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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Recommended reading

Whilst I was in Hay-on-Wye I did my usual trick of buying books, including Andrew Marr's 600 page 'A History of Modern Britain', that I do not have time to read. If I had known that in a matter of weeks Alastair Campbell will be publishing his Downing Street diaries, then I might have put those books back on the shelf and reserved what little reading time I have for the revelations that we all hope will contained therein.

Today's Guardian reports that the book has strong disapproval within the outgoing prime minister's inner circle - including his wife, Cherie. Mrs Blair is said to be "furious" about the ex-press spokesman's invasion of her family's privacy.

Northern Ireland is said to be the single most mentioned issue, with the Clinton presidency as prominent as Mr Bush's. This is because the book will run from 1994, when Mr Campbell joined the newly elected opposition leader, to 2003, when he resigned after the invasion of Iraq and his controversial partial-exoneration by Lord Hutton in the "dodgy dossiers" fight with the BBC.

Mr Campbell's former colleagues complain that his book is too media-orientated and too light on domestic policy to give a rounded picture. "Alastair occupied the world of headlines, not the boring stuff. He only became involved in health or education issues on the last day," recalls one. Others complain that the text is still "a bit manic".

As he heavily cut 2.5m words of nightly recollections - excising many of his daily battles with the media - the former Daily Mirror journalist admits asking himself, "Can I imagine David Cameron using that to damage a Labour prime minister?" when deciding what to cut.

As a result he applied "the same rule to Gordon as to Tony" and toned down their disputes. One consequence is that Peter Mandelson, often Mr Blair's champion in manoeuvres with the chancellor, is shown in a restricted light, though Mr Campbell insists that he has provided context where necessary without rewriting his opinions with the benefit of hindsight.

I suspect that this tome is nowhere near as sensational as some of the media would hope but it is likely to be indiscreet enough to be worthwhile reading.
I have a two foot long shelf of outstanding reading, which has led me to declare a moritorium on book buying until I've whittled it down to at least a single foot.

That didn't stop me buying the new Ashdown, thoguh, as I had the opportunity to get His Lordship to sign it.

I wouldn't have bought the Marr, though. If it's anything like his current TV series, it's a grotesque piece of socialist propaganda.

Last week it portrayed the Atlee government as faultless and flawless (except in its failure to join the EU) but unfortunately battered by events that stopped it achieving the “new Jerusalem” that it promised.

A rather rose-tinted view from the man who gave Polly Toynbee her first shot at publicity.
> A rather rose-tinted view from the man who gave Polly Toynbee her first shot at publicity.

I rather think her late husband, Simon Jenkins, came before Marr.

She has her own pedigree, anyway.

- Frank Little
We do, of course, all understand that Frank Little means the deceased social democrat commentator, Peter Jenkins, rather than the very much alive liberal-tory patrician Simon Jenkins.

A. Pedant
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