A Conservative Chief Whip, Margaret Thatcher’s last Home Secretary, Leader of the House of Lords and Governor of Bermuda; David Waddington’s political career was a successful one that should make for a fascinating set of memoirs.
It was certainly a political career from another age as illustrated by the book starting with a reference to a colleague who had managed to write a whole volume of autobiography and forgotten to mention their wife. It is also a career very much from the right of the political spectrum, (nearly) finishing with attacks on equal rights for gay people.
The best part of David Waddington’s book are the frequent funny stories from his life. The weakest part is that the book is rarely more than that – a great set of after dinner speech anecdotes and little more. That makes it more fun than educational and also means the brevity with which issues are introduced requires the reader to have a fair degree of prior knowledge of the events through which he lived.
Even moments of great drama and tension, such as the ousting of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, get rather perfunctory treatment, serving as briefly mentioned backdrops to the latest anecdote.
Often that means I was left wishing he had talked more about events or the lessons he drew from them, such as how a right wing, pro-capital punishment Home Secretary was also someone so keen on diverting people from jail, firmly believing that jail didn’t work. A heavier, more serious book would have much of interest to say on that topic. Instead, we get a few brief references. Even quirks such as his grandfather having been election agent to the controversial, colourful and bizarre Liberal MP Jabez Spencer Balfour (the subject of an excellent book in his own right) get little attention.
Despite that, of perhaps because of that, the book has a very more-ish quality, luring you on to reading just a few more pages to enjoy just a few more stories. In other words, good for a bit of light entertainment, but don’t expect to learn much about issues or politics from the book.
Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.