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In the 1976 Labour Party leadership election following Harold Wilson's surprise resignation as Prime Minister, the then Foreign Secretary Jim Callaghan was Wilson's favourite to succeed him. The main candidate of the Left was Michael Foot. The three most prominent standard bearers of the modernising tendency inside the Party were Roy Jenkins, Denis Healey and Tony Crosland. All three had been exact contemporaries at Oxford University and each had more in common than separated them. Yet they could not get together and sort things out between them - and Callaghan won. Giles Radice's elegantly written comparative biography of a group is an analysis of how the combined overall achievement of the three amounts to less than it might have been - how friendship and mutual rivalry, despite individual eminence and brilliance, are corrosive and damaging forces.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349117348
ISBN-10: 0349117349
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 126mm x mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 4-Sep-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » From this well-known political writer comes a comparative biography of three of the 'most intellectually able politicians since the war'. Although Anthony Crosland, Roy Jenkins and Denis Healey came from very different social backgrounds, they were brought together as contemporaries at Oxford, which provided the ideal environment for their revisionist ideas and political ambitions to take root and flourish. Radice charts their progress through the ranks of the Labour party, both in government and opposition, from their early days as friends seeking to establish themselves in the political establishment through to Crosland's untimely death, Jenkins's defection to the SDP and Healey's final years as a highly successful and respected Chancellor. He analyses their relationships with leaders such as Gaitskell and Wilson and considers their stances on the major issues of the time such as nuclear disarmament, the IMF crisis and entry into Europe. All three failed to live up to their own and others' expectations and Radice examines in some detail the individual traits of each of these most charismatic but egotistical of personalities and the way in which they allowed petty jealousy and rivalry to cloud their political judgment, most notably in the 1976 leadership election when all three stood, paving the way for the eventual collapse of the party and years in the wilderness. He contrasts their relationship with that of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, in which the latter was prepared to stand down in favour of the more obviously electable candidate, and concludes that their failure to work together did immense harm to them and to the party. Drawing as it does largely on already published biographical work, this book does not tell us much that we do not already know, but with the insights and connections of an MP of 28 years' standing Radice provides a new perspective on this hugely interesting period in British politics which is both well-informed and enjoyable to read. (Kirkus UK)


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Author Biography - Giles Radice

The Rt Hon Lord Radice was Labour MP for Durham North until he was made a Life Peer in 2000. He has been Chairman of the European Movement since 1995.

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