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Christmas 2015: The 9 best books in politics

Here are some of 2015's finest books to fire the imagination, engage the grey matter and invigorate the spirit over the festive period

Andy McSmith
Thursday 26 November 2015 16:55 GMT
Dan Hodges tries to get inside the minds of David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg
Dan Hodges tries to get inside the minds of David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg (Getty Images)

When the memoirs are written and the archives are opened, it should be possible to write an account of the David Cameron years as definitive as Charles Moore's biography of Margaret Thatcher. In the meantime, those who tackle this subject must make the most of what they know, if they are serious academics like Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowdon, or else spice the story up with a sprinkling of unfounded rumour.

Seldon's and Snowdon's Cameron at 10, The Inside Story 2010-2015 (William Collins £20) is as comprehensive an account of the coalition years as anyone could write so soon after the events. Perhaps because it is all so recent, the entire book is written in the present tense, an affection which I personally found grating, but that aside, the authors have been careful with facts. Their conclusion is that David Cameron is a pragmatist who is not bad as his job.

But of course in the competition to secure the highest sales was easily won by Call Me Dave, by Michael Ashcroft and Isobel Oakeshott (Biteback £20). The book's signature dish is a story about a pig's head which the authors knew to be unverified and probably untrue, while Michael Ashcroft supplied a preface in which he complained that David Cameron did not offer him the ministerial job he thought that he merited. Hell hath no fury like a billionaire scorned.

Of the rest, Why the Tories Won (Biteback, £12.99), by Tim Ross, is a meticulous and balanced account of the general election. Polly Toynbee and David Walker, in Cameron's Coup, (Guardian Books, £9.99) managed to encapsulate their argument in the two opening sentences - "Asked why he wanted to be Prime Minister, David Cameron said, 'Because I thought I'd be good at it'. He wasn't."

Joe Pike's Project Fear (Biteback, £12.99) is a racy eye witness account of the phyrric victory that Better Together pulled off in the Scottish referendum. Owen Bennett's Following Farage (Biteback, £12.99) is an even racier account of the rise of UKIP - and his own progress from rookie journalist to lobby correspondent - full of tales of booze, treachery and human stupidity. Does any of it matter? He does not really say.

Dan Hodges's One Minute to Ten (Michael Joseph, £16.99) is a curious exercise, an account of the election dressed as fiction, in which the writer tries to get inside the minds of David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, with the result that a reader is liable to end up lost inside the mind of Dan Hodges, a wild, bewildered place.

You cannot read Alastair Campbell's Winners and How They Succeed (Hutchinson, £20) without being impressed by how many high achievers he knows. This is a handbook for anyone who would like to be like them. The question of whether Campbell or any his friends might have found more contentment had they been less obsessed with winning is not addressed.

Then there is Everything She Wants (Allen Lane £30), volume two of Charles Moore's monumental Thatcher biography. Private Eye has parodied its tone of subdued reverence, and in places there is more detail than anyone but an anorak could want, but it is, nevertheless, a fine, scholarly work. Nobody will want to write another Thatcher biography for at least a generation. Amen to that, some may think.

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