The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
Personalities certainly influence the course of history but this book gives the two leaders US president Ronald Reagan and Britain's prime minister Margaret Thatcher more of a determining role than is their due.
Whether US-British relations were dependent on who is the president and prime minister is debatable although there is no doubt that they both represented the most right-wing and virulently anti-communist strands in their respective countries.
Richard Aldous has mined the archives, memoirs and interviews with those who were intimately associated with the Reagan-Thatcher era but he remains politically above the fray. His basic attitude is perhaps summed up on the dust jacket blurb which states that "these political titans clashed repeatedly as they confronted the greatest threat of their time: the USSR."
Many would vehemently counter that tendentious approach. While it is at times fascinating to peek behind the scenes of the political facades Aldous's book doesn't dig deep enough beneath the issue of personalities to unmask the powerful forces pulling the strings.
The author glosses over Reagan's involvement in the McCarthy anti-communist witch-hunts and ignores Murdoch's key role in his promotion as presidential candidate. He does, though, reveal just how acrimonious the relations between the two became over both the Falklands war and the US invasion of the British Commonwealth country of Grenada.
He also has little to say about the crisis and standoff over the US deployment of Pershing and Tomahawk missiles in Europe as a purported response to Soviet updating of its own nuclear missile arsenal.
There are also surprising titbits, such as the "socialist" Francois Mitterrand being the first to offer support to Thatcher over the Falklands and his agreement to give her the secret codes so that British forces could make the Argentinians' French-made Exocet missiles malfunction.
What the book does underline is that Reagan was determined to intensify the cold war and destroy the USSR economically. He found a willing ally in Thatcher and the book's a useful reminder of those eventful times through the prism of these two cold war relics.