You wonder why publishers would ever publish anything written by politicians – most recent political memoirs and biographies certainly land up being remaindered. Few politicians seem able to resist the temptation of narcissistic whingeing or settling old scores.
But a few of the British contingent stand out for the quality of their writing and the insights they bring to their assessment of an historical period.
Dennis Healey held several senior Ministerial positions and gave us a memoir which covered the pre- and post-war years with a rare sensitivity Time of my Life (1989).
Tony Benn was, however, the diarist par excellence – producing no fewer than eleven volumes covering a 50 year career in politics – and developing, in the process, from a mainstream politician to a hate-figure for the mainstream media to a “national treasure” in his retirement.
Chris Mullin was another, less high-profile Labour figure, whose diaries impress largely because – unlike most politicians – he was thoroughly aware of his unimportance.
Ruth Winstone was the editor if the Benn diaries and has done us all a great service with her book Events, dear Boy, Events – a political diary of Britain from Woolf to Campbell (2012)
The depths the genre has now reached are evident in the latest set of diaries to be inflicted on us viz In the Thick of It – as narcissistic and nasty bit of writing as I have come across for some time. The life of such people seems to consist of “power lunches” with “high-powered” people and adds to my conviction that if such empty-headed people are occupying the positions of power, we desperately need some of the discipline of the Chinese regime which insists that its politicians are properly trained and then thoroughly assessed and monitored as they progress through the ranks.
But the ex-Leader of the UK Liberal party Vincent Cable has shown that some politicians are still able to think and write coherently – with his recent book Money and Power – the world leaders who changed economics 2021 epub
Just Hierarchy – why social hierarchy matters in China and the rest of the world Daniel A Bell and Wang Pei (2020)