Half In Half Out – Edited by Lord Adonis

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.

Continue reading Half In Half Out – Edited by Lord Adonis

Labour – The Summer That Changed Everything BBC2 20/11/17

During the 2017 General Election I happened to be driving through Hastings, a town I know well and lived in for a few years. I was surprised to see a large group of Labour canvassers out in a fairly Tory part of the town. Hastings has gone Labour in the past but it was far from being an obvious target. I concluded that the folk I saw were enthusiastic but perhaps a little too optimistic. After all the media was assuring us that far from picking up places like Hastings Labour was on course to lose out badly. In fact one union leader set the bar pretty low by saying that if Labour only lost 20 seats it would be an acceptable result. Continue reading Labour – The Summer That Changed Everything BBC2 20/11/17

Betting The House by Tim Ross

Elections can often be dramatic and unpredictable events. But they are often soul destroying and boring as well. The UK’s 2015 one was just dispiriting. The referendum on the EU was not much fun either. And when Theresa May called her snap election in 2017 it looked like it would simply be the worse possible example of the genre. Continue reading Betting The House by Tim Ross

Trump Isn’t Hitler. He Is Augustus. And That Is Nearly As Bad

Ruler of the world, but not his own hair

I don’t think it is a great idea to use historical parallels as a guide to present day actions. Just because things played out a particular way back then there’s no reason they should do so again in the same way. And worse than that, historical parallels can be very bad guides to action. For example, the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden described Egyptian president Nasser as another Hitler to justify invading Egypt to take control of the Suez canal. Continue reading Trump Isn’t Hitler. He Is Augustus. And That Is Nearly As Bad

He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope

In Victorian Britain married women were firmly under the control of men.  They were obliged to be obedient to their husbands and could not own property independent of him.  Okay it sounds great in theory, but how did it actually work? Continue reading He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope

The View From The Foothills by Chris Mullin


I am interested in politics, but I don’t follow the day to day political coverage very much. I do have the occasional binge. I get caught up sometimes in a big story like an election or a big scandal. But this is pretty much like someone who has got their eating disorder under control having the odd relapse. A daily diet of news stories spun by the politicians themselves and filtered through a media owned by vested interests is much like eating fast food. It feeds a craving, and you enjoy it at the time, but doesn’t really give you what you need. Continue reading The View From The Foothills by Chris Mullin

Why Is Brexit Taking So Long? Five Whys.


This is an unedited first draft – I’ll tidy it up later.

I am very impatient about Brexit. I really want the process to start and to get us outside of the EU as quickly as possible. My reasoning for this is quite simple. I want to get back in. At the moment if you complain about leaving the EU when the decision has been made to leave it you sound a bit pathetic. The argument has been had and my side has lost it. It is quite reasonable for people to say we should move on. And indeed we should. I am not looking forward to leaving, but it does have the consolation that when we are outside people campaigning to get back in will be the radical outsiders and the outers will be the establishment. (Actually I think they always were the establishment, but being opposed to the status quo gave them a sort of faux radicalism.) Continue reading Why Is Brexit Taking So Long? Five Whys.

Militant by Michael Crick

A book I read a long time ago suddenly seems more interesting than it has for many years. Back in 1985 I was a Labour Party activist. I had other things on my mind at the time and it wasn”t a huge part of my life in the way that it was for some of the other activists I met. But I went to meetings. I was briefly a secretary of a ward branch (sounds a lot more important than it actually was). I used to go out leafletting and canvassing. And this being the eighties, I was also involved in internal party debates. Continue reading Militant by Michael Crick

Punditocracy – How Do We Explain The Appeal of Jeremy Corbyn


How do we explain the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn? Or to be precise how do we explain that everyone in the media is talking about Jeremy Corbyn? He is supposed to be leading the race for leadership of the Labour Party. That is the consensus amongst the pundits, and the story is running and running.

The source of the notion that Corbyn is now poised to win the top job in the Labour Party is based on two fairly dubious pieces of data. First is a leak of an alleged private poll. This is claimed to show Corbyn ahead but there are no other details. The other is a Yougov poll which the pollsters themselves issued with a strong caveat that it was no more than a ‘grainy snapshot’. Continue reading Punditocracy – How Do We Explain The Appeal of Jeremy Corbyn

The Ministry of Spin by Richard Milton

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. Continue reading The Ministry of Spin by Richard Milton