Saturday, May 26, 2007

Book Review: Too Nice to be a Tory by Jo-Anne Nagler

This is an intensely human and funny political autobiography. You don't have to be either a Conservative or a political anorak to enjoy this excellent book.

Unfortunately many of the people who would both enjoy and learn something from this book are likely to be put off by the subject matter. They should not be.

Jo-Anne Nadler is a witty, charming and intelligent young woman of the late 20th and early 21st century who is normal in every respect except one - an interest in politics which has led her to work both as a Conservative party staffer and as a political journalist.

"Too Nice to be a Tory" tells the story of Jo-Anne's her life in politics and the media through the Thatcher, Major, and Blair years up to the election of Michael Howard as Conservative leader. But it talks about it in down-to-earth normal terms rather than political platitudes. This is one of the most human books about politics which I have ever read.

Jo-Anne's political views do come through in the book - for example, she gives one of the best explanations I have ever read of why the infamous out-of-context quote from Mrs Thatcher that "There is no such thing as society" is a travesty of what Mrs T was actually saying. But the political perspective does not dominate.

A healthy attitude to politics ought to find a happy medium between the extremes of Pravda-like subservience ("Prime Minister, would you like to explain your wonderful policies") and Paxman like cynicism (e.g. assuming everyone involved in politics is a lying scoundrel).

The truth is that there are some scoundrels in politics but also plenty of people in all mainstream parties who are honest, decent, and otherwise normal. And it would be good for Britain if more people were involved. This is an account of what life was like for one normal person involved in politics, and it is intensely funny, moving, and readable.


Anonymous said...

It's not exactly new though! Been out several years as I recall.

Chris Whiteside said...

It was published in 2004. So what? It's still an interesting and entertaining insight for non-politicians into what life for someone involved in politics can be like.

I also put a book review on my blog a little while back for Thucydides "The History of the Peloponnesian War" which came out not three years ago but 2,410 years ago.

But I happen to think that the intelligent reader can glean more useful insights into what Blair and Bush have done wrong in Iraq and in the war on terror generally from Thucydides than from the Hutton Report and Hansard put together.