Crying Bloody Murder

The more a man of the world looks at the world, the more he is persuaded that not only are its political and social truths rarely what they seem, they are often the diametrical opposite of what they seem. So, in one memorable episode, did many an Englishman, a copy of the Times in one hand and a cup of milky tea in the other, remark with surprise that it was a Conservative prime minister, John Major, who first unveiled the plan for a "classless society," even as a Labour prime minister, his present successor, abolished the clause of his party's constitution that had been demanding, since 1918, "the common ownership of the means of production." A paradox, then? Not at all; only a repositioning of social fictions. Few have gone on to reflect that even as it was Major who worked to undermine the British constitution by locking up Parliament in a cattle car bound for Brussels, so Tony Blair now intends to finish the job, and has in the meantime hit on the simple expedient of locking half of Parliament out of Westminster.

David Cannadine is nominally an historian, but he thinks and writes like a sociologist. He wants to look at the evidence, perform some computations, and arrive at a conclusion. And yet he is not even writing the history of a period or a people, of an aqueduct or a cathedral, but of what, in the final analysis, is a term describing a perceived political reality, which is to say a mendacious fabrication...

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