Political history

Has liberalism destroyed itself?

According to Vladimir Putin, liberalism is an ‘obsolete’ doctrine, a worn-out political philosophy no longer fit for purpose. In this well-timed, rather urgent book, Francis Fukuyama attacks that view and puts a vigorous case for the defence. Despite its faults, liberalism is a force for good, he says, and it remains the only political philosophy capable of taking on the authoritarians of Moscow and Beijing. But the despots are not the central focus of his argument. The biggest threats to the liberal society, he writes, come from within. In Fukuyama’s crisp retelling, the liberal ideal emerged in the aftermath of Europe’s wars of religion. The notion that people could only

How Britain was misled over Europe for 60 years

Just as one is inclined to believe Carlyle’s point that the history of the world is but the biography of great men, so Christopher Tugendhat, in this level-headed account, is right to conclude that the history of the Conservative party in the past 60 or 70 years has been deeply affected by the biography of the movement for the European Union. And it would have shocked Carlyle that a great woman – Margaret Thatcher – played a central part and, according to Tugendhat, altered the course of the party’s relationship with Europe. She was certainly central to the debate, not least because rather too many Conservatives felt she had died

Hubris, blunders and lies characterised the war in Afghanistan from the start

And so the reckoning begins. As frantic Afghans wrestle with the agonising, life-and-death choice between staying in Kabul and risking execution by the Taliban or running the gauntlet of checkpoints around the airport in search of freedom overseas, it’s noises off in the West. Pundits and policy- makers pontificate, grizzled generals rue another foreign adventure ending in defeat and the media provide a live stream of grief and anguish. ‘I’m terrified,’ an Afghan friend and former colleague in the Ghani government WhatsApped me as Kabul fell. The Taliban had already killed two of his close colleagues and were searching for him. ‘I need to get out. Now it is time

The end of capitalism has been just around the corner for centuries

These days the world seems to end with staggering regularity. From the financial crisis to Brexit to Trump to a climate apocalypse to coronavirus: new eras are born faster than old ones can die. And yet, despite it all, the proletariat still haven’t bothered to rise up and overthrow capitalism. Worse still, many of them voted for an old Etonian with the middle name ‘de Pfeffel’. When will the oppressed masses learn? Perhaps, just perhaps, such questions aren’t helpful. For the left-wing political scientist Francesco Boldizzoni, rather than banging on about class consciousness, it’s time that a new consciousness dawned on a class of intellectuals who have confidently predicted capitalism’s

The establishment was always covering up for Bob Boothby

Just after John Pearson finished writing The Profession of Violence, his celebrated biography of the Krays, both his and his agent’s officeswere broken into. Letters from Lord Boothby to Ronnie Kray had disappeared, as had a copy of the book’s manuscript. Pearson then received a telephone call from the high-powered lawyer Lord Goodman, who warned him that the book libelled Boothby. A subsequent phone call from Goodman to Pearson’s publisher led to the book’s contract being cancelled. Mr Fixit, as Goodman was unaffectionately known, already had form as far as Boothby and the Krays were concerned, having in 1964 put pressure on the Sunday Mirror not only to retract a