Saturday, April 28, 2007

Speaking for England

'Speak for England Arthur!'

I never seem to get time to do any serious reading these days (or anything else for that matter!) but...
I have just finished reading 'Speaking for England' by David Faber and I have to say it is one of the best books I have read for years. The book centres on the true story of a very English political tragedy: it is the tale of how the son of a member of Churchill's Cabinet was hanged for treason and the life and pressures of being born into a political dynasty (something the author knows only too well, being related himself to Harold Macmillan).
I know David a little as he was my MP in Westbury & West Wilts and I did a little campaigning for him in the 1992 general election. Perhaps unfairly characterised as a political 'wet', David was Stephen Dorrell's PPS and an assiduous constituency member. He was always very kind to me; one night he got me a pass into the lower gallery of the House when he happened to see me in the Commons and he always made a point of buying me dinner at Party Conference.
The book describes how the Amerys were born into something of a life of privilege with father Leo a prominent Conservative MP and minister, his son Julian a successful politician but how John was different. Perhaps for the same reasons as his near contemporary Randolph Churchill, John Amery grew into a difficult and tortured adult. It was John's warped sense of patriotism that led him to become a German propagandist on the airwaves during the war and his ill-fated attempt to recruit a 'Legion of St George' to take up arms against the communist Russians, leading to charges of treason and his subsequent execution. The book goes on to describe how his father and brother were affected by all this in fascinating detail as well as Leo's role in the Munich crisis and bringing down Chamberlain as Prime Minister (You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go! ).
It is a great book.
David was a young man when he stepped down from politics; I suspect he was dismayed at the rightward drift of the Conservative Party at that time and the realisation that with it, he was unlikely to be a minister. I don't think he failed politics, in fact it probably failed him. As an author and historian, in his first work I think he has excelled. It is perhaps a career for which he feels far more suited.
I am hoping David will be able to speak at my literary book club later in the year.


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