Top positive review
A relaxed and erudite memoir that enhances the measure of this man
12 July 2017
There's a lot of "book" here thus I held it back for summer holiday reading, so as to polish it off in one sitting. Now that I have reached retirement (and observed said K Clarke for virtually all his career - and as a civil servant even sometimes worked in close proximity to the man!) I've now got time to reflect and think carefully about what is it that personal memoirs can do for a reputation. I've read quite a number of political memoirs in the past decade its worth assessing the impact from these alongside the impact made by some of the others. First then Ken Clarke. Well overall its a most enjoyable read, not without self criticism and thankfully lacking in indulgent tittle tattle. He scoots over his pre politics years in the first 40 or so pages, and then settles down into a relaxed and erudite conversational narrative. Some fascinating stuff about the Thatcher years, and Heath's mistakes. Also on Blair years and Cameron's massive error in promising and then delivering a referendum. He manages to explain why he holds the views that have made him what he is in life, which for me is a person of utmost integrity and conviction, lacking pomposity and the super large ego that usually shines through in this sort of memoir. So all in all full credit to the man whose reputation, for me at least, is further enhanced by what he has to say and how he says it. Its a worthy five stars achievement.
So what about some of the other memoirs by his contemporaries? Well closest of all comes Jack Straw's 'Last Man Standing'. Similarly unsensational and honest. A totally different character but for a me another lifetime big beast on the UK political scene (despite some recent wobbles for which he is being held to account) whose basic good intentions and honesty is never seriously in doubt. And Alistair Darling too. His 'Back from the Brink' is riveting stuff and does him great personal credit. All those 3 memoirs make essential and enoyable reading. But poles apart is Peter Mandleson's 'The Third Man' published with undignified haste in an attempt to tell you how he wants to be remembered. Lacking any depth whatsoever the book for me simply exposed his numerous weaknesses and desperate love of the limelight. A lesson for others in how not to behave! Similarly Jean Trumpington's 'Coming Up trumps' is little more than a list of names dropping. She says she hasn't grasped why she got the jobs that she was given and frankly I think every reader will draw the very same conclusion. Thumbs down for that one. Then in the middle with good and bad, dull and bright, I place the memoirs/diaries of Chris Mullin, Alan Clarke and Douglas Hurd.
How would we find our holiday reading without these memoirs from British politicians! Happy reading.