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Why do so many of our MPs feel the need to write books?

10 June 2014

5:39 PM

10 June 2014

5:39 PM

It sometimes feels like there is a never-ending flood of books written by politicians delivered to the Spectator offices. Almost every week a new one – or the invitation to a book launch of a new one – comes through the door. As I type, for example, I can see Fraser’s invitation to the launch of Tristram Hunt’s Ten Cities that Made an Empire (which Hunt was promoting on yesterday morning’s Start the Week), and a copy of Kwasi Kwarteng’s War and Gold on the bookshelf beside me. But what I want to know is, how do all these MPs have the time to write books, when they ought to be working for their constituents?

Not that Kwasi or Tristram should have the blame focused on them. They are far from the only ones, as the author pages of Biteback Publishing show. Even the Mayor of London has had time to write a book while in office: Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World. But at least his book was about what is, effectively, his constituency. Kwasi Kwarteng, on the other hand, isn’t writing about Staines, is he?

Either way, whether or not the various constituents stand to gain from their MP’s enthusiasm for novel writing, it’s unlikely that their books would have received the coverage that they do if the authors weren’t in the public eye. After all, not everyone gets an Andrew Marr quote on the cover of their first publication, like Liam Fox did, or the opportunity to write 1,000 words about their own book for the Telegraph (à la Jesse Norman). And, of course, a book written by an MP is almost guaranteed reviews in the press, even if it’s on a topic as thrilling as ‘achieving a better comprehension of human behaviour and applying this understanding to how we organise the financial system’ (Nadhim Zahawi and Matthew Hancock’s Masters of Nothing).

It’s also interesting to note how many MPs are willing to heap praise on their fellow politicians’ books. Having said that, even when she was an MP, I don’t recall any of Louise Mensch’s books receiving ‘critical acclaim’ from her fellow members – at least not publicly. Maybe it’s only a certain type of book that politicians are keen to endorse.

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