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Lacking in style

Keith Kyle, 25 February 1993

Divided we stand: Britain, the US and the Suez Crisis 
by W. Scott Lucas.
Hodder, 399 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 340 53666 7
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Blind Loyalty: Australia and the Suez Crisis 
by W.J. Hudson.
Melbourne, 157 pp., £12.50, November 1991, 0 522 84394 8
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... he had been by an encounter he witnessed on the 17th of that month. He had accompanied his Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, to the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington to visit the American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who had been discovered to have cancer during the week of the Suez war. Towards the end of the conversation, Dulles suddenly ...

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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... pusillanimity. A future Labour government had waved the white flag before it had even arrived in office: ‘Exposed to the threat of nuclear blackmail,’ she told the conference, ‘there would be no option but surrender.’ She contrasted the weakness of Kinnock’s position with that of more robust Labour politicians of an earlier generation ...


R.W. Johnson: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War, 6 May 2004

The Lion and the Springbok: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War 
by Ronald Hyam and Peter Henshaw.
Cambridge, 379 pp., £45, May 2003, 0 521 82453 2
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... vindicated by the current harmonious relationship with an ANC-ruled South Africa, back within the Commonwealth. If the book has a hero it is Sir John Maud, the British high commissioner who advised in 1960 that since a black government must come to power one day, Britain must ‘keep faith’ with the black majority, while at the same time not antagonising ...


Chris Mullin, 19 March 2020

... budget has, however, proved more controversial. Overseas aid used to be controlled by the Foreign Office, whose ministers and officials tended to regard the aid budget as their spending arm. It was also used as a sweetener for trade deals. In 1993 there was a scandal when the National Audit Office discovered ...

I met murder on the way

Colin Kidd: Castlereagh, 24 May 2012

Castlereagh: Enlightenment, War and Tyranny 
by John Bew.
Quercus, 722 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 85738 186 6
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... Castlereagh’s grandfather Alexander Stewart, went further, immersing themselves in the ‘commonwealth’ legacy of 17th-century radicalism. By the 18th century, the Good Old Cause of the Civil War had been revised to meet contemporary tastes and susceptibilities, with Puritanism given a classical, if only partly Augustan veneer. Ironically, in ...

Protocols of Sèvres

Keith Kyle, 21 January 1988

The Failure of the Eden Government 
by Richard Lamb.
Sidgwick, 340 pp., £16.95, October 1987, 0 283 99534 3
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... grandeur because Eden had hitherto enjoyed a glamorous and successful career in the field of foreign affairs; it was a massive misjudgment in his own area of expertise that brought him down. Although Richard Lamb says that ‘Eden’s premiership foundered solely because of the Suez affair’ (which begs the question, much discussed at the time in the ...

Lying abroad

Fred Halliday, 21 July 1994

by Henry Kissinger.
Simon and Schuster, 912 pp., £25, May 1994, 9780671659912
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True Brits: Inside the Foreign Office 
by Ruth Dudley Edwards.
BBC, 256 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 0 563 36955 8
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Mandarin: The Diaries of Nicholas Henderson 
by Nicholas Henderson.
Weidenfeld, 517 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 297 81433 8
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... The conduct of foreign policy has of late fallen into disrepute. The confusions of the post-Cold War world have made diplomacy seem especially futile. Economic decline has turned attention to the cost of overseas display, and the disappearance of a single external object of confrontation has reduced the public sense that external commitments matter to the country ...

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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... on the role of the Peruvian proposals, and on the basis of information available to him from the Foreign Office, does not exclude the possibility that the former USS Phoenix, survivor of Pearl Harbour, was sunk by Mrs Thatcher, not because the 44-year-old threatened our boys, but because politically Mrs Thatcher could not afford peace. Readers of the ...


Michael Peel: In Abuja, 25 July 2002

... Early in May I fly from Lagos to Abuja as part of a group of foreign journalists travelling to interview President Obasanjo, who has just announced that he intends to stand for re-election. Abuja, home to Nigeria’s political elite, was conceived just over a quarter of a century ago. A settlement of big hotels and uncompleted construction projects, it has little of Lagos’s eventfulness ...

Short Cuts

Tariq Ali: So much for England, 23 January 2020

... its own press, but the claim of Labour antisemitism wasn’t effectively dealt with.* Corbyn’s office hoped the problem would go away, but it never did. Social networks were filled with rubbish from provocateurs. Press reports suggested that British Jews were planning to leave the country if Corbyn was elected. Internal Labour investigations revealed ...


Ian Gilmour: Britain and Europe, 10 December 1998

This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair 
by Hugo Young.
Macmillan, 558 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 333 57992 5
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... thought that the Attlee Government’s combination of hauteur and neglect had produced the biggest foreign policy failure since the war, and unfortunately that was far from being the last time that British hauteur and neglect – and failure – were on display. Young himself neglects nothing, and if he occasionally exhibits more than a little hauteur himself ...

Now is your chance

Matthew Kelly: Irish Wartime Neutrality, 5 October 2006

The Emergency: Neutral Ireland 1939-45 
by Brian Girvin.
Macmillan, 385 pp., £25, March 2006, 1 4050 0010 4
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... secretary, asked Roosevelt if he was free to say that the US backed Ireland’s stand against foreign aggression. When Roosevelt specified German aggression, Aiken replied: ‘Or British.’ Roosevelt snapped: it was ‘absurd nonsense, ridiculous nonsense’ to suppose that Churchill would attack Ireland. On top of which, Sumner Welles chastised Aitken ...

Year One

John Lloyd, 30 January 1992

Boris Yeltsin 
by John Morrison.
Penguin, 303 pp., £8.99, November 1991, 0 14 017062 6
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The August Coup: The Truth and its Lessons 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
HarperCollins, 127 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 9780002550444
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The future belongs to freedom 
by Eduard Shevardnadze.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 256 pp., £15, September 1991, 1 85619 105 2
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Bear-Hunting with the Politburo 
by A. Craig Copetas.
Simon and Schuster, 271 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 671 70313 7
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The Accidental Proletariat: Workers, Politics and Crisis in Gorbachev’s Russia 
by Walter Connor.
Princeton, 374 pp., £25, November 1991, 0 691 07787 8
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... need for the retention of All-Union institutions: Yeltsin condemned his efforts, helped form the Commonwealth of Independent States – and has since then ensured that Russia controls all of the formerly common mechanisms in its own name. The Central and Foreign Currency Banks (Gosbank and Vnesheconombank) are under the ...

Sterling and Strings

Peter Davies: Harold Wilson and Vietnam, 20 November 2008

... war into the North. Following his election victory in October that year, Wilson was advised by the Foreign Office that, with regard to Vietnam, ‘ministers should agree to support the United States in this limited and controlled form of offensive action.’ He appears to have acceded to this advice at first, noting in February 1965 that ‘Her ...

Smart Alec

Peter Clarke, 17 October 1996

Alec Douglas-Home 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 540 pp., £25, October 1996, 1 85619 277 6
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... coup was to broaden the scenario by spotting that the 14th Earl of Home, whose appointment as Foreign Secretary in 1960 had produced weary gibes about Macmillan’s outrageous piece of patronage, had new potential as a hitherto unfancied runner in the leadership stakes. Caligula’s dark horse, it is revealed, became restive in his box, as this unlikely ...

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