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Route to Nowhere

Peter Mair: European parties of the Left, 4 January 2001

The Heart Beats on the Left 
by Oskar Lafontaine, translated by Ronald Taylor.
Polity, 219 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 0 7456 2582 7
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... evident reliance on Bodo Hombach, described here as having the ambition to become ‘Germany’s Peter Mandelson’, whose intriguing Lafontaine later found to be ‘intolerable’. Although the parallels with the early experiences of New Labour are fascinating, they are also often misleading. First, although both sets of social democrats eventually came to ...

What’s going on?

Peter Mair: The Netherlands, 14 December 2006

Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance 
by Ian Buruma.
Atlantic, 278 pp., £12.99, October 2006, 1 84354 319 2
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... Theo van Gogh was murdered while cycling through Amsterdam on his way to work on the morning of 2 November 2004; it was probably no coincidence that this was also the day when George W. Bush was expected to be voted back into office. Van Gogh was a fourth-generation descendant of the painter, but better known in Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands as a film-maker, writer, columnist, chat-show host and all-round controversialist, whose favoured symbol was a cactus rather than a sunflower ...

The Parliamentary Peloton

Peter Mair: Money and Politics, 25 February 2010

A Very British Revolution: The Expenses Scandal and How to Save Our Democracy 
by Martin Bell.
Icon, 246 pp., £11.99, October 2009, 978 1 84831 096 4
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... During a summer school on the theme of parties and democracy held at the European University Institute in Florence last September, the talk turned to political corruption, as it often does when politics students visit Italy. The Telegraph’s principal revelations in the MPs’ expenses scandal had appeared some while before, but the summer school students were in any case more intrigued by the doings of Silvio Berlusconi and the daily stories of political chicanery in La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera ...

The party’s over

Jan-Werner Müller, 22 May 2014

Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy 
by Peter Mair.
Verso, 174 pp., £15, June 2013, 978 1 84467 324 7
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... ideologies, and there’s a problem when they don’t. What, then, do we really want from them? Peter Mair’s Ruling the Void offers some disturbing answers to this question. We remain in the dark about the strategies Mair might have recommended to address the crisis of Western democracy – he died of a heart ...

Short Cuts

Jan-Werner Müller: Playing Democracy, 19 June 2014

... There are at least two problems with this somewhat Panglossian reading of the election result. As Peter Mair pointed out, European voters tend to register their opposition to the EU in the wrong forum. The European Parliament doesn’t decide the shape of the Union as a whole; that is determined by the treaties negotiated by member states. To be sure, a ...


Peter Clarke, 21 September 1995

LSE: A History of the London School of Economics and Political Science 
by Ralf Dahrendorf.
Oxford, 584 pp., £25, May 1995, 0 19 820240 7
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... some would point also to the celebratory history by Beveridge’s fellow intriguer, Jessy Mair, later Lady Beveridge. What this ex-director has pulled off, however, cannot be dismissed as dutiful commemoration, still less as score-settling. Dahrendorf’s LSE is a striking achievement, combining standards of detached scholarship with subjective ...


Jan-Werner Müller: The Problems of the Eurozone, 27 August 2015

... European Parliament and by their national governments in the European Council. Rather, as the late Peter Mair insistently pointed out, the problem is that it is impossible to identify anything like a ‘legitimate opposition’. The European Parliament has plenty of parties that do not so much provide opposition in the EU as to the EU – but it is not ...


James McConica, 21 January 1982

by I.D. McFarlane.
Duckworth, 575 pp., £45, June 1981, 0 7156 0971 8
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... European reputation whose careers were also intertwined were chiefly trained: Hector Boece, John Mair or Major, and Major’s most famous pupil, George Buchanan. If the pitch and intonation of Scottish intellectual life have always seemed somewhat alien to English ears, the influence of these Continental schools must not be forgotten in accounting for it. Of ...

Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe: Giggling along with Boris, 18 July 2013

The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson 
edited by Harry Mount.
Bloomsbury, 149 pp., £9.99, June 2013, 978 1 4081 8352 6
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... of every sketch was people dying.’ Nonetheless, it was undoubtedly a strong influence on Peter Cook (one of the original cast members) and the other three-quarters of the Beyond the Fringe team (Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore), who would go on to present their own take on the nuclear threat, in a sketch called ‘Civil War’.In that ...

Good History

Christopher Hill, 5 March 1981

After the Reformation: Essays in Honour of J.H. Hexter 
edited by Barbara Malament.
Manchester, 363 pp., £17.95, December 1980, 0 7190 0805 0
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Puritans and Adventurers 
by T.H. Breen.
Oxford, 270 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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On History 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Sarah Matthews.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £10.95, January 1981, 0 297 77880 3
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Sociology and History 
by Peter Burke.
Allen and Unwin, 116 pp., £6.95, August 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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... of Parisian nominalists of whom the most radical was Jacques Almain, the most significant John Mair (1467-1550) – a Scot who taught Knox and Buchanan long before the Protestant Reformation. John Pocock is so dazzling in ‘Authority and Property: the Question of Liberal Origins’ that one has to rub one’s eyes hard to be able to see anything ...

Jamming up the Flax Machine

Matthew Reynolds: Ciaran Carson’s Dante, 8 May 2003

The ‘Inferno’ of Dante Alighieri 
a new translation by Ciaran Carson.
Granta, 296 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 1 86207 525 5
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... language at the cost of its variety. Before this new translation by Ciaran Carson, perhaps only Peter Whigham, whose version was left unfinished at his death, managed to re-create in English the full orchestra of Dante’s tongues, his ‘strange locust-like phonetics’ (to borrow the extraordinary vocabulary of Osip Mandelstam’s ‘Conversation about ...

Anglophobe Version

Denton Fox, 2 February 1984

The New Testament in Scots 
translated by William Laughton Lorimer.
Canongate, 476 pp., £17.50, October 1983, 0 900025 24 7
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Scotland and the Lowland Tongue 
edited by J. Derrick McClure.
Aberdeen University Press, 256 pp., £17, September 1983, 0 08 028482 5
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... greed, malice; invyfu, bluid-thristie, canglesome, sleekie, ill-hairtit, sae as they coudna be mair; clash-pyats, ill-speakers; hatesome tae God, bangsters, scorners, sprosers, drauchtie, camstairie wi their paurents; dull i the wit for richt an wrang, covenant-brakkers, and the ne’er a styme o luve or pitie i the breists of them. (Romans 1.29-31) And ...

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