To read the British — or even the American — press over the last few years is to imbibe the belief that there are really only two politicians of note in this country: the Prime Minister of the day and Mrs Shirley Williams. That foremost American writer on British politics, Samuel Beer, has recently gone so far as to annoint Mrs Williams with the word ‘charisma’. At home even those who habitually write in more neutral vein are quick to concede her reasonableness, her ability (‘a good minister’) and, above all, her ‘sheer niceness’. There has, simply, been no business like the Shirley Williams show business.
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