13 Jun 2009 – Oxfam

I remember buying this huge tome just after coming back from Hay-on-Wye with its attendant overbuy and worrying that I’d never get through it.  Well, I have – all 811 pages of it. Not by the end of March, for which I was hoping, but yesterday.

Notwithstanding its size, this, my constant companion at the dinner table and on the sofa, was a thumping good read.  Exhaustive and impeccably well-researched, we get every decision, every election, every Conference, almost every speech.  And all written well and simply (although I do sense a slight bias against Mrs Thatcher!).  The section leading up to the 1974 election was interesting for itself and for the fact of being read in what we assume is the run up to another election of which the result is certainly not guaranteed, and the parts taking him past his loss of leadership and into the long battle against Mrs T were fascinating too.

The whole book can probably be summed up in this sentence – "Heath’s downfall is a lesson to prime ministers of the consequences of an over-administrative approach to government which paid too little attention to the political dimension of national leadership" (p. 492) but I’m glad I persisted with it.