With just a few weeks to the General Election, has your inner political animal emerged from hibernation yet? Does it fancy counting down to the Big Night in the company of a political satire, or a Cabinet Minister’s indiscreet diaries?
As polling day draws near, we’ve asked a few CHINDI authors to tell us about the political works that have enthused them – memoirs, biographies, diaries, thrillers, satires, comedies – before they cast their votes…
Windsor Holden, Author, Elvis Lives on Planet Football
“I’ve always been a political junkie – when I was supposed to be conducting research for my PhD in the Brotherton Library at Leeds University I would often get distracting by various nuggets in David Butler’s wonderful British Political Facts, which contained details on just about every aspect of the political scene: voting shares at general elections; MPs who resigned their seats; Chancellors of the Duchy of Lancaster; you name it. (Sadly, after far too much time spent imbibing the content of this volume, I could name it, or them: Oliver Letwin’s predecessors at the Duchy included Winston Churchill, Norman St John Stevas and William Waldegrave, to name but three.)
“But to put the flesh on the political bones, you need a good biography, and a biographer with the ability to weave the strands of a career towards and beyond the summit of the greasy pole into an engaging narrative. Andrew Roberts’ biography of an individual who reached that summit on three occasions, the third Marquess of Salisbury, is a magnificent example of its kind, as is John Campbell’s rigorous appraisal of F. E. Smith.
“However, for me, the political biographer par exellence was Roy Jenkins. His studies of Gladstone and Churchill were the magnum opi within a portfolio that also contained biographies of Dilke, Asquith and Baldwin, not to mention dozens of essays on contemporary political behemoths. Finally, his memoirs – A Life at the Centre – comprise the rarest of jewels: lucid, honest political biography, charting a career taking in two of the main offices of state (Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer), a spell as Britain’s European Commissioner and finally leadership of a fledgling political party.”
Helen Christmas, Author, the Same Face Different Place series
“I have always been interested in politics with one of my favourite TV shows being Have I Got News for You? (best when it was hosted by Angus Deayton with Paul Merton and Ian Hislop.) I remember Spitting Image from the 80s too, even though I never quite understood it at the time. It was in my student days, where I was living in a flat with three very militant left wing friends, thus being both a royalist and a cadet in the territorial army at the time, I kept my gob well and truly shut.
“I am intrigued by politics, especially where corruption and police cover ups are involved. My favourite political drama of all times, has to be House of Cards and I recently bought the paperback just to remind myself again of what it was all about. I am also in the middle of writing my own British thriller series, Same Face Different Place, based around a political conspiracy that had its roots in the 70s. As it’s a decade based thriller, I often refer to the politics which were prevalent in each era. Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher and even the Monster Raving Loony Party have been mentioned.
Meanwhile, Julian Kirkman-Page, (Author, The 7.52 to London Bridge) has offered us a neat vignette of political misunderstanding from his own collection:
‘Make way for the Colonel!, make way for the Colonel!’ shouted the Chairman of the Conservative party as he thrust me through the milling throng towards his intended target.
Seven years ago I was invited to an informal ‘cocktail party’ held by the Conservative City Circle, an august body with the aim of cultivating Tory support within the City as if that was necessary. I had as usual had an interesting and rather too liquid lunch and so arrived very late bringing along my eldest daughter, then in her early twenties, both for her enjoyment and because I knew I would be bored stiff on my own.
On the desk was a young lady (by her demeanour destined to be a high Tory one day) and one badge, we being the last to arrive. ‘Kirkman-Page’ I announced. To which she responded by thanking me over and over meantime sort of bowing/curtseying, slapping the sticky badge on my chest and running off shouting ‘ the Colonel’s here, the Colonel’s here. And sure enough on closer inspection my badge did say Colonel Page.
Within seconds a man (apparently the Chairman of the Conservative party) ran up to me, grabbed my hand and dragged me into a room of some two hundred suited guests and dignitaries, saying ‘thank-you for coming Colonel, oh how wonderful, oh thank-you’, and similar pleasantries over and over whilst pumping my hand with his two hands and bowing down in a fawning sort of way.
‘Who would you like to meet? Said the chairman. Err, said I, how about Oliver Letwin the key speaker. ‘Make way, make way for the colonel’ shouted the chairman dragging me across the floor and pushing aside a crowd of sycophants gathered around the then shadow chancellor. ‘I hope you will let me know what you think of my speech, Colonel’ said Oliver. Of course I would.
‘Who else is here I asked’. ‘Theresa May, oh do please come over’.
‘Make way, make way’ happened again and all of a sudden my daughter and I were in front of Miss May. At this stage some champagne had been thrust upon me (I had managed to acquire a personal waiter carrying two bottles for my exclusive use) and lunch was catching up so I told Miss May in all honesty how far more pretty and feminine she looked in person and wasn’t the TV cruel, how Theresa was one of my favourite girl’s names, how she looked the sort of girl I could have gone out with, and I duly put my protective arm round her and gave her a cuddle whilst introducing her to my more amused than astonished daughter.
After much more champagne and some boring speeches I was indeed thrust in front of Mr. Letwin who was keen on my feedback. ‘You came across as Sergeant Wilson from Dad’s Army’ I said, ‘you need to lose the namby-pamby voice and be far more positive if we are going to get those awful people out of government. If I was Tony Blair I would be clapping my hands with glee’. Things went downhill from there for both me and the Conservatives.