Books of the year 2013: Politics

 

There is no argument about what is the 2013 political book of the year. Charles Moore has lived since 1997 with the task of producing Margaret Thatcher's authorised, posthumous biography, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography (Allen Lane, £30). His first lovingly and painstakingly written volume was rushed into the bookshops within days of her death. It took three pages of close type just to list the people Moore interviewed. The narrative took another 750 to reach the conclusion of the Falklands War.

No one is indifferent to Thatcher. There is a proposal before Parliament to add a Margaret Thatcher Day to the nation's calendar, while at this year's TUC annual conference, the bookstall did a brisk trade in "I Still Hate Thatcher" mugs.

Moore is with the believers. He does not doubt that Margaret Thatcher's instinctive, stubborn beliefs in self-help, sound money, low taxes and patriotism extricated the UK from near terminal decline. Being a believer, compiling a work that Baroness Thatcher approved but that she would never see, he was able to interview people who would never have spoken so freely to any other chronicler. The result is a serious text enlivened by scores of vignettes and unexpected observations.

Alderman Alf Roberts, the father she idolised after he was dead, apparently had a reputation around Grantham for groping women. Her sister, Muriel, described their mother as a "bigoted Methodist". A 17-year-old Jewish girl whom the Roberts family kindly took in so that she could escape Nazi-ruled Austria found their home life so stifling that she soon moved out. When Thatcher first visited America as Leader of the Opposition, her hosts formed the opinion that "she's not the sort of person you would find very agreeable on a one-to-one dinner-date." Yet, love or hate her, she is an intriguing subject.

The year also saw publication of two outstanding and starkly different political memoirs. This Boy (Bantam, £16.99) by the former Home Secretary Alan Johnson is one of those "you couldn't make it up" stories, in which a boy, raised by his single mother in a two-room flat with no bathroom and then by his teenage sister after his mother died young, soared above these early disadvantages.

Power Trip (Biteback, £20, by Gordon Brown's disgraced former spin doctor Damian McBride, comes more under the heading "is he making it up?". It purports to be a confessional, in which one chapter opens with the words: "I wasn't always a nasty bastard, but you could argue the signs were there." There is a boastfulness in this self-flagellation, an undertone that says, "you may not like me, but do not underestimate me", and yet McBride writes well and has produced an absorbing account of the dark side of democratic politics.

Tony Benn came out with what will be the last in his extraordinary run of political diaries, which began in 1964. A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine (Hutchinson, £20) opens in 2007, when Benn was 82. It is mostly politics, with the occasional touching comment on his being old. "I lay in bed this morning and thought: if I die this morning, what a wonderful way to go," one entry runs.

No one from within the Coalition Government has broken ranks to kiss and tell yet, but the year saw the publication of 5 Days in May (Biteback, £12.99) by Andrew Adonis, which details Adonis's struggle to lure the Liberal Democrats into coalition with Labour. The columnist Matthew D'Ancona has written the first major study of the progress of the coalition so far, In It Together, The Inside Story of the Coalition Government (Viking, £25). It is not as racy as, for instance, Andrew Rawnsley's book about New Labour, either because the participants do not hate each other like the Blairites and Brownites used to, or because they are not telling yet.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before