When I told a friend I had started a blog about reading he said he thought it was a great idea given how much I love books, and then said that he assumed I would be writing about politics given that was my other obsession.
It has to be said I do love reading political memoirs. My political reading started when a friend at university who I’d met through student politics gave me How to be a Minister by Gerald Kaufman for my 21st birthday. That year I had also really enjoyed A very British Coup by Chris Mullin and when he came to speak to our Labour Students group I got him to sign a copy for my Mum who was a huge admirer. Not long afterwards I abandoned my political ambitions, but a desire to read about the political careers of others stayed with me.
I had somewhat of an obsession with the Clintons in the 90s. I promised myself I would campaign for Hilary if she ever ran for President, which seemed a little unlikely at the time, but somehow when it came to it life got in the way. Having read My Life by Bill Clinton and Living History by Hilary, I came to terms with the fact that it wasn’t to be for Hilary and that Obama was the next generation of Democrats. I then belatedly read both Dreams from my Father and The audacity of hope. The former on Christmas morning in 2008 on a deserted beach just after sunrise in Krabi in Thailand, waving at passing Thai fisherman. When we were in Honolulu recently in terrible traffic due to torrential downpours that greeted our arrival, our taxi driver gave us an Obama tour on the way to Pearl Harbour. It was great.
I also read Blair’s A Journey and Cherie’s Speaking for Myself to try to come to terms with my own political journey from being a huge admirer of the Blairs to disillusionment post Iraq and various other policies I disagreed with. I had been hoping that reading both books would make me feel that they had both been portrayed unfairly, but was actually just left feeling a bit bemused and deflated.
The heady early days of new Labour which defined my student days were brought vividly back to life on reading the abridged Campbell Diaries The Blair Years by Alistair Campbell and re-indulging when the first volume of the full diaries came out. Amongst other things I discovered that the Blairs lived on my street in Highbury when they first moved to Islington. It also brought back memories of meeting many members of the then shadow cabinet when they came to speak at our Labour students meetings, including dinner with David Blunkett in a great little Greek restaurant in Cambridge, going to the Groucho Club for an event for Peter Mandelson and Rod Liddle’s book The Blair Revolution and fighting the urge to snooze through a talk by Andrew Smith.
I’m a bit lacking in new politicians to admire at the moment so my political reading has stalled. Am hoping that the next generation of inspirational and effective leaders gets a move on.