Magazine article The Spectator

No Time for Bogus Pieties

Magazine article The Spectator

No Time for Bogus Pieties

Article excerpt

Confessions of a Eurosceptic by David Heathcoat-Amory Pen & Sword, £19,99, pp. 168, ISBN 9781781590485 This is the shortest political memoir I have ever been sent for review. It is a marvel of concision: 27 years in the Commons set down in only 168 pages. Can any Spectator reader point to a briefer example of the genre?

Yet I confess that I opened Confessions of a Eurosceptic with a degree of trepidation. David Heathcoat-Amory's style owes nothing to that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

He writes with patrician flatness. It would not occur to him to ingratiate himself with his readers by purporting to tell us everything about his inner life. Not that he dodges deep emotion: the four pages in which he recounts the suicide of his son, Matthew, are harrowing.

In his account of the various political transactions in which he has been concerned, especially the defence of our democracy against the European Union, the facts are allowed to speak for themselves. This makes for a much more readable book than might have been expected. One reason for its brevity is that its author has no time for the bogus pieties which make so many politicians sound so dull and untrustworthy.

I finished it at a sitting, while my wife was out at some socialistic caucus. It begins with two paragraphs of family history:

Any other writer would have told us more about his uncle. HeathcoatAmory just remarks, with a gleam of humour, that after he entered the House in 1983 as Member for Wells, Margaret Thatcher had 'a slightly disconcerting habit of calling me "Derry". . . I eventually corrected her, and she then stopped calling me anything at all'.

Mrs Thatcher learned his name when she offered him junior ministerial office at the Department of the Environment, which in turn gave Heathcoat-Amory his first experience of European government. He went to Brussels to negotiate various environmental directives: 'It was all very private and technical, and I could see that being above nations also meant being above democracy.' How lucid he is about Europe. In a few words he tells us almost all we need to know. He says of the German politicians he first got to know as a Foreign Office minister in the 1990s: 'They had a weakness for rules, however unrealistic or unenforceable. …

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