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Up the avenue

Peter Clarke, 11 June 1992

Election Rides 
by Edward Pearce.
Faber, 198 pp., £5.99, April 1992, 0 571 16657 1
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... Don’t be put off by the title, since it’s only a laboured allusion to Cobbett’s Rural Rides, lacking the alliterative euphony of the original. What Edward Pearce of the Guardian offers is a record of his 19 days on the road during the General Election, visiting as many constituencies, each time in the company of a particular candidate, of varying party ...

Diary

Peter Clarke: Labour’s Return, 28 June 1990

... It got out some time ago that in politics the medium is the message. It did not take those sharp-suited men stalking the Labour Party headquarters in Walworth Road to discover the name of a game which was already familiar to Daniel O’Connell and William Ewart Gladstone, even if the apparatchiks’ own discovery of the name of the rose had to await the advent of the cordless telephone ...

Jews on horseback

Peter Clarke, 10 May 1990

Disraeli 
by John Vincent.
Oxford, 127 pp., £4.95, March 1990, 0 19 287681 3
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... He remains one of the great outsiders and rogues in British politics: a man who lived down his earlier reputation as a radical to bring his biting sarcasm to the service of the Tories, always able to command an appreciative audience, albeit one with greater relish for his wit than respect for his political judgment. So much for John Vincent, the brilliant author of The Formation of the Liberal Party who became the populist professor of the Thatcherite tabloid press ...

So far, so-so

Peter Clarke, 6 June 1996

One Hundred Years of Socialism 
by Donald Sassoon.
Tauris, 965 pp., £35, April 1996, 9781850438793
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... There is no time like the present for looking at the history of socialism. In Britain, the Labour Party stands poised to win office, maybe this year rather than next, and with a credible prospect of an electoral landslide on the scale of 1906 or 1945. Is it bliss to be alive in such a dawn? Is it very heaven to be a socialist? Not many avowed socialists behave like it ...

On the Blower

Peter Clarke: The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt, 18 February 1999

The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt: Volume I 
edited by Sarah Curtis.
Macmillan, 748 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 333 74166 8
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... Sensitive and introspective persons keep a journal secure in the knowledge that their secrets will never be exposed to public scrutiny. This was hardly why, in 1985, the former Labour MP Woodrow Wyatt began his diary. Sir Woodrow, having then served for nearly a decade as chairman of the Horserace Totalisator Board, had yet to reach his apotheosis with the life peerage that validated his sobriquet, Lord Toad of Tote Hall ...

I am a classical scholar, and you are not

Peter Clarke: Enoch Powell, 7 March 2013

Enoch at 100: A Re-evaluation of the Life, Politics and Philosophy of Enoch Powell 
edited by Lord Howard of Rising.
Biteback, 320 pp., £25, June 2012, 978 1 84954 310 1
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... John Enoch Powell was an eminent classical scholar, as his entry in Who’s Who proclaimed: Craven Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, 1931; First Chancellor’s Classical Medallist; Porson Prizeman; Browne Medallist, 1932; fellow of Trinity, 1934-38; professor of Greek at the University of Sydney, 1937-39. He was 25 when he was appointed to the chair at Sydney ...

Why Do the Tories Always Have the Luck?

Peter Clarke, 23 February 1995

Conservative Century: The Conservative Party since 1900 
edited by Anthony Seldon and Stuart Ball.
Oxford, 842 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 19 820238 5
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... designed to exert checks and balances, the same aim has been pursued by different methods. Peter Catterall offers a nicely-judged account of the influence of religion, suggesting that the breakdown in the Conservatives’ traditionally cosy relationship with the Church of England has been exaggerated. Indeed, in his revisionist conclusion, he ...

Maggiefication

Peter Clarke, 6 July 1995

The Path to Power 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 656 pp., £24, June 1995, 0 00 255050 4
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... with Britain’. This was why Macmillan had lost his prematurely dry Chancellor of the Exchequer, Peter Thorneycroft; and Thatcher now writes that ‘in retrospect I thought that his courageous resignation on the issue of public expenditure in 1958 had signalled a wrong turning for the post-war Conservative Party.’ As she now sees it, therefore, her own ...

Burrinchini’s Spectre

Peter Clarke, 19 January 1984

That Noble Science of Politics: A Study in 19th-Century Intellectual History 
by Stefan Collini, Donald Winch and John Burrow.
Cambridge, 385 pp., £25, November 1983, 9780521257626
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... Time was when Clio had a seamless garment: but that was before the division of labour set in. Prefixless history is now condescendingly thought of as ‘straight’ history and her clothes have been stolen and shared out by her offspring, with continual squabbles over who wears the trousers. Intellectual history was tardy in asserting its separate identity and still has trouble in getting recognised – what is it, after all, but the history of intellectuals, by intellectuals, for intellectuals? One merit of That Noble Science of Politics is that it yields an answer to this question ...

Can Maynard Keynes do it?

Peter Clarke, 3 June 1982

The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes: Vol. XIX. Activities 1924-9: The Return to Gold and Industrial Policy 
edited by Sir Austin Robinson and Donald Moggridge.
Macmillan, 468 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 333 10727 6
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The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes: Vol. XX. Activities 1929-31: Rethinking Employment and Unemployment Policies 
edited by Sir Austin Robinson and Donald Moggridge.
Macmillan, 675 pp., £20, December 1981, 0 333 10721 7
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The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes: Vol. XXI. Activities 1931-9: 
edited by Sir Austin Robinson and Donald Moggridge.
Macmillan, 645 pp., £20, March 1982, 0 333 10728 4
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... The question what Keynes would be advocating today is, of course, a nonsense question.’ So Lord Kahn warned us in a brilliant lecture in 1974, invoking Keynes’s propensity – ‘apart from the fact that he would be 91 years old’ – to develop new answers for new questions, rather than to make a fetish of consistency. The impact of Keynes’s thought has nonetheless suffered many attempts to encapsulate it within a cut-and-dried formula ...

First past the post

Peter Clarke, 17 February 1983

The People of England 
by Maurice Ashley.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £11.50, October 1982, 0 297 78178 2
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A New History of England, 410-1975 
by L.C.B. Seaman.
Macmillan, 576 pp., £6.95, August 1982, 0 333 33415 9
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The Making of Modern British Politics, 1867-1939 
by Martin Pugh.
Blackwell, 337 pp., £19.50, May 1982, 0 631 12985 5
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... It is notorious that all societies manifest some sense of their history as part of their own collective self-consciousness. The past is drawn upon selectively, compounding nationhood, cultural heritage, class identity or historical destiny in the creation of a necessary myth. The myth may be necessary in order to fortify the ambitions of the restless, to gratify the complacency of the satisfied or to console the amour-propre of the dispossessed ...

Hook and Crook

Peter Clarke, 15 August 1991

Suez 
by Keith Kyle.
Weidenfeld, 656 pp., £25, May 1991, 0 297 81162 2
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... There was a message on the piece of paper which fluttered to the floor when someone opened the door of the Commander-in-Chief’s room: ‘Hooknoses’ D-Day – 29 Oct.’ Throughout the late summer and early autumn of 1956 there had been a build-up of British and French forces in the Mediterranean, following President Nasser’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal ...

Starting up

Peter Clarke, 6 November 1986

The German Slump: Politics and Economics 1924-1936 
by Harold James.
Oxford, 469 pp., £30, March 1986, 0 19 821972 5
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The Making of Keynes’s General Theory 
by Richard Kahn.
Cambridge, 327 pp., £20, May 1984, 9780521253734
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Towards the Managed Economy: Keynes, the Treasury and the Fiscal Policy Debate of the 1930s 
by Roger Middleton.
Methuen, 244 pp., £25, September 1985, 0 416 35830 6
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Keynes and his Contemporaries 
edited by G.C. Harcourt.
Macmillan, 195 pp., £22.50, October 1985, 0 333 34687 4
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The Policy Consequences of John Maynard Keynes 
edited by Harold Wattel.
Macmillan, 157 pp., £29.50, April 1986, 0 333 41340 7
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... Ramsay MacDonald christened it an ‘economic blizzard’, suggesting that the world slump of 1929-32 was an Act of God which his hapless Labour Government could not be expected to have foreseen or averted, much less mastered. John Maynard Keynes, by contrast, reached for a mechanical metaphor appropriate to the current state of the art. ‘We have magneto trouble,’ he wrote in December 1930 ...

Seeing it all

Peter Clarke, 12 October 1989

The Time of My life 
by Denis Healey.
Joseph, 512 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 7181 3114 2
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... Considering that they have rejoiced so often in wrapping themselves in the Union Jack, Tory governments have an inglorious record on defence. Churchill’s notorious entry in the index to The Gathering Storm (‘Baldwin, Stanley ... confesses putting party before country’) may not have survived as an objective historical judgment, but even fifty years on, Britain’s preparations for the Second World War hardly look inspiring ...

Scoutmaster General

Peter Clarke, 24 September 1992

Tony Benn 
by Jad Adams.
Macmillan, 576 pp., £20, July 1992, 0 333 52558 2
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The End of an Era: Diaries, 1980-1990 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 704 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 09 174857 7
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... Where did it go wrong? How did it come unstuck? Here was the making of a gilt-edged, silver-spooned career in Labour politics, surely marked out for the leadership from an early stage. He was born with every advantage. Good-looking and good-natured, eloquent and earnest, well-educated and well-connected, Anthony Wedgwood Benn had the best of both worlds ...

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