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Steely Women in a World of Wobbly Men

David Runciman: The Myth of the Strong Leader, 20 June 2019

... hard can it be?’ In his book The New Machiavelli, Blair’s former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, describes his boss’s eagerness on becoming prime minister to undertake an immediate programme of reform. But the more he agitated for change, the less responsive the machinery of government proved to be. There was an empty space where Blair had believed ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: War Talk, 6 February 2003

... explain to people why it’s necessary’. All very confusing. Fortunately, the PM’s off to Camp David next week (on 31 January) to have matters straightened out for him by his superiors. He won’t have time to read Collateral Language: A User’s Guide to America’s New War (NYU, $16.95), a collection of essays edited by John Collins and Ross Glover about ...

At the New Whitechapel

Peter Campbell: Isa Genzken, 30 April 2009

... which hung outside the Security Council, was covered over to stop it forming a backdrop when Colin Powell was making the case for the Iraq war – a bronze bust of Powell forms part of the installation. In front of it at the Whitechapel is a circular glass case/ conference table, surrounded by black leather chairs. Among the ...

Short Cuts

Chris Mullin: Michael Foot, 25 March 2010

... Of all the many tributes to Michael Foot it was David Cameron who hit the nail on the head. He was, Cameron said, ‘almost the last link to a more heroic age in politics’. In appearance, and demeanour, Foot resembled an Old Testament prophet. An impression which, in later life, his shock of white hair, the passion of his delivery and the magnificence of his rhetoric served only to enhance ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’, 5 April 2012

The Bad and the Beautiful 
directed by Vincente Minnelli.
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... three Hollywood figures, a director (Barry Sullivan), an actress (Lana Turner) and a writer (Dick Powell), in that order. The first two refuse to take the call, the third takes it and tells Shields to drop dead. Next, still in the present, we see all three in the office of a movie producer (Walter Pidgeon), who is about to set up another call from Shields. He ...

Savage Rush

David Trotter: The Tube, 21 October 2010

Underground Writing: The London Tube from George Gissing to Virginia Woolf 
by David Welsh.
Liverpool, 306 pp., £70, May 2010, 978 1 84631 223 6
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... as an occasion for otherwise elusive experience. It came to represent the modern in general, as David Welsh ably demonstrates in two immense chapters, one on utopian fantasy from the turn of the 20th century, the other on the inevitable ensuing sourness. In Anticipations (1902), H.G. Wells imagined the Metropolitan Railway’s ‘black and ...

Saint Jane

D.A.N. Jones, 20 October 1983

The Good Father 
by Peter Prince.
Cape, 204 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 224 02131 1
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Mrs Pooter’s Diary 
by Keith Waterhouse and John Jensen.
Joseph, 208 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7181 2339 5
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Dandiprat’s Days 
by David Thomson.
Dent, 165 pp., £8.50, September 1983, 0 460 04613 6
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The Dream of a Beast 
by Neil Jordan.
Chatto, 103 pp., £6.95, October 1983, 0 7011 2740 6
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Squeak: A Biography of NPA 1978A 203 
by John Bowen and Eric Fraser.
Faber, 127 pp., £2.95, October 1983, 0 571 13170 0
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The Life and Times of Michael K 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 250 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 436 10297 8
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... the Brixton riots: at a lunch party in nearby Stockwell, the firmest of the true believers, Jane Powell, is maintaining that a legal amnesty should have been given to all those arrested in the street fighting. Her friends call her Saint Jane: she is a lawyer who works for a law centre, a hard-working Labour councillor, regularly insulted by her Haughey-like ...

Fear in Those Blue Eyes

David Runciman: Thatcher in Her Bubble, 3 December 2015

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography Vol. II: Everything She Wants 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 821 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 7139 9288 5
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... set the members at odds with the leadership of the Alliance and represented a direct rebuke of David Owen’s much more hawkish SDP. Labour was different. ‘The Labour Party will never die’ was one of Thatcher’s mantras. What Labour did mattered because it was the only alternative party of government. And in this case the party members were in tune ...

Famous Four

R.W. Johnson, 30 November 1995

SDP: The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party 
by Ivor Crewe and Anthony King.
Oxford, 611 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 19 828050 5
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... reduced in scale. In hindsight, the only figure who commands one’s unequivocal admiration is David Steel. Steel was shrewd enough to want the Four to found their own party rather than join the Liberals. He somehow jollied along the grandee Jenkins, made friends of Williams and Rodgers and, incredibly, even supported several years in harness with the ...

Wine Flasks in Bordeaux, Sail Spires in Cardiff

Hal Foster: Richard Rogers, 19 October 2006

Richard Rogers: Architecture of the Future 
by Kenneth Powell.
Birkhäuser, 520 pp., £29.90, December 2005, 3 7643 7049 1
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Richard Rogers: Complete Works, Vol. III 
by Kenneth Powell.
Phaidon, 319 pp., £59.95, July 2006, 0 7148 4429 2
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... before they had completed a breakthrough structure for Reliance Controls in Swindon, which Kenneth Powell describes as ‘neither a factory nor an office building nor a research station but a combination of all three’. The first of many ‘flexible sheds’ that Rogers has designed over the years, the Reliance Controls Electronics Factory owed much to the ...

English Changing

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1980

The State of the Language 
edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks.
California, 609 pp., £14.95, January 1980, 0 520 03763 4
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... our joining the Common Market. It is no coincidence that the best political styles belong to Enoch Powell, Anthony Wedgwood-Benn and Michael Foot, all men ‘committed to working on and defending the idea of the United Kingdom’. As it happens, Mr Powell himself contributes a piece on ‘The Language of Politics’, in ...

Diary

Tam Dalyell: Yesterday’s News, 18 September 1986

... over Westlands were attributed to those civil servants such as Mr Bernard Ingham and Mr Charles Powell whom Mrs Thatcher sees many times each day. Isn’t this something we should be concerned about? Three decades after Crichel Down, however, all the House of Commons and the country seem to do is to shrug its collective shoulders. Part of the explanation is ...

Nigels against the World

Ferdinand Mount: The EU Referendum, 19 May 2016

... Eurosceptic ministers and former ministers, such as Iain Duncan Smith, Nigel Lawson and David Owen. Then there’s Grassroots Out, which was supposed to bring the other two lots together. But the prospectus on offer has been muddied because the spokesmen within each organisation have had different ideas. Johnson in particular changes his ideas once ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: A journey to citizenship, 16 November 2006

... Becoming a British citizen is a significant life event,’ the former home secretary David Blunkett writes. ‘The government intends to make gaining British citizenship meaningful and celebratory rather than simply a bureaucratic process.’ The quote is not from Blunkett’s diaries but from the funniest book currently available in the English language, published by the Home Office, and called Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship ...

Longing for Croydon

Luke Jennings, 7 February 1991

Them: Voices from the Immigrant Community in Contemporary Britain 
by Jonathon Green.
Secker, 421 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 436 20005 8
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The Golden Thread: Asian Experiences of Post-Raj Britain 
by Zerbanoo Gifford.
Pandora, 236 pp., £17.99, October 1990, 0 04 440605 3
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... for security. There was public concern. ‘They’ began to be seen as a ‘problem’. Enoch Powell prophesied ‘rivers of blood’ and white working-class fascists shaved their heads. A series of Immigration Acts was passed, dividing families, stemming the flow. Most of the migrant workers had originally meant to stay a few years; go back with some ...

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