Greens Push Lib Dems Into 5th Place


An intriguing poll was published just before the European Election.  In it the Greens had overtaken the Liberal Democrats leaving them in fifth place.   At time of writing I don’t know what the real results will be.  Polls are just polls and what happens on the ground can be very different.  I’d be surprised if the Greens were actually to outpoll the Lib Dems in the real world.   A lot of the MEPs defending their seats will have a strong incumbency advantage.  And even in these online days organisation on the ground counts for something, and the Lib Dems are better organised and better funded. Continue reading Greens Push Lib Dems Into 5th Place

Perilous Question – The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832 – Antonia Fraser

There is a notion that the history of Britain has been written by the Whigs, and that they have put their moderate progressive slant on events.  Lady Antonia Fraser would certainly fall into that mould.  She is famous enough as a historian for her family and marriages to not be the things that define her.  But on this particular subject it is impossible not to remember that she is from a very political background.  Her father was Lord Longford who served in a Labour government.  She has a distinctly establishment background, and this is an account from the point of view of the establishment at the time.  We don’t hear much from the point of view of the common man, or at least not directly.  Their main role in the story is breaking the windows of the elites. Continue reading Perilous Question – The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832 – Antonia Fraser

August Graf von Platen’s Poem on The Grave of Alaric


The launch of one of my videos on YouTube is always accompanied by a flurry of PR activity.  Well actually, I just tweet it a couple of times in the hope that somebody somewhere will notice.   From time to time I even get some responses.  My most recent one on the death of Alaric elicited a gem of a response from @sciamannata who drew my attention to a poem on the subject by the German romantic poet August Graf von Platen.  I don’t know anything about this guy apart from his dates – early nineteenth century.  But reading the poem you can get a big sense of what Alaric meant to pre-unification Germans. Continue reading August Graf von Platen’s Poem on The Grave of Alaric

Farewell Tony I Shall Miss You -Tony Benn Obituary


I woke up this morning to the news that Tony Benn had died. I am in my mid-Fifties now and I suspect I will never again have the feeling of witnessing history I had one day in 1981 when I listened to the result of the deputy leadership election between Benn and Denis Healey. My memory is that I heard it live outside on portable radio while working on a building site. I think my memory must be playing tricks because I can’t imagine that in those days the Labour Party conference would have been broadcast live even on radio. But whatever, I certainly heard it and like a lot of other people didn’t immediately realise that his impressive share of the vote – he got over 49% – still meant that he hadn’t won. The mathematically obvious fact that to win a two horse race requires over 50% didn’t register until after the second figure was read out. Continue reading Farewell Tony I Shall Miss You -Tony Benn Obituary

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy


The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers was highly influential when it came out and continues to make an interesting read, though it has rather swiftly slippd from being an interesting look at the contemporary situation to an interesting look at how the world looked in the Eighties.  Having read it not long after it came out, I can remember the way it seemed to have some kind of great predictive power.  This was enhanced when the Soviet Union collapsed – an event that was foreseen by almost nobody, including Paul Kennedy, but he somehow seemed to have the best explanation.  Continue reading The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy

Wisconsin and the Gracchi

There is no particular consensus on who was responsible for the current financial crisis.  Credit was definitely involved somewhere along the way.  But was it the people who lent it, borrowed it or regulated it who are culpable?  Nobody seems to know, though some people have some pretty strong opinions.  But there is one group of people who would seem to be in the clear.  Organised Labour don’t advance loans, issue credit ratings or set the rules for banking operations.  So whatever else you think about your local union, you have to at least concede they didn’t wreck either Wall Street or the EU. Continue reading Wisconsin and the Gracchi

Michael Foot RIP: The British Cicero

The whole History Books Review organisation was saddened to hear this week of the death of Michael Foot. In addition to his career as a politician he was of course also a historian of some note and his biography of Aneurin Bevan is on the list of books I intend to review. This particular book is interesting as an example of a history of his own time written by a participant in that history. This is quite a rare thing nowadays. Continue reading Michael Foot RIP: The British Cicero

V for Vendetta

I got in some beers and a pizza last Saturday night and stayed in to watch a DVD with my son – V for Vendetta. This was released in 2005, directed by James McTeigue and starring Hugo Weaving (masked throughout), Natalie Portman, John Hurt and Stephen Fry.

It is a good film, keeping you interested throughout and with good special effects and some very good actors performing very well. Although it is a cult film it has a very Hollywood feel to it with lots of action, a bit of love interest and building up to a satisfying ending with good basically triumphing over evil. Continue reading V for Vendetta