How great men rise to fame, how to stab your rival in the back, and how easily it can all go horribly wrong. Tom Peck reads between the lines of the Conservative Party's holiday book list
As Labour head for seeming self-destruction, the message to the Conservatives is clear: head for the sand, and read for government. A "Summer Reading List" of 37 tomes has been circulated to all 195 Tory MPs.
Much to the Tories' doubtless chagrin, there is not a Lord Archer page-turner or Edwina Currie bonkbuster in sight. Rather, a daunting list of history and political philosophy, albeit interspersed with the odd, light-hearted look at the rise of the esteemed leader himself and of his mayoral pal Boris Johnson.
Political Hypocrisy, by the Cambridge don David Runciman, a contemporary of David Cameron's at Eton, is a notable inclusion, making the case for the inevitability of hypocrisy in modern democracy. His previous work, The Politics of Good Intentions, championed Tony Blair as "not simply the boldest liar, but also the best". Voters take note.
Nudge, this summer's hyped popular psychology text, is "required reading". Its co-author, Professor Cass Sunstein, who joins Harvard Law School later this year, said he felt "greatly honoured". "The book's most important lesson is that 21st-century governments should try to improve people's lives not through mandates and bans, but through creative nudges that do not force anyone to do anything." So much for critics of Hug-A-Hoodie.
Foreign affairs features prominently - no surprise, given that it was compiled by the shadow Foreign Office minister, Keith Simpson. Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq, by this newspaper's correspondent Patrick Cockburn, features, as does A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, by Barack Obama's former adviser, Samantha Power.
The relevance of Roger Crowley's Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean 1521-1580 is more questionable. According to its author: "There are lessons to be learnt in the handling of power. Both the main protagonists in the book - Suleiman the Magnificent and Charles V - were burned out trying to micromanage their empires." Something for Dave to ponder on his Cornish beach.
For those Pimm's drinkers who have spent the summer dancing gaily around the polls, Norman Fowler's A Political Suicide: The Conservatives' Voyage Into the Wilderness, is a timely reminder.
The shadow Schools Secretary, Michael Gove, off to Scotland next week, admitted he did not have the "Stakhanov-like work ethic to get through all of Keith's list". His bags contain the listed A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts The Middle East, by Lawrence Freedman, and Simon Sebag Montefiore's Sashenka.
Boris Johnson's spokesman, Guto Harri, said the Mayor was not doing much reading in Sardinia. Mr Harri, holed up at the other end of the island, said: "Every time I speak to him all I can hear is excited cries in the background of 'Dolphins On The Port Side!' An impressive degree of nautical accuracy from his young family."
And how far through the list is Mr Cameron? A spokesman declined to comment, but he has time on his hands as, holidaying in the house next door near Padstow, has been the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, who said: "The rain has been lashing down, so he can't have spent much time on the beach."
Finally, one included tome which should be mentioned is Clare Lockhart and Asraf Ghani's guidebook Fixing Failed States. …