Erdogan’s authoritarianism is fuelled by resentment


Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the strongman president of Turkey, scourge of liberals and secularists, promoter of conservative Islam and Islamism throughout the Middle East, baiter of the West, and jailer of journalists and judges, has been very lucky in his enemies.

Piece by piece Erdogan has overturned a century’s worth of carefully constructed secularism in the largest and most dynamic economy in the Middle East, and he has done so with the unwitting assistance of his political opponents. Like a martial art master, Erdogan draws his enemy close. Then he turns and uses his opponent’s weight against him. Effectively, he weaves a political narrative that casts whoever opposes him as representative of a murky, secretive and privileged order …

First published on CapX: read more here

Trump has been consistent – and wrong – for decades


Trumpism remains grotesquely fascinating. And as the Trump “administration” cavorts and capers its way to what increasingly looks like an early termination, there is still a small window of time in which to reflect on what Trump is, and how this extraordinarily compelling and talentless individual has captured and destroyed the 45th American presidency.

Into this field of debate comes a new book entitled Donald Trump: The Making of a World View. The authors, Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman, are both historians, at Cambridge and King’s College London, respectively. They have clipped speeches and trawled transcriptions of interviews going back to 1980, when Donald Trump started to make known his views on world affairs. Their conclusion is this: at least ideologically, Trump is not as erratic as he seems. On the contrary, he is drearily consistent …

First published on CapX: read more here

All The Kremlin’s Men: decoding Putin’s game


“Russia is Putin. Russia exists only if there is Putin. There is no Russia without Putin.” These are the words of the Kremlin’s current policy-wizard-in-chief, Vyacheslav Volodin. Many people in Russia happily believe this kind of clap-trap, and even the many who don’t are quite content to live with it. How did it get to this? How did the obscure middle-ranking state functionary of 25 years ago end up as one of the two or three most powerful people in the world?

First published on CapX: read more here

Political Profiles, By A Master Of The Art


The political profile is a paradoxical thing, and that is part of its fascination. Power is rarely introspective: at its height it is usually unable to reflect or describe itself, and even at rest the last person you would ask for insight into the politician is the politician. But there comes a phase in political careers when the essential battles are over, when there is no message to stay on, but all is still recent enough to be vivid in the mind and to inform some part of the present day political contest. This is the moment that the eminent historian of government Peter Hennessy chooses to conduct the profiles that are collected in his new book Reflections: Conversations With Politicians …

First published on CapX: read more here

Remembering Jane Howard


ELIZABETH JANE HOWARD who died on January 2—‘Jane’ to all who knew her—was an English writer of great originality and honesty. Only at the end of her long life did she receive the recognition she deserved. “I feel like I’ve been playing second fiddle my whole life,” she told me a few weeks before her death. “Now I’m playing first violin and I quite like it.”

by Richard Walker

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We Are All Film Directors Now

A WHILE BACK while out sailing I met up with one of the best broadcasters in Britain. He is called Dylan Winter and right now he is spending quite a lot of his time on a madcap scheme to sail his small and very ugly boat round every last inch of the British coastline, what he calls the slowest circumnavigation in history. I ended up making a short film for him.

by Richard Walker

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The Killer Dads

I can only recall ever being asked to write two obituaries in my career, but it is kind of fitting that they should be a bookmatched pair: Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. I found these obits in a folder as I was searching for some background on the current fight to oust the blood-soaked president of Syria – so, bedtime reading for Mr Assad, perhaps.

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A Portrait of Gareth Evans

WHAT a library is YouTube! When I first saw it I thought, great – old clips of Johnny Cash! Now I begin to see that the library is more Alexandrian than it is special interest. The Man In Black does have a place, but so does The Woman In White, and every shade in between – and yes, that does include cult philosophers of language and linguistics …


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Kubrick’s World


THIS profile of film director Stanley Kubrick was written for GQ magazine, and then filed away in editor Michael VerMeulen’s ‘maybe’ drawer. “I like it,” he said, “but …”.


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In The Pink

A GQ story from the 1990s …


IT IS EASY to forget the river, in London. So when I was ushered (at an early hour) into the riverside office of the Financial Times – to discuss with the editor a profile of the great financial newspaper – I was startled suddenly to see the Thames running so close and so fast, almost lapping the FT‘s panoramic windows beneath Southwark Bridge.

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A Creature Of The Shallows

Book Review: Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King by Brad Matsen

THIRTY years ago Jacques Yves Cousteau was reckoned to be one of the ten most recognised individuals in the world. This biography, uncritical but revealing, shows how that happened.

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A Killing In Pakistan

OSAMA bin Laden has been killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a figure of fascination and horror to the end. A journalist who had risked his life to interview bin Laden was asked what the man was like. “Personally? He was charming,” he said. “And very clever.” I never met bin Laden, but soon after he was chased out of Afghanistan, one of the US broadcast networks asked me to prepare this obituary.


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The Man Who Was Saddam

IN Iraq Saddam Hussein has been put to death, in circumstances as shocking and repulsive as the dictator himself. But who was he, really? Just before the invasion of Iraq, one of the US broadcast networks asked me to prepare this obituary.



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