A Word In Your Ear: Honest<br></br>The Political Animal: an anatomy

By Christina Hardyment
Saturday 16 November 2002 01:00

The memoirs of a former weather girl and gameshow hostess do not normally lead to publishers bidding their hearts out, but when she follows a series of high-profile affairs by bedding the manager of the England team, still looking as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth and with an enchantingly come-hither look in her eye, who can blame them? The good thing about listening to Ulrika Jonsson's Honest (Macmillan, 4hrs 30mins, £11.99) rather than leafing through the book to find the juicy bits, is that it forces you to hear from start to finish a story that is part apology and part cautionary tale, but also a disarmingly frank confession of weaknesses and fears which, she says, it has been cathartic for her to write down. She sounds like a prim schoolgirl reading aloud, and the throwaway jokes which are her stock in trade on television fall a little leadenly, but that too is disarming. Naughty, yes, but also nice.

Jeremy Paxman specialises in being Mr Nasty, a devilishly saturnine self-elected Recording Angel, as he tears politicians and students to shreds on screen. But The Political Animal: an anatomy (Penguin, 5hrs 30mins, £13), puts him in a very different light. For this sobering, sympathetic investigation of the reality of life at Westminster today (see review, left), his voice – normally so infuriatingly carping – steadies up. Impressively, lucidly, he presents a subject which he clearly finds both fascinatingly full of paradox, and deeply important.

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