The Pound & the Fury

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On first contact, I was more than a little surprised by Angrynomics, an account of popular outrage about the state of the world, its causes and consequences, and what to do about it. Yes, yes, I thought as I waded through some quite familiar territory on the growth in wealth inequality, the backlash against globalisation […]

A Tale of Two Parties

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This is an illuminating political memoir about the break-up of the political tribe that won the Cold War. It can be read with profit even if you disagree, as I do, with the thesis it is wrapped up in. The author, Anne Applebaum, is a distinguished American journalist and a historian of, in particular, the Soviet Union and its horrors. She is

Out with Battleships, In with Bakeries

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The term ‘soft power’ was made famous by Harvard academic Joseph Nye in a 1990 article on leadership. In fact, long before then writers had pointed to a third kind of power, beyond those provided by armies and money. In 1939, for example, E H Carr wrote that ‘power over opinion’ could be as important […]

It’s All About Us

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘The mistake we the establishment made internationally was in the 1990s and 2000s when it was all going well – when we thought we’d really sorted out a marvellous new world.’ So Kenneth Clarke observed in a ‘Lunch with the FT’ interview in January 2020, in that ancient time before the pandemic. He went on, ‘We didn’t, I think, know quite what to do about the

We Shall Fight Them on The Terraces

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When I was about four years old, I became obsessed with The Three Musketeers. The ostentatious chivalry, the camaraderie and the morally justified bloodshed embodied everything that I thought it meant to be a grown man. Somehow, my grandmother fashioned me a full costume (I was particularly insistent on the lace collar), and I pirouetted […]

For Your Eyes Only, and Theirs

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Reading these two books, which are very different, though they cover the same territory, I was reminded of the day Alan Rusbridger, then editor of The Guardian, beckoned me into his office. When I confirmed that I had my mobile phone with me, he immediately told me to leave it in another room. He had […]

The Sense of Shame

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

No emotion stands nearer to the foundational myths of the human social order than shame. In the beginning, Adam and Eve stood together ‘both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed’. And then they ate of the tree of knowledge; their eyes opened; they knew they were naked; they covered themselves

A Tale of Two Referendums

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has never seemed so rickety. The combined effects of Brexit, to which 62 per cent of Scottish voters were opposed in the referendum of 2016, and the domination of Scottish politics by the Scottish National Party (SNP) are often pointed to as signals of its likely […]

Fear & Loathing on the Internet

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

To better understand how the far right and alt-right have gained political salience in recent years, a curious observer might seek to examine the ideologues and thinkers at the core of these movements. Alternatively, they might look in the opposite direction, eschewing the bigger philosophical picture to focus on the everyday, exploring interactions among the […]

The Only Way is Ethics

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In the age of Trump and Johnson (to say nothing of Putin, Xi, Duterte, Erdoğan, Bolsonaro, Assad, Sisi and so on), the question posed in the title of Joseph Nye’s book could hardly be more pertinent. Nye, a retired Harvard professor who held senior government posts under Bill Clinton, is famous for coining the term […]

Rogues & Republicans

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘Each country has the government it deserves,’ the Savoyard writer Joseph de Maistre observed in 1811. Whether or not the French really deserved Napoleon is an interesting question, yet the remark is usually quoted by conservatives eager to stress the difference between the form of government in their own countries and those of other people’s. […]

Out of Order?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

John Bercow enjoyed a degree of fame as Speaker of the House of Commons that was unmatched by any of his predecessors. The extent of his celebrity became all too apparent when, after stepping down from the post last October, he appeared on a popular Italian television show, delighting the audience with comments on British […]

Time for a Constitutional

Posted on by Tom Fleming

British constitutional experts have a lot to get their teeth into in 2020. The last three years have exposed several fault lines: over parliamentary procedure, the interaction of direct and representative forms of democracy, the functioning of our political institutions and the whole messy question of whether our constitution is fit for purpose. We can […]

The Great Thaw

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It is often a challenge for historians to find the right balance between the human factor and the historical forces at play. The value of Archie Brown’s study of the three extraordinary politicians who brought the Cold War to a peaceful end is that it does precisely this. As the author of a book on […]

How the West was Lost

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Populists are rebelling not only against a specific (liberal) type of politics but also against the replacement of communist orthodoxy by liberal orthodoxy,’ write Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes. For Krastev, a Vienna-based political scientist who witnessed the communist collapse in his native Bulgaria, and Holmes, an American political theorist who has written widely on […]

One Land, Two Peoples

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Rashid Khalidi enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the greatest living historians of the Palestinian people, an honour he shares with his cousin Walid Khalidi, a pioneer in the same field. His latest book is an impressive addition to a body of scholarship that peaked with his study of Palestinian identity as it evolved […]

Murder on the Mind

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Heidi Blake is a former assistant editor at the Sunday Times who now works for BuzzFeed. Her book does two things, one badly, the other well. On the positive side, Blake has written a pacy, fact-based thriller about the locals who tend to the needs of rich Russians in London. If you want to read […]

This Isn’t Working Anymore

Posted on by David Gelber

This is a book written for the times – indeed for this particular moment. A certain kind of Englishness, incoherent and by no means shared by all the English, is driving the United Kingdom out of the European Union, regardless of the consequences, while a certain kind of Scottishness, by no means shared by all […]

Portraits in Tyranny

Posted on by David Gelber

In December 1949, the Soviet regime celebrated Joseph Stalin’s seventieth birthday with great fanfare. Among the visitors who came to Moscow were fellow communist leaders, including those of two recently established dictatorships: Walter Ulbricht, the bespectacled chairman of the East German Socialist Unity Party, and Mao Zedong, chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. Mao was […]

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