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This review is taken from PN Review 90, Volume 19 Number 4, March - April 1993.

Brian Cox, The Great Betrayal: Memoirs of a Life in Education (Chapmans) £17.99

C.B. Cox: blimpish begetter of the Black Papers. Brian Cox: liberal leader of the team which produced the Cox Report and provoked the wrath of the Right. What's in a name? Quite a lot, when a name can evoke such different perceptions; can indeed, as The Great Betrayal observes, lead some to believe that C.B. and Brian are two different people. Are Cox and Cox the same man? Are they, as in some Kafkaesque rewriting of Sullivan's operetta Cox and Box, two people of diverse tastes who inhabit the same room at different times and start to find life uncomfortable as they encroach upon each other? Does that shift from austere initials to familiar forename mark a shift of ground, or a reaffirmation of consistent principles in an altered context? Will the real Mr Cox please stand up?

In fact, Brian Cox - the name, and the liberal image, which he now prefers - has always stood up strongly for the principle of an effective education for all, and he does so again in The Great Betrayal. It is that principle which he believes has been betrayed, first by the left-wing progressives of the 1960s, and now by the reactionary traditionalists of the 1980s and 1990s. The Great Betrayal is a fascinating attempt to combine an autobiography with an argument about education: it is direct and concerned, essentially serious but often and engagingly funny, and sometimes moving, especially in Cox's account of his brother's suicide. Cox defines ...

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