"Promiscuous reading is necessary to the constituting of human nature. The attempt to keep out evil doctrine by licensing is like the exploit of that gallant man who thought to keep out the crows by shutting the park gate."
- John Milton (1608-1674)
It is important in politics to read widely, so said Peter Walker, the founder of the TRG, “above all Edmund Burke.”
Burke, the non-Tory founder of modern Toryism, is a splendid place to start. So, we might recommend, are the philosophy of John Locke and the politics of Sir Robert Peel.
The following titles come with Egremont’s seal of recommendation. They do not necessarily represent the views of the TRG or its membership, but we would like to think they’re all a pretty good read.
Thirteen years of Labour Government have left their mark on the landscape of political publishing, but we’ll try only to suggest the good ones.
If you disagree, let us know. If you’ve read anything recently that you like, let us know too. Even better, send us your finished copies. Times are tight, after all.
Which Way’s Up? by Nick Boles (2010)
Short and accessible - pamphlet like - offering from Tory backbencher and Cameroon outrider Boles, which has won plaudits from all sides of the House of Commons. (ND)
Tony’s Ten Years: Memories of the Blair Administration by Adam Boulton (2009)
Sky News’ Political Editor has as good an understanding of the Blair years as any broadcaster. And he knows it. Yet this short book has enough interesting anecdotes and original insight to gloss over the author’s self-satisfaction. (ND)
Politics for Partners by Alicia Collinson (1997)
Cameron: The Rise of the New Conservative by Francis Elliott & James Hanning (2009)
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2009)
Sparkling insight into the extraordinary mind of probably the USA’s greatest president. The campaign trail tales particularly shine. Alastair Campbell described this as “the best book about politics he had ever read”. He has probably read quite a few. (ND)
After Blair: David Cameron and the Conservative Tradition by Kieron O’Hara (2007)
Put out amidst Cameron’s “heir to Blair” hype, this book’s title offers a thesis that the author strangely does not pursue: Tony Blair was a politician in the ‘Conservative Tradition’ and Cameron his continuation. It is still one of the few books to examine the Blair-Cameron dynamic in this detail and read now, can tell us a few things perhaps about the contest between Cameron and Ed Milliband. (ND)
What Next?: Surviving the Twenty-first Century by Chris Patten (2009)
Scholarly and imposing tome of epic sweep - Lord Patten pulls back the veil of sensationalist current affairs to argue for greater attention to some of the gravest problems facing the world today. (ND)
The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World by Jonathan Powell (2010)
Tony Blair’s chief of staff was at the heart of the Labour Government but always managed to skim below the radar. This is by no means another slab of New Labour memoir gossip. Powell is a deep thinker and he has seen power wielded at the highest level. (ND)
The End of the Party by Andrew Rawnsley (2010)
After the newspaper serialisations informed the world about Gordon Brown ‘the bully’ who threw mobile phones at jelly-kneed staff, you could be forgiven for feeling as though you’ve already read The End of the Party. Yet Rawnsley is one of the canniest commentators around, there is plenty more to be found, and his writing alone is a joy. (ND)
Edward VI: The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore (2008)
What do Chris Skidmore and the late Alan Clark hold in common? They are both examples of historians who became Conservative MPs (Skidmore might hope the comparison starts and ends there). Despite the populist title, this is a proper history book on an oddly neglected subject. (ND)
Back from the Brink: The Extraordinary Fall and Rise of the Conservative Party by Peter Snowdon (2010)
Nudge by Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein (2008)
The Cabinet Office reportedly has a ‘Nudge unit’ dreaming up ephemeral ‘liberal paternalist’ public policy. The Prime Minister is known to be a fan and has invited the authors to deliver seminars on their theory. The book that inspired it all is a slug of a read but worth persevering with. Like it or not, it is part of the future. (ND)
The Pinch by David Willetts (2009)
The Nudge-esque trendy title and playful cartoon piggy bank on the dust jacket cannot conceal Willetts’ provocative thesis: the book’s subtitle is “How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future And Why They Should Give It Back.” Probably constrained by his role on the Conservative front bench, Willetts does not provide much of a conclusion, let alone solutions, but he delivers a rollercoaster of statistical demography that shocks and enthralls (far more than statistical demography ought). One of the must reads of the decade. (ND)