Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
I was hoping for better with this composite volume
on 2 March 2017
Having just read Benn's last Diaries (A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine) which I found uninteresting, I was hoping for better with this composite volume, covering several decades, but obviously abridged. I enjoyed these a lot more. There are judgments about people (essential if political diaries are to avoid tedium) and it is easier to see the consistency of his views over the years. Not surprisingly, I found the diaries from his years in office best of all. They show him as a fairly robust contributor in Cabinet, both under Wilson and Callaghan and not unafraid to debate differences of view with colleagues right up to the point, on occasion, of somewhat heated disagreement and even falling out. His famous courtesy (as with Tam Dalyell) disarmed people, and his complete integrity made him more exasperating to colleagues than distrusted. He had a few heated run-ins with Michael Foot but still voted for him to be Labour Party leader on the second ballot. He and Callaghan sometimes clashed but always made up because I suspect Benn was just impossible to dislike as a person even when his views riled you. In the 50s the Benns got on well with the Enoch Powells (!!), dining together on occasion and exchanging views on their progress or otherwise in their parliamentary/careers. Fascinating. There are good stories too about Labour figures of the day (Alex Lyon MP, David Ennals MP (whom Benn thoroughly disliked), Dennis Skinner MP, Eric Heffer MP, Ted Heath, Sir Keith Joseph MP, Barbara Castle and others. On the downside, a touch more editing would have been helpful: there are regular occasions when Benn says Denis did this or Eric said that, but there is no footnote as to which Denis or which Eric (Healey or Skinner, Varley or Heffer - they are all active at the time) is meant. I accept that the editor wanted to avoid footnotes in a composite volume but a complete absence was a step too far. All in all though, a damn good read whatever your political views, if you like political memoirs or diaries.