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My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... to read the signs, the measured droop of Lord Bragg’s handkerchief, the precise organisation of Tony Blair’s latest consensus hair policy, Lord Archer’s ironic, pre-penitentiary crop, the way Andrew Motion carries off his loden coat as he swirls between taxi and station platform. Julian Barnes’s novels are depilated at source, fat-free. Frisking them ...

An Escalation of Reasonableness

Conor Gearty: Northern Ireland, 6 September 2001

To Raise up a New Northern Ireland: Articles and Speeches 1998-2000 
by David Trimble.
Belfast Press, 166 pp., £5.99, July 2001, 0 9539287 1 3
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... to stand in future Northern Ireland as well as Westminster elections. On 31 October 1981, Danny Morrison, a leading member of Sinn Féin, made his famous rallying cry to the faithful gathered at the Party’s Ard Fheis: ‘Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in one hand and ...

Dream Ticket

Peter Shore, 6 October 1983

The Diary of Hugh Gaitskell 1945-1956 
by Philip Williams.
Cape, 720 pp., £25, September 1983, 0 224 01911 2
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... defeat or resign himself. At the crucial moment, Attlee, the conciliator, was in hospital; Morrison in the Prime Minister’s chair. Gaitskell prevailed, and ten days after the decision to introduce the necessary Health Service charges legislation was announced, Bevan resigned. Could it, even at a late stage, have been avoided? Possibly, not ...

Bevan’s Boy

John Campbell, 20 September 1984

The Making of Neil Kinnock 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 571 13266 9
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Neil Kinnock: The Path to Leadership 
by G.M.F. Drower.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 297 78467 6
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... in vain against the leadership, first of MacDonald, Snowden and Jimmy Thomas, then of Attlee, Morrison, Bevin and the upstart Gaitskell, antagonising the union bosses and the PLP equally, the darling only of the constituencies. He was expelled from the party in 1939 and very nearly again in 1955, and by the time Attlee finally resigned in December 1955 ...


Paul Driver, 19 August 1993

Shining Brow 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 86 pp., £5.99, February 1993, 0 571 16789 6
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... The latter has worked fruitfully (the small-scale pieces Bow Down and Yan Tan Tethera) with Tony Harrison, another poet avid for theatrical and operatic activity; and his most recent full-length opera, Gawain, has an ambitious verse libretto by David Harsent. Ted Hughes once wrote a libretto for Gordon Crosse. The Story of Vasco, whose subject-matter ...

Sunny Days

Michael Howard, 11 February 1993

Never Again: Britain 1945-51 
by Peter Hennessy.
Cape, 544 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 224 02768 9
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Churchill on the Home Front 1900-1955 
by Paul Addison.
Cape, 493 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 224 01428 5
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... the limited nature of the social transformation: something that doctrinaire socialists like Tony Benn constantly and rightly emphasise. ‘The commanding heights of the economy’ – gas, railways, coal, steel – were handed over to the civil servants, a measure of doubtful benefit to anyone, but nobody was going to the guillotine to protest about ...


Ferdinand Mount: Edward Heath, 22 July 2010

Edward Heath 
by Philip Ziegler.
Harper, 654 pp., £25, June 2010, 978 0 00 724740 0
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... reputation, and Ziegler makes scarcely any such claims. It was to Thatcher, not Heath, that Tony Blair hastened to pay court. And although the Con-Lib coalition has made much of its determination to protect the poorest against the cuts better than they were protected in the 1980s, it is common ground that the reduction of the deficit must be given top ...

Do you like him?

Ian Jack: Ken Livingstone, 10 May 2012

You Can’t Say That: Memoirs 
by Ken Livingstone.
Faber, 710 pp., £9.99, April 2012, 978 0 571 28041 4
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... were never given an address, but their accents suggested London or its suburbs, perhaps close to Tony Hancock’s place in East Cheam, definitely somewhere below the middle of the social scale, a place where couples necked in front parlours and publicans called ‘Time, gentlemen, please,’ but not so far down as to be picturesque and identifiable and ...

It was worse in 1931

Colin Kidd: Clement Attlee, 17 November 2016

Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee 
by John Bew.
Riverrun, 668 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 1 78087 989 5
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... making of Attlee. In the cull of Labour’s big beasts, Ernest Bevin, Arthur Henderson and Herbert Morrison all failed to win seats, but Attlee held on in Limehouse by 551 votes. The 72-year-old George Lansbury became leader of the rump party in Parliament, with Attlee as his unthreatening deputy. As early as December 1933 he found himself acting leader, when ...

Trying to Make Decolonisation Look Good

Bernard Porter: The End of Empire, 2 August 2007

Britain’s Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-68 
by Ronald Hyam.
Cambridge, 464 pp., £17.99, February 2007, 978 0 521 68555 9
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The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire 
by Peter Clarke.
Allen Lane, 559 pp., August 2007, 978 0 7139 9830 6
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Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire 
by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper.
Allen Lane, 673 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 7139 9782 8
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... hopes were still pinned, was a comfort here. So was Harold Wilson’s idea (later taken up by Tony Blair) that Britain’s past imperial experience gave her unique tools and skills that could still be used to solve world problems; Britain was said to possess cultural sensitivities, for example, that the US conspicuously lacked. Attlee, too, thought the ...


Owen Hatherley: Nye Bevan, 7 May 2015

Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan 
by Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds.
I.B. Tauris, 316 pp., £25, October 2014, 978 1 78076 209 8
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... to such groups as James Maxton’s ILP (before it gave up on the Labour Party and disaffiliated), Tony Benn and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, and Bevan and his Bevanites. This elicits the slightly alarming thought that if Bevan had ever become leader, he might have turned out to be as blustering and ineffectual as Kinnock himself. Perhaps not. If ...

That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade, 1 December 2016

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... and The Angry Young Them by the Belfast group Them, featuring a sullen, gingerish lad called Van Morrison on vocals.) I added it to my fledgling collection of LPs. Singles, or 45s, were still the thing then, stacked six-high on the spindles of those trusty Dansettes and Fidelitys, which exuded a faint smell of warm rubber when you opened up the lid to put ...

The Raging Peloton

Iain Sinclair: Boris Bikes, 20 January 2011

... Louis XIV for French television. Triggered by an archive clip of his maternal grandfather, Herbert Morrison, another ennobled socialist cabinet minister, Mandelson launched into a memoir of cycling around Hendon, committee room to polling station, bearing leaflets, carrying messages as proudly as the freshly baked loaves in Ridley Scott’s celebrated ...

The Olympics Scam

Iain Sinclair: The Razing of East London, 19 June 2008

... man is actually dead. ‘The legacy the Games leave is as important as the sporting memories,’ Tony Blair said. And the legacy is: loss, visions injected straight into the eyeballs, lasting shame. We have waved this disaster through, we have colluded: dozens of artists roam the perimeter fence soliciting Arts Council funding to underwrite their ...
... to put the case. A few weeks after EDF made its move, he was on the brink of tears, listening to Tony Blair telling him over the phone that he had to resign. Details had emerged of an undeclared £373,000 loan Mandelson had taken from the Treasury minister Geoffrey Robinson to buy a house in Notting Hill, an untenable conflict of interest. Mandelson ...

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