Saturday, 10 December 2016

Revolt on the Right, Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin

Published in 2014, this award-winning book was the first sustained attempt to assess and explain the evidence for the rise of the UK Independence Party.  Ford and Goodwin are two of the country's leading experts on the political right wing.  They draw on statistical data, face-to-face interviews and published writings to trace the rise of UKIP and identify who is supporting the party and why.  The book can be somewhat dry, with a great deal of graphs and statistics, but some clear and important messages emerge from the authors' research.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Great Deception, Christopher Booker and Richard North

This is an unusual book.  It is part scholarly inquiry, part cheap polemic.  Its subject is the history of the European Union; and it is explicitly revisionist in nature.  Booker and North present themselves as pioneers who are unearthing a story which has been untold or misrepresented.  As the title indicates, it is a story characterised by conspiracy, concealment and deceit.  The authors write of their work - making no concessions to false modesty - that "there is almost no episode of the European Union's history which does not emerge looking radically different from the version which has been generally presented".  An impressive claim; but is it true?

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The key part of the Chilcot Report

Chilcot confirmed one essential point that we probably already knew: that the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was not the option of last resort.  The invasion happened then because of the military timetable that the Bush administration had committed itself to, not because it was at that point that the options for dealing with Saddam had run out.  Tony Blair chose to stay with the US, and he did so for two reasons.  First, because he and others were concerned about the consequences of not supporting the Americans.  Second, because he felt that he would have influence with the Americans from a position of support which would not be available from a position of opposition.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The coming Chilcot report

We now know that the Chilcot report into the Iraq War will be published next week, on 6 July.  Sir John Chilcot's inquiry sat from 2009 to 2011, but it has taken until now for the report to be cleared for publication.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Some more thoughts

1.  I went to the protest in Parliament Square today with a couple of friends.  I have spent my life defending the EU and the European ideal, and I have met only with opposition.  Where were all these people for the last few decades?

2.  Roger Boyes has a good article in the Times.  A lot of people don't understand the humour of the Fawlty Towers episode "The Germans".  The butt of the joke isn't the Germans.  It is made very clear that they are the paying customers who have the money.  The butt is the blinkered prejudiced Englishman who is unwittingly alienating them.  Like the best comedy, it is slightly uncomfortable.

3.  RIP David Cameron.  He is a good and decent man, and one of only two Tory prime ministers whom I have felt I could support; but when it really, really mattered he made the wrong call.  Contrast the quintessential British icon Winston Spencer-Churchill, who was a weird and unpleasant man; but when it really, really mattered he made the right call.

4.  Boris Johnson is the first British prime minister in waiting who has needed police protection from the voters before even taking up office.

The disaster

Yesterday, we discovered what happens when you ask the British what they really think about foreigners.  The result was a disaster.  A disaster and a tragedy.  It was the worst political event of my lifetime, and I lived through the Thatcher years.  

Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Smith report

Dame Janet Smith's report into the BBC's role in the Jimmy Savile scandal has now been published.  It is an interesting document in a number of ways.

Perhaps the least interesting thing about the report is the behaviour of the dead paedophile who triggered it.  We already knew enough about Savile and what kind of man he was, and I will say no more about him.

The lasting significance of the report lies in its value as a piece of social history and investigative work.  Smith has managed to piece together, painstakingly and in detail, events from decades ago which took place in a now lost culture.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Eichmann Trial, Deborah Lipstadt

The State of Israel v Adolf Eichmann was one of the outstanding criminal trials of the twentieth century - the piece of litigation that introduced the term "Holocaust" into the English vernacular.  This book is an account of the trial written by Deborah Lipstadt, a Jewish American academic who is best known for her own courtroom battle against an antisemite, in the form of David Irving's ill-fated libel action against her and Penguin Books.