Paul Foot

Christmas Crackers

(December 1993)

From Socialist Review, No.170, December 1993, p.20.
Copyright © 1993 Socialist Review
Downloaded with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Easily my number one favourite book this year was Christopher Hill’s Milton and the English Revolution which I found in Chicago the previous summer. The beauty of the book is not just that it illuminates Milton’s great poems with his enthusiasm for the revolution, but that it brings to life the poet’s political commitment before he even became a poet. His Defence of the People of England is as powerful a defence of what went on in the 1640s as anything ever said or written. ‘You offer an additional reason for your opposition,’ he scoffed at an opponent, ‘things would seem turned upside down. This would be a welcome change, for it would be the end of mankind if the worst situations were unalterable.’

Number two was Tom Bower’s Tiny Rowland, a meticulous detailed, tremendously readable account of quite incredible skulduggery in high places and the third, if I’m honest, was Alan Clark’s Diaries, if only because these Tories so rarely tell the truth about what they feel for each other. Clark’s best story tells how he and Jonathan Aitken reacted when Michael Mates (a fellow back bencher) supported Heseltine against Thatcher. They leaked Mates’s defence business interests to Labour MP Tam Dalyell. Mates was exposed and humbled and the two naughty boys sniggered all the way home to Mother. These are the people who boast all the time of their loyalty.


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