‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Neville Thurlbeck and the Major/Currie affair

Neville Thurlbeck was one of the speakers at a City University seminar on the implications of Leveson. He mentioned that the tabloid press was probably more active and dangerous from a politician's point of view in the 1980s than it has been in recent years. I asked him afterwards about one of the best kept secrets in British politics -  the affair between Edwina Currie and John Major (before Major became prime minister).

When Major, as Prime Minister, launched his 'Back to Basics' campaign, it backfired and encouraged journalists to search for anything incriminating on the private lives of Tory MPs. Nothing emerged at the time about the Major/Currie affair and the story only became public, when Edwina Currie herself broke the story after Major had left Downing Street. I asked Neville Thurlbeck if he had heard so much as a whisper about the affair at the time, or if he even knew of any journalist who later claimed even to have had a suspicion about it. He confirmed that the affair had gone completely undetected and unsuspected, confirming that some secrets really do remain secret, despite the best efforts of investigative journalists.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Doctors against the NHS and Parents against Education! Whatever Next?

First, I must declare my disinterest. I am neither medical practitioner, nor politician. However, as a doctor of political history and I am struck by the latest in a long line of seemingly perverse political positions - namely the plan announced today for doctors opposed Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms to put up candidates against coalition MPs. This would almost certainly result in more of the coalition MPs being re-elected, as the doctors would probably split the Labour (ie anti-legislation vote).

Just a reminder of some past perversities - When the NHS was set up, the main opposition to it came from doctors. When universal education was proposed for children, the main opposition came from parents (they wanted their children to go out and earn money). And perhaps even harder to believe, but much more recent - Britain joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism (the forerunner of the euro) under a Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher!

Lloyd George's Daughter Dies?

Oh dear! Here I am writing about yet another figure of historical importance, connected with the Liberal Party, who has just died.

David Lloyd George, prime minister from 1916 to 1922 and leader of the Liberal Party from 1926 to 1931, was married twice. His second wife Frances Stevenson, (later Countess Lloyd George), had a daughter, Jennifer, whose father was widely believed to be Lloyd George (although some doubt remains). Jennifer has died at the age of 82.

I was lucky enough to have had dinner with Jennifer a couple of years ago. She still had a very sharp mind, but a gentle manner, and many memories of Lloyd George. Jennifer's death breaks the last link in a direct chain to Lloyd George.