Robert Salisbury

A class act

‘I’m sorry to bother you, Peter, but you were a famously successful Leader of Their Lordships and I wondered whether you had any tips before I took it on.’ ‘All you’ve got to remember is that you are the headmaster of a second-rate public school.’ Lord Carrington’s answer to my enquiry was entirely characteristic: funny,

A woman of substance | 31 January 2013

Hermione Ranfurly wrote two books. One was called The Ugly One. The other, the first, was called To War with Whitaker. Its success came as a surprise to her, but to none of her legion of friends. It chronicled her war. Recently married to Dan, a Northern Irish peer whose father had lost almost everything,

Survival of the fittest

When I was at Eton, many years before David Cameron, much of the school was run by a self-elected society known as ‘Pop’. When I was at Eton, many years before David Cameron, much of the school was run by a self-elected society known as ‘Pop’. Some members were elected ex officio; but the majority

A bit of a dog’s dinner

Every schoolboy knows that the two most delightful breeds of dog are the Working Clumber Spaniel and the Newfoundland. Any author who dedicates a book to ‘Wellesley, a New- foundland dog’ is therefore by defin- ition a man of discernment. Sadly, the dedication is the best thing about the book, which is a perfectly readable,

Looking back without anger

Margaret MacMillan’s Peacemakers deservedly attracted the highest praise. It was illuminating and a compelling read. Equally, her Women of the Raj evoked the lost world of the memsahibs — courag- eous, often narrow and intolerant, but dauntless as they nearly always were. Now, from her eminence as Warden of St Anthony’s College, Oxford, she stands

A strong line required

Putin and the Rise of Russia, by Michael Stuermer For many years, Professor Michael Stuermer has been one of the West’s most respected authorities both on Russia and on Germany. As at home in English as in his native German, he has pursued not only an academic career, but has brought lustre to the usually

A safe pair of hands

A Political Suicide: The Conservatives’ Voyage into the Wilderness, by Norman Fowler To write a political memoir is difficult. Too bland, too afraid to be rude about former colleagues, you risk boring the general reader while disappointing your publisher. Too critical, you lose the few friends among your former colleagues you have left, while appearing

At the court of King Tony

The commentariat has at last realised that in practice, if not in theory, the Labour Party believes in the hereditary principle. This is a phenomenon that those of us who, for one reason or another, have innate antennae for such things have long recognised. Homo sapiens in settled societies is more likely to follow anthropology

How to ruin a country

As Zimbabwe celebrated its independence in April 1980 President Nyerere of Tanzania had a piece of advice for Robert Mugabe: ‘You have inherited a jewel. Keep it that way.’ At first, it seemed that Mugabe would take his fellow socialist’s advice. His address to the nation on the eve of independence gave all Zimbabweans hope

Relishing the death throes

Piers Brendon does not much like the British empire. In over 650 pages of closely researched, patronising disdain he uses his Stakhanovite labour to perform a smug hatchet job on empire- builders, administrators and the British military. He warns us in his introduction what to expect: ‘Less emphasis is placed here on triumphs than on

When our servants become our masters

This country is incompetently governed. The cost to the taxpayer is vast and growing. The level of incompetence has increased almost as rapidly as public expenditure. Indeed, taxation has failed to keep up with Gordon Brown’s prodigality. So, in order to feed the Moloch, he has been obliged to raise taxes. That has proved inadequate

Hoping against hope

Professor Kennedy is a decent liberal who hopes for the victory of the brotherhood of man. He begins this study of the UN, its history, successes, failings and prospects for reform by quoting Tennyson’s ‘Locksley Hall’: Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’dIn the Parliament of man, the Federation of the

The art and craft of government

Any book about the exercise of power that carries a ringing endorsement by Peter Hen- nessy on its dust-cover promises well. Perhaps, therefore, it is the fault of this reviewer that he felt that Professor Mulgan had generated rather less excitement than Professor Hennessy had promised. Hennessy’s own books reflect his own personality: they fizz,

That colossal wreck

There is a delightful tradition among the English of writing guide books to inaccessible parts of the world. Nowhere has inspired us more than South and Central Asia, seat of the Raj and the theatre that staged the Great Game. Contrary to what one might suppose, it is not a tradition that died with the

Rumours of death somewhat exaggerated

Geoffrey Wheatcroft is rarely dull in print and this book is no exception. It is a rattling good read, although more because of its knowledge of insiders’ gossip, its pithy judgments of both men and measures and the rhythm of its prose than because of the force of its central thesis. His judgments of men

Le style, c’était l’homme

We live in a demotic age. How is it therefore that by the beginning of the 21st century the Duke of Devonshire had become a national institution? If you doubt that fact you need only refer to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s lyrical account of the funeral in this magazine or the hundreds of column inches devoted

The changing of the old guard

Sir Peregrine is a romantic. He has drawn his sword from its scabbard in defence of aristocracy in a self-conscious act of courage which defies the pressures of self-censorship. We should admire his intention and welcome an essay whose style is so reminiscent of the man with its echoes of the dégagé elegance of corduroy