Scenes from British Life

Hugh Barnes

  • Stroke Counterstroke by William Camp
    Joseph, 190 pp, £9.95, January 1986, ISBN 0 7181 2669 6
  • Redhill Rococo by Shena Mackay
    Heinemann, 171 pp, £9.95, February 1986, ISBN 0 434 44046 9
  • Striker by Michael Irwin
    Deutsch, 231 pp, £8.95, September 1985, ISBN 0 233 97792 9

The instruments agree that Britain is running down, getting seedy or seedier. The novels under review pay tribute to our decline. They also find evidence of it in unlikely places. The most likely place, of course, is Whitehall and William Camp discovers rot setting in there or already set in: the unions hold the country to ransom, a handful of businessmen make a profit out of hard times, and politicians fall over backwards, sometimes literally, to disgrace themselves. Hooliganism masquerades as authority. Such a discovery, however, doesn’t surprise us any more. It wasn’t even surprising thirty years ago when made by a novelist who had no sense of humour. C.P. Snow’s Corridors of Power is a chore to read now, at least as far as the young are concerned. They don’t care very much that it struck a chord among a mandarin élite which was rapidly becoming disillusioned. Nevertheless, in the course of that novel Snow has Lewis Eliot observe usefully: ‘Countries, when their power is slipping away, are always liable to do idiotic things. So are social classes.’

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