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Mr. C. Hallam (Exeter, UK)
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Clement Attlee: The Inevitable Prime Minister
Clement Attlee: The Inevitable Prime Minister
by Michael Jago
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine biography of one of Britain's greatest leaders, 10 July 2014
Few great political leaders have been so frequently underestimated as Clement Richard Attlee. In his early years, he showed little sign of becoming anything special or indeed of developing a socialist outlook. As Jago explains, for a Victorian boy of Attlee’s background born in 1883, there was simply no means of becoming a socialist. The teenage Attlee once argued that the working classes could not be expected to appreciate museums and art galleries in a school debating society. Attlee would later be embarrassed by these views, although as a lifelong champion of both the monarchy and the public school system, a conservative strain to Attlee’s thinking always remained.

Attlee seemed set for a fairly unpromising legal career until a period of voluntary work which started before the First World War transformed his outlook and which in the 1920s launched him towards politics. He continued to be underestimated, however. The first ever Oxford graduate to become a Labour MP, his rise to the leadership in 1935 surprised many. Most assumed he would be a temporary stop gap leader. In fact, he would be the longest serving Labour leader there has ever been, lasting twenty years until 1955 (Ed Miliband will need to last until 2030 to do as well! )

Churchill underestimated him too describing him as “a sheep in sheep’s clothing” despite witnessing his competence working alongside him in the wartime coalition in which Attlee eventually became the first ever Deputy Prime Minister. Churchill invited him to the first half of the critical post-war Yalta Conference on the off chance that Attlee might win the 1945 election and thus need to attend the rest as Prime Minister. But this was a formality. Churchill didn’t expect him to win. Neither did Stalin or his foreign minister Molotov, who, apparently not quite grasping how democracy works, had expected Churchill to fix the result.

Labour’s spectacular 1945 General Election victory gave them their first ever majority. It was also a huge one: 146. Only Tony Blair in 1997 and 2001 has won bigger victories since. The new intake of Labour MPs included most of the key Labour figures of the next forty years: Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson, George Brown, Denis Healey, Michael Foot with Tony Benn and James Callaghan soon to follow.

Attlee’s government did so well that every government since has been disappointing in comparison. Despite walking an economic tightrope throughout, Attlee ensured the return of full employment, a house building boom, the establishment of the post-Cold War foreign policy, independence for India, the nationalisation programme and the creation of the NHS and the welfare state.

Even now, nearly fifty years after his death in 1967, Attlee remains a somewhat underappreciated figure; his success often attributed more to his hugely talented cabinet (Cripps, Bevin, Bevan, Dalton and Morrison) than to the man himself. Jago’s excellent biography contains a couple of errors (a chapter entitled From Lord Haw Haw to Burgess and Maclean does not actually mention Lord Haw Haw aka William Joyce once) but is a masterly piece of work and goes some way to redressing the balance.

Thirty years after Margaret Thatcher shamelessly savaged Attlee’s cherished post-war legacy, it remains a shame that there is no one of Attlee’s stature around in Britain today.

http://chrishallamworldview.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/book-review-clement-attlee-the-inevitable-prime-minister/


The Office 10th Anniversary Edition - Complete Series 1 & 2 and the Christmas Specials [DVD]
The Office 10th Anniversary Edition - Complete Series 1 & 2 and the Christmas Specials [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ricky Gervais
Price: £8.50

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Avoid! Flawed 10th anniversary edition, 11 Sep 2013
Don't get me wrong. The Office itself is superb: perhaps the finest British sitcom of the century so far.
But this version - the 10th Anniversary box set - is best avoided.
Why? Well, imagine you want to watch Episode 1. Or Episode 5. Or any episode. As you surely will.
Press Episode 1 on the menu screen and you don't get the programme but instead lots of chat about the series from Gervais and Merchant and assorted other celebrities. The show comes on eventually but it's not easy to "skip".
These extras are fine in themself. But there is no opportunity to avoid them and just get straight to the show. You even get Mackenzie Crook talking half way through the opening titles.
A great series then. But the failure to seperate the extras from the show itself is a disaster.
Avoid the 10th anniversary edition! Buy any other version of this great series instead.


50 People Who Buggered Up Britain
50 People Who Buggered Up Britain
by Quentin Letts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quentin's list, 18 Jun 2013
Quentin Letts' list of names whom he deems culpable for many of today's problems is certainly a thought provoking one. It's hard not to feel, however, that he chooses many of the right names for the wrong reasons.
Take former Prime Minister Tony Blair, for example. Many would doubtless include him here, perhaps for invading Iraq or banning fox hunting. But what was Blair's chief crime in Letts' eyes? Blair's decision to resign as an MP on the same day that he stood down as Prime Minister. That's right! I'm sure you're still fuming over that as well! This action apparently demonstrated Blair's "contempt" for parliament despite the fact his predecessors Thatcher and Major also left parliament pretty much as soon as they could once they had left Downing Street too. One senses Letts is largely alone in his anger over this one, likewise in his feeling that Lord Archer's chief crime was bringing the House of Lords into disrepute.
Quentin Letts, of course, writes for the Daily Mail and many would doubtless argue he or it too deserve a place on the list for their crucial role in undermining British society, demonising immigrants, the working class and women and inciting fear, prejudice and misery on a regular basis in recent decades.
However, this is a mildly diverting book, even if the more savage passages, for example, dealing with Sir Ian Blair and the 2005 Menezes shooting jar with the chipper, light tone of the rest of the book. However, it's safe to say, you'll enjoy this more if you share Letts' own dislike of anyone who was born to privilege, doesn't drink, is an independent woman, is left wing or who doesn't pray every night and thinks for themselves.


John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate: The Unauthorised Biography: The Unauthorised Biography Of John Mortimer
John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate: The Unauthorised Biography: The Unauthorised Biography Of John Mortimer
by Graham Lord
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rumpole and the Right Wing Biographer, 25 Oct 2010
The cuddly and benign image of lawyer/Rumpole of the Bailey creator John Mortimer comes under serious attack in this hostile unauthorised biography, published before Mortimer's death in 2009.
Mortimer's early behaviour is certainly impossible to defend. Overcoming his , he seems to have seduced or at least attempted to seduce practically every woman he came across and treated his first wife Penelope appallingly.
During the second half of his life, however, I felt Mortimer came across a lot better. It's impossible not to admire his prodigious literary output or indeed, his consistent and admirable position as a defender of liberty and free speech.
At this point, the motives of biographer Graham Lord start increasingly to come into question. Not only does he reveal he had a falling out with Mortimer as he began to research the book but Lord is clearly politically motivated. Many of the things he attacks Mortimer for such as being a socialist (shock horror!), a defender of the permissive society (how terrible!) and not believing in God (gasp!), will only stand up as criticisms if you share Lord's 1980s Thatcherite tabloid newspaper political outlook. He also clearly doesn't understand how parliamentary majorities work.
Despite these failings, I nonetheless, thoroughly enjoyed this biography of an undeniably flawed man who led a thoroughly rich and eventful life.


A Very British Coup
A Very British Coup
by Chris Mullin
Edition: Paperback

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Political Thriller Still Relevant Today, 3 Sep 2010
This review is from: A Very British Coup (Paperback)
"Although published in 1982 at a time when Labour were still struggling to combat the fledgling SDP let alone defeat Margaret Thatcher's Tory Party, A Very British Coup remains one of the classic British political thrillers of the late 20th Century. One does not have to share Mullin's leftist political perspective to agree with the central tenet of his argument that it is fundamentally undemocratic for a government to be thrown off course by oppositionist forces in society, be they in the media, secret services or military. The novel visualises the aftermath of a surprise Labour election landslide - a remote prospect in 1982 - led by socialist former Sheffield steelworker Harry Perkins (not Harry Mullins as the Amazon synopsis bizarrely states at the moment). Slowly but surely the reader is able to observe the government's ultimately fatal undermining by malevolent reactionary forces beyond its control. 'A Very British Coup' indeed. Mullin - now better known as the Labour MP who helped lead the campaign to free the Birmingham Six - seems to be implying at times that this story has already happened - that working class hero Perkins is in fact Harold Wilson who gave way unexpectedly to a more conservative successor (Jim Callaghan) in 1976. Although never as left wing as Perkins is (Perkins' Government favours withdrawing from NATO and full nuclear disarmament), Wilson was, of course, harassed by elements in MI5 during his time of office and the two even have similar names. Even ignoring this, the book is still a powerful warning against complacency on the Left and is at times surprisingly prescient: Perkins' party defeats a coalition government ran by the Tories and SDP, for example, a set up not a million miles away from the situation in 2010. Political junkies should relish this regardless of their own ideologies once they have adapted themselves to the novel's pre-Falklands War perspective."


Sunshine on Putty: The Golden Age of British Comedy from Vic Reeves to The Office
Sunshine on Putty: The Golden Age of British Comedy from Vic Reeves to The Office
by Ben Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, 10 Jun 2010
The British comedy scene of from the late eighties to the early years of this century is undeniably fertile subject matter for a book. Unfortunately, Ben Thompson has produced a work which while frequently enjoyable is deeply flawed.
For one thing, Thompson adopts an irritating spoof academic style (extensive footnotes and all) which veers uneasily between the present and past tense throughout. Thinking of buying this? I'd urge you to read at least the introduction first as you're in for a long haul (or more likely, a wasted purchase) if you cannot cope with Thompson's tiresome style.
Even worse, are the factual errors. To touch on Alan Partridge alone, no, the Christmas Special did not see Alan accidentally killing one of his guests. No, there were only two, not three series of I'm Alan Partridge. And, yes, I am sounding petty. But surely in a book citing Partridge as one of the ten best series of the decade, it's not unreasonable to expect Thompson to get his facts straight?
Despite these shortcomings, I still found this an engaging read, perhaps because I was so interested in the subject. Thompson's argument that the period covered by the book spawned a golden age of British comedy is a compelling one. The Fast Show, Father Ted, I'm Alan Partridge are all undeniably classics, even if Thompson's exclusion of Spaced from his "top ten" list seems bizarre.
Yet even this theory is undermined by Thompson's apparent conviction that Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are some sort of comedy geniuses. Even their mainstream flop Families At War - by any yardstick, a critical and commercial disaster - is heralded here as some sort of comedy triumph.
Events since the book's publication in 2004 have also weakened Thompson's hypothesis still further. If the golden age ended with the second series of The Office, how does Thompson explain the likes of The Thick of It, The IT Crowd and Peep Show?


The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones (2000 AD Presents)
The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones (2000 AD Presents)
by Alan Moore
Edition: Paperback

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of 2000AD, 29 Mar 2004
Transvision Vamp once did a song called 'Hanging around with Halo Jones'. If anything's going to turn you off this it's that, but don't be deterred!
For while 2000AD comic has produced some pretty decent stories in the past quarter century none, I think, have been better than this, the story of a galactic space heroine, which first appeared in the mid-eighties.
Its main strength, of course, is that Halo Jones is no Barbarella but a normal, realistic female character (unusual for 2000AD) in a bizarre futuristic environment.
The first of these three stories the worst. Based almost entirely in The Hoop, a subterranean metropolis, Moore deploys potentially alienating slang throughout Book One which is slightly annoying at best, off-putting at worst. Moore is no Burgess and he abandons this after Book One. Yet it is easy enough to follow and there is fun to be had as Halo hangs out with her friends and Toby the robotic dog.
If this sounds unappealing, don't be put off. In Books Two and Three (all included here) the story ascends into levels of brilliance rarely seen in comics. In Book Two, Halo escapes Earth altogether to work as a waitress on a luxury space cruise liner. Every episode is a triumph, whether anecdotally telling the life story of a character whose name escapes me to the more dramatic episodes concerning Toby.
The third and longest book depicting an older, more cynical Jones as she becomes drawn into a devastating war in the Tarantula Nebula is quite literally brilliant. The 'fast forward war' on the gravity-warping planet Moab is particularly effectively realised. Here, Moore and Gibson utterly surpass themselves. It is at times hilarious, harrowing and devastating. For me, the greatest tragedy is that Moore and Gibson never returned to Halo - but perhaps they could never have maintained this high standard anyway. Either way, if you're feeling like trying out a graphic novel, try this one. You won't be disappointed.


The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones (2000 AD Presents)
The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones (2000 AD Presents)
by Alan Moore
Edition: Paperback

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest comic ever!, 6 Sep 2001
Transvision Vamp once did a song called 'Hanging around with Halo Jones'. If anything's going to turn you off this it's that, but don't be deterred!
For while 2000AD comic has produced some pretty decent stories in the past quarter century none, I think, have been better than this, the story of a galactic space heroine, which first appeared in the mid-eighties.
Its main strength, of course, is that Halo Jones is no Barbarella but a normal, realistic female character (unusual for 2000AD) in a bizarre futuristic environment.
The first of these three stories is probably the worst. Based almost entirely in The Hoop, a subterranean metropolis, Moore deploys potentially alienating slang throughout Book One which is slightly annoying at best, off-putting at worst. Moore is no Burgess and he abandons this after Book One. Yet it is easy enough to follow and there is fun to be had as Halo hangs out with her friends and Toby the robotic dog.
If this sounds unappealing, don't be put off. In Books Two and Three (all included here) the story ascends into levels of brilliance rarely seen in comics. In Book Two, Halo escapes Earth altogether to work as a waitress on a luxury space cruise liner. Every episode is a triumph, whether anecdotally telling the life story of a character whose name escapes me to the more dramatic episodes concerning Toby.
The third and longest book depicting an older, more cynical Jones as she becomes drawn into a devastating war in the Tarantula Nebula is quite literally brilliant. The 'fast forward war' on the gravity-warping planet Moab is particularly effectively realised. Here, Moore and Gibson utterly surpass themselves. It is at times hilarious, harrowing and devastating. For me, the greatest tragedy is that Moore and Gibson never returned to Halo - but perhaps they could never have maintained this high standard anyway. Either way, if you're feeling like trying out a graphic novel, try this one. You won't be disappointed.


V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta
by Alan Moore
Edition: Paperback

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars M for Masterpiece, 6 Sep 2001
This review is from: V for Vendetta (Paperback)
Collected from the cult early eighties British comic, 'Warrior', Moore and Lloyd's chilling V for Vendetta portrays a chilling alternate Britain which has sucumbed to fascism after a nuclear altercation has destroyed most of the world. In a bleak and violent society, only the strangely Jacobean vigilante 'V' seems to act as a force for good.
As with Orwell's 1984, Moore and Lloyd's 1982 vision of Britain in '1997' is no less potent now that the year itself has been and gone. Darkly brilliant stuff. Lloyd's art has never been better and after this, The Watchmen and 2000AD's greatest ever story, The Ballad of Halo Jones, can there be any doubt that Alan Moore is the greatest writer in British comics today?


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