Matthew Parris

Where’s the Beef?

John Smith – The Slow, Steady Rise of Labour's New Leader

By

Verso 224pp £17.95 order from our bookshop

‘I do not know what species of bird is halfway between a hawk and a dove, but I fancy the posture of that bird.’ Here. John Smith is talking about nuclear disarmament, but the posture has served him well more than once. Among those of us who hardly know him, Mr Smith’s image may be dull, but it is solid and on balance pleasing. Impressions of Labour’s new leader show a notable consistency across a wide range of commentors. Words like ‘prudence’ and ‘integrity’, ‘steadfastness’, ‘resolution’ and ‘judgement’ spring to mind. ‘Honour’, especially, springs to mind. So I took up Andy McSmith’s new study expecting to have those preconceptions nourished by stories of his youth, his early political career and days as a minister, and news of his behind-the-scenes role through Labour’s turbulent dark age in the Seventies and early Eighties.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,