A History of Modern Britain
But clearly even he wouldn't have bothered to write such a long book - pages with a fallible index - unless he had a few fish to fry. Some of these cook better than others. When Edward Heath, of all people, is described as "a political leader whose reputation deserves to be revisited", then you are contemplating the kind of sentiment expressed only by people who write books like this.
You feel Marr's time would have been better spent in the Schottish labour of listing the old sailor's exotic beards, who, at one stage, I remember, included Olivia de Havilland.
And it seems even more perverse to take such an unforgiving view of Harold Wilson when Wilson, at least, was coping more successfully than most with what emerges as the central quandary of the book: not just that Britain was fated to give away its empire and struggle for economic stability, but that it could never work out how to settle on a just or sensible relationship with its principal ally. There is, in British history, from the end of the second world war and onwards through Suez and Vietnam, a painful, abject uneasiness about the United States which is expressed as much through our unjustified sense of superiority to what Marr calls the cargo cult of celebrity worship and narcissism as through any particular incident in politics.
Wilson earned the contempt of my generation for offering moral support to the American slaughter in Vietnam.
Yet he now seems like an admirable master of realpolitik for having skilfully avoided committing British troops. In this context, Blair's collusion in the invasion of Iraq hardly seems like the principled action of a liberal interventionist who imagined he could bring peace without bothering to bring order.
Rather, Blair is positioned as only the latest in a long line of disastrously deluded, socially conservative prime ministers who turned out not to exercise half the influence they claimed over a partner far more powerful and far more ruthless than they dared to admit. This is a broad-based book and a decent one, setting out to tell how, after a war that made democracy fashionable, a thin, religious and homogenous people became fat, sceptical and diverse. Attlee's answer to an interviewer who asked "Is there anything else you'd care to say about the coming election?
But even better is the mention of how home secretaries used to sit in their office directly opposite a board on which were written the names of all those British prisoners coming up to be hanged. With the abolition of capital punishment, Roy Jenkins replaced the board with a fridge full of white wine.
Ghastly man, but what a gift for metaphor. His new play, The Vertical Hour, will be seen in London next year. Topics Books.
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A History of Modern Britain: to the Present - Ellis Wasson - Google книги
A History of Modern Britain. Andrew Marr.
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