The latest flood of political books offers those beyond Westminster and its surrounding phalanx of TV studios a chance to learn more than the framers of 10- second media clips permit. Geoffrey Robinson's The Unconventional Minister (Michael Joseph pounds 16.99) and Andrew Rawnsley's Servants of the People (Hamish Hamilton pounds 17.99) produce in tandem the fullest sock-it-to-'em accounts so far of New Labour in power. Julia Langdon's Mo Mowlam (Little, Brown pounds 16.99) follows the same tradition. Anyone pining for Tory government can retreat to relive the old days with Michael Heseltine's Life in the Jungle (Hodder pounds 20), while those desiring their politics comparatively unexpurgated should relish Paddy Ashdown's Diaries (Allen Lane pounds 20); despite their idiosyncratic style, they could well comprise one of the most revealing documents of recent British history. Peter Hennessy's The Prime Minister (Allen Lane pounds 25) carries a tonnage of Whitehall insight on various regimes from Attlee to Blair. But the genuine beaut this year is former BBC man Martin Bell's An Accidental MP (Viking pounds 16.99). Bell's independent status combines with his reporting background to produce the political book of the year. He combines consistently outstanding prose with eagle-eyed, pithy observation. Heaven-sent for anyone wondering why on earth they should show up to vote come polling day.
Two memoirs by Joe Ashton and Peter Kilfoyle will raise Old Labour spirits. Between the gags, Ashton's Red Rose Blues (Macmillan pounds 17.99) is a lively account offering a serious plea for understanding on behalf of Labour MPs who soldiered through the grim 1980s. Kilfoyle's Left Behind (Politico's pounds 17.99) explains the inside tale of the rise and defeat of Derek Hatton's Militant. This is a book for Merseysiders and devotees of 1980s Labour politics: within those boundaries, it provides a fitting historical record of a vital stage in the party's return path to electability. Kilfoyle and others will also be cheered by Guiding Light (Politico's pounds 18.99), a collection of John Smith's speeches, impressively edited by Brian Brivati. With only one missed trick (many might have welcomed more material published from Smith's first decade in Parliament) the volume makes slightly eerie current reading. One perhaps for radicals who are too young to remember Smith but would welcome a taste of the pre-Blair party.
Those hoping for anything equally stirring from Charles Kennedy's The Future of Politics (HarperCollins pounds 17.99) will be vastly disappointed. Despite some well-executed self-deprecation - he admits being introduced to Nelson Mandela as Nigel Kennedy - this shrieks of its status as a great leader's text written by brainy bag- carriers whose most pertinent insights are removed by party elders before publication. …