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You’re only interested in Hitler, not me

Susan Pedersen: Shirley Williams, 19 December 2013

Shirley WilliamsThe Biography 
by Mark Peel.
Biteback, 461 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 1 84954 604 1
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... Mark Peel organises his serviceable authorised biography of Shirley Williams around an ostensible conundrum. Why didn’t Williams achieve more politically? Why did the polarising, hectoring Margaret Thatcher, rather than the consensus-seeking, appealing Williams, become Britain’s first woman prime minister? This is a common question ...
... the launch of the manifesto that came to be known as the Limehouse Declaration. When Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and I met together that morning, we were clear in our intention: in breaking the mould of contemporary politics, we would create a new radical centre, push the Labour Party into third place, change the electoral system and usher ...
The Socialist Agenda 
edited by David Lipsey.
Cape, 242 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 224 01886 8
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The Future of Socialism 
by Anthony Crosland.
Cape, 368 pp., £8.95, January 1981, 0 224 01888 4
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Politics is for people 
by Shirley Williams.
Allen Lane/Penguin, 230 pp., £8.50, April 1981, 0 7139 1423 8
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... one has yet produced a satisfactory alternative to Croslandism. That is the real significance of Shirley Williams’s tantalisingly brief, but potentially explosive attempt to sketch out a social democratic approach to a world of low growth, expensive energy, scarce resources and high unemployment. ...

Famous Four

R.W. Johnson, 30 November 1995

SDP: The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party 
by Ivor Crewe and Anthony King.
Oxford, 611 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 19 828050 5
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... and Roy Jenkins (both grammar school and Oxford, Jenkins the son of a miner MP) not to mention Shirley Williams (professional parents, St Paul’s and Oxford): social mobility had already carried them to Labour’s outer limits. At the least, it had to be expected that they and others like them would put their own children in private schools and that ...

Saturday Night in Darlington

D.A.N. Jones, 1 April 1983

... the fact that Michael Foot’s huge overflow meeting attracted less press wonder and applause than Shirley Williams’s. But to a Londoner, these local papers seem pretty fair and accurate – stating but not overstating the obvious fact, recognised by the Telegraph papers in London, that the Labour man, Ossie O’Brien, is by far the most able ...

Fear and Loathing in Limehouse

Richard Holme, 3 September 1987

Campaign! The Selling of the Prime Minister 
by Rodney Tyler.
Grafton, 251 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 246 13277 9
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Battle for Power 
by Des Wilson.
Sphere, 326 pp., £4.99, July 1987, 0 7221 9074 3
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David Owen: Personally Speaking 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 297 79206 7
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... early betrayals of the SDP: the conversations which David Steel and I had with Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams at the Konigswinter Conference in April 1981 and the Llandudno fringe meeting at which Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams spoke on the same platform as Jo Grimond and David Steel. Both occasions were ...

A Time for War

Peter Clarke, 21 October 1982

The Rebirth of Britain 
edited by Wayland Kennet.
Weidenfeld, 275 pp., £12, October 1982, 0 297 78177 4
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Claret and Chips 
by Hugh Stephenson.
Joseph, 201 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 7181 2204 6
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... of social democrats who, in 1979, saw no advantage in leaving Labour for a putative centre party. Shirley Williams spoke for many when she said it would have ‘no roots, no principles, no philosophy and no values’. Today there are still many social democrats who remain in the Labour Party, hopeful of reversing the balance of fortune and of reinstating ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... represented as the Venus de Milo, and with a tear running down her cheek? I can only guess why Shirley Williams is carrying a copy of the News Chronicle, or why Jimmy Hill has an Arab headdress, or why Lord Home stands bat in hand before a broken wicket. Craig Brown says that in his caricatures Boxer mixed ‘the base and the suave’, but there is ...
... and which has led Roy Jenkins and David Marquand to abandon the party. A desperate public cry to Shirley Williams: why have you got so lost in that company, one with ineffable self-confidence but without either a social base or alternative policies – you who once knew the Labour Party as inherently a coalition? I think of my late and lamented ...

Born Again

Phillip Whitehead, 19 February 1981

Face the future 
by David Owen.
Cape, 552 pp., £12.50, January 1981, 0 224 01956 2
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... will wince over its strictures on public expenditure and the role of government intervention. Shirley Williams, who has brought to the cause of Europe the passion which her mother gave to pacifism, will find Dr Owen’s advocacy of a tough line within the Community somewhat disagreeable. Bill Rodgers may not be happy with some of the confessions ...

Problems for the SDP

David Butler, 1 October 1981

... especially, by returning to its old courses, could readily steal back the clothes that Roy and Shirley had snatched. If the SDP’s obvious appeal could indeed convert the other parties to moderation, its very triumph would destroy its own raison d’être. But so far there has been no reactive change of line by cither Conservative or Labour. Over the long ...

Poor Darling

Jean McNicol, 21 March 1996

Vera Brittain: A Life 
by Paul Berry and Mark Bostridge.
Chatto, 581 pp., £25, October 1995, 0 7011 2679 5
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Vera Brittain: A Feminist Life 
by Deborah Gorham.
Blackwell, 330 pp., £20, February 1996, 0 631 14715 2
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... of my family ... would be penalised for opinions they do not share’. Brittain’s daughter, Shirley Williams, had become a Labour MP in 1964 and her mother wrote to a friend that, although she wished ‘Shirley were more revolutionary in her politics ... really she never has been! She takes after George ...

Rational Switch

Vernon Bogdanor, 17 June 1982

Democracy at the Polls: A Comparative Study of Competitive National Elections 
edited by David Butler, Howard Penniman and Austin Ranney.
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 367 pp., £5.75, March 1982, 0 8447 3403 9
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... groups for regular support. Does the SDP in Britain signify, as its leaders on the left such as Shirley Williams would like it to, a realignment amongst the forces of progress; or does it, on the contrary, signify the growth of an ‘anti party’, a party of protest supported by the electorate as a symbol of distrust of party politics and of the ...

Babylon

William Rodgers, 30 March 1989

European Diary 1977-1981 
by Roy Jenkins.
Collins, 698 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 00 217976 8
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... suffered the personal humiliation of being shouted down at a Labour Party Conference in May 1980. Shirley Williams said that a centre party would have no roots and no principles. As for me, the voyage out of the Labour Party was a lonely, painful affair not finally accomplished until a fortnight before the Limehouse Declaration of January 1981. Through ...

Off-Screen Drama

Richard Mayne, 5 March 1981

European Elections and British Politics 
by David Butler.
Longman, 208 pp., £9.95, February 1981, 0 582 29528 9
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Political Change in Europe: The Left and the Future of the Atlantic Alliance 
edited by Douglas Eden.
Blackwell, 163 pp., £8.95, January 1981, 0 631 12525 6
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... how far the extreme Left would like to go. Since then, the cameras have zoomed in unrelentingly on Shirley Williams and the Council for Social Democracy. When the mass media wake up to an issue, they seldom give it a rest. Is it too late for them to wake up to Europe, and dispel the public ignorance which all demagogues ...

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