Today I have released details of the title and cover of my forthcoming biography of David Cameron – but the book won’t be published until the autumn.
Call Me Dave, the title of the book, will have to compete with another book about Cameron by the respected historian Anthony Seldon. He has a long track record of producing detailed tomes about modern prime ministers, usually with a great deal of help from the top. His forthcoming volume on Cameron at Number 10 will be no different.
I understand Seldon is rushing his book out to avoid a clash with mine. Apparently he is being encouraged to do so by Number 10. Having originally planned to publish during party conference season, I am told that he now intends to publish at the end of July. Number 10 is so eager to assist that aides have been reading and correcting draft chapters. It will be a pleasant surprise if his book is not merely a sanitised account.
Setting aside the wisdom of publishing a political book when even Westminster is tired of politics and packing up for summer recess, Seldon’s haste to “get in first” is curious. After all, we are not trying to do the same thing. Like a number of his previous books, his is an account of Cameron’s administration, which begins when the Tory leader takes office in May 2010. Mine is a life story. I do not intend to give a blow by blow account of what has been achieved in every Whitehall department, though of course I will take some account of policy delivery. However, my focus is on character: what made the man; how he got to the top; and how he used his power.
I have made it clear that my book, a collaboration with former Sunday Times Political Editor Isabel Oakeshott, will be objective. Nonetheless Cameron is suspicious. It is no secret that he dislikes the prospect of what he dismissively labels “the Ashcroft book”. We have tried, and failed, to persuade him to talk. While Seldon has had full co-operation from Number 10 (I am told “everybody” – from Ed Llewellyn, Cameron’s chief of staff, down – has been encouraged to make time for the historian) the Prime Minister has shut the doors to us. Letters to relatives requesting interviews have gone unanswered, and senior aides know he does not want them to help. Some individuals who were willing to talk to us in principle but wanted Downing Street’s blessing were repeatedly stonewalled. Cameron’s strategy appears to be: put up the shutters, then rubbish the book on the basis that we have had no access.
Happily, many of his friends and colleagues disagree with this approach. For all his disapproval, the vast majority of those we have approached have agreed to talk, including a number of Number 10 insiders who have assisted amid utmost secrecy. Some of those who like and admire the prime minister struggle to see the sense in blocking positive contributions.
Call Me Dave will be entertaining, revelatory and insightful. The prime minister may not like some things, but I hope he will acknowledge that it is fair. It is intended to be. It will be published this autumn. We eagerly await Seldon’s account, and will incorporate, where relevant, any interesting highlights. Meanwhile, follow this link to order a copy of Call Me Dave – the unauthorised biography of David Cameron.
Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith
By Matthew Baker and Simon Danczuk
Sunday Times Political Book of the Year returns in paperback with exclusive, new material. In November 2012, Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk outed Smith in Parliament as a serial child abuser. In this devastating exposé, he describes how Smith used his profile to groom and sexually abuse young boys. This updated edition of the book that sparked a criminal investigation, asks urgent questions of those who allowed Smith to prey on young children for decades.
Pitch Black: The Story of Black British Footballers
By Emy Onuora
A compelling insight into the motivations, thoughts, ideas and experiences of black British footballers. Emy Onuora has interviewed over thirty current and former black footballers in order to produce this frank, controversial and definitive book on the subject.
Journeyman: One Man's Odyssey Through the Lower Leagues of English Football
By Ben Smith
A real insight into what it is like playing season after season, with no financial safety net, in the unfashionable far reaches of the English game. From Reading to Yeovil, Weymouth to Hereford, Shrewsbury to Southend, Ben Smith offers unique insight into the not-always-so-beautiful game.
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The best part of writing this book was the research.
At a charter school in California - the equivalent of a free school in Britain - I got the chance to talk to some of the children. The headmaster generously arranged for me to speak to a mix of them, not just the high achievers. One boy right in front of me was bigger than the others. He did not smile. He told me he had been held back a year because he had not done well enough. His opinion of the school was grudging. It was 'not great, but good'. I then asked what difference going to this school had made to his life compared to how things would have been if he had continued going to a regular 'public' - state-run - school.
"Juvie," he mumbled.
I could not hear him properly. I asked him and the others what he meant. They said he meant that if he had not gone to this school, he would have ended up in juvenile hall. From there, of course, he might well have graduated to prison .
In other words, this school had saved him from severely damaging his own life and committing crimes against others. For any school to be able to achieve that is terrific. His words were telling, first-hand evidence: gold dust for an author.
There were times of pure pleasure, too. In Warsaw, an expert on pensions I wanted to interview told me to meet her at the Blikle Café. So I went along - rather early - and found this utterly charming, old-fashioned café where I had a pot of superb Yunnan tea while waiting for the appointed time. In due course, the expert came with a friend of hers who was also a pensions expert. They settled down together on a banquette and - this is going to sound bizarre - we had a really jolly and amusing discussion of pensions in Poland. I guess it shows how much I had got into the subject. For example, the army and the police had obtained absurdly generous pension terms. The advantages they had obtained amounted to an abuse of everyone else. But as I expressed astonishment at some of the things that have happened there, my companions were cheerful and wryly amused. It was just normal for them.
I visited eleven countries in all. Many people I met and things I saw did not make it into the book. One was a meeting with a woman who works as a cleaner in a hospital in New Zealand. My guide and I picked her up in a car. She got into the back and we were engulfed by the smell of cigarette smoke surrounding her. We went to a McDonalds and she told me she was the daughter of a lone mother but had ended up being looked after by her grandmother. Her grandmother did not like her, though, and had dumped her in the middle of nowhere, aged 14. She had become a street girl doing anything and everything necessary to survive. I learned that she herself was unfortunately repeating some of the same pattern, being a lone, unmarried mother herself with children by two fathers. But the good news was that she had got the hospital cleaning job and was beginning to get her life together as a result. The conversation gave rise to conflicting emotions: sympathy for her because she was treated so horribly as a child and concern for her children.
Sometimes my prejudices were confirmed and sometimes I had to re-think my views. What is certain is that I found a world being changed by welfare states. People's lives are being transformed. I found it fascinating.
The Welfare of Nations is now available on our two week price promise.
Watch an introduction to The Welfare of Nations on YouTube.
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The Purple Revolution: The Year That Changed Everything
By Nigel Farage
There is no denying that Farage and his Kippers have changed the face of British politics, and this new book offers an insight into how they've done just that. Read the untold story of UKIP's journey from protest vote to key political contender. Written with characteristic wit and humour, Nigel Farage's new book is already proving to be a bestseller.