What’s your favourite book?
Impossible to say. Middlemarch, perhaps, or The Iliad or A Fine Balance. I finally got round to reading For Whom the Bell Tolls the other day, and loved it.
What’s your least favourite book?
I wasn’t a huge fan of The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud, but I fell for the hype.
What’s your favourite political biography?
The Last Lion, William Manchester’s unfinished two-volume biography of Churchill, is an utterly gripping read. Ditto Robert Caro’s 30-year-long The Years of Lyndon Johnson. We can only pray Caro makes it to the end.
Who would you like to write a political biography of?
I’m actually writing a biography of Edmund Burke at the moment, for publication next year by HarperCollins. He has his faults, but also a very rare quality in a politician. Overall, the more you know him, the more you admire him.
Who would you like to write your biography?
It could only be that great historian Tristram Hunt MP, though he’ll have to yield to his inner Tory first!
Name the most significant book in the last 10 years.
The Harry Potter series. I suspect it’s done more to improve children’s literacy than any number of government projects.
What’s your favourite holiday read?
I’m a complete sucker for PG Wodehouse, so it would have to be The Code of the Woosters, which has perfect wit, balance, and a sly dash of social commentary.
What’s the most inspiring book you have ever read?
Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. Louis Armstrong is one of my heroes. As well as being the greatest trumpeter ever, he was a prolific writer, with an inimitable prose style. It describes his journey from the red-light district to his first breakthrough as a jazzman.
What’s your favourite political novel?
The Last Hurrah by Edwin O’Connor, for its magnificent portrayal of Irish machine politics in Boston.
Your favourite book by a politician?
Maybe The Way We Live Now by Trollope, or Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples, or anything by Burke.
What fictional character would you be?
Gnasher from Dennis the Menace. One loving owner, lots of fun, no need to worry about politics…
This article is from the May issue of Total Politics