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Sizing up the Ultra-Right

David Butler, 2 July 1981

The National Front 
by Nigel Fielding.
Routledge, 252 pp., £12.50, January 1981, 0 7100 0559 8
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Left, Right: The March of Political Extremism in Britain 
by John Tomlinson.
Calder, 152 pp., £4.95, March 1981, 0 7145 3855 8
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... Labour Party’s lurch to the left, a fulfilment of these requirements. But Margaret Thatcher and Tony Benn are committed Parliamentarians and, despite all the rhetoric about the reactionary Conservative Government or Marxists in the Labour Party, no policy that has been, or is likely to be, enacted at Westminster ranges beyond what has proved acceptable ...
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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... for the last two years shows no sign of loosening its hold. Though it is hard to believe that Tony Benn can actually win the deputy leadership, his attempt to do so is bound to inflict yet more damage on his torn and battered colleagues. Roy Hattersley’s quaintly-named Solidarity Campaign may reverse some of the wilder decisions taken at the ...
The Dialectic of Change 
by Boris Kagarlitsky, translated by Rick Simon.
Verso, 393 pp., £29.95, January 1990, 0 86091 258 2
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... rally in Central Hall, Westminster, unironically billed as ‘The Debate of the Decade’, between Tony Benn and the leaders of the supposed British extra-parliamentary opposition. At this event, the motion for the debate was reform versus revolution. On the cusp of the Eighties and Nineties, New Left Books offers us a discourse of positive revolutionary ...

Saturday Night in Darlington

D.A.N. Jones, 1 April 1983

... but presenters are not known for expressing opinions and handling questions. It happens that Tony Cook is exceptionally weak in these skills and his national organisers have been trying to shield him from the press. Even if he were better at it, he would still have to suffer the prejudice against his trade: ‘He can’t say anything without an ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Alternative Weeping, 7 September 2000

... events certainly seem to be increasing rapidly in number and variety. Cheltenham and Hay-on-Wye (Tony Benn: ‘In my mind, it has replaced Christmas’) are well enough known, but there’s also Swindon, Sole Bay, Clerkenwell (perhaps the hippest – it had Alex from Blur and Adam and Joe), Dartington Hall, Lancaster Litfest, The Word 2000 and so on and ...

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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... those changes in the relevant law which are the objective of his own legislative programme. Tony Benn’s contribution is distinguished by its unique style, which reads more like notes for a lecture than the finished article. In a series of short, staccato paragraphs, not obviously linked to any developing theme, he outlines his (not wholly ...

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Chris Mullin: Anonymous and Abuse, 21 November 2019

... at whoever happens to be the bogeyman of the hour. In the 1970s and early 1980s my old friend Tony Benn was on the receiving end of a prolonged tabloid hate campaign. The Daily Express once printed a photograph of Benn daubed with a Hitler moustache. The Daily Mail – at the time engaged in one of its periodic ...


Anne Sofer: The Silliest Script Ever Written, 1 September 1983

... my guess is that he may come third. The anger of the hard Left at Kinnock’s failure to vote for Tony Benn for the Deputy Leadership, and his part in blocking Ken Livingstone’s claims to Brent East on the NEC, may attract more votes – in all three sections – from the Kinnock camp than is at present estimated. Peter Shore, the other candidate who ...


Paul Foot: Disaster Woman, 7 January 1988

... to find some way out of the impasse. In the recently-published first volume of his diaries, Tony Benn chronicles with more honesty than most of his former colleagues the fatuous failure of the first period of Wilson government. In his introduction, he writes: ‘If the British people were ever to ask themselves what power they truly enjoyed under ...


Peter Clarke: Labour’s Return, 28 June 1990

... its birthright for a mess of potage, or a potted message, or is the medium now the massage? When Tony Benn describes the Party’s new policy document as ‘profoundly anti-Labour as well as being anti-socialist’, not to mention ‘wildly pro-European’, it is an endorsement which many social democrats will find tempting. For those of us who ...

The Sound of Thunder

Tom Nairn: The Miners’ Strike, 8 October 2009

Marching to the Fault Line: The 1984 Miners’ Strike and the Death of Industrial Britain 
by Francis Beckett and David Hencke.
Constable, 303 pp., £18.99, February 2009, 978 1 84901 025 2
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Shafted: The Media, the Miners’ Strike and the Aftermath 
edited by Granville Williams.
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, 176 pp., £9.99, March 2009, 978 1 898240 05 1
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... Benjamin, to keep ‘control of that memory’, and to ‘blast open the continuum of history’. Tony Benn, in his foreword, still dreams of coming ‘together with a similar programme and campaigning for it relentlessly’. The alternative must be to get out of those trenches for good: or, better still, to fill them in with fragments of neoliberal ...

The Stansgate Tapes

John Turner, 8 December 1994

Years of Hope: Diaries, Papers and Letters, 1940-62 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 442 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 09 178534 0
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... of a politician obtained only by comparing it with the published version. In this context, Benn’s published diaries are unusually candid and useful because his methods are less vulnerable than most to later interference. As a committed techno-freak, he was dictating into a tape-recorder when most of his contemporaries were still writing in ...

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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... group of fat, rich nations feeding each other goodies’. Barbara Castle, Michael Foot and Tony Benn led a powerful Labour campaign against the Common Market, in itself a pejorative term on the left. But Roy Jenkins and others on Labour’s centre-right emphasised reconciliation with former enemies, highlighting in particular the community of ...

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Tariq Ali: So much for England, 23 January 2020

... manifesto was the democratisation of the antiquated political structure of this country that Tony Benn used to argue for. (He also thought the first past the post system should be left intact: a mistake, I thought, but he was obstinate on the question.) Johnson is in favour of a constitutional commission, but one can imagine its composition. Labour ...

An Address to the Nation

Clive James, 17 December 1981

... right wing loudly calls the left wing cranks And no one stays calm in the altercation Except for Tony Benn, who sucks contentedly On his prop pipe and stares ahead dementedtly. What does he see there in the depths of space? Still half-defined, it sets his large heart beating. The vision clarifies and lights his face. He sees some vast canteen in which a ...

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