This book is basically a polemic. Its thesis is simple. Britain has failed to make the most of its relationship with the rest of the European Union because from the very start it has underestimated the resolve of the other members to make the project work. Consequently the various initiatives and developments over the years have been met with lukewarm approval at best. Britain has been content to snipe from sidelines in the belief that whatever was being proposed was going to fail anyway. Why get worked up about things that are never going to happen? So we end up outside some of the most beneficial aspects of the project. We don’t enjoy the stability of the single currency. We opt out of some of the social protections. We don’t even save ourselves some bother by joining the passport free zone.
Nothing that simple is every literally true of course.
Why did I choose to go to Chichester to see this play? I don’t know, and neither does anybody else. The facts are clear enough. I had seen it was coming, and thought it would be interesting. But I didn’t book tickets until the last minute. I didn’t realise how popular it would be. How could I? So by the time I came to book nearly every seat was taken and I had very little choice of which seat to take – and there were no nights where two seats were left next to each other. Is that why I went alone? Or did my wife’s reluctance to go and see a play about a couple of physicists with a total cast of 3 and no prospect of any singing or dancing have something to do with it. Did that hold me back from getting my credit card out. Did I only commit when I had a valid excuse for why I was going alone? I literally don’t know the answers to these questions, even though it all happened in my head in the last month. Our brains and how they work are a mystery to ourselves. Michael Frayn could probably get a play out of this.
The First World War by John Keegan is history as a story. Keegan is a journalist, and it is said that journalism is the first draft of history. (The first draft of anything is usually rubbish, so that is why I don’t read the papers.) And a good way to look at this book is as a journalist going back over the previous drafts and making the story tighter. This isn’t a book that probes deeply into the causes of the war or comes to any profound conclusions about its effects. It is just the story of what happened. If that is what you want, this is what you get.
I wrote this back in 2015 just after Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour Party leader, but before his MPs started the process of trying to get rid of him. At the time his rise seemed the most surprising and unpredicted political event. I didn’t trouble publishing it at the time. It isn’t particularly insightful or even very well written. But it does show how quickly events change how things seem.
I really really wish I had kept the slip of paper I put in my jacket pocket one Saturday night in 1978. I was 18, and was devoting considerable efforts to try and get a girlfriend. This was the height of the Disco era, so it was discos I mostly went to. But a straight forward old fashioned dance was worth a try as well. So this particular weekend I had ended up in the Conservative Club in the seaside town where I grew up, at a dance. I seem to remember enjoying it, but didn’t manage to pull anyone which was my main objective at the time. It was only the next day that I realised that by picking the cheaper admission option I had actually joined the Conservative Party and had a membership card to prove it.
Hello I’m Colin Sanders and this is the History Books Review where I read history books and tell you what I think of them, and maybe pick a few interesting points out to give you a taste. This time I’m covering a new book called The Ministry of Spin by Richard Milton, an author whose work I haven’t really come across before.
We all have odd memories that stick in our minds from a young age. I have one from some time in the early seventies. It was an advert on the television advising of the wisdom of making sure you know what is behind you when driving. It was a cartoon that showed a man driving a car that gradually panned out to show that he was being followed by a turban wearing man on an elephant. You should use your mirror frequently. Good advice! I hope you take note. It was credited to the Central Office of Information.
Hello, I’m Colin Sanders and this is the history books review. It isn’t a book today. I have just watched the film of the King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter. I’ll leave the merits of the film to the film critics, though I will say that it are nearly brought a tear to my eye. But the thing that interested me was how it showed just how much attitudes have changed in a relatively short period of time. It tells the story of events that are still just about within living memory. I talked about them to my grand parents who remembered them vividly. George VI, the main protagonist, still appeared on coins when I was growing up.
An unusual viewpoint expressed in a Youtube video making the rather remarkable assertion that the Nazis were socialists.
If you can’t be troubled to watch it – it is only 5 minutes or so but boy are they long minutes – here is a quick resumé of the gist of the argument. Fascism and Nazism both came out of socialism, and simply reconciled the idea of socialism to that of nationalism. Nazism was similar in many ways to communism, which is defined as being the extreme left. In particular you had a cult of the personality of the leader, collectivist solutions to problems including welfare systems and a large degree of state intervention and were very authoritarian.
I didn’t vote in the 1979 election because of some reason or other that I no longer remember. I wasn’t too fussed by the outcome of it, though I think I would have voted Labour had I managed to get to the polling booth. I was vaguely disappointed that the Conservatives had got in, while being quite pleased that we had a woman prime minister.
Just before sitting down to right this review I listened to the news. A delivery company went bust on Christmas Day. The venture capital firm that owned it no doubt calculated that this was the most advantageous point in the year to go bust. The positive cash flow of the festive season would have swelled the money in the bank giving them plenty of scope for spending it in creative ways before the receivers moved in. It wasn’t such good timing for the workers who found out that they were out of work via the media. One twist was that the distinctive green and yellow vans were not all owned by the company. Many were owned by the drivers who were technically self employed, subcontracting their services. So that will cut the redundancy bill. In other news it turns out that the UK is poised to regain its economic position ahead of France in the size of the economy.
Enoch Powell has become one of those figures about whom the myth matters more than the reality. The basic facts are that he was a reasonably successful Conservative politician until he, apparently inadvertently, made a speech which articulated the feelings of many British people about the dangers of immigration. He became too hot to handle for the Conservatives. He was sacked and ended his career representing the unionists in Ulster. By all accounts he was a highly intelligent man with a strong sense of honour who commanded the respect and affection of those who knew him well. Whether or not he was actually a racist is almost impossible to tell. He probably didn’t know himself – but learning Urdu is hardly the typical behaviour of your average racist. But whether he was or not, his rivers of blood speech was certainly music to the ears of people who definitely were racist. And it definitely wrecked his career and left him to be remembered as a bogeyman.