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Ponting bites back

Tam Dalyell, 4 April 1985

The Right to Know: The Inside Story of the ‘Belgrano’ Affair 
by Clive Ponting.
Sphere, 214 pp., £2.50, March 1985, 0 7221 6944 2
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... James Waddell and others. Equally, as members of the Labour Delegation to the European Parliament, John Prescott and I were ‘educated in the ways of Upper Whitehall’ by Sir Thomas Brimelow, the former PUS at the Foreign Office, who became a Labour Peer and a British representative at Strasbourg. But it is no surprise to me that in over twenty years as an ...

The Hollis Launch

John Vincent, 7 May 1981

Their trade is treachery 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 240 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 0 283 98781 2
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... which comes out too in his treatment of Blunt, Burgess, Driberg, and a civil servant called John Cairncross. All these geese become swans in Pincher’s skilled hands. How unfair to suggest that they were small fry, dilettanti, wartime temporary agents or upper-class decadents. Blunt, in particular, he praises as an agent of a supreme professionalism ...

All that matters is what Tony wants

John Vincent: Reforming the Lords, 16 March 2000

Reforming the House of Lords: Lessons from Overseas 
by Meg Russell.
Oxford, 368 pp., £18.99, January 2000, 0 19 829831 5
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... which uses the Upper House as a clerk might use Tippex. The ‘sober second thought’ which Sir John Macdonald, the first Canadian premier (and a notable inebriate) attributed to senates is largely the stuff of legend. To see what lessons may be learned from abroad, Meg Russell has examined seven upper houses in modern democracies. Rather oddly, she omits ...

Richly-Wristed

Ian Aitken, 13 May 1993

Changing Faces: The History of the ‘Guardian’, 1956-88 
by Geoffrey Taylor.
Fourth Estate, 352 pp., £20, March 1993, 1 85702 100 2
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... irritated journalists on other newspapers. Part of the story he has to tell is how people like John Cole – yes, the same John Cole – and his successor as News Editor. Jean Stead, dragged the paper more or less reluctantly into mainstream, news-oriented journalism. Coming from what at the time was probably the most ...

Vote for the Beast!

Ian Gilmour: The Tory Leadership, 20 October 2005

... John Stuart Mill labelled the Conservatives ‘the stupid party’. They have certainly been stupid since 1997, and one wonders if their stupidity will persist. But a related and more interesting question is: ‘Are the Conservatives any longer a serious party?’ A serious party can be one of two things. It can, like the Greens, be concerned with only one issue or one group of issues ...

Socialism without Socialism

Peter Jenkins, 20 March 1986

Socialist Register 1985/86: Social Democracy and After 
edited by Ralph Miliband, John Saville, Marcel Liebman and Leo Panitch.
Merlin, 489 pp., £15, February 1986, 9780850363395
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... appeal of the Labour Party, which should be blamed not only on the betrayals of Wilson and Callaghan but also on ‘a whole political orientation, namely social democracy and its will to manage a capitalist social order without ever seeking in practice to bring about a radical transformation of any of its basic features’. Miliband accepts it now as ...

My Life with Harold Wilson

Peter Jenkins, 20 December 1979

Final Term: The Labour Government 1974-76 
by Harold Wilson.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 322 pp., £8.95
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... than a gentleman (one of his favourite distinctions), a competent professional of modern spirit. John Kennedy was already dead, but the New Frontier spirit seemed to be alive in the Britain of 1964, and Harold Wilson to exemplify it. We believed him, or some of us did, when he said that he would get Britain going again, bring in new people, harness new ...

Bugger everyone

R.W. Johnson: The prime ministers 1945-2000, 19 October 2000

The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders since 1945 
by Peter Hennessy.
Allen Lane, 686 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9340 5
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... champagne and brandy . . . to incapacitate any lesser man’, as his private secretary John Colville put it. He would talk to ministers with Toby, his budgie, alighting (and sometimes doing more than that) on their heads. He had frequent sleeps. His method of dealing with crises, he explained, was to ‘turn out the light, say “bugger ...

Reproaches from the Past

Peter Clarke: Gordon Brown, 1 April 2004

The Prudence of Mr Gordon Brown 
by William Keegan.
Wiley, 356 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 470 84697 6
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... while moonlighting as treasurer ” for an apparently unbroken forty years. It’s as though Jim Callaghan were now preparing to leave 11 Downing Street after serving continuously since his appointment in 1964, while doubling up all the while as general secretary of the TUC. At any rate, it shows that there was already a mindset that deplored ...

Born of the age we live in

John Lanchester, 6 December 1990

Stick it up your punter! The Rise and Fall of the ‘Sun’ 
by Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 434 12624 1
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All played out: The True Story of Italia ’90 
by Pete Davies.
Heinemann, 471 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 434 17908 6
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Gazza! A Biography 
by Robin McGibbon.
Penguin, 204 pp., £3.99, October 1990, 9780140148688
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... If Shakespeare co-wrote the first heading, the second was entirely Lamb’s own work: Jim Callaghan never spoke the words the caption so adroitly and damagingly gave the impression of attributing to him. Although one can’t quite accuse the Sun of having a hidden agenda, the political thinking behind all this wasn’t entirely as straightforward as ...

A Falklands Polemic

Tam Dalyell, 20 May 1982

... leaders were being hounded for instant comment. Crucially, Labour’s Defence Spokesman, John Silkin, went onto the important World at One radio programme, and seemed to commit the Opposition to a belligerent reaction. Uncharacteristically, I leapt to my telephone to ask what was going on, and was calmed down by Anne Carleton, his long-term personal ...

Do we need a constitution?

Peter Pulzer, 5 December 1991

The Constitution of the United Kingdom 
Institute for Public Policy Research, 128 pp., £20, September 1991, 1 872452 42 6Show More
A People’s Charter 
Liberty, 118 pp., £7.99, October 1991, 9780946088393Show More
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... the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.’ Motion by John Dunning, passed by the House of Commons, 6 April 1780. A constitution is a device for limiting the power of the executive. That ought to answer the question whether Britain needs one. For most of the 20th century, indeed ever since the Parliament Act of 1911 ...

Diary

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

... These were almost certainly workable policies – and they were effectively abandoned by Wilson, Callaghan and Brown on the night of the election victory when it was decided to give top priority to defending sterling. With that fateful decision went the best chance Labour may ever have; after 13 years of waiting and planning and passionate commitment, the ...

All Together Now

John Lloyd: The British Trade Union, 19 October 2000

British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. I: The Postwar Compromise, 1945-64 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 335 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. II: The High Tide of Trade Unionism, 1964-79 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 389 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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The TUC: From the General Strike to New Unionism 
by Robert Taylor.
Palgrave, 299 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 333 93066 5
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... who is a working peer. The only leading official to whom the Prime Minister talks regularly is John Monks, the TUC General Secretary, who shares something of his political approach and whom he usually sees discreetly, rather than for talks heralded by the TUC. Union leaders have had, perforce, to get used to a vastly diminished status – though none of ...

The Luck of the Tories

Ross McKibbin: The Debt to Kinnock, 7 March 2002

Kinnock: The Biography 
by Martin Westlake.
Little, Brown, 768 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 316 84871 9
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... the same treatment. But that is surely not so. It wouldn’t, for example, have happened to either Callaghan or Healey. Some have suggested that it was because he was Welsh: the English have an ineradicable stereotype of the garrulous Taffy and Kinnock was made to fit it. Yet this, again, is hardly true. Some English, for instance, might have feared Lloyd ...

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