Where today's similarities with the Great Depression end

Broadcasting the news during the General Strike of 1926, at a government centre for the maintenance of essential services Photo: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Holidays provide one with time to think, to read and to risk writing.

I am thoroughly enjoying a brilliant, chunky volume, Events, Dear Boy, Events, which pinches its title from a famous quip of Harold Macmillan's coined in explanation of what rocked political careers.

My eldest son gave it to me, in an act of generosity and perception, for Christmas.

It is an ordered 'Jamboree Bag' of vignettes, trawled from the unabridged diaries of some of the great thinkers of the last century.

From political giants to intellectual power-houses of left and right theory; from the fickle fripperies of the Bloomsbury Set, (that does not include one of my great heroes, John Maynard Keynes, who is much quoted), to the bow-tie-clad, right-wing class warriors of a bygone age.

Former prime minister Harold Macmillan Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

It is brilliantly edited by Ruth Winstone who, most recently, served us all well by working with the delightful Chris Mullin on his diaries.

The most telling comparison, which of itself warrants reading this book, is with the late 20s and early 30s.

These were times of grave economic hardship, sharp austerity, political schisms and genuine cross-party, and inter-party, tensions; it all acted as a tragic precursor to another World War.

I won't catalogue them all - read the book; Winstone does it better than I could anyway.

A crowd gathers in Hyde Park for a meeting during the General Strike. Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

But what strikes me is that, despite the similarities with what we are going through today - economic crises on a continental and global scale; austerity at home and abroad; splits within the Coalition and the main political parties; the emergence of an alternative on the Right; and the pursuit of ethic and racial scape-goats - that is where it ends.

There is no serious call for a General Strike.

The intellectual verve of the 20s and 30s is somehow missing. The perceived hardship of those who feel the brunt of austerity is not viewed among the general public, according to the polls, with the same degree of hostility as were the pay cuts for miners.

Mass meeting of Durham miners during the industrial strike of 1926 Credit: Between The Wars/Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

In that era, intellectuals on the left, like the Webbs, and thinkers on the right, like Nicholson and Mosley, were engaged in a national soul-searching. Some potty, some down-right dangerous - but vigour in debate there was aplenty.

Today's Ken Loaches do, if anything, a better job than Virginia Woolf et al did, in bringing art's scalpel to the argument. George Orwell stood out on the left - Evelyn Waugh, on the right; but today I search, fruitlessly, for many heirs and successors of quality.

Part of the post-war consensus to emerge from that fizzing pre-War period was Attlee's Welfare State Government, a Conservative, as opposed to a 'Tory', party that saw the merits of wealth creation as a precursor to distribution; and a growing concern that Stalin's Communism would end badly.

What will we count as the blessings of this present period of turmoil? Who will their authors be? Who will its stars be? Maybe I'll read a novel next.