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Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat

David Runciman: Thatcher’s Rise, 6 June 2013

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography. Vol. I: Not for Turning 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 859 pp., £30, April 2013, 978 0 7139 9282 3
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... When Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister the candidates lined up to replace him included Jim Callaghan, Roy Jenkins, Tony Benn, Anthony Crosland, Michael Foot and Denis Healey. It was, by any historical standards, an impressive cast list. The Parliamentary Labour Party made the right choice in plumping for ...

Britain’s Juntas

Arthur Gavshon, 19 September 1985

The Disappeared: Voices from a Secret War 
by John Simpson and Jana Bennett.
Robson, 416 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 86051 292 4
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... hard at work in August 1980 when the immaculate Cecil Parkinson visited Videla in Buenos Aires. As John Simpson and Jana Bennett of the British Broadcasting Corporation relate in their excellently-researched but somewhat inhibited book, the one-time Secretary for Trade and Industry had brought two messages for leaders of the Junta. The first was that Britain ...

Falklands Retrospect

Hugo Young, 17 August 1989

The Little Platoon: Diplomacy and the Falklands Dispute 
by Michael Charlton.
Blackwell, 230 pp., £14.95, June 1989, 0 631 16564 9
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... Julian Amery, emerging as an advocate of joint sovereignty with Argentina. Two years later, Jim Callaghan, the new Foreign Secretary, is countermanding this, and for Charlton he recalls the minute he sagely wrote: ‘Leave this poisoned chalice alone.’ When Callaghan becomes prime minister, Tony Crosland is recollected ...

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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... beyond serving with mutual embarrassment for a year as Michael Foot’s PPS in 1974, and when Callaghan offered him a job (under Hattersley!) he preferred to hold himself free to oppose the Government’s devolution schemes for Wales and Scotland. This was the one major policy rebellion of Kinnock’s career. Leading the ‘No’ campaign in Wales, he put ...

Diary

Peter Clarke: True or False?, 16 August 1990

... at a stroke’. 8. Shirley Williams joined Arthur Scargill on a mass picket at Grunwicks. 9. James Callaghan said: ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ 10. An experienced cabinet minister said in an interview: ‘I’m not against giving up sovereignty in principle, but not to this lot. You might just as well give it to Adolf Hitler, frankly.’ Here are some of the ...

Enemies of Promise

Angus Calder, 2 March 1989

Breach of Promise: Labour in Power 1964-1970 
by Clive Ponting.
Hamish Hamilton, 433 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 241 12683 5
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James Maxton 
by Gordon Brown.
Fontana, 336 pp., £4.95, February 1988, 0 00 637255 4
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Forward! Labour Politics in Scotland 1888-1988 
edited by Ian Donnachie, Christopher Harvie and Ian Wood.
Polygon, 184 pp., £19.50, January 1989, 0 7486 6001 1
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... and warm hearts, not for pedantic historians. Gallacher was one of those who put it about that John Maclean was out of his mind, literally hallucinating, when he ran his Scottish Workers Republican Party in opposition to the infant CPGB. Nevertheless, the name of the great Marxist dominie was repeatedly invoked, and Pat Lally, Glasgow’s Labour ...

Real Thing

John Naughton, 24 November 1988

Live from Number 10: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television 
by Michael Cockerell.
Faber, 352 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 571 14757 7
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... the last American Presidential contest. This import-import business started in 1952 when a certain John Profumo – then the Tories’ media man – visited the US during the Presidential election and came back dazzled by what he had seen. It was, he wrote to the Party Chairman on his return, ‘absolutely essential to get all our people on all the programmes ...

Say what you will about Harold

Christopher Hitchens, 2 December 1993

Wilson: The Authorised Life 
by Philip Ziegler.
Weidenfeld, 593 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 297 81276 9
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... been debated for decades whether Wilson resigned on this matter, along with Aneurin Bevan and John Freeman, because of the principle of National Health, or because of the more ancient principle of reculer pour mieux sauter. And it’s hard to blur this choice, but Ziegler has a clumsy try at the task. Prescription charges, on the one hand, Gaitskell’s ...
The Economic Legacy 1979-1992 
edited by Jonathan Michie.
Academic Press, 384 pp., £25, March 1992, 0 12 494060 9
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The Godley Papers: Economic Problems and Policies in the 1980s and 90s 
by Wynne Godley.
New Statesman and Society, £2
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Full Employment in the 1990s 
by John Grieve Smith.
Institute for Public Policy Research, 68 pp., £7.50, March 1992, 1 872452 48 5
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... mistake to lay too much at their door. The Keynesian full employment pass had already been sold by Callaghan and Healey in 1975-76; moreover, the liberal revolution could never have taken place had there not been an undertow of populist support waiting to be exploited – as it was – by a skilful and ruthless propaganda campaign. A bigger mistake now would ...

Diary

R.W. Johnson: Major Wins the Losership, 3 August 1995

... Party hadn’t cared about looks when it picked the flaccid Wilson, the much-creased figure of Jim Callaghan or the stooping, stick-waving Foot. A bit of deconstruction suggested this was all a blind, that Labour had just had a Welsh boyo and an Edinburgh lawyer as leaders, neither of whom had made it. That was quite enough Scots, Picts and people from the ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Blair’s comedy turns, 7 September 2006

... This from Wilson’s official biographer, Philip Ziegler. Wilson had one or two good jokes, unlike Callaghan or poor Attlee, so often the butt of other people’s. Tony Blair is not much given to joking. The three memorable gags of his career have come as it nears its end. It’s interesting, in a person who likes to look serious even when he smiles, that they ...

Downhill from Here

Ian Jack: The 1970s, 27 August 2009

When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies 
by Andy Beckett.
Faber, 576 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 0 571 22136 3
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... Against Racism were for many people more important as politics than the parties led by Wilson and Callaghan, Heath and Thatcher. Sometimes he tells us just a little too much about the journey, how cloudy it was or how sunny, which mode of transport he used, what magazines he bought in W.H. Smith. But the point is well made when he writes: British politics in ...

Living with Monsters

Ferdinand Mount: PMs v. the Media, 22 April 2010

Where Power Lies: Prime Ministers v. the Media 
by Lance Price.
Simon & Schuster, 498 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84737 253 6
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... subtitled with a flourish: ‘The war between Downing Street and the media from Lloyd George to Callaghan’. For 40 years and more, Margach had enjoyed the confidence of prime ministers. He was in the private sitting room of Number Ten when Ramsay MacDonald returned from the palace on resigning. He belonged to Chamberlain’s magic circle of lobby ...

Maximum Embarrassment

David Marquand, 7 May 1987

Nye Bevan and the Mirage of British Socialism 
by John Campbell.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £15.95, March 1987, 0 297 78998 8
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The Political Diary of Hugh Dalton: 1918-40, 1945-60 
edited by Ben Pimlott.
Cape, 752 pp., £40, January 1987, 0 224 01912 0
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... of the Wilson Government of the Sixties, and by the even more disreputable legacy of the Wilson-Callaghan Government of the Seventies. It has no incomes policy because it has been unwilling to re-open the wounds left by the 1966 wage freeze, by the battle over ‘In Place of Strife’ in 1969, and by the grievances and resentments which led to the winter of ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Labour’s Best Cards, 29 June 2017

... precedents are not promising. The most recent example of minority government at Westminster is John Major’s in 1996-97; before that there was the Wilson-Callaghan Labour administration of 1974-79 and Ramsay MacDonald’s of 1929-31. In each case, the government reeled from crisis to crisis, eventually limping into a ...

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