Gareth Jenkins

Orwell Centenary: Culture, Class and Communism

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George Orwell was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. On the hundredth anniversary of his birth we examine the controversy around his work and his legacy for today. Gareth Jenkins assesses Orwell's writing on culture.

Room 101, Big Brother, doublethink - all these have passed into the language to become instantly recognisable, though in ways that might have surprised Orwell. They are testimony to the power of his writing and the way it has become part of everyday culture.

Progressing Ever Upward

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Review of 'A Renegade in Springtime', Edward Upward, Enitharmon £15

Edward Upward, now approaching his 100th birthday, is the last of the 1930s generation of British left wing writers. This selection of short stories spans his entire output from the late 1920s to the 21st century.

The novelist Christopher Isherwood and the poets W H Auden and Stephen Spender are generally well known. Their work has often been taken to define the literature of the 'red decade'--that period when the triumph of fascism in Germany and the Spanish Civil War politicised a generation of writers who had come to maturity after the First World War.

Civil liberties - The Big Brother House in Westminster

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New Labour likes to vaunt its modernising project--particularly when it comes to the rights of the individual. Yet its obsession with the right wing agenda--particularly crime, benefits, asylum seekers and now terrorism--pushes it in the direction of strengthening the state and eroding civil liberties.

Last month Tony Blair promised a new white paper, the eleventh piece of criminal justice legislation since Labour came to office in 1997. It would ditch the double jeopardy rule that prevents people being tried twice for the same crime--even though the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence rejected the move.

There would be a new intermediate tier of justice, where a judge sitting with two lay magistrates tried cases too serious to be tried by magistrates on their own, in practice imposing even tighter restrictions on the right to jury trial.

Themes from the Dawn of Time

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Review of 'Bacchai' by Euripides, National Theatre, London

This astonishing play by the youngest of the three great dramatists of ancient Greece is both very primitive and very modern. The story Euripides took as the basis of his play was a traditional one, well known to its audience. Pentheus, king of Thebes, disguises himself as a woman in order to witness the women-only sacred rites of the followers of the god of wine, Dionysus. Unmasked, he is torn to pieces by his own mother who in her frenzy believes she is killing a wild beast. Yet Euripides handles this traditional story in ways that are modern to his times.

A Very Public Rebellion

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Review of 'If...', director Lindsay Anderson

1968 was the big year of revolt, its epicentre the student-led insurrection in Paris. But the spirit of resistance in the field of culture and the arts had begun earlier. In the late 1950s French New Wave cinema had rejected the well made studio film and taken to the streets to celebrate freedom. The spin-off here was the emergence of a number of film directors such as Lindsay Anderson. He made 'If...' in 1968, the very year in which the spirit of revolt became a material force.

Labour and the Unions: Byers and Sellers

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Judith Orr explains why the state of Britain's railways is producing a political crisis for New Labour, while Gareth Jenkins blames years of underinvestment.

It was only 2,000 workers. Hardly enough to shake a majority government off course. Yet within days of the first South West Trains strikes the air of crisis around the government threatened Stephen Byers' position. ScotRail drivers refused to work rest days and stopped one in four trains running. Arriva train drivers returned a 17 to one vote for strike action, and even commuters are planning a passenger strike on 1 March . The media was suddenly full of talk about a return of the 1970s.


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