The former deputy chairman of the Conservative party, Lord Ashcroft last night presented the Political Book of the Year award to Charles Moore – conservative columnist and former editor of the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator – for his authorised biography of former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography.
The Lifetime Achievement award was presented to former deputy chairman of the Conservative party Lord Dobbs by Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson. The awards were founded by conservative blogger Iain Dale. Can anyone see a pattern here?
Oh, OK, it’s easy to snipe, and with my being-fair hat set at a rakish angle, the judges were in fact a bit more balanced politically speaking than this suggests, including Lord Ashcroft (Con), Mary Beard (historian), Chris Bryant MP (Lab), Keith Simpson MP (Con), Carolyn Quinn (Radio 4) and Peter Riddell (assistant editor of The Times).
According to The Bookseller, Mary Beard (whose opinion I am more than happy to trust on pretty much anything) said of Moore’s work: “This is an elegant and sometimes witty book; it is the kind of authoritative study that people will be referring to for decades – or even longer.”
Moore has been writing this first volume of his Thatcher biography for the past 11 years, so one would hope that it would be pretty definitive. I’m sure it’s a masterpiece, even though I’m unlikely to read it, being of the opinion Elvis Costello wrote a more concise and definitive summary of her life back in 1989.
The shortlist also included:
- This Boy by Alan Johnson
- Empire of the Deep by Ben Wilson
- I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
- Power Trip by Damian McBride
- Perilous Question by Antonia Fraser
Damian Barr’s Maggie & Me, a memoir of growing up in working-class North Lanarkshire under Thatcher won the Political Humour and Satire award.
The Political History book award was given for An English Affair by Richard Davenport-Hines, which is a social history of the country at the time of the Profumo scandal.
It’s hard to begrudge Lord Dobbs his award, really, as he has penned a good score of novels, many of them bestselling. He is best known as the author of House of Cards which, when adapted by the BBC back in 1990 (a US adaptation has recently been a huge hit too), brought to national attention the scheming Francis Urquhart (Iain Richardson) and his catchphrase: “You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.”
Would it be fair to say that the string of scandals that shortly afterwards beset the ruling Tories were pounced upon, thanks to that drama’s popularity, because of an increased acceptance that Westminster was hopelessly corrupt ? I couldn’t possibly comment.
Other winners included Simon Sebag Montefiore for One Night in Winter, and Lucy Hughes-Hallett whose The Pike has already won a garland of awards (the Costa, Duff Cooper and Samuel Johnson Prize).