Geoffrey Wheatcroft

On Reflection...
June 14, 2012

The only good thing I’ve ever heard about Dr. Joseph Goebbels is that he reportedly banned the publication of “overnight notices” in German newspapers, that is, reviews of operas, plays or concerts written immediately after the performance for the next morning’s paper. Most of of us think clearer after we have slept on it, and my instant response to France vs. England three days ago didn’t give the French their due.  It was also, if anything, too generous to England.

English Tradition
June 11, 2012

The late Carwyn James was the greatest rugby coach of his time. In 1971 he led the British Lions on tour to New Zealand, when they became the only Lions team ever to win a series against the mighty All Blacks (as the New Zealanders are known from their uniform). He also gave a phrase to the language. Expecting brutal play from the All Blacks, James told his players beforehand to “Get your retaliation in first.” For an England soccer fan, the great thing is to get your disappointment in first. That’s been true as long as I can remember, but never so true as this year.

Football at a Time of Crisis
June 09, 2012

“Keep politics out of sport” went the slogan of the old guard back in the days when campaigners tried, successfully in the end, to stop England playing cricket and rugby against apartheid South Africa. But the truth is that politics and sport have been inextricably mixed up since the Roman arena, or since the Blues and the Greens competed in Byzantine Constantinople. Any idea that an international soccer tournament can be staged today without political implications is far-fetched.

Jubilee Girl
June 08, 2012

ONE YOUNG Englishman was exhilarated by the queen’s Diamond Jubilee, as he had been ten years earlier when the Golden Jubilee had celebrated her first half-century on the throne. Then twelve years old, he had written to his mother: “P.S. Remember the Jubilee,” followed by a series of letters begging to be taken to see the great event. They were signed, “Your loving son Winny.” That Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, in the summer of 1887, had seen European royalty gather in Westminster Abbey, while across the land, bonfires were lit. In A.E.

Off Key
November 09, 2011

When Dr. Tom Walsh decided to start an opera festival in Wexford in 1951, the idea seemed not so much whimsical as absurd. Here was a small town on the far southeast coast of Ireland, not particularly accessible even from Dublin. The Irish had always put their genius into words, not music, and the country had little musical tradition to speak of. But Dr. Tom made it happen. Wexford born and bred, a family doctor and then hospital anesthetist, he was a courteous and charming man, an unostentatiously devout Catholic, and the opera nut to end them all.

Britain’s Embarrassing Collective Response to the London Riots
August 27, 2011

With the passing consolations of a royal wedding and a triumph at cricket, England endures a turbulent summer, as riots sweep through the cities, newspapers fulminate, and politicians pontificate. Yes, 1981 seems almost like yesterday—which makes it eerier that history should repeat itself just 30 years on. And repeat is the word. Four nights which saw a wave of looting and pillaging have been followed by two weeks in which the country has been swept by another wave, of blather and bluster driven by hot air. This tsunami of pontification has been as predictable as it was pointless.

July 13, 2011

When Rupert Murdoch acquired The Times of London and The Sunday Times in 1981, he also acquired a board of “independent national directors”-among them, the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. Two years later, by way of a shady German tabloid, The Sunday Times bought the rights to a series of newly discovered journals supposedly written by Adolf Hitler. Some of us thought this didn’t so much just smell fishy as reek, coming as it did after a long line of similar forgeries.

Break a Clegg
May 19, 2011

For Bismarck, politics was the art of the possible, while Napoleon would always ask of any general, “But is he lucky?” Put the two together and we can see politics as a game somewhere between chess and poker. Any politician has to gamble and take risks. He needs judgment, he needs nerve, but he also needs luck. Over the first weekend of May last year, Nick Clegg showed considerable skill in playing a poor hand. The voters had just delivered a somewhat oracular verdict in the British general election.

Dublin Down
December 08, 2010

Geoffrey Wheatcroft on the mirage of Irish independence.

Shootout in the U.K. Corral
November 13, 2010

Speaking on BBC radio at the end of 2003, as his novel Absolute Friends was published in the shadow of the Iraq war, John le Carré compared himself to Victor Klemperer, the German-Jewish scholar and diarist.