The chauffeured cars and cabinet pow-wows may already seem like ancient history to the Liberal Democrats turfed out of Parliament at the election. Now the party’s former MPs are fuelling a cottage industry in memoirs aimed at political obsessives whose idea of a light read is picking over every spit and cough of the Coalition.
It’s barely three months since the party was reduced to a rump at Westminster. But former ministers David Laws, Vince Cable and Norman Baker have already announced deals to tell their side of the Coalition story.
While Nick Clegg revealed that he kept a diary of his experiences inside No 10, however, the former party leader is keeping his powder dry for now.
Mr Laws is promising the “inside story” of the Coalition from the 2010 birth to its demise, in a tome published next spring by Biteback, the independent imprint which is a leading player in political and current affairs titles aimed at a niche audience.
Biteback, which caused a stir with books by Damian McBride and Nigel Farage, is also publishing Against the Grain, the story of maverick ex-Home Office minister Norman Baker’s experiences in government, which will also return to his favourite topic, an alleged conspiracy over the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly in 2003.
Mr Cable’s contribution, After the Storm: The World Economy and Britain’s Economic Future, is touted as a serious examination of the “state of the current financial market and how Britain has coped since 2008”.
Connoisseurs of political gossip will nevertheless hope that publisher Atlantic’s promise that Mr Cable will “provide an inside view of the Coalition years” also holds true.
While literary agents are being overrun with time-rich Lib Dems, it appears that nobody is getting rich from publishing third-party memoirs. “I’m looking to break even with a title and it’s great if we can make a profit,” said Iain Dale, Biteback’s founder and LBC radio presenter.
“A good sale for a political memoir is anything above 3,000 to 4,000. It sounds ridiculously small, but a lot fail to meet even that figure.
“We do quite well through Waterstones but they will only order a few hundred copies. We are reliant on Amazon for a third of sales... I’m in favour of publishers getting sponsorship. We shouldn’t be embarrassed about going down the route of crowd-funding.”
Mr Dale hopes the Laws book will be a relative blockbuster, however. “David wrote a 2010 book about the Coalition formation which was well received and sold 15,000 copies plus ebooks. He was there when the key decisions were made. I would hope the new book would sell five figures.”
Sales could be boosted if Mr Laws gave his account of the expenses scandal which prompted his resignation as chief secretary to the Treasury. Reports that he had claimed £40,000 in second home costs while renting rooms to a “secret” male partner forced him to disclose his sexuality.
Nick Clegg shouldn’t delay over having his say, Mr Dale warned. “I know for a fact that Nick will write a book but it won’t be his diaries. He shouldn’t hang around too long, though, because politicians fade from the public memory very quickly.”
Half the story: Forthcoming Lib Dem memoirs
After the Storm: The World Economy and Britain’s Economic Future
by Vince Cable
(Atlantic, due out in September)
He says: “What was sadly missing from the election campaign was any kind of long-term intelligent discussion of how to make improvements in productivity to raise living standards; how Britain can rebalance its economy and earn its keep in a very uncertain global economy. These are issues I try to address from the vantage point of having spent five years trying to make these things happen.”
Against the Grain
by Norman Baker
(Biteback, due out 18 September)
They say: “This compelling account lifts the lid on the workings of the Coalition, particularly at the Department for Transport and the Home Office, and reveals much that will be relevant to the new Conservative government and of great interest to the general public.”
by David Laws
(Biteback, due out spring 2016)
He says: “Working in the Coalition government was a fascinating and productive experience. This account will, I hope, not just be of historic value but will also touch on many of the issues and challenges which will confront all political parties in the years ahead.”
Nick Clegg’s memoirs (title and publication date unknown)
He says: “I kept a diary for quite a while in government and so much of the ups and downs did very much revolve around debates, discussions, arguments, agreements and disagreements between two individuals – myself and David Cameron. But I just think its a bit unseemly if I was going to start immediately lifting the lid on all of that.”Reuse content