It has long been a tradition that yesterday's politicians eke out their meagre living in retirement by penning their memoirs. In days gone by these were seldom-read tomes (I’m sad enough to possess a copy of Volume 1 of Richard Crossman’s), of interest only to the academic and the odd political anorak for the occasional insight into life behind the closed doors.
They didn’t make a fortune from them, but it gave them something to do in their dotage, and by the time they appeared, they did little harm to anyone. Harold Wilson famously managed to write his, and still die in what was described at the time as ‘genteel poverty’.
Generally, the authors had the decency to wait until those for whom they reserved their most toxic venom were safely dead and buried. Only then would they reveal their true feelings about their ‘friends’. Delay also gave a certain perspective to events, of course. And even self-justification can look more reasonable with a little bit of perspective.
That has all changed. Politicians have learned that they can get bigger advances by writing their memoirs early. And if they can make some sensational revelations to boot…. Truth is not a casualty of war alone.
But even against that backdrop, there’s something very new Labour about the way in which so many of them are lining up to line their pockets by revealing what they really think about each other. Levy, Cherie, Prescott… With friends like these, Labour don’t really need enemies any more. And poor old Brown looks like becoming the first serving Prime Minister to suffer a most ignominious fate – death by autobiography.