IoS Books of the Year 2012: Politics

This year was a long time in politics

Here they come, the stragglers of the New Labour years. Jack Straw, who served in Cabinet for the whole 13 years, published his memoir Last Man Standing (Macmillan, £20), and Alastair Campbell reached the fourth and final volume of his huge unexpurgated diaries, The Burden of Power (Hutchinson, £25), covering his last two years, 2001-03. Straw has an ear for anecdote and quotation, and is honest about his difficult early life; self-justifying but also self-aware about his record, including as Foreign Secretary during the Iraq war. Campbell's diaries, which also cover the war and its immediate consequences, attracted less attention than they deserved, coming at the end of a five-year publishing cycle. This was the most important volume, the most revealing of the psychological flaws of the Blair-Brown relationship, and it completes the essential primary text for contemporary historians.

William Keegan's fine and blessedly short attempt at early revisionism of Gordon Brown's premiership, Saving the World? (Searching Finance, £9.99), rounds off the Labour period well. He argues that Brown did a good job of managing the banking crisis, and it is certainly hard to be sure that another leader would have avoided a more serious recession.

Also this year, a late stray from the land of Conservative memoirs. Edwina Currie in her Diaries: Volume II, 1992-1997 (Biteback, £20) offers a side-light on the John Major government, with the added piquancy of their past affair, but her self-absorption makes her a poor observer.

And we had some politics with a longer perspective too. The great Peter Hennessy produced Distilling the Frenzy: Writing the History of One's Own Times (Biteback, £18.99), which is like one of those "The Making Of …" documentaries about the writing of his own series of books about Britain, its prime ministers, its civil service and its secret services since the war. He has compiled one of those unexpectedly engaging collections. In Events, Dear Boy, Events (Profile, £25), Ruth Winstone selects entries from 60 diarists, mostly politicians but also novelists, journalists and Nella Last, a housewife recruited by Mass Observation during the war, to tell an unusual story of British political history from 1921 to 2010.

Then there were the books arguing about today's politics and laying claim to the future. The best was Andrew Adonis's Education, Education, Education (Biteback, £12.99). Some of it recounts, with dry humour, Adonis's time as a reforming adviser and minister, but his purpose is polemical: to argue for the changes he thinks are needed and which he says have been vindicated by his academy programme. Academy-sceptics have no choice but to read it and to answer his arguments.

On the challenge of the euro crisis, which will shape British politics whether we want it to or not, Vicky Pryce's Greekonomics (Biteback, £12.99) is a good clear guide. Nick Cohen's You Can't Read This Book (Fourth Estate, £12.99) makes a powerful case against threats to free speech. And Matthew Flinders, in Defending Politics (OUP, £16.99), makes the unfashionable argument that people who give vent to easy hostility towards politicians should remember how lucky they are to live in a democracy. It is a good message to remember when reading these books.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor