A Yorkshire Irishman has lived a British life: Balliol and communism before World War II, a soldier during it, a Labour Party activist after, defence minister for six years and at the Treasury for five. A clever man and accomplished writer, he knows the world scene and makes shrewd, sometimes devastating, remarks about notables of the time. Of Dick Crossman he writes: "A Machiavelli without judgment is a dangerous colleague." Timely observations are also thrown in: "I have rarely found soldiers, sailors and airmen to be as bloody-minded as journalists and politicians." He has led a full life as a centrist-Labourite and, even in the shadow of Thatcherism and amidst the self-destructive battles of his own party, a life enjoyed, with great gusto for the arts and just a touch of wonderment about his own luck and engaged contentment. This is a valuable account, instructive and entertaining, if just a mite too lovingly long.