As part of Prospect's Books of the Year special, we round up the best books about politicsby Prospect Team / December 7, 2019 / Leave a comment
This year saw not one but two main Brexit deadlines breached with plenty of parliamentary shenanigans. Thus the prize for most optimistic title goes to Vernon Bogdanor for Beyond Brexit (IB Tauris). Bogdanor argues authoritatively that after the UK leaves the EU it will lose constitutional protections—and so we will need a codified text. Valuable on the backstory is Kevin O’Rourke’s A Short History of Brexit (Pelican). As an Irish historian who divides his time between a French village and All Souls College, Oxford, O’Rourke is a quintessential Remainer; but he’s not blind to the EU’s supranational ambitions. The consequences of these ambitions are the subject of James Meek’s thoughtful essay collection Dreams of Leaving and Remaining (Verso). A visit to Grimsby in 2015 reveals resentment of Brussels fishing policy. Cadbury’s workers are abandoned when their factory moves to Poland. Brexit, it turns out, never just meant Brexit.
David Cameron writes in For the Record (William Collins) that he has many regrets about his six years as PM: botched NHS reform; intervention in Libya; no intervention in Syria. But the 2016 referendum is not one of them. His book is a catalogue of what-ifs. One is intriguing: he was tempted to require Leave to get 40 per cent of all registered voters, which would have resulted in a Remain victory. In an alternate universe, we would be heading into a 2020 election with the baton passed to George Osborne. Instead Cameron must cope with seeing Boris Johnson get the top job, a man he describes as “full of jealousies and paranoias,” who may or may not have trashed his rooms at Oxford.
Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, has said she is more likely to write an Alpine murder mystery than an account of her 1,106 days in office. Instead we have Anthony Seldon and Raymond Newell’s May at 10 (Biteback). Re-living her tortuous stint makes oddly gripping reading. Fiona Hill, one of her close advisers, is damning on the 2017 election campaign: “There was no leadership. The campaign was dull. It was going nowhere. It was utterly, utterly draining.” May is the book’s absent centre. What did she want? We still don’t know. And perhaps neither did she.
One of May’s positive legacies was boosting the number of female Tory MPs.…