Geoffrey Wheatcroft is the author of The Controversy of Zion, The Strange Death of Tory England, and Yo, Blair! He is working on a new interpretation of Churchill’s life, reputation, and posthumous influence. (June 2016)
In 1930, Winston Churchill published My Early Life, which remains his most likable and authentic book. At its end he comes forward to September 1908 when, without mentioning Clementine Hozier by name or his proposing to her at his ancestral home of Blenheim Palace, his last line tells us in …
Strawberry Hill and Horace Walpole: Essential Guide
by John Iddon
Strawberry Hill: Horace Walpole’s Gothic Castle
by Anna Chalcraft and Judith Viscardi
“It is a little play-thing-house,” Horace Walpole wrote to Henry Seymour Conway in June 1747, “and is the prettiest bauble you ever saw. It is set in enamelled meadows, with filigree hedges.” Six years later he was able to tell his friend Sir Horace Mann, the lifelong British resident in …
In October 1951 the prime minister decided to call a general election. He wrote to the leader of the opposition informally (“My dear Churchill”) to let him know, before Parliament was dissolved, and polling day took place less than three weeks later. Clement Attlee was displeased by the outcome, with …
Photography, and Queen Victoria’s interest in it, emerged into public light with the Great Exhibition of 1851, partly Prince Albert’s brainchild. Many of the astonishing six million people who visited the exhibition in Hyde Park saw photographs for the first time, a number of which can be seen at a new exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum and in the handsome accompanying book by Anne M. Lyden, both called “A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography.”
One of the best traditions of English public life is the official inquiry, sometimes parliamentary, sometimes judicial. What gives inquiries their value isn’t the conclusions they come to, which can be perverse or distorted by partisanship, but the evidence they hear and place on record. And so with the Leveson inquiry into the press. Whatever recommendations Lord Justice Leveson eventually makes, we have been spellbound by the testimony he has heard. To add a certain amusement value, the last few weeks have been notable for utterly contradictory testimony from different witnesses, several of them present or former leaders of the country.
Someone is being economical with the truth, or just lying.
Along with the other media he has mastered, from tabloids to satellite television, Rupert Murdoch has recently taken to Twitter. On February 15, he tweeted, “To hell with politicians! When are we going to find some to tell the truth in any country? Don’t hold your breath.” His words remind us yet again that Murdoch is a man of iron nerve, not say brass neck, though they might also suggest a degree of delusion. Throughout his career, every time he has come near calamity, that gambler’s strong nerve has always somehow managed to rescue him. But the concatenation of scandal and disaster that has now engulfed his News International group—which owns the Sun and the now-defunct News of the World as well as the London Times and other papers—is of a different order.
The real story is not Murdoch’s papers and the repulsive methods used by their reporters: it’s the force and blatancy of Murdoch’s political influence through those papers. Although responsibility for the appalling conduct of his papers ultimately rests with Murdoch, the blame for the way he has exercised so much indirect political power lies with those politicians who have for so long knelt before him. Cameron is the latest, and may yet prove the greatest casualty. But it must be said that not even Cameron was as cynical and unprincipled in his dealings with Murdoch as Tony Blair had been.
There’s much to be said for avoiding Mediterranean countries between May and October, but some attractions won’t wait until the more temperate autumn, notably exhibitions in Madrid, Rome and Venice, the latter two now in their last days.
In England, it has been truly observed, summer’s lease hath all too short a date, and we make the most of what there is of it in our damp little island. From May to September there’s a rich musical life outside London.