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Cowboy Coups

Phillip Knightley

10 October 1991
Smear! Wilson and the Secret State 
by Stephen Dorrill and Robin Ramsay.
Fourth Estate, 502 pp., £20, August 1991, 9781872180687
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... In the summer of 1975 I was invited by a man I knew had contacts in MI5 to have lunch at the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge. He wanted me to meet ‘someone from the office’ who had a story which might interest the Sunday Times, where I was then working. There was another guest, an aristocratic young man from the City whose role appeared to be that of prompting the MI5 officer – for that ...

Staggering on

Stephen Howe

23 May 1996
The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-31 
by Adrian Smith.
Cass, 340 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 7146 4645 8
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... Labour. These are often negative: Smith is a devoted but critical reader of the New Statesman as well as a harsh judge of its first manifestation, and does not seem to be a great admirer of either Ramsay MacDonald or Tony Blair. Few of the major personalities involved in founding the paper emerge with unmixed credit from Smith’s account, least of all Clifford Sharp. Sharp’s political judgment is ...

What did Cook want?

Jon Lawrence: Both ‘on message’ and off

19 February 2004
The Point of Departure 
by Robin​ Cook.
Simon and Schuster, 368 pp., £20, October 2003, 0 7432 5255 1
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... Robin Cook’s memoir concentrates on the first two years of the second Blair government, from his ‘demotion’ to leader of the House immediately after the 2001 general election to his resignation over ...

What Blair Threw Away

Ross McKibbin: Feckless, Irresponsible and Back in Power

19 May 2005
... the worst thing is that it was undertaken without any regard for the electoral position of the Labour Party. And that is a cardinal failing in a party leader. In reply to the argument that in 1931 Ramsay MacDonald had to think of the nation, A.J.P. Taylor once said that he shouldn’t have been thinking of the country, he should have been thinking of the Labour Party. Blair, too, should have been ...

Drinking and Spewing

Sally Mapstone: The Variousness of Robert Fergusson

25 September 2003
‘Heaven-Taught Fergusson’: Robert Burns’s Favourite Scottish Poet 
edited by Robert Crawford.
Tuckwell, 240 pp., £14.99, August 2002, 1 86232 201 5
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... excused, as they wished to present the Reader with a complete copy of his Works.’ Two centuries later this editorial attitude had hardened: Kinghorn and Law’s 1974 edition of the poems of Allan Ramsay and Fergusson included only two of Fergusson’s English poems (and none of Ramsay’s); James Robertson’s Selected Poems, published in 2000, and the most accessible edition of Fergusson’s poetry ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window

7 September 2006
Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... proscriptive zeal by Scots serving as magistrates in England. Others achieved their purposes by rising to the top of the professions – whether as lawyers, doctors or newspapermen. Then there was Ramsay MacDonald. Once among the great hopes of the rising Labour Party, he was, by 1935, thoroughly exposed as its first enormously disappointing prime minister. In Odd Man Out, Goldring dismisses him for ...

Living with Monsters

Ferdinand Mount: PMs v. the Media

22 April 2010
Where Power Lies: Prime Ministers v. the Media 
by Lance Price.
Simon & Schuster, 498 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84737 253 6
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... Downing Street and the media from Lloyd George to Callaghan’. For 40 years and more, Margach had enjoyed the confidence of prime ministers. He was in the private sitting room of Number Ten when Ramsay MacDonald returned from the palace on resigning. He belonged to Chamberlain’s magic circle of lobby men, lunching with him at St Stephen’s Club once a week. He saw Harold Wilson every week too ...

Aubade before Breakfast

Tom Crewe: Balfour and the Souls

30 March 2016
Balfour’s World: Aristocracy and Political Culture at the Fin de Siècle 
by Nancy Ellenberger.
Boydell, 414 pp., £30, September 2015, 978 1 78327 037 8
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... the beautiful dream with blood, rendering the past futile, and disarranging the future. In its aftermath came the collapse of the aristocratic system: servant trouble, death duties, new money, Ramsay MacDonald in Downing Street. Never such innocence again. If the Souls are remembered at all it is partly because some of their number – Arthur Balfour, George Curzon and Wyndham – enjoyed major ...

A Country Emptied

Ian Jack: The Highland Clearances

7 March 2019
The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed 1600-1900 
by T.M. Devine.
Allen Lane, 464 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 241 30410 5
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... their workers away. The song ends after a pause, with the repetition of the words ‘Lochaber no more’. The phrase has had several lives. It first appeared in a song by the Edinburgh poet Allan Ramsay published in 1724: Farewell to Lochaber, farewell to my Jean Where heartsome wi’ her I ha’e many days been For Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more We’ll maybe return to Lochaber no more.The ...

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