Author Archive | Dan Payne

Statue of Robin Hood, outside Nottingham Castle

The Mugger who Became a Global People’s Hero

Fans of heroic, swashbuckling adventures, take note: today is Robin Hood Day!  I bet you didn’t know that, did you?  How do I know this?  Well, because of an inscription on his grave – specifically, on Robin Hood’s Grave, in the grounds of Kirklees Hall in Clifton, West Yorkshire.  It states that he died in more…

Chantelle Houghton (born 1983), who won Celebrity Big Brother 2006 after being passed off by the producers as a pop star

Election time and the Age of Entitlement

Historians, like journalists, feed on drama like lions on meat. This general election, in case anyone has forgotten, is the most important general election since…well, the last one, actually… Drama infuses elections like most historical events, and, as every history buff knows, every century has its dramatic moniker. The 16th Century was the Age of more…

Four former Prime Ministers and one former Deputy PM: (l-r) Brown, Blair, Major, Clegg, Cameron

March of the ex-PMs

With the amendment-free Brexit Bill now assured of receiving the Royal Assent, there is now nothing to stop Theresa May’s imminent invocation of Article 50, at least in theory. Then the two-year-maximum process of extricating the UK from the various articles and clauses binding the state to the European Union will get underway, and the more…

Pete Waterman, at the Stapleford miniature railway

On an influential music producer (Many Happy Returns)

When it comes to musical tastes, it’s fair to say that beauty is very much in the ear of the beholder. As if any proof were needed, Gary Barlow and Take That’s biggest fans include the Manic Street Preachers’ bassist Nicky Wire, among millions of others. What’s more, the record producer Pete Waterman has said more…

Peter Finch (1916-77), star of Network

Why we are still mad as hell…but will probably keep on taking it

The scene is one of the most iconic in cinematic history. The ex-newsreader, wearing an overcoat with his pyjamas underneath, walks nonchalantly into a television studio, apparently unaware that he is soaking wet, having walked through a rainstorm to the studio straight from his home. He then calmly sits down, and addresses his eager audience: more…

...while this man still might...

Q. How to get away with inciting violence? A. Have plenty of flags and friends in high places

We’re exactly two weeks away from the United States’ latest presidential elections. It has become a quadrennial tradition in and of itself to call the elections The Most Important in America’s History, but for once the hyperbole really is justified. The 2016 presidential poll will surely go down in history as America’s most rancorous and more…

Why the pictures really are better on the radio

‘I love radio,’ said the barrister-turned comedian Clive Anderson, in an interview he gave to Media Guardian in 2002, ‘I tend to have speaking radio on in the background. Someone gave me a digital radio and it’s fantastic. It’s one of the great inventions of our times – though my knob fell off after a more…

Lenny Bruce (1925-1966)

The man who died from “an overdose of police”

Heard the one about the comedian whom the police seemed duty-bound to keep arresting whenever he swore on stage? Just thinking of such a scenario seems utterly incredible in our times. For all the complaints about political correctness and how We Can’t Say Anything in This PC Age, the truth is that speech today is more…

Erich Ludendorff (1865-1937)

Brexit and the politics of diversionary tactics

Ever a philosophical type, Harold Macmillan wrote in his memoirs that he never thought of sabotaging matters for his successor, Lord Home, following his decision to resign as Prime Minister in October 1963, commenting ‘E finita la commedia. It is tempting, but unrewarding, to hang around the Green Room long after the final retirement from more…

Fuelling ignorance – the key to success in modern politics?

We can’t say that we weren’t warned. In his 1928 book Propaganda, the pioneering Austrian-American publicist Edward Bernays unblushingly wrote: The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government, which is more…

Hunterdon Courthouse courtroom, scene of the 1935 trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann

Passing sentence on capital punishment

Next Sunday is International Anti-Death Penalty Day. OK, I’d better qualify that one: it won’t actually be International Anti-Death Penalty Day, but to my mind it ought to be. On that date it will be exactly eighty years since an immigrant German carpenter was sent to the electric chair in Trenton, New Jersey. The previous more…

A J P Taylor (1906-1990)

Commemorating the archetypal History Man

The sub-title of a 1995 TV documentary said it all: he was an unusual kind of star. In his heyday he was capable of emptying pubs on a Friday night, simply by going on television and speaking his mind and explaining things clearly in plain, uncomplicated English. And how did this man make waves? By more…

Ignacy Hryniewiecki (1856-81)

Terrorism: A few notes on a word

There really is nothing like a dictionary when it comes to defining and explaining words. Some words are more controversial than others when it comes to definitions, however, and few are more controversial than one in particular. Take a quick look at collinsdictionary.com, and you can see that site’s definition of Terrorism: 1.systematic use of more…

The Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, Mumbai (or is it Bombay?)

Bombay mix-ups: the politics of placename changes

A few days ago, before hitting the headlines with the news that his newspaper would stop printing next month and become an online-only publication, the London Independent‘s editor Amol Rajan announced that henceforth the paper would stop calling India’s most populous city, Mumbai, and revert to using its previous name of Bombay. Explaining the move more…

Crater rim of Mount Tambora, Sumbawa, Indonesia

A sobering reminder of the power of our planet

Happy New Year, one and all. Let’s hope it truly is so this time, eh? As if to remind me not to expect too much change on the first day of a new year, when I woke up late this morning after an evening’s revelling I opened my window to the sight of rainfall – more…

bond

Bond is back! (Northern Irish storyline still awaited…)

He’s back, to save the world once again. Daniel Craig today returns to the big screen as MI6’s best-known fictional intelligence officer, amid another colossal media fanfare. Today the latest instalment in the Eon franchise (there have now been 24 movies from the Broccoli/Wilson stable), “Spectre”, hits our cinemas, and another huge box-office hit is more…

George Lansbury (1859-1940), Labour leader 1932-5

The Labour Party: the Lansbury lessons

Check the scene out: the Labour Party, reeling from a crushing election defeat, chooses an idealistic, peace-loving left-winger as its leader, who frequently comes into conflict with his party’s grandees who fear that the new leader is adversely affecting their popularity and electability. No, this is not Jeremy Corbyn in 2015, but George Lansbury in more…