Channel Four's 2009 Political Awards include a section for the Political Book of the Year, and this year it's a truly fascinating crop. The programme makers want your ratings, good or bad - up to 300 words - and may use the best of them. I can't help thinking that ConHome readers would make excellent reviewers; not just those who comment on the site but the far larger crowd of lurkers (yes, I'm looking at you).
Here's the shortlist:
A short, fascinating book about the party's descent from Thatcherite dominance into the wipeout of 97 and back by a man who had a front row seat. Lord Fowler sees paralells between the breakdown of the later Major years and Brown's government today. Should be required reading for every Tory candidate, even if you disagree with some of the author's politics.
One of the most important political publishing events of the year, as it is an exhaustive conversation with the Leader of the Opposition and likely future PM. Derided by some reviewers as not pushing Cameron hard enough on difficult issues, the book nevertheless has the unique selling point of offering Cameron's own responses, unvarnished, rather than commentary on him. Vital if you want to understand Cameron's mindset without the filter of the media. People keep giving me copies!
John Prescott rose to the very top of body politic, serving as Deputy Prime Minister and, as the press were keen to note, the chief peacemaker during the long Blair/Brown wars of New Labour. His life is an amazing story; the rise of a man who famously failed his eleven plus and served as a steward on a cruise ship, then moved rapidly through the Labour party to become its Deputy Leader. This is an important and touching book and Prescott does not flinch from allowing the reader to see the pain various things have caused him, especially perhaps class divisions in this country. The author was at the heart of the Blair government for a decade; unsurprisingly this is essential reading.
Iain Dale was not the only Tory to have raved about this book. Fast-paced and intimate, this huge bestseller, unlike many anodyne autobiographies, offers a look at the real Cherie Blair and her life with Tony. It also covers her struggles as a female barrister in a sexist profession - good training, perhaps, for her later encounters with the media - her childhood, her deep love of her husband, and what it is like to have a child inside Number 10. Mrs. Blair also draws back the curtain on socialising with the Clintons and the Bushes and her well-founded contempt for the tabloids. The book has a lively sense of humour and great wit and intelligence - it flew off the shelves when published earlier in the year. A triumph.
What a book - collected notes from, as the title says, thirty years of lunches and dinners, by one of our greatest political journalists. You can dip in and out of this like a Christmas tin of Roses and still want more. Patten, Brown, Heseltine, you name them - Young's notes both of what was said, and how he perceived his interviewee, are utterly compelling reading. The book is almost like time travel in its evocative skill. Full of small moments to treasure, such as his description of Princess Diana's visit to the Guardian (where he worked), and how the nominally-republican journalists crowded round to catch her a glimpse of her smallest movement, even rushing to the windows to watch as she left the building. Cannot be recommended highly enough.
Those are my opinions - your mileage may vary - but do click on the link and send your thoughts on any of them to Channel Four, or post in the thread below.