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Warrior, Lover, Villain, Spiv

Tom Crewe: Dance Halls, 7 January 2016

Going to the Palais: A Social and Cultural History of Dancing and Dance Halls in Britain, 1918-60 
by James Nott.
Oxford, 327 pp., £65, September 2015, 978 0 19 960519 4
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... of what it felt like to step onto that gleaming floor, with its fizzing alchemy. I had to look in David Kynaston’s Family Britain to find Steven Berkoff, a frequenter of the Tottenham Royal in the 1950s, who said that in the palais ‘you were who you wished to be – warrior, lover, Jimmy Cagney, Tony Curtis, villain, spiv, leader, loner, heavy, Beau ...

Oh, the curse!

David Runciman: A home run, 19 February 2004

Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Cape, 342 pp., £16.99, January 2004, 0 224 05042 7
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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game 
by Michael Lewis.
Norton, 288 pp., $24.95, June 2003, 0 393 05765 8
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... the press that Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ shortstop, a nice, inoffensive boy with cheekbones, the David Beckham of baseball, had promised him that ‘the ghosts would turn up eventually’. The Red Sox were at least spared the indignity of having their misfortunes blamed on some hapless idiot whose glove happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... and behind it lay the struggle of a very rich man to do good. In his role as owner-editor, David Astor had more freedom than any other journalist in London, but power made him bashful and uneasy. When, towards the end of Astor’s editing career, the South African journalist Donald Woods proposed a series of interviews with him, Astor suggested ...

Boarder or Day Boy?

Bernard Porter: Secrecy in Britain, 15 July 1999

The Culture of Secrecy in Britain 1832-1998 
by David Vincent.
Oxford, 364 pp., £25, January 1999, 0 19 820307 1
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... whole seem to care, what is being kept from us. That is rather special; and a major factor, claims David Vincent in this path-breaking book, in our governance. It can have ludicrous effects. One was the refusal to acknowledge that we had any ‘secret services’: until recently, MI5 and MI6 had no official existence. Questions about them in Parliament were ...

Heir to Blair

Christopher Tayler: Among the New Tories, 26 April 2007

... being the buzzword for the shearing off of voter-unfriendly associations. Before David Cameron, or ‘DC’, as he’s known, took over in December 2005, Conservative strategists had noted anxiously that focus groups would turn against almost anything – even, or especially, tax cuts – as soon as they were told it was Tory ...
... and that the offender would be sacked. That’s the language of the new Fleet Street tycoons. David Astor, the former editor of the Observer, wrote in a letter to the Times: ‘To allow a newspaper catering to political sector X of our community to be taken over by a proprietor who is a militant member of political sector Y is, plainly, not in the ...

The Saudi Lie

Madawi Al-Rasheed, 21 March 2019

... his celebrants were some of America’s most esteemed foreign reporters and analysts, including David Ignatius of the Washington Post and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. But then, on 2 October last year, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and dismembered with a bone saw, causing outrage in the West. Even ...

The Departed Spirit

Tom Nairn, 30 October 1997

... the same was true in England? The answer was not long coming: six months, if we reckon it between Carlton’s televised debate in February and another poll conducted in August, shortly before Diana’s death, which showed the first modest anti-royal majority among the English. In April the royal family had looked like mouldering waxworks: in midsummer it ...

Other People’s Mail

Bernard Porter: MI5, 19 November 2009

The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5 
by Christopher Andrew.
Allen Lane, 1032 pp., £30, October 2009, 978 0 7139 9885 6
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... by a don at my college, and sent to be interviewed by a Rosa Klebb-like figure in a decaying Carlton House Terrace apartment. She asked me my politics; I said ‘Labour.’ ‘Not a Communist?’ ‘No.’ ‘Oh well, that’s all right then.’ So I passed that interview, and was scheduled for a second sometime later; but I withdrew when my postgraduate ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret, 4 January 2018

Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... freedom lay in the dance. There was a Princess Margaret Set, just as the Prince Regent had the Carlton House Set, Edward VII had the Marlborough House Set, and Edward VIII had the Fort Belvedere Set: three playboys, only one playgirl. Princess Margaret, followed by Peter Townsend, in 1953. It is 15 years since she died, and memories of her are not as ...

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