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The Holy Fox: Biography of Lord Halifax
The Holy Fox: Biography of Lord Halifax
by Andrew Roberts
Edition: Paperback

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Justice for Halifax, 25 Jan 2005
Halifax reputation suffered, and has continue to suffer, for his name being linked with that of Neville Chamberlain and Appeasement.
In arguing that this judgment is incorrect, Andrew Roberts has given us an important, and detailed revision of the years leading up the Second World War.
He shows that Halifax saw Hitler in his true colours at the time of the Bad Godesberg meetings, and before the Munich Agreement.
From this time on he worked for a more realistic understanding of Hitler's real aims, and for rearmament and conscription.
Halifax came within a whisker of becoming Prime Minister in May 1940; the job was his to refuse. The Tory Party, and the King both wanted him, and it was argued that his place in House Lords was a barrier that could be removed.
Halifax must have realised himself that he was no war leader, and, inspite of massive doubts within the Tory Party, Halifax supported Churchill's claim.
From then on the story which unfolds is much less well known, and invites a re-assessment of Churchill's reputation.
Churchill - known to Halifax as The Rogue Elephant - needed Halifax to argue against his wilder schemes. The book is particularly important on relations with the Vichy regime, the problems associated with the French Navy, and the differences between Halifax and Churchill on how these should be handled.
It is not now very easy to understand that Britain was alone at this juncture, and that American support was very uncertain.
However, Halifax's attachment to Chamberlain's name made him important enemies, one of whom, Roberts reveals, was newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook.
When a new ambassador was needed in Washington, Halifax was not the first name mentioned. Beaverbrook saw to it that his name became prominent, and it is a blot on Churchill's reputation that he went along with this idea, almost certainly to rid him of the one minister in his cabinet who could stand up to him.
It is not pleasant reading.
A less time-specific reason for reading this book is that it portrays a now forgotten era when the aristocracy still dominated government in Britain.
Halifax comes across as a figure who eschewed "short termism" - now the current plague of British politics.

Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45
Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45
by Max Hastings
Edition: Hardcover

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why there was no Victory in 1944, 21 Jan 2005
The detail in this book is phenomenal, one minute you follow small groups of soldiers into battle and feel you are there,
the next you are reading a surgically accurate assessment of the big canvas: the failure to finish Hitler's western armies
in 1944.
Most allied generals come out badly, Montgomery especially.
Max Hastings is scathing about Operation Market Garden, partly on the grounds that it should never have taken place, but
more so on the grounds that Montgomery, in failing to capture the coastline north of Antwerp
when it was undefended, failed to open its vital port facilities, resulting in ever lengthening supply lines.
Worse, when its capture was perceived to be vital, it cost 18,000 casualties, and was not open until early November, by
which time victory in 1944 was no longer a possibility.
He is equally scathing about the necessity of the dreadful battle in the Hurtgen Forest, (so vividly portrayed in the film
"When Trumpets Fade") which has received so little attention in previous histories.
Finally, he is able to show the waning of British influence upon their American allies. This was partly due to the fact that
the UK was running short of manpower, and partly due to Montgomery's constant arrogance, particularly after the Battle of the Bulge.
Nowhere was this loss of influence underlined more clearly than in Eisenhower's personal message to Stalin in March 1945,
stating that Berlin was not a target for his armies.
Churchill's reaction, and Eisenhower's lack of "deference" to it, signalled that in future the US and the USSR would be
the big players.
(Churchill's policies in 1941 had been predicated on the assumption that the US would come to the rescue of a beleaguered
UK, but he failed to realise that they signalled the end of Britain's great power status. Was there an alternative? Probably not.)
Hastings book is also marked by a better balancing of accounts between the Eastern and Western Fronts than has perhaps
previously been the case.
The contrast between the cruelty of the fighting - and the treatment of civilians - is starkly emphasised. The conclusion
is inescapable: no Eastern Front, no victory!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2011 8:33 PM GMT

The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad
by Fareed Zakaria
Edition: Paperback

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the Enemies of Competent Government, 6 Jan 2005
Kurt A. Johnson puts his finger on the problem: Fareed Zakaria's " ... solutions are somewhat nebulous", but that is no
reason not to read and ponder upon this important book.
Fareed Zakaria writes from an American standpoint, and if democracy is failing in the USA, then the outlook is indeed bleak!
He seems to be looking for important yardsticks by which to measure government: there must be checks and balances, it
must avoid short-termism, and there must be secure institutions - eg: an independent judiciary - but, underlying this he
seems to be looking for competence, which he clearly believes democracy cannot deliver on its own.
How does Britain measure up?
First it has a strong party system, and a winner-takes-all voting system. Having got a majority in Parliament, the
checks and balances against the abuse of power are non-existent.
Two case studies will suffice: the privatisation of the railways, and the Iraq War.
Both these policies were highly controversial, and the results have been less than impressive.
In the case of the railways a couple of policy "wonks" in HM Treasury believed that the railways could be transformed,
in Christian Wolmar's words, into "an M1 for trains". In his book "Broken Rails", Wolmar shows that inspite of doubts
voiced by even John Major himself (!) the decision was taken to separate track and trains. We still live with the
shambles so created. Yet the Conservative majority went along with the policy because the power of the Whips Office,
and party tribalism dictated the outcome.
No one, it seems, is prepared to unscramble this mess, probably because the system of contracts would be horrendously
expensive to scrap.
In the case of the railways, the failure of the policy cannot possibly be laid at the door of "democracy" however
The Iraq War was even more intersting, since it is probable that, on a free vote, the policy might have been defeated
in the House of Commons. BUT, and this is a vital but, the Prime Minister could have gone ahead anyway.
Again, no checks and balances, no sign of open government, and no constitutional clause - no written constitution! -
to provide an independent hurdle for Blair to surmount.
The Hutton Report functioned as a means of justifying the powers and actions of the executive. Neverthless, it
revealed what many had suspected: that an inner cabal were calling the shots. No liberal democracy there, then!
Underlying both cases, however, is Fareed Zakaria's test of competence. This is unanswerable, since I believe
no system "per se" can deliver a competent elite, and certainly NOT governments that treat the education system
to repeated doses of the worst kind of short-termism!!
Britian's age of greateness, approximately 1714 to 1914, was an era of essentially aristocratic government within a very
limited franchise. The Admiralty, for example, showed long-termism at its best, successively adopting new technologies as
and when they became available, and preserving Britain's naval power up to, and ending with, the Washington Treaty of 1922.
1 - 0 to Fareed Zackaria?

Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust
Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust
by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

42 of 67 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ugly Sub-Text to the The World's Most Terrible Crime, 17 Dec 2004
The essential point to be gleaned from this tortuous book is quite simple: it's OK to be racist when you are pinning the label on Germans.
Goldhagen seems seriously to believe that only the Germans could have committed such an atrocity on such a scale.
Goldhagen, like the apologists for Holocaust Memorial Day, seems to think that the Nazis' crime was unique.
In quantative terms this is true, but ethics and morality are not statistically variable: it is the intent to wipe out a particular sub-group of humankind which is the crime, and it applies whether the intent is to kill a hundred people, or a hundred million people.
Ask the proponents of Holocaust Memorial Day why the Massacre of the Armenians in 1915 is not commemorated. They obfuscate: statistically it does not "measure up". In reality it is because of a wish not offend Turkey.
No wonder governments are turning their back on the evnts in Darfur.

Vivaldi II
Vivaldi II
Price: £13.08

10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kennedy 2 - 1 Vivaldi, 25 Nov 2004
This review is from: Vivaldi II (Audio CD)
Aston Villa's most famous supporter returns to Vivaldi after the success of his somewhat eccentric recording of The Seasons.
Recording and playing are what we would expect: five star +
It's the performances that worry me. Kennedy drives the fast movements rather too hard for my liking; brilliance at the expense of poetry.
Sample it before you buy it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 20, 2009 5:02 PM BST

The Scottish Enlightenment: The Scots' Invention of the Modern World
The Scottish Enlightenment: The Scots' Invention of the Modern World
by Arthur Herman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book of the Year, 20 Nov 2004
Your previous reviewers have (nearly) said it all, particularly the point about Scotland punching above its weight!
In supporting what they - and the book - have to say, I wonder if I could offer to buy a copy of this book for Mr. David Starkey?
Are you listening, David?

Korngold - Violin Concerto Op 35; Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto Op 35
Korngold - Violin Concerto Op 35; Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto Op 35
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violin Playing to Die For!, 18 Nov 2004
Sophie Mutter, Andre Previn and Wiener Philharmoniker rescue Tchaikovsky's less than top drawer Violin Concerto with a splendid, if rather drily recorded, performance.
But the real star of this recording is the sensationally successful performance of the Korngold.
It used to be said that the Austrian composer's music was "more Corn than Gold".
Not on the evidence of this performance.
Six stars for this one, please Amazon!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2009 6:41 AM GMT

The Kingdom
The Kingdom
Offered by Japan-Select
Price: £31.78

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elgar's Greatest Oratorio, 31 Oct 2004
This review is from: The Kingdom (Audio CD)
In Sir Adrian Boult's opinion, The Kingdom is a greater work than The Dream of Gerontius, and on this disc you have the "dream team": soloists, orchestra and conductor. A total triumph.
But there's more: a work of Elgar's that has gone out of fashion because its "script"! The year was 1902, and Elgar composed the Coronation Ode for the coronation of Edward VII. But, because of the king's appendicitis, it was never performed.
Yes, the words are anachronistic - full of the imperial swagger of the day - but if you can forgive it that, here is some "top drawer" Elgar, and life-enhancing it is.
A.C. Benson wrote the words, and one section has become immortal. Using the trio from Pomp and Circumstance March No 1, he wrote the stanza that begins: "Land of Hope and Glory ... "
There is another recording - on Chandos - of the Ode, and very good it is too, but Boult's recording includes the Band of the Royal Military School of Music which lifts the performance above very good, to unique.
You know part of the Coronation Ode already - enjoy the rest of it!

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