We’ve seen the first big post-election political autobiography. The Prince of Darkness himself. Peter Mandelson. He’s entitled it “The Third Man”. Not to be confused, of course, with Paul Routledge’s unauthorised biography, “Mandy”. Apparently it caused great disquiet amongst his (former) colleagues, fearful of what it might reveal. And of course Tony Blair was furious to be pre-empted. I see that The Third Man is now available on Amazon discounted from £25 to less than £10, if anyone wants it.
The next big story, of course, is Blair himself. “A Journey” is predicted to be the publishing event of the year (until it, too, is remaindered). I wouldn’t have chosen that title myself. It is too resonant of those politicians who have “gone on a journey of self-discovery” (or, more usually, become terminally confused), like John Bercow or Michael Portillo. In a way, Blair’s tragedy was the he never went on a journey. He clung to new Labour’s emaciated core beliefs even as they ran totally out of steam.
But my theme is not Mandy and Blair, but a lesser-known autobiography which might nevertheless make more rewarding reading. With little sound of drum or trumpet, UKIP’s erstwhile former and potential future leader Nigel Farage MEP has published “Fighting Bull”. There’s a neat double entendre there, if you can be troubled to think it through. Nigel is pictured on the cover, against a white ground, in a somewhat Messianic pose, under a Union Jack umbrella and clutching (appropriately enough) a bull-horn. This is not strictly a post-election biography – it seems to stop just before the election, when Nigel was hoping that by some quirk of fate he might win Buckingham from Bercow. But sadly in this case the Better Man did not win.
I can’t claim to have read it all through yet, but I’ve seen enough to get the flavour. Like most political autobiographies, it leans towards self-congratulation and self-justification, but in an engaging and amusing sort of way. Highly readable, I’d say. At one level, Nigel is a Jack-the-Lad, everybody’s favourite lovable rogue. At another, he’s actually a very fine public speaker indeed, if occasionally inclined to get carried away by his own rhetoric.
His book provides a considerable insight into the European parliament, and the life of the MEPs, and in particular it gives a very fair and useful account both of the circumstances that led to my leaving the EPP group, and those remarkably similar circumstances, a little later, which led my good colleague Dan Hannan to leave the EPP as well.
I shall certainly make a point of reading it right through. And as we’re “back to school” on Monday, I’ll take it to Brux and invite Nigel to sign it for me. Look for it on the Antiques RoadShow in 200 years’ time.