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Coalition Phobia

Brian Harrison, 4 June 1987

Labour People, Leaders and Lieutenants: Hardie to Kinnock 
by Kenneth O. Morgan.
Oxford, 370 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 19 822929 1
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J. Ramsay MacDonald 
by Austen Morgan.
Manchester, 276 pp., £19.50, June 1987, 0 7190 2168 5
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Sylvia Pankhurst: Portrait of a Radical 
by Patricia Romero.
Yale, 334 pp., £17.50, March 1987, 0 300 03691 4
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Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst 
by Barbara Castle.
Penguin, 159 pp., £3.95, May 1987, 0 14 008761 3
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... but less well-known people who did so much to build up the Labour Party’s machine: Henderson, Morrison, Dalton and Rita Hinden. And in the figure of Morgan Phillips this third major strength of the book overlaps with its fourth (predictable from the historian of modern Wales): its emphasis on the Party’s Welsh component (Mabon, Noah Ablett, James ...

He will need a raincoat

Blake Morrison: Fathers and Sons, 14 July 2016

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between 
by Hisham Matar.
Viking, 276 pp., £14.99, June 2016, 978 0 670 92333 5
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... by raising the case of Jaballa Matar with Gaddafi (Desmond Tutu, by contrast, did his bit). Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson are fingered too, for cosying up to the Libyans, and though David Miliband was full of goodwill, a meeting at his office ended in Seif-like smarminess. Miliband placed a hand on Matar’s shoulder and asked: ‘Are you British ...

Radical Democrats

Ross McKibbin, 7 March 1991

Conflicts of Interest: Diaries 1977-80 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 675 pp., £20, September 1990, 0 09 174321 4
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Words as Weapons: Selected Writings 1980-1990 
by Paul Foot.
Verso, 281 pp., £29.95, November 1990, 0 86091 310 4
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... When historians come to account for the dégringolade of modern British politics both Tony Benn and Paul Foot will find a place: Benn as actor, Foot as an observer. The two have much in common: both were born into very similar families; both see their lives as a continuing re-education, a casting aside of cultural baggage packed with the detritus of a worn-out social system; both have come to discover a superior morality within socialism and the organised working class ...

My Millbank

Seumas Milne, 18 April 1996

The Blair Revolution: Can New Labour Deliver? 
by Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle.
Faber, 274 pp., £7.99, February 1996, 0 571 17818 9
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... your way can require a degree of intrigue and manoeuvring.’ The straight-dealing Tony Blair would, they say, prefer that this was unnecessary and does not really ‘enjoy the modus operandi’. How very fortunate the Labour leader is, then, to be able to count on the services of one whose name has become a byword for political manipulation ...

Thanks to the Fels-Naptha Soap King

Miles Taylor: George Lansbury, 22 May 2003

George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour 
by John Shepherd.
Oxford, 407 pp., £35, September 2002, 0 19 820164 8
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... sounded authentic even when uttered by figures on the patrician Left such as Stafford Cripps and Tony Benn. Hazy on the finer points of Marx, and always unfamiliar with Keynes, Lansbury made the critique of capitalism intelligible: it was the gospel truth. Third, Shepherd reminds us what a rich radical heritage Lansbury’s Party bequeathed to modern ...

Incompetence at the War Office

Simon Jenkins: Politics and Pistols at Dawn, 18 December 2008

The Duel: Castlereagh, Canning and Deadly Cabinet Rivalry 
by Giles Hunt.
Tauris, 214 pp., £20, January 2008, 978 1 84511 593 7
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... Lord Castlereagh and George Canning can drive from their imagination the more recent feud between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, accounts of which made me thankful there are no firearms stored (within easy reach) at Downing Street. Duels are now fought with shouting matches, spin doctors and snide public allusions to ‘the bloke next door’. The toxic mix of ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... only by the previous Penguin of 1962, The New Poetry, selected and introduced by A. Alvarez. Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion are well aware that there is something comically factitious about the stance that has to be adopted by each new spokesman on the poetry scene – ‘we are not,’ they say, ‘the first anthologists this century to have made such a ...

Diary

R.W. Johnson: Kinnock must go, 10 December 1987

... of the Thirties. Why has the Opposition done so badly? Two recent books afford a clue.* Tony Benn’s diaries are full of interest, in many ways the more so because we already have such plentiful diaristic accounts of the 1964-70 Labour Government. (Benn reveals, incidentally, that Harold Wilson promised that he would publish posthumously the real ...

Moments

Marilyn Butler, 2 September 1982

The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. I: Medieval Literature Part One: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition, Vol. II: The Age of Shakespeare, Vol. III: From Donne to Marvell, Vol. IV: From Dryden to Johnson 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 647 pp., £2.95, March 1982, 0 14 022264 2
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Medieval Writers and their Work: Middle English Literature and its Background 
by J.A. Burrow.
Oxford, 148 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 19 289122 7
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Contemporary Writers Series: Saul Bellow, Joe Orton, John Fowles, Kurt Vonnegut, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Pynchon 
by Malcolm Bradbury, C.W.E. Bigsby, Peter Conradi, Jerome Klinkowitz and Blake Morrison.
Methuen, 110 pp., £1.95, May 1982, 0 416 31650 6
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... world has passed through one collective experience in the past quarter-century. Blake Morrison, while struggling gamely to relate Seamus Heaney to his and our times, cannot help but fix him eventually in his own particular place, which is in fact a substantially different matter. Tony Tanner observes suddenly ...

We were the Lambert boys

Paul Driver, 22 May 1986

The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit 
by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 388 pp., £13.95, April 1986, 0 7011 2731 7
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... sources are rifled. The extracts from letters that appear in Motion are in Shead; the Angus Morrison unpublished chapter made available to Shead and the Anthony Powell memoir which prefaced Shead’s book are re-quarried. And Motion never cites references – a major irritation of this biography without bibliography. Constant’s life-story is told with ...

Christopher Hitchens states a prosecution case

Christopher Hitchens, 25 October 1990

Crossman: The Pursuit of Power 
by Anthony Howard.
Cape, 361 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 0 224 02592 9
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... this was outrageous and he was going to accept the challenge of the Sunday Times. In order to kill Tony Howard’s new job he forbade any of us to speak to him. Uncharacteristically, Crossman did not follow this entry with any comment or aside, and the remainder of the six-year narrative does not include any ‘off the record’ meetings with his ...

Metaphysical Parenting

James Wood: Edward P. Jones, 21 June 2007

All Aunt Hagar’s Children 
by Edward P. Jones.
Harper Perennial, 399 pp., £7.99, March 2007, 978 0 00 724083 8
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... meeting between Miss Georgia, an attractive young woman already married three times, and Kenyon Morrison, the man who will knock her down the stairs only two weeks later. The two soon flirt. But Jones, blurting out Morrison’s criminal record like a wayward judge, can’t keep quiet about him: ‘He laughed and she ...

The Importance of Being Ernie

Ferdinand Mount, 5 November 2020

Ernest Bevin: Labour’s Churchill 
by Andrew Adonis.
Biteback, 352 pp., £20, July, 978 1 78590 598 8
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... are briskly described here (it’s hard to forget that Adonis, once schools minister under Tony Blair, was himself abandoned by his mother at the age of three and brought up in care homes until he was 11), but knowledge of them increases the reader’s admiration for Bevin’s lifelong generosity of spirit. This flourished as a consequence of Bevin’s ...

Hello, Fred

David Marquand, 21 March 1985

Hugh Dalton 
by Ben Pimlott.
Cape, 731 pp., £25, March 1985, 0 224 02100 1
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... among his protégés Hugh Gaitskell, the most impressive leader the Labour Party has ever had, and Tony Crosland, one of its two or three most important theorists. Yet none of this justifies a meticulous biography of more than seven hundred pages. Though Pimlott cannot bring himself to admit it, the truth is that, in talent and personality, Dalton never quite ...

Christian v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer and American history, 1 April 1999

The American Century 
by Harold Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... of British origins, Paul Johnson (once on the Left, then Thatcherite, now an admirer of Tony Blair), whose own celebratory history of the United States appeared in 1997. In imagining an American narrative around which a renewed progressivism could unite, Evans adopts the Popular Front model that other liberal public intellectuals are now ...

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