Charles Clarke: 'Too many novels concerning British politicians show them as caricatures'

A one-minute interview with the Labour politician and author

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

At the Fort St George pub, near my house in Cambridge, drinking a coffee and overlooking Midsummer Common and the river Cam.

What are you currently reading?

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, an author I have not read before. It’s a gripping narrative of lives which converge at St Malo in August 1944.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him

Both Robert Harris’s novels on Cicero and Dreyfus and Hilary Mantel’s, on Thomas Cromwell, demonstrate the true subtle nature of political behaviour and the political process. They offer far more than the ritualised, misleading and over-simplified ways in which politics is so widely understood today.

Describe the room where you usually write

I work in my study on the ground floor of our house, looking out over our small garden. It contains a good library, various memorabilia and a lot of maps. It has a sofa-bed for visitors.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I haven’t got a good answer, perhaps because I find that too many novels concerning British politicians show them as caricatures. Perhaps Cicero (though I don’t claim his powers of oratory!) or Cromwell, as portrayed by Harris and Mantel. Or perhaps a more political, less bureaucratic, version of Lewis Eliot in C P Snow’s Strangers and Brothers series.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Willy Brandt. He achieved enormous peaceful social change. I also heard him express the thought which should govern the future of social democracy: “The future is red-green”.

‘British Conservative Leaders’ is co-edited by Charles Clarke (Biteback, £25)

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