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Carpetbagging in Bermondsey

Nicholas Murray, 19 August 1982

... who was threatening to resign and cause an unwelcome by-election in Bermondsey at a time when Shirley Williams, riding on the crest of the SDP’s initial wave of popularity, was waiting to surf victoriously through Bermondsey confident of Mellish’s good will (‘I love that woman,’ he has been quoted as saying) and of the amenable Catholic-Irish ...


Peter Clarke: True or False?, 16 August 1990

... never had it so good.’ 7. Edward Heath gave his word to ‘cut rising prices 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 ...

La Perestroika

Harold Perkin, 24 January 1991

The Second Socialist Revolution: An Alternative Soviet Strategy 
by Tatyana Zaslavskaya, translated by Susan Davies.
Tauris, 241 pp., £19.95, February 1990, 1 85043 151 5
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... This alternative Soviet strategy puts Zaslavskaya in the camp of Tawney, Tony Crosland and Shirley Williams and the kindlier tradition of democratic socialism: ‘The task of a socialist society is to retain the advantages of centralised economic planning, while at the same time finding ways of combining it with a greater stimulation of market ...


William Rodgers, 30 March 1989

European Diary 1977-1981 
by Roy Jenkins.
Collins, 698 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 00 217976 8
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... suffered the personal humiliation of being shouted down at a Labour Party Conference in May 1980. Shirley Williams said that a centre party would have no roots and no principles. As for me, the voyage out of the Labour Party was a lonely, painful affair not finally accomplished until a fortnight before the Limehouse Declaration of January 1981. Through ...

An Address to the Nation

Clive James, 17 December 1981

... anguished cries come to their lips unbidden. The Crosby by-election, shriek the polls, Must go to Shirley Williams by a cable. Should that occur the toiling Fleet Street trolls Will find her shapelier than Betty Grable, While making sure a solemn tocsin tolls To tell Roy Jenkins he is not Clark Gable. About the top spot there’ll be much palaver As some ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... a formidable role on both sides of the debate, Castle and Judith Hart for the socialist antis, Shirley Williams and Betty Boothroyd for the more social democratic Marketeers. In an era of rocketing inflation, the cost of food offered the antis their best hope of victory. But, contrary to today’s Eurosceptic myth that sovereignty played no part in ...

The Future of the Labour Party

Barbara Wootton, 18 December 1980

Healey’s Eye 
by Denis Healey.
Cape, 191 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 224 01793 4
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The Role of the Trade Unions: The Granada Guildhall Lectures 
by James Prior, Tony Benn and Lionel Murray.
Granada, 96 pp., £1, August 1980, 0 586 05386 7
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Rank and File 
by Hugh Jenkins.
Croom Helm, 179 pp., £9.95, September 1980, 0 7099 0331 6
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The Tragedy of Labour 
by Stephen Haseler.
Blackwell, 249 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780631113416
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Labour into the Eighties 
edited by David Bell.
Croom Helm, 168 pp., £9.95, September 1980, 0 7099 0443 6
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... concerned and under a generally acceptable leader is not a task to be accomplished overnight. As Shirley Williams reminded us at Blackpool, it may have taken God only seven days to make the world, but he didn’t have to consider other people’s ideas as to how it should be done; nor did he have to raise a lot of money, as must any new party. In the ...

Looking out

C.H. Sisson, 18 February 1982

The Public School Revolution: Britain’s Independent Schools, 1964-1979 
by John Rae.
Faber, 188 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 571 11789 9
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... though he is and no doubt wishes to be, is not quite the centre either. Is there hope in Mrs Shirley Williams? I should not have thought so, given the extreme ambiguity of her actions and opinions, in the matter of education as in some others. However, you never know when you may need a friend or who that friend may be, and Dr Rae speaks of her ...

Prospects for Higher Education

Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, 19 November 1981

... to rise to a level at which economies might save a significant sum. It was in this context that Shirley Williams, as Minister of State for Education, put forward her 13 points. These were possible measures of economy, put forward as the first step towards a rational dialogue with universities. They were brusquely rejected, in terms which made it clear ...


Clive James, 10 January 1983

... packing up each night as for the hols Is hard to see, unless they’re taking pains To prove that Shirley Williams can catch trains. More serious than polls for the Alliance, Roy’s Statutory Incomes Policy Is greeted with a vote of non-compliance, Thus demonstrating that the SDP Is not just for a gang of famous giants But ordinary folk like you and ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Instincts

Barbara Wootton, 7 August 1980

Mrs Thatcher’s First Year 
by Hugh Stephenson.
Jill Norman, 128 pp., £6.50, June 1980, 0 906908 16 7
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A House Divided 
by David Steel.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £6.50, June 1980, 0 297 77764 5
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... But she does not have that extra dimension, obvious for example in people like Barbara Castle or Shirley Williams as ministers, of being a warm personality in an essentially male environment.’ Certainly a personality does come across in these pages. Our PM clearly has both mental and physical courage (witness her visit to Armagh) and she lacks that ...

Late Developer

Paul Foot, 22 February 1990

Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-1976 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £20, October 1989, 0 09 173775 3
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... of time. Of Tony Crosland: ‘For him informality is a sort of substitute for radicalism.’ Of Shirley Williams: ‘the most reactionary politician I know’. Of Neil Kinnock: ‘not a substantial person. He is a media figure really.’ The central fascination of these Diaries is the gradual transformation of the bright young dynamic dinner-partying ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Admirer

Ian Aitken, 21 November 1991

Time to declare 
by David Owen.
Joseph, 822 pp., £20, September 1991, 0 7181 3514 8
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... which she held the premiereship. In this, of course, he shares responsibility with Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers. But there can be very little doubt that the existence of the SDP was the major factor in sustaining Thatcherism in defiance of the fact that the Tories were unable to achieve more than a fraction of the popular vote in ...

Shaggy Fellows

David Norbrook, 9 July 1987

A History of Modern Poetry: Modernism and After 
by David Perkins.
Harvard, 694 pp., £19.95, April 1987, 0 674 39946 3
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Collected Poems 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Penguin, 207 pp., £3.95, September 1985, 0 14 008383 9
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The Poetry of Geoffrey Hill 
by Henry Hart.
Southern Illinois, 305 pp., $24.95, January 1986, 0 8093 1236 0
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... schemes for human betterment.’ But something is going wrong when Hill ends up sounding like Shirley Williams: if he has spoken of poems as presenting both terms in an antiphonal ‘drama of reason’, this implies a process, rather than a final product with a detachable political moral. Moreover, it can be questioned whether Hill really does give ...

What’s going on?

Peter Jenkins, 21 November 1985

How Britain votes 
by Anthony Heath, Roger Jowell and John Curtice.
Pergamon, 251 pp., £15.50, September 1985, 0 08 031859 2
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Partnership of Principle 
by Roy Jenkins.
Secker in association with the Radical Centre, 169 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 436 22100 4
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The Strange Rebirth of Liberal Britain 
by Ian Bradley.
Chatto, 259 pp., £11.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2670 1
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Report from the Select Committee on Overseas Trade, House of Lords 
HMSO, 96 pp., £6.30, October 1985, 0 10 496285 2Show More
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... there was a lot of talk about ‘talking the language of the new politics’, and I think I heard Shirley Williams refer to the ‘nodes of the new society’. Ian Bradley sees this new society as a post-social democratic society. For him, liberalism is a mystical cult of the individual. Everything that suits his argument, or rather quasi-religious ...

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