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Diary

Paul Foot: Two Views of John Stalker, 3 March 1988

... In the autumn of 1982 three policemen in Northern Ireland were killed by a landmine planted by the IRA. At once, the Royal Ulster Constabulary plotted their revenge. Acting on information provided by one of their informers in the IRA – who has been paid many, many thousands of pounds – they identified five Republicans who were said to have been responsible for the landmine, and a hay shed which was, according to the informer, used by the IRA to hoard weapons ...

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 ...

Tearing up the Race Card

Paul Foot, 30 November 1995

The New Untouchables: Immigration and the New World Worker 
by Nigel Harris.
Tauris, 256 pp., £25, October 1995, 1 85043 956 7
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The Cambridge Survey of World Migration 
edited by Robin Cohen.
Cambridge, 570 pp., £75, November 1995, 0 521 44405 5
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... Every Tory attempt at ‘renewal’ – the staged leadership election last summer is a good example – pushes the Party closer to the abyss. Every poll indicates that they are losing more heavily than ever before. There is one possible remedy. Labour may be soft on immigration. The electorate may be scared away from its obvious intention, even at this late hour, by the prospect of hordes of foreigners being seduced into the country by Jack Straw ...

Those Suits

Paul Foot, 7 September 1995

Jeffrey Archer: Stranger than Fiction 
by Michael Crick.
Hamish Hamilton, 456 pp., £17.50, May 1995, 0 241 13360 2
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... Reviewing this book gives me a chance to indulge in my most bitterly regretted journalistic failure. In the autumn of 1987, shortly after the famous libel action in which Jeffrey Archer successfully sued the Daily Star for suggesting he’d had sex with a prostitute, a curious document arrived at my office at the Daily Mirror, where I wrote a weekly investigative column ...

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 ...

Diary

Paul Foot: Awaiting the Truth about Hanratty, 11 December 1997

... Hanratty! The name which has haunted the British criminal justice system for a generation is about to hit the headlines again. Some time in the next few weeks Baden Henry Skitt, former Scotland Yard Commander and Chief Constable of Hertfordshire, now a chief investigator for the Criminal Cases Review Commission, will draft a public statement on the A6 murder, for which James Hanratty was hanged in 1962 ...

Dear Mohamed

Paul Foot, 20 February 1997

Sleaze: The Corruption of Parliament 
by David Leigh and Ed Vulliamy.
Fourth Estate, 263 pp., £9.99, January 1997, 1 85702 694 2
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... Betty Boothroyd has called on the media to provide ‘fairer and better balanced coverage’ of the House of Commons. ‘Above all,’ she has warned, they ‘should not use the occasion for highly generalised and unsubstantiated comments against Members of the House as a whole and the Parliamentary system’. The ‘occasion’ to which she refers is the inquiry being conducted by a new officer of her House, Sir Gordon Downey, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards ...

Per Ardua

Paul Foot, 8 February 1996

In the Public Interest 
by Gerald James.
Little, Brown, 339 pp., £18.99, December 1995, 0 316 87719 0
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... If you’d scanned the British industrial and financial scene in the boom spring of 1988 you would not have found a more successful, cockier City gent than Gerald James. A public school education and a distinguished career as an accountant among the big names of the City (Barings, Ansbacher, Singer and Friedlander, Hill Samuel) had prepared him perfectly for his chairmanship of Astra, a burgeoning, middle-ranking arms and explosives company which he had built up since 1981 with the help of the directors of a Scottish fireworks company ...

Diary

Paul Foot: The Buttocks Problem, 5 September 1996

... It’s rare to be able to test a book against one’s own direct experience of its subject-matter. I therefore make full use of mine, as a pupil at Shrewsbury School in the Fifties. In his Foreword to a new biography of Anthony Chenevix-Trench,* one-time headmaster of Eton, Sir William Gladstone writes that Trench’s ‘interest was in drawing out the best from boys as individuals ...
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 ...

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 ...
Under Fire: An American Story 
by Oliver North and William Novak.
HarperCollins, 446 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 06 018334 9
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Terry Waite: Why was he kidnapped? 
by Gavin Hewitt.
Bloomsbury, 230 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 7475 0375 3
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... When did the Irangate scandal start? The official answer is late 1985. The Tower Commission report, a slovenly document which does not even boast an index, starts its story in that year. Col Oliver North, the man who, according to the received version, thought up the idea of selling arms to secure the release of American hostages in Beirut, tells us: ‘My own operational involvement began ...

‘No view on it’

Paul Foot, 22 October 1992

Nuclear Ambiguity: The Vanunu Affair 
by Yoel Cohen.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 297 pp., £10.99, July 1992, 1 85619 150 8
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... Mordecai Vanunu is starting his seventh year in solitary confinement in an Israeli jail. He is convicted of treason and espionage and his sentence is 18 years. The few members of his family who are allowed to see him have doubts about whether his mind will last that long. Already there are signs that the remarkable coherence and determination which he showed during the first years of his ordeal are on the wane ...

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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