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Williams a widower who left Disraeli a fortune on her death provided she be allowed to be buried next to him. Indeed, she can be found buried next to Disraeli in the churchyard on his country estate, Hughenden Manor.


Ze'ev Portner. He has written briefings for both Tony Blair and Jack Straw when they were prime minister and foreign secretary of the United Kingdom. In , Portner qualified as an Israeli attorney, undertaking his legal training in the law offices of Gilead Sher and Co. The one thing everybody knows about Benjamin Disraeli is that he was a one-nation Tory. It is a lovely image: the dapper outsider, with his Jewish background and epigrammatic wit, uniting the classes behind the banner of social progress.

The only problem is that it is complete rubbish. For, as Douglas Hurd and Edward Young point out in their splendidly written, finely judged and thoroughly persuasive book, a vast chasm yawned between the…. Get The International Pack for free for your first 30 days for unlimited Smartphone and Tablet access.

Disraeli: A Biography of the Victorian Era's Political and Literary Giant (1994)

Already a member? Log in. Already a subscriber or registered access user? But ambitious backbenchers today face a barrier that is hard to surmount. They find themselves confronted with the general dislike and distrust of those whose votes they seek. There are different ways of tackling this difficulty. Some Members of Parliament busy themselves in their constituencies and make a name for themselves through local campaigns.

Disraeli: Or the Two Lives by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young – review

They have their reward; it is common to find people who join in the general contempt for the political class while retaining an admiration for their own Member of Parliament. There are others who achieve the decisive advance by the intensity of their convictions. Yet all these techniques merely skirt around the main problem. In truth, it is boredom rather than cynicism that most accurately explains the present disillusionment with politics.

Disraeli or The Two Lives | Prospect Magazine

We are strong in analysis, weak in imagination. Not lacking in strong feeling, but missing genuine eloquence and integrity that can persuade us by lifting our spirits. Above all, people have lost confidence in politicians because politicians have lost confidence in themselves.

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They bustle about, renouncing power at every opportunity, eagerly shifting decision-making down to expert bodies or local government. All this may be virtuous, but it ducks the main difficulty — that politicians are too timid to say interesting things. Of course, we are not calling for countless clones of Disraeli. Not all can — or should — try to soar to the heights that he did. Imagination can show itself in many ways.

One of us, when in politics, supplied far fewer phrases than Disraeli to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

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  • What matters, and is missing today, is that politicians should show genuine independence of thought when they debate. They should stir themselves to find imaginative ways of making an argument, not simply repeat the lines to take.

    click At the moment, too often, too few try to do this — adding to the widespread impression that politicians are all the same. There are of course notable exceptions, and at present it is the most prominent exception who proves the rule. According to most accepted wisdom on modern politics, Boris Johnson should have been ruined years ago.

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    He has been accused of all kinds of conventional wickedness, including being unfaithful and insulting the people of Liverpool. And yet his reputation has soared past these difficulties. This is in large part because he is entertaining and makes good use of his education in his rhetoric. Of course, there is a question of control.

    While Disraeli tried to keep his comedy in check and did not let his wit gallop away with him, Boris allows himself to be consumed by his own jokes. This makes it difficult when he wants to make a serious point. But, one way or another, Boris has none the less done today what Disraeli did in the 19th century, namely to raise the level of interest in politics up several pegs.

    We must not push this parallel too far. Political rivalries loomed larger in 19th-century politics than they do today. This was an age without footballers or film stars. Kings and queens, though once at the top of the tree, were by the 19th century less noteworthy than in previous centuries. This left a gap for politicians that no longer exists, to use the strength of their lungs and their wits to capture and hold an audience.

    Yet our aspirations should be the same today. This does not mean politicians should try to compete with celebrities; nothing good can come of that. Rather, they should be bold enough to make good use of the platform and position that they have earned by their election. They should use their standing to campaign and speak out, making genuinely thoughtful and imaginative speeches about the future of our country and the purpose of politics. He may not have reformed the nature of British society. He may not have transformed our standing overseas.

    But he did make politics interesting and engaging. If we look in his career for solid achievement, we shall be disappointed.