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Riddell, Peter

Riddell, Peter

PERSONAL:

Male.

CAREER:

Writer, political commentator, editor, and political analyst. Times, London, England, political commentator and assistant editor, 1991—.

WRITINGS:

Parliament and the Scrutiny of Public Finance: The Report of a Study Group of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Economist (U.S.) Intelligence Unit (London, England), 1980.

The Thatcher Government, M. Robertson (Oxford, England), 1983, updated edition, Blackwell (New York, NY), 1985.

The Thatcher Decade: How Britain Has Changed during the 1980s, Blackwell (New York, NY), 1989.

Transferring a Tradition: Abd al-Ra'ûf al-Singkilî's rendering into Malay of the Jalalâyn commentary, University of California, Centers for South and Southeast Asia Studies (Berkeley, CA), 1990.

The Thatcher Era and Its Legacy, 2nd edition, Blackwell (New York, NY), 1991.

Honest Opportunism: The Rise of the Career Politician, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1993, published as Honest Opportunism: How We Get the Politicians We Deserve, Indigo (London, England), 1996.

Parliament under Pressure, Gollancz (London, England), 1998.

Parliament under Blair, Politico (London, England), 2000.

Terrorism: Asking Questions, Seeking Answers, LBC Centre for Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations, 2002.

Candidate Selection: The Report of the Commission on Candidate Selection, Electoral Reform Society (London, England), 2003.

Hug Them Close: Blair, Clinton, Bush, and the "Special Relationship," Politico (London, England), 2003.

The Unfulfilled Prime Minister: Tony Blair's Quest for a Legacy, Politico (London, England), 2005.

Author of weekly political column in the London Times.

SIDELIGHTS:

Writer and journalist Peter Riddell is a leading political commentator and observer in his native England. He is the author of several books that cover specific administrations, such as those of prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and more general investigations of political topics such as the role and behavior of parliament, candidate selection, and modern approaches to dealing with terrorism. In Honest Opportunism: The Rise of the Career Politician, Riddell considers the state of modern democratic politics throughout the world and looks in vain for the strong leaders, great statesmen, and charismatic diplomats of past political seasons. The lack of true political talent that Riddell perceives results, he concludes, from the nature of the political system and the career-minded individuals it attracts. His "point is that politics in all democratic countries is now dominated by career politicians, by men and women who regard politics as their calling or vocation and whose main aim in life is to advance their political career," commented a reviewer in the Economist. Such politicians, Riddell notes, have little practical experience in the world, having rarely found it necessary to work at a wage-earning job to survive, to serve in the military, to run a business, or simply to live outside the often insular world of politics. These types of career political professionals "live for politics and other politicians," the Economist reviewer observed and then continued, "The degree to which most modern politicians are out of touch with the reality of most people's working lives is almost frightening." Riddell offers suggestions, particularly appropriate to British politics, for assuring that career politicians have a firmer grasp on the real world of their constituents. He "offers an interesting insight into a very particular craft practiced after a long apprenticeship by relatively few," stated Angela Eagle in the New Statesman and Society.

Hug Them Close: Blair, Clinton, Bush, and the "Special Relationship" presents "an account of the road to war in Iraq in the context of the ‘special relationship’ between the U.K. and the U.S.," noted Clare Short in the New Statesman. Riddell recounts the history of post-World War II prime ministers and their often needy relationships with U.S. presidents, using access to U.S. presidents to shore up their own image and declining power and making political relations with the U.S. a central part of British foreign policy. Riddell asserts that Tony Blair had expressed concerns about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as early as 1997, but Short concludes that he offers no conclusive supporting evidence. Worse yet, noted Short, Riddell asserts that Blair became the "cover for the US's ill-thought-out war in Iraq" after the attacks of September 11, concluding: "For those who want a detailed account of the U.S. and U.K. route to war, this book is worth reading."

Riddell proposes a radical ten-point plan for the reform of the British parliament in Parliament under Pressure. For Riddell, "Parliament is failing to hold the government to account," noted an Economist reviewer. Ministers dodge responsibility, avoid making decisions, and fail to uphold the full requirements of their positions. Riddell's suggested reforms include the creation of an elected second chamber; parliamentary approval for significant government positions; a drastic reduction in the numbers of government ministers and members of Parliament; increasing the power of parliamentary committees and oversight groups; and increased scrutiny of bills in draft form. Riddell, commented reviewer Andrew Adonis in the New Statesman, "has written an important reformer's tract whose power is enhanced by its attention to the minutiae of parliamentary business, particularly the lax oversight of government and EU policy."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Contemporary Review, August, 1998, Richard Body, review of Parliament under Pressure, p. 99.

Economist (U.S.), January 22, 1994, review of Honest Opportunism: The Rise of the Career Politician, p. 96; April 18, 1998, review of Parliament under Pressure, p. S7.

New Statesman & Society, November 5, 1993, Angela Eagle, review of Honest Opportunism, p. 43.

New Statesman, January 16, 1998, Andrew Adonis, review of Parliament under Pressure, p. 46; January 5, 2004, Clare Short, "Shoulder to Shoulder," review of Hug Them Close: Blair, Clinton, Bush, and the "Special Relationship," p. 37; September 26, 2005, David Marquand, "Broken Promises," review of The Unfulfilled Prime Minister: Tony Blair's Quest for a Legacy, p. 74.

Parliamentary Affairs, January, 1995, Donald Shell, review of Honest Opportunism, p. 161.

Public Interest, fall, 1994, Alan Ehrenhalt, review of Honest Opportunism, p. 131.

ONLINE

Times (London, England) Web sitehttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/ (December 10, 2006), biography of Peter Riddell.

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