January 10, 2010 11:27
LAST night was extraordinary, and this morning it just gets better. Everyone is talking about Peter Watt’s sensational memoirs, which I ghost wrote for him – and I’m not surprised.
When I first met Peter nine months ago, I knew I had hit journalistic gold. Here was a man who had enjoyed the highest level of access inside the Labour government, who had worked closely with Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and other towering figures in the Labour party on a daily basis - and crucially, he was ready to reveal what really went on behind the scenes.
It didn’t matter that Peter wasn’t a household name. It was not about who he was, but what he knew. Yes, there have been books about the Labour regime by famous insiders like Alastair Campbell and John Prescott. But they were never prepared to risk the consequences, political and personal, of telling us the embarrassing and often ugly truth about life behind closed doors at Labour HQ and in no10.
Watt was treated appallingly by Brown, and had no such reservations. He knew where the bodies were buried, and he was prepared to show us. After being publicly condemned by Brown despite his years of loyalty, then forced into silence by a police investigation, it was finally time for him to have his say.
Crucially, Peter understood what I needed to make his story really fly: colourful and irreverent anecdotes like his ghastly account of a dinner party he and his wife attended at no10. He was funny and self deprecating, and I knew we had to write this book.
A number of publishers shied away from the project. After all, the received wisdom is that political books don’t sell – or do they? Iain Dale at Biteback understood the massive potential. In the end, the book was the subject of a bitter bidding war. Biteback’s faith in this book is paying off.
Isabel Oakeshott is Deputy Politcal Editor of The Sunday Times
January 10, 2010 10:36
Inside Out is a book that we have not previously been able to trumpet, due to it's serialisation, beginning today, in the Mail on Sunday. Excerpts from this extraordinary book will appear in the MoS over the next three weeks. The book is quite extraordinary and is published on 25th January. As I write this, Michael White is on Sky News, where it is top story, calling the book a serious indictment of Gordon Brown and commenting, "Revenge is a dish best eaten cold".
Inside Out is the ultimate insider exposé: a no-holds-barred account of the spectacular decline of the most effective party political machine of modern times and an intimate viewpoint onto the personalities at the heart of government, including the country’s two most recent Prime Ministers. Watt is the first insider to break ranks since Brown entered No. 10 and his revelations will send shockwaves through Westminster.
January 06, 2010 10:32
For many years in Libya spectator sports were outlawed. In a strange exercise of logic, Gaddafi felt professional sportsmen stole the benefits of physical exercise from their fans, labelling sporting clubs ‘rapacious social instruments, not unlike the dictatorial political instruments which monopolise power to the exclusion of the people’. Fans were ‘a multitude of fools… practising lethargy’. Football clubs were only allowed after Gaddafi’s son, Saadi, personally requested his father relax these restrictions. Since then, Saadi has gone on to become a long-serving member of the Libyan national team, although, his abilities have often been questioned. National Libyan team coach, Franco Scoglio, who was eventually dismissed for putting Saadi on the bench once too often, remarked of him, ‘as a footballer he’s useless. With him in the squad we were losing. When he left, we won’. Similarly, it’s claimed that during his career with Libyan team, al-Ittihad, the opposition would turn and run away rather than tackle Gaddafi’s son. However, Gaddafi junior went on to play for several prestigious Serie A clubs in Italy, signing for Perugia in 2003, to Udinese in 2005-06 and to Sampdoria in 2006-07. In all, he took to the field twice during his entire Italian career, and rumours circulated that Italian clubs were keen to profit from Libyan sponsorship. Indeed, Italian football has certainly profited from the Gaddafi connection. In 2002, at Saadi’s prompting, his father bought a £14 million stake in Juventus.
In the Pakistani city of Lahore, the stadium which hosts international cricket matches is named after Colonel Gaddafi, in gratitude for the aid he sent to West Pakistan in its 1971 civil war with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Gaddafi’s firmly entrenched place in the popular culture of cricket-obsessed South Asia suggests the extent of his involvement in the continent.
Seeking Gaddafi by Daniel Kawczynski is available from 8th February 2010
December 22, 2009 09:40
The Irish Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2009
HENRY KELLY BOOK OF THE DAY: Delane’s War: How Front-line Reports from the Crimean War brought down the British Government , By Tim Coates, Biteback, 259pp £19.99
EARLY IN this fascinating book, Tim Coates tells us what he’s up to: “The four months in 1854 and 1855 about which the pages of this book are to be filled are like items in a treasured box. One might picture this as a little casket upon the top of which is painted the picture of John Delane at his writing desk . . . persons named and a number of others made a contribution to the contents and when the lid is opened their efforts will be available to see.”
John Delane became editor of the London Times at the age of 21. His family lived in Bracknell, Berkshire, where their neighbour was John Walter, the wealthy man who owned the newspaper. Walter’s father had employed Delane’s father as financial manager and when the young Delane showed intelligence and energy, Walter gave him a job.
In almost the blink of an eye, Delane was telling a friend: “By Jove, what do you think has happened? I am editor of the Times !”
Branches of the Delane family were originally from Kilkenny and Roscommon. When Coates catches up with the family it is the journalist who takes his attention. And it is Delane, not just as a writer himself but as an editor with foresight, who saw to it that English Victorian society came to know that its government had sent an ill-prepared, poorly equipped army to war in a remote land.
No, this is not Afghanistan today, this is the Crimea 150 years ago. Delane himself never set foot on the battlefield, but had the good sense to send as reporter a man who had already annoyed the establishment with his reports from Ireland of the 1840s famines. This was an Irish barrister, William Howard Russell.
Russell was the same age as Delane and had impressed him with his humane style from Ireland.
Delane’s view had been that, to be the greatest newspaper, the Times had to have on its staff the best writers, academics and analysts to be found.
Although he was a lawyer, Russell had a brilliant observer’s eye and had so annoyed the English establishment with his famine reports that they referred to him in society as “that wretched fat little Irishman”.
To read Delane’s War is to be led by Coates into a Victorian England where Dickens was writing for the Times and Florence Nightingale was demanding medical supplies for her work in the Crimea; where the industrial revolution, Arctic exploration, the development of electrical phenomena and telegraphic communication were the talking points of the time.
That casket on the top of the desk which Coates keeps an eye on through this book opens to reveal Raglan, Cardigan and Lord Aberdeen, then home secretary who from the outset was the man who provided Delane with accounts of what was going on in government. A home secretary briefing the leading newspaper of the day against his own government? Now there’s a thing.
At the heart of Delane’s War is the awfulness of the Crimea and its most infamous event, the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Coates gives us Russell’s despatch, a description of “the most terrible events in military history”.
Delane’s leading article based on his field reporter’s work was unforgiving. You read it and shudder, remembering maybe that, bearing in mind the mess we are all in today, the only thing men learn from history is that men learn nothing from history.
Hats off and balaclavas too for Coates: a brilliant read with insight, not just into terrible war, but into Victorian society as a whole
December 11, 2009 12:34
On Wednesday this week Biteback's MD Iain Dale and I were in conference at a hotel near Slough made famous by the England football team, presenting next year’s titles to the tireless men and women of Compass DSA charged with getting them into the book shops.
As usual, Compass, led by the redoubtable Alan Jessop and Derek Searle, gave us the benefit of their considerable experience and some valuable feedback from the trade itself, in return for highlights of next year’s crop.
Among the books discussed, How to Cut Public Spending (and still win an election) by Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Listening to his somewhat anaemic Pre-Budget Report on the way back to London I couldn’t help but feel this is a book Chancellor Alistair Darling might make use of on title alone. Also in the mix were memoirs by political figures as diverse as Labour’s Peter Kilfoyle and Nigel Farage of UKIP. Alongside these, some serious political analysis by writers as eminent as The Times’ Peter Riddell, whose Politics: The Case for the Defence will offer a timely and considered re-examination of the British political process; and former BBC political correspondent Nick Jones, whose Campaign 2010 will tell the story of next year’s general election in the voice of one of Westminster’s most seasoned observers.
In April we are publishing Mary K. Blewitt’s You Alone May Live. Mary lost fifty members of her family in the Rwandan genocide – a hundred days of state-sanctioned killing that claimed the lives of up to a million Rwandan Tutsi. The book is harrowing but important, and will come out to coincide with the anniversary of the genocide. The title comes from the story of a woman who was raped in front of her own family, who were then murdered. Her rapist told her, “You alone may live, so that you will die of sadness.” This was a common experience for woman survivors. Mary herself is a remarkable person who has used her experiences to help others. She began the Survivors Fund (SURF) to help Rwandan survivors and was later awarded the OBE.
In July we are set to publish the first part of Michael Smith’s epic history of MI6 and Britain’s external intelligence community. Mick is defence correspondent on the Sunday Times as well as a former intelligence officer and best-selling author of The Spying Game and Station X. He is an expert on espionage and security, with unparalleled contacts within the UK’s intelligence and Special Forces communities. Six: The Real James Bonds will be an exhaustive, anecdote-filled biography of the most secretive of Britain’s secret services.
Lover of the Russian queen? Possibly. Russia’s greatest love machine? Difficult to say, but what’s beyond argument is that love for Rasputin himself was by no means universal. In his book Rasputin: the role of the British secret service in his torture and murder, former Met police Commander Richard Cullen reveals how jealous elements within the Russian court conspired with the pre-cursor of MI6 to have the mad monk eliminated.
Finally, we discussed the mysterious “Book X”, a title potentially so explosive that everything about it must be kept under wraps until it comes out in January next year! All told, 2010 promises to be an exciting and important year for Biteback Publishing. Bring it on!
Sales & Marketing Manager