Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Book Review: Diaries 1992-1997 by Edwina Currie

In the late 1980s, Edwina Currie was the second most prominent woman in British politics - after Margaret Thatcher. When she was forced to resign after warning of the danger of salmonella infection in eggs, she was a national figure. These diaries provide an insight into politics at the top.

My Review: 
Edwina is unhappy that new party leader and former lover John Major fails to offer her a decent job in his new cabinet. She finds herself more interested now in becoming an MEP at the European Parliament and starts looking for a seat to stand in, while also concentrating on writing a new book.

She is annoyed at the lack of women in the top government jobs and gets stuck into John Major over that and his flip flopping attitude to the European issues that threaten to tear the party apart. Edwina is scathing about the weakness of his leadership on many issues, and is in despair about the attitude of her party which hardens towards people who are unemployed, single mothers, foreign workers, Europeans, and other vulnerable groups. She feels that the party is not doing enough to help these people or to show the positives of a strong union with Europe. Edwina is also annoyed by the distractions of Tory sleaze stories in the media, and is clear that some Tories are being set up by money seeking individuals who want their 15 minutes of fame.

Edwina is also watching what Labour are doing with the rise of New Labour under John Smith. At a time when the Tory infighting is at its worst and sleaze stories are making them look bad, family man Smith is starting to look like the best option for Prime Minister. She tries to persuade John Major to stand down for the good of the party to let a new leader settle in and be ready to take on Smith at the next election but he stubbornly refuses, which frustrates her as he is putting his own ambition before party interests. The shocking death of John Smith then brings the charisma of Tony Blair to the opposition and Edwina fears that unless Major steps down, Labour will win. She of course was right.

This book is not just about politics though. Edwina talks about her deteriorating relationship with her husband and her thoughts about divorce. She is also dealing with the demands of publishers as she tries to make some money out of her writing, and it gives a good look at the pressures and deadlines for an author and the demands of promoting your work. She gets involved in campaigning for recognition of Gulf War syndrome which the government seemed determined not to do anything about.

I'm left feeling that Edwina was a hard working MP who was kind of hung out to dry over the salmonella in eggs issue and was then in effect blacklisted from another decent government job when she was a very capable MP. We also tend to think of MPs as being well paid but this book really shows the financial pressure that caused Edwina to take up writing to pay the bills. It was another entertaining book.

Read October 2017.
3 stars. 

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