Following up the great suggestions for summer reading made by readers, here is a rather niche list: great books to read written by current or former Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians. Niche range, but great books.
First up, the inside story of how a major social change can be achieved – and why electing Liberal Democrat MPs make a difference. David Cameron ended up voting for legalising same-sex marriage, but he had no plans to introduce legislation to do so and it had been left off the Conservative legislative wish list… but then a Liberal Democrat MP named Lynne Featherstone took up the cause. Read her Equal Ever After to find out what happened.
Next, the memoirs of former Liberal Democrat minister Norman Baker: Against the Grain. You might wonder why I pick those ahead of the ministerial memoirs of more prominent Lib Dems. The reason is that his book is a much broader account of what politics is really like – from the persistent local campaigning through to the roles of local councils, the powers of backbench MPs and then also in ministerial office. Authors such as Nick Clegg and David Laws capture the sort of politics that gets made into TV shows and movies. Norman Baker captures the sort of politics that is far more commonplace (and, dare I say it, rather often makes far more of a difference).
Then, another book which is light on Westminster politics and heavy on other stuff: Paddy Ashdown’s memoirs, A Fortunate Life. He did so much of interest in his life outside politics that despite ending up a party leader, Westminster is only a small part of this book. The chapter on how he won Yeovil is still an excellent guide for modern would-be MPs.
Finally, one of Paddy’s successors: Vince Cable. His memoirs Free Radical are particularly good for the section covering his early life in Africa – explaining how he learned to be both passionate about the power of the state to improve people’s lives and wary of the abuse of state power. That pair of views about the state – viewing it as necessary yet also fearful of it abusing its power – is at the heart of liberalism. It also features my favourite anecdote about the much-loved late Andrew Reeves, who died tragically young. An invisible battleship is involved.
All highly recommended even if none have a title quite as good as this.
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Speaking of politics on TV…
It’s a good excuse to enjoy this again: