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Alan Ryan, 26 November 1987

Ruling Performance: British Governments from Attlee to Thatcher 
edited by Peter Hennessy and Anthony Seldon.
Blackwell, 344 pp., £25, October 1987, 0 631 15645 3
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The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Institutions 
edited by Vernon Bogdanor.
Blackwell, 667 pp., £45, September 1987, 0 631 13841 2
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Judges 
by David Pannick.
Oxford, 255 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 215956 9
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... detached reflections on Mrs Thatcher from the pen of John Vincent. As a final savoury, Tony Benn, Michael Fraser, David Marquand and David Butler sum up the entire era. The argument starts with the first and by some way the best piece in the collection, Paul Addison’s essay on ‘The Road from 1945’. Addison takes issue with Corelli ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Alastair Campbell, Good Bloke, 18 March 2004

... Campbell, eager to parade his own good-bloke credentials as well as those of his mate Tony, has not fled the limelight. He writes a column for the Times about sport and, following the lead of Tony Benn and Ann Widdecombe, has recently embarked on a tour of the nation’s theatres and concert halls, hawking ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Hitler’s Last Day, 7 May 2015

... At midnight, von Below leaves the bunker. At 2 a.m. it starts snowing in South-East England. Tony Benn, on a train from Cairo to Jerusalem, polishes his and his friends’ shoes. Hitler, who has spent much of the day planning his suicide, goes to bed at 4.30 a.m., ‘as the first light of dawn begins to brighten the smoky Berlin sky’. The Times ...

At the Barbican

Rosemary Hill: The Eclecticism of the Eameses, 3 December 2015

... house. Their many visitors included at various times Billy Wilder, a party of fifty nuns and Tony Benn, whose thank-you letter in the form of a limerick appears in the exhibition. Their entertaining style fell somewhere between dinner party and performance art, masks might be involved, candles were pre-burned to exact heights. But the ...

In Walthamstow

Rosemary Hill: William Morris, 13 September 2012

... while the list of Labour opponents to the plans was a roll-call of the old guard, headed by Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone. The curatorial staff, feeling that their union, Unison, was similarly reluctant to get into a dispute with the Labour council, accepted redundancy. With the keeper Peter Cormack went thirty years’ knowledge of the collections ...

‘Wisely I decided to say nothing’

Ross McKibbin: Jack Straw, 22 November 2012

Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor 
by Jack Straw.
Macmillan, 582 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 4472 2275 0
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... have been successful. Although he at first seemed to align himself with the broad left, voting for Tony Benn in the extremely close Benn-Healey deputy leadership contest of 1981, for example, he seems to have taken a New Labour position almost before such a thing existed. As shadow education minister in the late 1980s ...

The Sacred Sofa

E.S. Turner, 11 December 1997

The House of Lords: From Saxon Wargods to a Modern Senate 
by John Wells.
Hodder, 298 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 340 64928 3
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... into passing a law to limit the reporting of evidence in divorce cases. As this book reminds us, Tony Blair raised a loud laugh against the Lords by summarising the vicissitudes of a latter-day noble creation. The first of the line bought his peerage from Lloyd George, the second was a Nazi sympathiser and the third ‘was a jailbird who had first attended ...

Tatchell’s Testament

Anne Sofer, 22 December 1983

The Battle for Bermondsey 
by Peter Tatchell.
Heretic Books, 170 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 946097 11 9
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... But no. It has all been, and will continue to be, a miserable business. To make sure of that, Tony Benn has written a pompous and pretentious preface: ‘This book, in my considered judgment, is one of the most important political documents to have been published about the Labour Party since the war ...’ Well, I doubt whether it is that, much ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: Hungarians and Falklanders, 17 February 1983

... to reliance on force already. The only man who has shown common sense from the beginning is Tony Benn. He still shows it every time he speaks, and in my opinion is now the only man fit to lead the Labour Party if that party wants to free itself from the taint of imperialism and sabre-rattling. One small disadvantage of living in Hungary was that I ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School, 10 January 1991

... in by the Reaper. It is true that renunciation is now possible, thanks to Lord Stansgate aka Tony Benn. But in my case, that would merely leave me a baronet, and you can’t formally renounce that; all you can do is conceal it, like Indian villagers who, by changing their names and their districts, can sometimes manage to pass as belonging to ...

Right, Left and Centre

Jeremy Harding: Keith Kyle, 6 August 2009

... for the North American Service (‘that position,’ he writes, ‘had in fact been vacated by Tony Benn’). He worked underground in the broadcasting bunkers dug for the war; ‘in some of the studios the river Fleet could be heard rushing beneath the floorboards.’ In 1953 he was hauled up into the light of day by the Economist. From his posting ...

After the Battle

Matthew Coady, 26 November 1987

Misrule 
by Tam Dalyell.
Hamish Hamilton, 152 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 241 12170 1
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One Man’s Judgement: An Autobiography 
by Lord Wheatley.
Butterworth, 230 pp., £15.95, July 1987, 0 406 10019 5
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Changing Battlefields: The Challenge to the Labour Party 
by John Silkin.
Hamish Hamilton, 226 pp., £13.95, September 1987, 9780241121719
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Heseltine: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Julian Critchley.
Deutsch, 198 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 233 98001 6
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... of the anger in John Silkin’s posthumously published book is directed against Anthony Wedgwood Benn. Labour’s internal wars of the late Seventies are refought here, culminating in the 1981 election for the Party’s deputy leadership, in which Silkin stood as standard-bearer for the non-Bennite Left. Although he was eliminated in the first ...

Ministers and Officials

Leo Pliatzky, 22 May 1980

The Government of the United Kingdom: Political Authority in a Changing Society 
by Max Beloff.
Weidenfeld, 438 pp., £6.95, March 1980, 0 297 77618 5
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... very much less influential, so far as Labour Prime Ministers are concerned, if the proposals of Mr Benn’s faction prevail. The Civil Service, though it helps the Government to frame and carry out their policies during their time in office, plays no part in drawing up the policies on which the politicians campaign for a further term of office. As things have ...

Cowboy Coups

Phillip Knightley, 10 October 1991

Smear! Wilson and the Secret State 
by Stephen Dorrill and Robin Ramsay.
Fourth Estate, 502 pp., £20, August 1991, 9781872180687
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... from the permanent government continued. After Labour had won the election of October 1974, Tony Benn was appointed Secretary of State at the Department of Industry. On his first day in the office he was greeted by his Permanent Secretary, Sir Anthony Part, with the words: ‘I presume, Secretary of State, that you do not intend to implement the ...

Losers

Ross McKibbin, 23 October 1986

The Politics of the UCS Work-In: Class Alliances and the Right to Work 
by John Foster and Charles Woolfson.
Lawrence and Wishart, 446 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 85315 663 8
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A Lost Left: Three Studies in Socialism and Nationalism 
by David Howell.
Manchester, 351 pp., £29.95, July 1986, 0 7190 1959 1
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The Miners’ Strike 1984-5: Loss without Limit 
by Martin Adeney and John Lloyd.
Routledge, 319 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7102 0694 1
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Red Hill: A Mining Community 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 196 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 434 57771 5
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Strike Free: New Industrial Relations in Britain 
by Philip Bassett.
Macmillan, 197 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 9780333418000
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... Shipbuilders was created by the first Wilson government – the book has a treacherous preface by Tony Benn – out of the wreckage of the old Fairfields yard. In 1971 it was allowed to go ‘bankrupt’ by the Heath Government. The work-force responded with unexpected spirit, occupied the yards as a ‘work-in’, and mobilised much support throughout ...

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