Books by members of the Labour Party, or about the party, dominate the results of the annual Waterstone’s ComRes survey of MPs.
The Third Man by Peter Mandelson is the book MPs are most likely to be found reading this summer recess, with 5% of MPs surveyed said that they would be reading the former Business Secretary’s memoir of New Labour this summer, either at home or on holiday.
Andrew Lake, Waterstone’s Politics Buyer, is unsurprised that The Third Man was MPs top choice. “Mandelson was a key figure in New Labour, one of the most controversial political figures of his generation. His book was published with perfect timing for maximum controversy and the contents really delivered. This is a must read book for anyone who lived through the New Labour years, or for new MPs wanting to learn the dark arts of spin.” Mandelson’s timing was prescient in another way – the book was published as Waterstone’s survey was taking place, putting it at the front of MPs minds.
In joint second place is another memoir from a Labour man, though in this case Old Labour rather than New. Chris Mullin’s A View from the Foothills was one of the best received political diaries of recent years, and has recently been published in paperback, making it an ideal travel bag companion. Sharing second place was Christopher Andrew’s The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5.
Four books tied for third place, they are; Diaries Volume One: Prelude to Power 1994-1997 by Alastair Campbell, The Pinch by David Willetts, The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen, The End of the Party by Andrew Rawnsley.
Overall though, fiction is the most popular subject area, with 48% of MPs choosing a novel for their summer reading (28% chose a political book). No one novel is any more popular than another, and titles chosen include A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini), The Girl Who Played with Fire (Stieg Larsson), Ordinary Thunderstorms (William Boyd), Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel) and Solar (Ian McEwan) all being cited. Alastair Campbell holds the distinction of being the only author chosen for both non-fiction and fiction; for his afore-mentioned Diaries, and for his novel Maya.
The most popular authors – each with three titles chosen – are Robert Harris(The Ghost, Lustrum and Archangel) and Stieg Larsson (the three volumes of his Millenium Trilogy).
Biographies were a popular choice, with subjects including De Gaulle, William Wilberforce, Paddy Ashdown, Shirley Williams, Edward Heath, Lyndon Johnson, Cardinal Newman, John and Robert Kennedy, Thomas More and Agatha Christie.
“Overall, this list shows that while New Labour have lost power, there is still great fascination about the era amongst politicians new and old. This bodes well for what should be the big beast of political memoirs this year – Tony Blair’s A Journey,” said Andrew Lake.
Finally, it appears that many MPs will spend the summer swotting up on their parties and new jobs. Among other perhaps more exciting choices we find The Times Guide to the House of Commons, The History of the Conservative Party, The History of the Labour Party and, perhaps most essentially for the new intake, How Parliament Works.
Notes for Editors
ComRes surveyed 152 MPs on the ComRes MP Panel between 23rd June and 19th July 2010.