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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 ...

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. There is a shift in what the public wants and what it approves of ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 Great ...

Buying and Selling

Paul Foot, 6 April 1995

The Davies Report: The ‘Great Battle’ in Swansea 
by Michael Davies.
Thoemmes, 139 pp., £3.99, October 1994, 1 85506 366 2
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... Can you spot the difference between the following passages? The first is a dissertation by a student seeking an MA degree in philosophy at a British university: As an ultimate philosophical proposition, the case for voluntary euthanasia is strong. Whatever may be said for and against suicide generally, the appeal of death is immeasurably greater when it is sought not for a poor reason or just any reason, but for good cause so to speak; when it is invoked not on behalf of a socially useful person, but on behalf of, for example, the pain-racked hopelessly incurable cancer victim ...
Once a Jolly Bagman: Memoirs 
by Alistair McAlpine.
Weidenfeld, 269 pp., £20, March 1997, 9780297817376
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... When did it suddenly become obvious that the Tories were going to lose the election? Was it that golden moment when Michael Portillo, that scourge of unnecessary public spending, announced that £60m of public money was earmarked for a new yacht for the richest woman on earth – even though Her Majesty had made it plain she did not want one? Was it this deranged belief in the popular devotion to the monarchy which finally sealed the Tories’ fate? Or was it the announcement soon afterwards by the once rational Sir George Young, Secretary of State for Transport, that the answer to the mounting horrors of the London Underground is to flog it off to the likes of Stagecoach plc? Sir George timed his announcement to fit in sweetly with the news that Stagecoach, having just won the biggest of the new railway franchises, had set about balancing the books in the way they know best – by sacking train drivers ...

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 ...

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 ...

Wigs and Tories

Paul Foot, 18 September 1997

Trial of Strength: The Battle Between Ministers and Judges over Who Makes the Law 
by Joshua Rozenberg.
Richard Cohen, 241 pp., £17.99, April 1997, 1 86066 094 0
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The Politics of the Judiciary 
by J.A.G. Griffith.
Fontana, 376 pp., £8.99, September 1997, 0 00 686381 7
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... If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, it follows that the enemy of Michael Howard is my hero. So awful was Howard’s long reign at the Home Office that many liberals sought democratic relief from the most blatantly undemocratic section of the establishment: the judiciary. It was the strange sound of Law Lords denouncing Howard’s preposterous insistence that ‘prison works’ and the widespread jubilation at his many snubbings in the courts that led to liberal hosannas for the judges ...

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 ...

So what if he was

Paul Foot, 25 October 1990

No Other Choice 
by George Blake.
Cape, 288 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 224 03067 1
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Inside Intelligence 
by Anthony Cavendish.
Collins, 181 pp., £12.95, October 1990, 9780002157421
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... Here are two more spy books from authors who worked long ago for British Intelligence. George Blake was very left-wing, and is now slightly less so. Anthony Cavendish has always been very right-wing. Both authors write of their profound respect for one of their former bosses, George K. Young. Young, who died recently, was deputy head of MI6 until he joined the merchant bankers Kleinwort Benson in 1961 ...

Lunchtime No News

Paul Foot, 27 June 1991

Kill the messenger 
by Bernard Ingham.
HarperCollins, 408 pp., £17.50, May 1991, 0 00 215944 9
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... Can you tell the difference in principle between these two leaks? In 1983, a young civil servant at the Ministry of Defence was so outraged by her Secretary of State’s plans to head off a demonstration against Cruise missiles that she copied the relevant document and delivered it in an anonymous envelope to the Guardian newspaper. In 1986, if Bernard Ingham’s book is to be believed, during the crisis about the Westland helicopter company, Leon Brittan, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, allowed his head of information, Collette Bowe, to read out to the Press Association a letter from the Solicitor-General to the selfsame Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Heseltine ...

Right as pie

Paul Foot, 24 October 1991

Tom Mann, 1856-1941: The Challenges of Labour 
by Chushichi Tsuzuki.
Oxford, 288 pp., £35, July 1991, 0 19 820217 2
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... In Melbourne prison, Australia, in November 1906, Tom Mann, socialist agitator, aged 50, was visited by J. Ramsay MacDonald, newly-elected Labour MP for Leicester, aged 40. Nothing is recorded of what was said. Macdonald may have expressed his enthusiasm at the advance of the Labour Party. He had trebled his vote at Leicester, and the Party now had 29 MPs ...

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