I ordered this book with high expectations. Not only had it been serialised in a national newspaper, it had also led to a number of questions being raised in the House about Gordon Brown's secret fundraising account and to reports of how even Brown's own innner circle didn't like him very much.
I won't say that I didn't enjoy the book, but I will say that it was quite heavily padded. Not only that, but the scores of revelations, skeletons in closets and "buried bodies" I was expecting to read about were very thin on the ground.
The book is highly focused upon Peter Watt's personal life, and I admit that it was quite eye-opening to see what it is like to work for a political party. The stresses and pressures are conveyed very well, and the betrayal described in the final pages of the book is all the more gutting considering how much Watt had contributed to the party by this point. If he is to be believed, and I see no reason not to, he prevented the party from going bankrupt twice. His reward? A forced resignation and the discovery that Gordon Brown wanted to see Watt prosecuted in order to take the heat off himself.
What I found disappointing about the book was the way in which Watt's personal life was given too much time and his political revelations too little. For example, there is an entire chapter devoted to caring for his terminally ill father, including the full speech he gave at his father's funeral. Touching though this may be, I was hoping for much more insider information, "dirt" if you will. Given that Watt had decided to break his silence, I was expecting him to pull no punches. Instead, whilst he reveals a few juicy morsels here and there (the Douglas Alexander quote being my personal favourite), I got the impression that he was still holding back and had much more he could tell if he so chose.
The biggest downer was the way in which the book ended. Having built up Watt's career and laid the groundwork for the betrayal to come, the actual description of the final act was scant, and Watt's reflections on it were minimal.
That said, the book definitely lays bare far more than high-ranking figures in the Labour Party would like, particularly surrounding their parlous finances and the "election that never was". Furthermore, given the economic climate of late, it proves that the culture of spending what you haven't got and building up a mountain of debt was entrenched within the Labour Party itself. Little wonder that the frailties of the UK economy went unchecked for so long: if the very people in power couldn't keep their debts in check and were addicted to credit, what hope did the country have?
All in all, this is an interesting blend of part-politics, part-human interest. My main gripe would be that it lapses into human interest, thereby straying from politics, too often. Nevertheless it remains well worth a read and contains a lot of dirty laundry in need of a good airing.
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