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‘Politics is not a game. It is an earnest business’. (Winston Churchill)

If you’re a politician in Britain today everything is political. Even your holidays. Whether you even go on holiday. Who with (Silvio Berlusconi is not a good idea. Cf. Mr Blair). What you wear (sandals and shorts? You mean, politicians have legs?!). Where you go on holiday (Europe=in favour of the EU; Scotland=in favour of Scottish Independence; the Caribbean = your salary is too high!).

And, most importantly, what you read on holiday. Books mean brains (do you have them or do you not?). Then there are the tricky political issues of whether to read said books in digital or print (do you give support to traditional booksellers or trend-setting eBooks?); fiction or non-fiction; paperback or hardback (are you lightweight or serious?). But definitely no books featuring sex and no library books. Many libraries in the UK have been closed after Local Council cuts. Reading a book for a British politician is a political minefield. But strangely they still insist on doing it. So, every summer – along with the acres of newsprint dedicated to Books Recommended by the Famous and Infamous (writers, celebrities, show-offs) for us, the Humble Populace* – there are lists provided by some Central Office somewhere of the books our main political leaders – all men! – are packing in their beach bags.

The idea is, of course, that we judge their taste, personality, political direction, intellectual weight and qualities of leadership on these lists. However, there’s one major problem. Most of the year our politicians try not to be seen with books at all, or indeed to be engaging in any cultural acts. The arts are not vote-winners in the UK. David Cameron is taken more seriously if he attends a football match or goes to the pub. Angela Merkel in Germany may be allowed to indulge her passion for Wagner (and football!) but not here in Britain. And with a British election coming up in 2015, this summer’s list for the Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband – and Summer Books Newcomer, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage! – is a political hot potato. So what are they reading this summer?

My heart goes out to them. If you look at the list – see below – you’ll see books about war, politics, lies, spies and the European Union. After a year of Gaza, Syria and Ukraine, and political infighting in the EU and reshuffles on the home turf, surely they need to relax? And with all the recent heavyweight ceremonies commemorating the centenary of 1914, surely they deserve a break from world war and need to relax, curl up with a good thriller or romance? Well, no. Bar a few novels this is, as Winston Churchill once said, ‘an earnest business’.

The Prime Minister has packed the autobiography of Tory peer Baroness Trumpington (aka ’Trumpers’ or as the Daily Mail describes her, ‘the gameshow-loving, Nazi code-breaking, sex pest-defying peer who (literally) stuck two fingers up at convention’), as well as a book about Gavrilo Princip, who shot World War One into existence. Additionally, Mr Cameron’s choice of the true story of Master Spy Kim Philby’s betrayal of his best friend, entitled ‘Spy among Friends’, by Ben Macintyre, is, according to Tory MP Keith Simpson (in an interview with The Sunday Times) – who compiles the annual MPs’ summer reading list – ‘(a book) all about friendship and deception… whether he’s (Mr.Cameron’s) trying to send a message to George Osborne and Boris Johnson, I don’t know.” (=The Treasurer and Mayor of London respectively, and potential Top Tory contenders for the Top Job.)

Mr Cameron this year is in Portugal with his family. He’s often in Cornwall. Both are favourite haunts of his (=supporting 2 of the poorest regions in Europe?) and both places have lots of fish. This means that every year the official prime ministerial summer photo is of the PM with his wife and fish (a gift for political wits and pundits).

Nick Clegg holidays in Spain. His wife is Spanish (=Exotic!). And on his holiday this year the leader of the flagging Liberal Democrats is picking up tips from 3 non-fiction tomes, ‘The Cruel Victory’ by the former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown; ‘An Officer and a Spy’ (about Alfred Dreyfus!) by Robert Harris, and, ‘Life on Air’, by the National Treasure nature-loving BBC broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough. Mr. Clegg is also reading 2 novels by Edward Docx and Isabel Wolff. Fiction is good for the soul, I believe, so maybe there’s hope for Mr. Clegg yet. And he speaks foreign languages which is also A Good Thing in my eyes, but not very English. (No, I am not making any political statements here!)

Ed Miliband, the Labour Leader, is practising his French in France. He’s also reading ‘The Silkworm’ by JK Rowling, significantly a supporter of the Labour Party and author of ‘Harry Potter’ but with this novel writing under her pen name Robert Galbraith. Mr. Miliband has also packed a book on the cities of the British Empire penned by shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, and the brilliant novel of the American South, ‘The Garden of Good and Evil’ by John Berendt.

Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party is, unsurprisingly, reading ‘The Trouble with Europe’ by Roger Bootle and ‘Too Close to Call’, about the Maastricht Treaty and written by Lord Hill, the EU Commissioner. Mr Farage, so he wants us to think, is a man of the people and likes English pubs. No fish, but beer.

So, who will YOU vote for?

 

Here’s the British Political Leaders’ Holiday Reading List 2014 (NB. Scotland, Ireland and Wales excluded due to blog-length not political bent.)

David Cameron A Spy Among Friends, by Ben MacIntyre Coming up Trumps: A Memoir, Baroness Trumpington The Trigger, Tim Butcher The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell

Ed Miliband The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt Ten Cities that Made an Empire, Tristram Hunt

Nick Clegg The Cruel Victory, Paddy Ashdown Pravda, Edward Docx Ghostwritten, Isabel Wolff An Officer and a Spy, Robert Harris

Nigel Farage The Trouble with Europe, Roger Bootle Aisne 1914, Paul Kendall Lifeboat VC, Ian Skidmore You’re the Doctor – You Decide, Graham Matthews Too Close to Call, Jonathan Hill and Sarah Hogg

And finally – from me ….. *Okay, I admit I gave you my very own summer book recommendations cf. my Blog on July 14th.

PS. Politicians are permitted to like and read Shakespeare because he is a National Treasure.

PPS. Whatever happened to Thomas Piketty?

Rosie Goldsmith

Rosie Goldsmith is a British multi-media journalist with specialist knowledge of arts and international affairs. She has worked across the world on some of BBC Radio’s flagship programmes, speaks several languages and chairs and presents public events. She is member of the ELit Literaturehouse Europe's board.

Rosie Goldsmith ist eine britische Multi-Media Journalistin. Sie ist im Bereich der Kunst und Internationalen Angelegenheiten spezialisiert und hat auf der ganzen Welt an führenden Sendungen von BBC Radio gearbeitet. Außerdem spricht sie mehrere Sprachen, präsentiert und sitzt diversen öffentlichen Veranstaltungen vor und ist Vorstandsmitglied bei ELit Literaturhaus Europa.

Rosie Goldsmith is a British multi-media journalist with specialist knowledge of arts and international affairs. She has worked across the world on some of BBC Radio’s flagship programmes, speaks several languages and chairs and presents public events. She is member of the ELit Literaturehouse Europe's board.

Rosie Goldsmith ist eine britische Multi-Media Journalistin. Sie ist im Bereich der Kunst und Internationalen Angelegenheiten spezialisiert und hat auf der ganzen Welt an führenden Sendungen von BBC Radio gearbeitet. Außerdem spricht sie mehrere Sprachen, präsentiert und sitzt diversen öffentlichen Veranstaltungen vor und ist Vorstandsmitglied bei ELit Literaturhaus Europa.

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