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‘Bye Bye Baghdad’

Paul Foot, 7 February 1991

... The Sun (15 January) announces on its front page: THE SUN SPEAKS FOR EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD IN BRITAIN. This would normally be a joke, a fantastic flight of fancy to prove that editor Kelvin Mackenzie had at last gone mad. But when, the next morning, the Sun devotes its entire front page to the Union Jack with a good old British Tommy in its centre, and the rubric up above SUPPORT OUR BOYS AND PUT THIS FLAG IN YOUR WINDOW, thousands of people do so! The Sun has its best morning for years ...

Bogwogs

Paul Foot, 19 April 1990

War without Honour 
by Fred Holroyd and Nick Bainbridge.
Medium, 184 pp., £6.95, November 1989, 1 872398 00 6
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... So excited was Captain Fred Holroyd by his new posting to the city of Armagh in Northern Ireland as a fully-trained officer in military intelligence that he took great care to maintain his ‘cover’. He grew a rough beard before travelling across the Irish Sea, and dressed up in suitably scruffy clothes for the journey. He slunk into his ferry cabin without arousing anyone’s suspicion and locked the door ...

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 ...

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 ...

Diary

Paul Foot: The Labour Party’s vacillation over rail privatisation, 28 October 1999

... I had managed only one speech against the war in Kosovo when I was carted off to hospital in the middle of the night with what I later discovered was an aortic aneurism. Hardly had the surgeons opened me up than my aorta, an artery which runs from heart to head, ruptured. Almost all such ruptures end in death, and for many weeks I lay in a coma. When I came round, expertly patched up but still without much prospect of recovery, I was plagued by hallucinations ...

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 ...

Prince and Pimp

Paul Foot, 1 January 1998

The Liar: The Fall of Jonathan Aitken 
by Luke Harding and David Leigh.
Penguin, 205 pp., £6.99, December 1997, 0 14 027290 9
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... Are we all bare-faced liars?’ The question came from Jonathan Aitken, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, in January 1994. It was put to the then editor of the Guardian, Peter Preston. The words ‘we all’ referred to Aitken himself, his wife Lolicia and his faithful Arab friend Said Ayas. The answer to the question was ‘yes’. They were all bare-faced liars, but none more so than the debonair minister himself ...

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 ...

Blood Boiling

Paul Foot: Corporate takeover, 22 February 2001

Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain 
by George Monbiot.
Macmillan, 430 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 0 333 90164 9
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No Logo 
by Naomi Klein.
Flamingo, 501 pp., £8.99, January 2001, 0 00 653040 0
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... For an old Red like me, bowed down by years of Thatcher, Reagan, Clinton and Blair, these two books are full of exhilaration and hope. George Monbiot writes mainly about Britain in a terse investigative style that I had feared was out of date. Naomi Klein, based in Canada, ranges all over the world and writes infectiously with verve and passion. Again and again their themes converge ...

There is only one Harrods

Paul Foot, 23 September 1993

Tiny Rowland: A Rebel Tycoon 
by Tom Bower.
Heinemann, 659 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 434 07339 3
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... in the British secret service was to denounce Kim Philby in time for the spy to run to Moscow; and Paul Spicer, Rowland’s devoted bagman, who is well known to every journalist who ever asked a question about Lonrho and had it suavely deflected. But Tiny’s greatest catch was perhaps his second chairman. He was looking for someone who might fit in with his ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Travels on the left

Paul Foot, 2 December 1993

John Strachey: An Intellectual Biography 
by Noel Thompson.
Macmillan, 288 pp., £27.50, May 1993, 0 333 51154 9
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John Strachey 
by Michael Newman.
Manchester, 208 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 9780719021749
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... In the 1929 General Election campaign, the Labour candidate for Aston, Birmingham issued the following leaflet: £5 Reward! DESPERATE TORIES WILD LIE. Mr John Strachey writes: ‘It has come to my notice that Tory canvassers are making the outrageous statement that I am a foreigner. This is a most serious allegation which the Aston Tory Party, utterly beaten in political argument, has fallen back upon as a last desperate throw ...

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