler’s poptastic son Sheikh Abdullah. Jackson is said to have become a Muslim (which is sure to please his critics on Good Morning America), but evidence would suggest he has yet to get the hang of Islamic custom ...

Diary

Tam Dalyell: The Belgrano Affair

7 February 1985
... inside a Department – as in the case of what came to me from Clive Ponting. A careful look at Michael Heseltine’s lengthy broadcast evidence shows what exactly was taking place in the Whitehall stratosphere during the month in which Hilda Murrell was murdered. On 6 March Denzil Davies wrote to the Prime ...
4 April 1985
The Right to Know: The Inside Story of the ‘Belgrano’ Affair 
by Clive Ponting.
Sphere, 214 pp., £2.50, March 1985, 0 7221 6944 2
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... by Mr Ponting, of the meeting on 30 March 1984 to decide how to answer the letters from Denzil Davies and myself, dated 19 March. It got going just before 10 a.m. and lasted until nearly one o’clock. Anyone who knows Michael Heseltine knows that he is a rapid dispatcher of business, even by senior ministerial ...

Modernity

George Steiner

5 May 1988
Visions and Blueprints: Avant-Garde Culture and Radical Politics in Early 20th-century Europe 
edited by Edward Timms and Peter Collier.
Manchester, 328 pp., £29.50, February 1988, 0 7190 2260 6
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... in these attitudes which was all-important and which, as I noted above, is passed over. Judy Davies makes one of the most convincing contributions in her survey of Marinetti and early Fascism. Even as her fine chapter appears, Marinetti and Boccioni seem to be coming back into fashion. The piece on ‘sexual politics and the avant-garde’, on the other ...
28 October 1999
Living on Thin Air: The New Economy 
by Charles Leadbeater.
Viking, 244 pp., £17.99, July 1999, 0 670 87669 0
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... Third – or is that Fourth? – Way text for the coming century. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury won the 1989 Smartie Prize for juvenile fiction. Bear Hunt, as policy intellectuals familiarly call it, is the ‘unlikely starting point’ for an answer to the query Leadbetter poses in his opening chapter: ‘How to find ...

Nuremberg Rally, Invasion of Poland, Dunkirk …

James Meek: The never-ending wish to write about the Second World War

6 September 2001
Ghost MacIndoe 
by Jonathan Buckley.
Fourth Estate, 469 pp., £12.99, April 2001, 1 84115 227 7
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The Twins 
by Tessa de Loo.
Arcadia, 392 pp., £6.99, May 2001, 1 900850 56 7
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Riptide 
by John Lawton.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.99, March 2001, 0 297 64345 2
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The Day We Had Hitler Home 
by Rodney Hall.
Granta, 361 pp., £15.99, April 2001, 1 86207 384 8
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Five Quarters of the Orange 
by Joanne Harris.
Doubleday, 431 pp., £12.99, April 2001, 0 385 60169 7
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The Fire Fighter 
by Francis Cottam.
Chatto, 240 pp., £15.99, March 2001, 0 7011 6981 8
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The Element of Water 
by Stevie Davies.
Women’s Press, 253 pp., £9.99, April 2001, 0 7043 4705 9
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The Bronze Horsewoman 
by Paullina Simons.
Flamingo, 637 pp., £6.99, April 2001, 0 00 651322 0
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The Siege 
by Helen Dunmore.
Penguin, 304 pp., £16.99, June 2001, 0 670 89718 3
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... at the world from within double-glazed, centrally-heated rooms permeates many of these novels. Davies’s sketch of a character in The Element of Water could stand as a warning to all modern narrators: ‘Quantz, trained in the Canaris school of Intelligence but long returned to the Navy, couldn’t quite slough his habit of cynical observation.’ The ...

Mao meets Oakeshott

John Lanchester: Britain’s new class divide

21 October 2004
Mind the Gap: The New Class Divide in Britain 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Short Books, 320 pp., £14.99, September 2004, 1 904095 94 1
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... man has no ready buttress for his self-regard. That historian is fictional: he is the narrator of Michael Young’s 1958 satire The Rise of the Meritocracy. But the only thing significantly off the mark about his dystopian predictions is that his narrator is saying these things, as opposed to merely thinking them. Mount’s Uppers do, broadly speaking, think ...

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