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Peter Clarke: True or False?, 16 August 1990

... never had it so good.’ 7. Edward Heath gave his word to ‘cut rising prices at a stroke’. 8. Shirley Williams joined Arthur Scargill on a mass picket at Grunwicks. 9. James Callaghan said: ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ 10. An experienced cabinet minister said in an interview: ‘I’m not against giving up sovereignty in principle, but not to this ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... a formidable role on both sides of the debate, Castle and Judith Hart for the socialist antis, Shirley Williams and Betty Boothroyd for the more social democratic Marketeers. In an era of rocketing inflation, the cost of food offered the antis their best hope of victory. But, contrary to today’s Eurosceptic myth that sovereignty played no part in ...


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 ...

Believing in the Alliance

Keith Kyle, 19 November 1981

... when the SDP is shown to be in alliance with the Liberals, and not in competition with them. Shirley Williams felt quite justified, during the Bradshaw-type SDP Conference, in telling some of her Liberal allies quite sharply that it was up to the Social Democrats whom they accepted as members. To a certain degree this is true, but clearly if the ...

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 ...

The Man in White

Edward Pearce, 11 October 1990

The Golden Warrior: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia 
by Lawrence James.
Weidenfeld, 404 pp., £19.50, August 1990, 0 297 81087 1
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... justifiably exasperated by Arab unreliability, non-arrival when and as promised and needed (their Shirley Williams qualities), as well as their candid venality. Lawrence could see the good and waited for it. With the fall of Aqaba and thereafter he would argue, playing down essential support from the Regular Army, that his Arabs had delivered. Such ...

Late Developer

Paul Foot, 22 February 1990

Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-1976 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £20, October 1989, 0 09 173775 3
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... of time. Of Tony Crosland: ‘For him informality is a sort of substitute for radicalism.’ Of Shirley Williams: ‘the most reactionary politician I know’. Of Neil Kinnock: ‘not a substantial person. He is a media figure really.’ The central fascination of these Diaries is the gradual transformation of the bright young dynamic dinner-partying ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Admirer

Ian Aitken, 21 November 1991

Time to declare 
by David Owen.
Joseph, 822 pp., £20, September 1991, 0 7181 3514 8
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... which she held the premiereship. In this, of course, he shares responsibility with Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers. But there can be very little doubt that the existence of the SDP was the major factor in sustaining Thatcherism in defiance of the fact that the Tories were unable to achieve more than a fraction of the popular vote in ...

The Future of the Labour Party

Barbara Wootton, 18 December 1980

Healey’s Eye 
by Denis Healey.
Cape, 191 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 224 01793 4
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The Role of the Trade Unions: The Granada Guildhall Lectures 
by James Prior, Tony Benn and Lionel Murray.
Granada, 96 pp., £1, August 1980, 0 586 05386 7
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Rank and File 
by Hugh Jenkins.
Croom Helm, 179 pp., £9.95, September 1980, 0 7099 0331 6
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The Tragedy of Labour 
by Stephen Haseler.
Blackwell, 249 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780631113416
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Labour into the Eighties 
edited by David Bell.
Croom Helm, 168 pp., £9.95, September 1980, 0 7099 0443 6
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... concerned and under a generally acceptable leader is not a task to be accomplished overnight. As Shirley Williams reminded us at Blackpool, it may have taken God only seven days to make the world, but he didn’t have to consider other people’s ideas as to how it should be done; nor did he have to raise a lot of money, as must any new party. In the ...

What’s going on?

Peter Jenkins, 21 November 1985

How Britain votes 
by Anthony Heath, Roger Jowell and John Curtice.
Pergamon, 251 pp., £15.50, September 1985, 0 08 031859 2
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Partnership of Principle 
by Roy Jenkins.
Secker in association with the Radical Centre, 169 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 436 22100 4
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The Strange Rebirth of Liberal Britain 
by Ian Bradley.
Chatto, 259 pp., £11.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2670 1
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Report from the Select Committee on Overseas Trade, House of Lords 
HMSO, 96 pp., £6.30, October 1985, 0 10 496285 2Show More
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... there was a lot of talk about ‘talking the language of the new politics’, and I think I heard Shirley Williams refer to the ‘nodes of the new society’. Ian Bradley sees this new society as a post-social democratic society. For him, liberalism is a mystical cult of the individual. Everything that suits his argument, or rather quasi-religious ...


Clive James, 10 January 1983

... packing up each night as for the hols Is hard to see, unless they’re taking pains To prove that Shirley Williams can catch trains. More serious than polls for the Alliance, Roy’s Statutory Incomes Policy Is greeted with a vote of non-compliance, Thus demonstrating that the SDP Is not just for a gang of famous giants But ordinary folk like you and ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Instincts

Barbara Wootton, 7 August 1980

Mrs Thatcher’s First Year 
by Hugh Stephenson.
Jill Norman, 128 pp., £6.50, June 1980, 0 906908 16 7
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A House Divided 
by David Steel.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £6.50, June 1980, 0 297 77764 5
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... But she does not have that extra dimension, obvious for example in people like Barbara Castle or Shirley Williams as ministers, of being a warm personality in an essentially male environment.’ Certainly a personality does come across in these pages. Our PM clearly has both mental and physical courage (witness her visit to Armagh) and she lacks that ...

An Address to the Nation

Clive James, 17 December 1981

... anguished cries come to their lips unbidden. The Crosby by-election, shriek the polls, Must go to Shirley Williams by a cable. Should that occur the toiling Fleet Street trolls Will find her shapelier than Betty Grable, While making sure a solemn tocsin tolls To tell Roy Jenkins he is not Clark Gable. About the top spot there’ll be much palaver As some ...

Looking out

C.H. Sisson, 18 February 1982

The Public School Revolution: Britain’s Independent Schools, 1964-1979 
by John Rae.
Faber, 188 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 571 11789 9
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... though he is and no doubt wishes to be, is not quite the centre either. Is there hope in Mrs Shirley Williams? I should not have thought so, given the extreme ambiguity of her actions and opinions, in the matter of education as in some others. However, you never know when you may need a friend or who that friend may be, and Dr Rae speaks of her ...

Keeping Left

Edmund Dell, 2 October 1980

The Castle Diaries 
by Barbara Castle.
Weidenfeld, 778 pp., £14.95, September 1980, 0 297 77420 4
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... in any wing of the party, would have held that view. She shows herself to be very jealous of Shirley Williams, and in particular of Shirley’s success with the media, by whom she always felt herself battered. One can understand her resentment of the fact that of the two nicest people in Cabinet, one was the other ...

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