A myth-demolishing study of the vote in which Tony Benn voted to leave and the Tory tabloids hailed a result ‘more unanimous than any decision in peacetime history’
In 1975, supposedly one of the worst years of supposedly the worst decade in recent British history, voters chose to remain in the European Economic Community, now the European Union, by 67.2% to 32.8%. Britain was more insular, more racist, less cosmopolitan, and less confident than it was when the next referendum on Europe was held, 41 years later. But even in Essex and Lincolnshire, the Brexit heartlands of the future, support for Europe was overwhelming. Neil Kinnock, who like many on the left campaigned for leave in 1975, told the Western Mail: “Only an idiot would ignore or resent a majority like this. We’re in for ever.”
Britons preoccupied with the EU, whether for or against, often prefer ...
Simon Hannah’s survey of the left of the party is unsparing and more about unfulfilled promise than Corbynistas may like
In writing about a party as muddled together and misrepresented as Labour, clarity is a powerful weapon. Authors who accurately describe the party’s competing factions and traditions, and the ever shifting balance between them, are relatively rare. They are also a threat to Labour’s many enemies, who have often relied on portraying the party, and the left of it in particular, as a vast but hazy conspiracy.
This pithy book, “intended mainly for those who have been drawn into politics” since Jeremy Corbyn stood for leader, aims to “introduce the major historical struggles” of the Labour left and “explain what was at stake”. Simon Hannah is a young leftwing Labour activist, and there is an avuncular foreword from the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell. Yet Hannah’s approach to the Labour left, ...
Seymour investigates how the Labour leader proved doubters wrong – and a collection of essays, The Corbyn Effect, asks what might his government look like?
In these febrile times, writing books about current British politics – and even reviewing them – is a risky business. Richard Seymour’s highly opinionated study of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership, and the circumstances that gave rise to it, was first published in April 2016. Labour were in the low 30s in the polls, a middling-to-mediocre position, and Corbyn’s tenure seemed a bold experiment that was not that likely to succeed. Seymour gave his book, “written in sympathy with Corbyn”, an upbeat subtitle, but his predictions were largely pessimistic. A prolific polemicist in the small but prickly space to the left of the Labour left, and pointedly not a party member, Seymour argued that Corbyn’s leadership would be both too radical for the establishment to tolerate, and ...
This huge, rich book is a celebration not only of the style bible but of London, Manchester and Liverpool in the late 20th century
On 1 May 1980 a new magazine with a murky cover but a blaring red-blue logo appeared on London’s most up-to-date newsstand, in Great Marlborough Street, Soho. Contrary to the magazine conventions of the time, the Face had a title which did not tell you what it covered, almost no adverts, and was launched during a deep recession. Once distributed beyond Soho, the first issue sold 56,000 copies.
The early 80s were a feverish time in Britain for new things, from youth cultures to design companies to political ideologies, and the Face – which tried to feature all of them in a fresh way, both glossy and gritty, while operating on a shoestring – remains one of the era’s most mythologised products. It never sold more than 130,000 ...
A Guardian journalist’s study of Sepp Blatter and other football officials is full of startling material and has cumulative powerFrom 1996 to 2013, one of the members of the executive committee of Fifa, the body that runs world football, was an American businessman and former manufacturer of smiley-face badges called Chuck Blazer
. For most of that time, Blazer was also general secretary of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf), one of the half dozen international federations that Fifa helps fund. At Blazer’s instigation, Concacaf rented offices and apartments in Trump Tower in Manhattan. One of the apartments was for the sole use of Blazer’s cats. They “peed all over the floor”, Guardian journalist David Conn records, “and made the place stink”.
When it comes to the moral shortcomings of modern football, writers are not exactly short of metaphors. The challenge is more the opposite: ...
Cities are now segregated by height, with the world’s wealthiest living high, argues this fascinating book
Some weeks ago, the director of the Tate galleries, Sir Nicholas Serota
, had a spat with people living near Tate Modern
that could have come from a satirical novel. They had complained that the gallery’s new 10th-floor public balcony looked directly into their glass-walled flats, which are in a nearby, slightly older tower complex and are each worth up to £19m. Serota tartly replied that the residents should “put up a blind or a net curtain”, “as is common” in most homes.
Related: This brutalist world: from Rotterdam's 'vertical city' to Tokyo's capsule tower – in pictures
From ‘slum sport’ to domineering cultural force – a brave and deeply personal history of how the disaster has shaped football
In 1985, four years before the Hillsborough disaster, an editorial in the Sunday Times, then as now a pretty reliable guide to the mindset of its proprietor Rupert Murdoch and much of rightwing Britain, described British football as “a slum sport played in slum stadiums, and increasingly watched by slum people who deter decent folk from turning up”.
Last year, Murdoch’s television conglomerate Sky paid £4.18bn to broadcast fewer than half the games from a single English and Welsh football competition, the Premier League, over the next three years. Rights deals with other British and foreign broadcasters covering the same period are estimated to have earned the Premier League as much again – confirming it as, in Adrian Tempany
’s both awestruck and aghast words, easily “the world’s ...
The press and the Labour’s right wing are often in a froth about the party being taken over by radical leftists. So is this addictive study of Militant a gift for Corbyn-bashers?
Panics about infiltrators are a Labour tradition. In a party made up of disparate elements from the start, in a country where the legitimacy of leftwing radicalism is rarely accepted by the media and wider establishment, it is hardly surprising that subversives, real and imagined, have regularly been spotted burrowing their way into Labour’s loose structures. During the 20s, the party struggled to purge itself of communists, whom Lenin instructed to support Labour “as a rope supports the hanged”. Nowadays, the party’s right wing and its many press allies are in an almost perpetual froth about Labour being “taken over” by left-wingers, whether they are activists of the large new pressure group Momentum
or even Jeremy Corbyn himself.
How the shining architectural optimism of the 1960s and 70s has ultimately produced buildings such as supermarkets, open-plan offices and other spaces of control
During the anxious early 1970s, when the west was spooked by the oil crisis and economic stagnation, by the first widespread fears for the environment and predictions of global overpopulation, a giddy alternative to it all began to seize the imaginations of some Americans: space colonies. “Large cylinders, potentially over a kilometre long,” Douglas Murphy writes in Last Futures
, “would spin at a constant rate to recreate the effects of gravity … [and] would be partially glazed to allow for sunlight … while large shades and baffles would protect the inhabitants from glare and cosmic rays … with water features, trees, animals and people all sheltered within this artificial environment, and outside the blank vacuum of space”.
For several years the space colony craze spread, ...
Is his vast charity empire changing the world for the better? Or is Bill Gates playing God?
Ten years ago, when the Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates was midway through his startling metamorphosis from monopolistic software magnate to possibly the world’s most admired philanthropist, he made a speech declaring that the traditional American high school was “obsolete”. Instead, his hugely generous charitable foundation invested $2bn in new, smaller schools for nearly 800,000 pupils.
But within a few years, in 2008, the funding abruptly stopped. Some of the schools had to close. Three years on, in one of his carefully rationed newspaper interviews, Gates explained: “The overall impact of the intervention, particularly the measure we care most about – whether [pupils] go to college – it didn’t move the needle much … We didn’t see a path to having a big impact, so we did a mea culpa on that.” Continue reading...
A few major revelations, some lapses into Tory triumphalism, and something still missing – an insider’s portrait of a prime minister in her pomp
Is Charles Moore a lucky biographer? Britain’s best-connected rightwing journalist has been working on his study of modern Britain’s most relentless rightwing politician for 18 years so far. He has published more than 1,700 pages, an intended two volumes have become an intended three, and he still has a quarter of a century of her workaholic life to go. With political biographies becoming shorter and scarcer in a country that increasingly dislikes politicians, this could be one of the last big commissions.
When, in 2013, the first instalment, Not for Turning, came out, shortly after Margaret Thatcher’s death, as she and Moore had agreed it would, it was helped by the political situation in Britain. The economy was struggling; the coalition was unpopular and it ...