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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 13 October 2014
I have read many Political accounts or memoirs and this was a very thorough and concise read about former MP Douglas Hurd. He is a very amiable Politician, well respected. Served both PMs of Heath and Thatcher. His one striking feature is he holds no personal grudges or has any visible edge. If you are into Politics - its worth a go...
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on 20 June 2016
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on 25 March 2011
Douglas Hurd, the son and grandson of Conservative MPs won a scholarship to Eton, he then won a scholarship to read classics at Trinity college Cambridge but then chose to study history. He was awarded a First and then came top in the Foreign Office Entrance exam and joined the diplomatic service. You might imagine from all this that Douglas Hurd was a rather clever and well educated man who was able to use his extraordinary ability for the public good, but in this memoir he expertly paints a picture of a lazy, shallow individual lacking in imagination or indeed enthusiasm for anything.

The contrast between Margaret Thatcher's memoir 'Downing Street Years' and this book is striking. While Mrs Thatcher provides evidence of her political philosophy and when discussing policy decisions, explains the pros and cons of the preferred policy, the pros and cons of alternative policies, and carefully explains the eventual decisions, Douglas Hurd doesn't bother with any of that. He just tells you the decisions he made. As an example, it is quite clear that Douglas is quite unconvinced that Prison deters crime and he is also resolutely opposed to the death penalty. When as Home Secretary he was faced with a growing prison population, his solution was to increase the remission for good behaviour in prison from one third of the sentence to one half. This decision has, in the opinion of many people and perhaps most UK voters, made the UK justice system a joke. Virtually every prisoner is released after serving just half their sentence which in the UK are much lighter than in the USA. You can understand the administrative convenience of this decision, remission for good behaviour was already established and no doubt tested in the courts, he only had to change the amount of remission, so that is what he did. He doesn't mention a word about the alternatives, if any, he considered. Nor does he discuss the effect on the public of releasing some, albeit well behaved, prisoners early who will almost certainly commit very serious crimes as soon as they are released. Nor does he discuss the costs to the public of Police and and court time sentencing people who committed crimes when they should have been still locked up. You are left with the idea that Mr Hurd could not give a dam and did not, even for a second, consider the possibility that reducing jail time might in fact encourage more people to commit crime and thus increase the prison population. From his memoirs, Mr Hurd was never a victim of crime, never lived on an estate in fear of anti-social criminals and is completely unable to empathize with or even care about those that do. Surely, a intelligent man would seek to find a way to release only people who posed a very low risk of further offending and would try to make sure that when mistakes are made, the proportion of the sentence remitted would then be served. Although Mr Hurd was well paid from the public purse from the day he started work, he choose not to use his intellect improving public life, instead he relates at great length the pleasure he enjoyed writing and co-writing novels because his public duties were undemanding.

Again in direct contrast with Mrs Thatcher, Mr Hurd doesn't besmirch his memoirs by mentioning mathematics, science, business or industry. This omission leads to the inescapable conclusion that this highly educated man is rather ignorant, exceptionally narrow minded and quite unqualified to lead any government department.

Mr Hurd states that he never was, nor did he attempt to be 'an intimate' of Mrs Thatcher. This is hardly surprising, from his book it seems there is not a single element of Mrs Thatcher's beliefs that he agrees with. Similarly, he expresses no view on the level of taxation a rather fundamental issue for most voters.

Mr Hurd was the MP for Witney. After him, the MP was Shaun Woodward who defected to Labour and then David Cameron. Two from Eton and all three privately educated. You have to wonder why this Conservative constituency party selects people with left wing views as their prospective parliamentary candidate.
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