Peter J. Conradi

Another enemy within: Thatcher (and Wilson) vs the BBC

In a ‘Dear Bill’ letter in Private Eye, an imaginary Denis Thatcher wrote off the BBC as a nest of ‘pinkoes and traitors’. That drollery points to the corporation’s paradoxical place in British life: an essential part of the establishment (‘Auntie’) yet sometimes its most daring critic, willing to put impartiality above patriotism. Jean Seaton

The biography that makes Philip Larkin human again

How does Philip Larkin’s gloom retain such power to disturb? His bleakest verses have the quality of direct address, as if a poetical Eeyore were protesting directly into our ear. ‘Aubade’, his haunting night-time meditation on the terrors of death and dying, focuses on ‘the sure extinction that we travel to/ And shall be lost

Blonde, beautiful — and desperate to survive in Nazi France

Around 200 Englishwomen lived through the German Occupation of Paris. Nicholas Shakespeare’s aunt Priscilla was one. Men in the street stopped to gaze at this blonde with the careless allure and raw beauty of Grace Kelly. Some fell instantly in love. Her second mother-in-law thought her face showed truth and sincerity, and the reader shares

Migration Hotspots, by Tim Harris – review

Consider for a moment the plight of the willow warbler. Russian birds of this species fly between eastern Siberia and southern Africa and back every year of their short lives, a distance of nearly 7,500 miles in each direction. Each weighs roughly as little as two teaspoons-full of sugar. But at least these tiny birds