Friday, 2 October 2009

Summer Things

Was the name of an atmospheric book about things that went wrong - and right – over a Summer. So having been silent for so long and needing something to kick start my blog I’ll use the title as a theme and describe what I read over Summer. I didn’t create a reading list, nor did I follow the list sent out by Tory High Command to their MPs, although I did buy one book on that list (The Pathans).

That list was largely political and historical but (I thought*) strangely omitted Bernard Donoghue’s Downing St Diary (vol 2) covering his period as James Callaghan’s Policy Unit head from 1976 to 1979. It’s a very entertaining read by an author who comes across as human rather than a political drone, about how the political process works. It is a good reminder of the last years of the last Labour Government: I am sure things are nastier 30 years on, but there are fascinating parallels.

He describes the frustration of power draining away despite the conviction that only they could do the right things; an inability to deal with a rising borrowing requirement and public sector spending; anger at public service unions wanting to protect themselves and contemptuous of both Government and the public; concern about uncontrolled immigration; some vocal Scots wanting devolution. And rising unemployment (did you know that every Labour Government has left office with higher unemployment than when it came in?). Yet feeling they had the right answers if only they had a bit more time... Fortunately for all concerned the Conservatives were elected.

I also read a book called Making Sense of Pakistan, a detailed exposition of how this vibrant and confused country came to be formed and came to have such a split personality regarding the balance between Islam, terrorism, capitalism and relationships with its neighbours and the West. I continue to worry about the influence of this area (and the resource rich countries of Central Asia) on world stability and the economy. I think Iraq (and potentially Iran) is a huge diversion and it scares me how little interest Western politicians (with the initial exception of Obama) generally show this region. For this reason I also read the Qu’ran – a big topic for another post.

Lastly, I do try to have a life: I also read some lighter stuff: I’d particularly recommend the new Le Carre; a charming book about crosswords and love; a couple of classic crime thrillers; the new Zafon; and a book about a Feng Shui detective. Amongst others.

* It wasn’t on the list because it had been on the 2008 Christmas holiday list – in hardback. I hate to buy books in hardback so I only read it after it came out in paperback.

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