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A Change Is Coming

David Runciman, 21 February 2019

... It’s not​ 1940. Might it, though, be 1945? By that I don’t mean we are at the end of some epic contest of national survival, let alone of national liberation. It’s not been that sort of contest, and anyway, this doesn’t look much like the end. But for the last few years normal politics has effectively been on hold as the government has grappled with a grim and grinding task that has consumed almost all its energies ...

A Funny Feeling

David Runciman: Larkin and My Father, 4 February 2021

... most direct engagement with his fear of dying can be found in a letter he wrote to my father, W.G. Runciman, in November 1978, following the publication of his poem ‘Aubade’, which begins:I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.In time the curtain-edges will grow light.Till then I see what’s really always ...

Brown and Friends

David Runciman, 3 January 2008

... Party in Scotland. Balls’s wife, Yvette Cooper, sits with him in cabinet. Miliband’s brother, David, is foreign secretary. Brothers and sisters, husbands and wives: the Brown government is a family affair, and it marks a shift to ever more intimate political relationships at the centre of power, even compared to the days when Tony Blair was ruling the ...

Look…

David Runciman: How the coalition was formed, 16 December 2010

22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition 
by David Laws.
Biteback, 335 pp., £9.99, November 2010, 978 1 84954 080 3
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... Australians), they seem to have been unembarrassable. Yet that’s not how it worked over here. David Laws’s 22 Days in May, which recounts the negotiations that preceded the formation of the coalition government from the inside, explains how it happened that in our case the winners actually ended up winning. Hardly surprisingly, it’s not that Lib Dem ...

Fat Bastard

David Runciman: Shane Warne, 15 August 2019

No Spin 
by Shane Warne.
Ebury, 411 pp., £9.99, June 2019, 978 1 78503 785 6
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... When​ the Australian cricketers Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were exposed tampering with the ball during last year’s test series in South Africa there was, along with all the faux outrage, some genuine incredulity. Why did they take such an insane risk? The subterfuge was so cack-handed – rubbing the ball with lurid yellow sandpaper, perfectly suited to be picked up by the TV cameras – and the potential rewards so slight that they seemed to be putting their careers on the line for next to nothing ...

Untouchable?

David Runciman: The Tory State?, 8 September 2016

... the aggrandising behaviour of Liam Fox at the newly created Department for International Trade. David Davis at the newly created Department for Exiting the European Union is unhappy with both of them. This kind of turf warfare will only get worse as the time for invoking Article 50 draws near. It will put huge strain on the Tories’ united front. But who ...

Competition is for losers

David Runciman: Silicon Valley Vampire, 23 September 2021

The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power 
by Max Chafkin.
Bloomsbury, 400 pp., £25, September, 978 1 5266 1955 6
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... had been ‘brainwashed’ into believing in the dangers of climate change. Thiel then tried David Gelernter, an anti-PC warrior and author of America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats). Thiel tried to pitch Gelernter to Trump as a martyr for technology, because in 1993 he had been one of the victims of the ...

Spookery, Skulduggery

David Runciman: Chris Mullin, 4 April 2019

The Friends of Harry Perkins 
by Chris Mullin.
Scribner, 185 pp., £12, March 2019, 978 1 4711 8248 8
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... Chris Mullin’s​  A Very British Coup was a nostalgic book that turned into a prophetic one. First published in 1982 and set towards the end of that decade, it nonetheless recalled the politics of the 1970s. The novel tells the story of Harry Perkins, a Bennite leader of the Labour Party, who wins power at a general election but has it prised away from him by a conspiracy of securocrats, tycoons and Labour turncoats ...

Is this how democracy ends?

David Runciman: A Failed State?, 1 December 2016

... On election night​ , almost as soon as it was clear that the unthinkable had become a cold reality, Paul Krugman asked in the New York Times whether the US was now a failed state. Political scientists who normally study American democracy in splendid isolation are starting to turn their attention to Africa and Latin America. They want to know what happens when authoritarians win elections and democracy morphs into something else ...

Steely Women in a World of Wobbly Men

David Runciman: The Myth of the Strong Leader, 20 June 2019

... Most British​ prime ministers since Margaret Thatcher have wanted to be Thatcher in one way or another. Tony Blair hoped to emulate not just the longevity of her tenure but also the impact she had on the country. Cameron would have liked to remake the Conservative Party in his own image, as she remade it in hers. Theresa May simply wanted to be as formidable as Thatcher had been, a steely woman in a world of wobbly men ...

The Politics of Now

David Runciman: The Last World Cup, 21 June 2018

The Fall of the House of Fifa 
by David Conn.
Yellow Jersey, 336 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 0 224 10045 8
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... power, some moments now look like straws in the wind. In late November 2010 the English FA sent David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham to Fifa headquarters in Zurich to lobby on its behalf before the vote for the right to host the 2018 World Cup. Two old Etonians and an alumnus of Chingford County High ...

Is this the end of the UK?

David Runciman: The End of the UK?, 27 May 2010

... are bound to build. The Conservative Party, in theory, remains fully committed to the Union. David Cameron repeatedly and pointedly talks about having come into politics to serve ‘our country’, and by that he doesn’t mean England – he means the UK. Yet this election was meant to be the occasion when the Tories re-established themselves as a ...

In a Faraway Pond

David Runciman: The NGO, 29 November 2007

Non-Governmental Politics 
edited by Michel Feher.
Zone, 693 pp., £24.95, May 2007, 978 1 890951 74 0
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... On 24 July, in a speech to the Rwandan parliament, David Cameron said that the old ideological divisions concerning aid and trade – aid is ‘wasteful’, trade is ‘unfair’ – needed to be abandoned in favour of a commitment to what works. He talked about the importance of transparency and accountability at both governmental and non-governmental levels to ensure that resources were used efficiently and money reached its targets ...

Stiffed

David Runciman: Occupy, 25 October 2012

The Occupy Handbook 
edited by Janet Byrne.
Back Bay, 535 pp., $15.99, April 2012, 978 0 316 22021 7
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... left. But Rolling Stone magazine identified the originator of ‘We are the 99 per cent’ as David Graeber, the anthropologist and activist, who first spotted its potential as an organising tool.* You can see why people might want to lay claim to ‘We are the 99 per cent’: it’s a brilliant slogan and an increasingly successful brand, doing its work ...

Will we be all right in the end?

David Runciman: Europe’s Crisis, 5 January 2012

... to the way things are, they simply want to be free to drift along with their fate. All this makes David Cameron a classic democratic fatalist, rather than the pragmatist he likes to present himself as. He certainly behaved like one when he exercised his veto in Brussels. The definition of a pragmatic conservative is someone who wants things to change so that ...

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