Don's diary

September 24, 1999

Thursday

I arrive from the United States to start a sabbatical semester at the London School of Economics, researching the British portion of a brand-new project - a book on the ideology and policy-making of the new right. It will involve interviewing people such as Alfred Sherman, co-founder of the right-wing think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies, and Madsen Pirie, president of another right-wing think-tank, the Adam Smith Institute.

I send my new telephone number and email address to the New York academic publisher who will review my latest book manuscript. Based on my doctorate, it is about why some European democracies consolidated when they did, while others remained unstable.

Friday

I wonder if my prospective publisher has been trying to reach me. I distract myself by conducting my first interview for the new project. It is with a former senior policy adviser, who suggests I consult his papers, which are deposited at a London college. But the college says I must wait until the archive reopens, then justify my request in writing and accompany my application with the name of a referee. I wonder where I will dig up such a person at short notice. I ask if the author of the papers would do? "I will check."

Monday

My affiliation paperwork from the LSE specifically denies me rights in the senior dining room. Unsure where else to get a good meal, I am taken to lunch at the Atrium by a think-tank head. He demonstrates restaurant hot-desking: he orders lunch, then leaves for a TV interview before it comes. His colleague arrives, eats the lunch and orders dessert. The head returns to eat that. Would-be London mayor Steven Norris is eating at the next table.

Tuesday

See Norris's rival Jeffrey Archer eating dinner at the next table in Pizza Express.

Friday

I am to conduct an interview in Kent. The plan is also to pop into the new Bluewater shopping mall. Normally, I would mind coming all the way from the United States just to see a mall and eat a

hamburger. But seeing book after book at Waterstone's reminds me I should get back to London in case my publisher has emailed me.

Saturday

I am as impressed as ever by London's New York City-style

cultural diversity. It is still the centre of a global empire of

personal and professional

contacts, educational and work aspirations, and language and media. It makes me wonder if the barriers between Britain and continental Europe are due not to Britain's provincialism but Europe's.

Monday

Have a beer with Patrick Dunleavy, LSE professor of government. When I describe my new project he smiles and says he's already written a book about that. Wonder what I shall do until Christmas.

Gerard Alexander is assistant professor of government at the

University of Virginia and currently on a visiting fellowship at the LSE.

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