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Shoy-Hoys

Paul Foot: The not-so-great Reform Act, 6 May 2004

Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act 
by Edward Pearce.
Cape, 343 pp., £20, November 2003, 0 224 06199 2
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... watched the shoy-hoy with their quick and piercing eyes and perceived that it never moves hand or foot, they totally disregard it, and are no more obstructed by it than if it were a post. Just so it is with these political shoy-hoys. Cobbett recognised that the Reform Bill was a distraction from the cause of universal suffrage. Plenty of other people saw ...

A Damned Good Investment

Paul Foot, 25 February 1993

Studded with Diamonds and Paved with Gold: Miners, Mining Companies and Human Rights in South Africa 
by Laurie Flynn.
Bloomsbury, 358 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 7475 1155 1
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... level.’ The history of Consolidated Goldfields, incidentally, has been written for a fat fee by Paul Johnson, former editor of the New Statesman and later chief jester at the court of Margaret Thatcher. Laurie Flynn tells us that Johnson managed to complete his panegyric without a single interview with a migrant miner. Nor did he mention ‘the migrant ...

Mr Straight and Mr Good

Paul Foot: Gordon Brown, 19 February 1998

Gordon Brown: The Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 358 pp., £17.99, February 1998, 0 684 81954 6
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... for eradicating poverty is the redistribution of income and wealth from rich to poor.’ Paul Routledge patronises the young Brown: ‘As a panacea for all social ills this vision could hardly be faulted. As a political strategy it was lamentably deficient.’ Similarly, Gordon Brown now dismisses the policies set out in Red Paper and The ...

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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... Bernard Donoughue records something said by James Callaghan, then Prime 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 ...

Keeping Quiet on Child Abusers

Paul Foot, 4 July 1996

The Kincora Scandal: Political Cover-Up and Intrigue in Northern Ireland 
by Chris Moore.
Marine, 240 pp., £6.99, June 1996, 1 86023 029 6
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... Under intense pressure from an outraged public and press, the Government last month set up public inquiries into two monstrous scandals involving serial sexual abuse of young people and children in homes in which they had been placed for their own ‘care’. The first inquiry is into abuse in private and council homes in North Wales and follows an earlier inquiry commissioned by Clwyd County Council (now disbanded) and conducted by a high-powered team of three experts led by John Jillings, a former director of social services in Derbyshire ...

Inside the system

Paul Foot, 7 December 1989

... said of Garrington: ‘The kindest explanation is that his memory was playing him tricks.’ PC Paul Berry, a serving officer, said he had seen one of the men with a cut lip and a black eye. His evidence, said the judges, ‘does not help the appeal’. Two officers from Winson Green Prison at the time the men were admitted, Peter Bourne and Brian ...

Wilsonia

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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... the Director-General of MI5 Sir Michael Hanley told his assembled colleagues that if Michael Foot was elected leader of the Labour Party (and thus became prime minister), ‘I and every other officer in the service would have to consider our position.’ Every other officer in the service, Sir Michael could safely assume, would be likely to resign if a ...

Changing the law

Paul Foot, 26 July 1990

A Radical Lawyer in Victorian England: W.P. Roberts and the Struggle for Workers’ Rights 
by Raymond Challinor.
Tauris, 302 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 1 85043 150 7
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... the insidious ‘bond’ (a ‘contract’ in which the miners delivered themselves bound hand and foot to the owners). The victory made Roberts a hero in the miners’ communities. Even the magistrates were impressed: the arrival of the ‘miners’ attorney’ in his gig was enough to persuade one lot of magistrates to grant bail to imprisoned ...

Diary

Paul Foot: Disaster Woman, 7 January 1988

... You can’t blame Thatcher for the October hurricane, but you can blame her for pretty well all the other disasters which have blighted 1987. ‘Disaster Woman’ might be an appropriate nickname for a prime minister who has for so long managed to avoid one. On the whole, she performs quite well at the scenes of the disasters. At Zeebrugge in March and at King’s Cross in November, she hurried to the scene of the tragedy and paraded her unsentimental regrets on television screens ...

Diary

Paul Foot: Windsor Girls School on 22 June, 4 July 1985

... All through his short life Shelley loved bizarre happenings and unpredictable human behaviour, so he would have enjoyed himself a lot at Windsor Girls School on 22 June. About a hundred and fifty people came together to celebrate his work. Was this an academic gathering, a place where scholars could show off their latest pedantry to their peers? Not at all ...

Harold, row the boat aground

Paul Foot, 20 November 1986

Memoirs 1916-1964: The Making of a Prime Minister 
by Harold Wilson.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 214 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2775 7
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... Since this is such a sad book, let us start with something cheerful. One evening in March 1966, on an assignment to cover the general election campaign in the West Midlands, I found myself at the back of the Birmingham Rag Market, surrounded by what seemed like millions of people. The thousand seats in the front had been taken up long before the start of the meeting ...

Smoking for England

Paul Foot, 5 July 1984

Smoke Ring: The Politics of Tobacco 
by Peter Taylor.
Bodley Head, 384 pp., £9.95, March 1984, 0 370 30513 2
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... Some time in the late 1960s the then prime minister Harold Wilson started using a new phrase to describe the world we live in: ‘pluralist democracy’. The word ‘pluralist’, which had been hanging around for a long time without doing any harm to anyone, meant, I think, ‘accepting many interests and ideas, rather than one’. In pluralist democracy, government plays the role of wise and benevolent chairman, holding the ring for the great interests which ‘jockey’ for power, rather than controlling them ...

Whitehall Farce

Paul Foot, 12 October 1989

The Intelligence Game: Illusions and Delusions of International Espionage 
by James Rusbridger.
Bodley Head, 320 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 370 31242 2
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The Truth about Hollis 
by W.J. West.
Duckworth, 230 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7156 2286 2
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... Hardly a week goes by without the enemies of official secrecy having good cause to sing the praises of James Rusbridger. From his Cornish retreat he sprays the correspondence columns of newspapers with volleys of good sense and good humour. This bluff, meticulous man spent much of his youth as a British businessman in Europe, where he worked in a dilatory sort of way for MI6 ...
Talking Blues: The Police in their Own Words 
by Roger Graef.
Collins Harvill, 512 pp., £15, May 1989, 0 00 272436 7
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... At the end of this book there is a story about apples (which I repeat as inconclusive proof that I have fought my way through its five hundred pages). An Inspector from a Northern Police Force is musing on the number of people who long for the ‘good old days’ of the local Bobby. ‘Everyone always tells me how they remember being cuffed around the ear by their local Bobby for stealing an apple ...

Up the Levellers

Paul Foot, 8 December 1994

The New Model Army in England, Ireland and Scotland, 1645-53 
by Ian Gentles.
Blackwell, 590 pp., £14.99, January 1994, 0 631 19347 2
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... The poorest he that is in England has a life to live as the greatest he.’ This assertion by Colonel Thomas Rainborowe in November 1647 seems almost a cliché, as much part of the democratic history of England as the Magna Carta or the Tolpuddle Martyrs or Paine’s Rights of Man. Yet for two and a half centuries after Rainborowe said his piece, no one knew anything about it ...

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