Monday, 7 December 2009

a reader writes

a review of my book by a recent reader

The One by Jane Griffiths

Politics, as somebody once said, is like making sausages in that the public should only see the end product. The One by former Reading East MP Jane Griffiths tears the veil from the sausage factory of Reading Labour politics.

The outline of the story itself would be already familiar to those acquainted with workings of Reading Labour Party & who followed subsequent events through the media. In the 1997 general election both the previously Tory held Reading seats fell to Labour. Reading East was taken by Jane Griffiths, a Borough Labour Councillor, while former Deputy Council Leader Martin Salter triumphed in Reading West.

Before long, Jane fell out big time with Martin & his Reading Party/Council clique. A campaign was instigated to first undermine & then oust the Reading East MP. The first de-selection attempt failed in 2000, the second succeeded in 2004 (the first de-selection of a sitting Labour MP in a decade). As a result of the infighting, the Tories narrowly re-took Reading East in 2005.

The One is a fluent & insightful fleshing out of these events. While a casual reader may be tempted to dismiss Jane’s allegations as paranoia, they definitely ring true for anyone familiar with Mr Salter’s Bisexual shenanigans (the latter not being covered by the book!)

For example, during the period when the two shared a Westminster office, Jane accuses Martin of spying on her mail for the benefit of the whips. This fits with the arrangement that Mr Salter, while Deputy Council Leader, had with the then Council Chief Executive Geoff Filkin that he would see Labour Councillors’ mail.

While hardly skimping on length & detail at nearly 300 A4 manuscript pages, there are still several tantalising passages where a curious reader might be left wanting more.

For instance, Martin’s resignation from the Council in 1996 to concentrate on General Election campaigning. Jane tells us that that this was to dodge the flak from a Council corruption scandal without spelling out his precise involvement.

Or former Councillor & Reading Party Chair Mike Price’s decamping to Australia to escape an unspecified scandal.

Perhaps most interesting of all, the allegation that Martin claimed £1000 per month between 1997 & 2001 in Parliamentary allowances for a non-existent property but this was not breaking any laws or rules in force at the time!

The Reading Labour cronyism described at times becomes comic farce. Such as the work for producing Reading Labour literature being given to a PR firm run by former Reading Party Chair John Howarth, leading to hilarious gaffes such as “Your better off with Labour”.
Jane’s comments on national & international issues (such as her still unashamed support for the Iraq war) would take up more than another review.

Although something worth mentioning is the author’s self-declared feminism permeating the book (she describes her Reading Labour enemies as “the boys” although they were not all male). Jane recalls how, after her de-selection, the Government Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong, laughed in her face. Something that feminists seem to ignore is how some women, once they get into positions of power, can be worse tyrants than men, just as much to other women. Although this of course, is a quite a separate matter.

As a tale told well of political treachery, The One is well worth reading by anyone with an interest in politics in general, & Reading politics in particular.


Anonymous said...

"While hardly skimping on length & detail at nearly 300 A4 manuscript pages, there are still several tantalising passages where a curious reader might be left wanting more."

How true, how very true.....

Anonymous said...

Hilary Armstrong is a disgrace to the name of Hillary - and, thank god - does not use the dditional l.

Hilary Armstrong is a disgrace ot the name of Hillary and, thank God - does not use the additional l.