The Racing Card

The Bet - Who got the most money from selling their book?

Julia Langdon: 2-1
Andrew Rawnsley: 4-1
Donald Macintyre: 100-1

I was laughing so much as I read extracts from Andrew Rawnsley's book on the way to Radio 5 Live that the taxi driver thought I was reading a rip-roaring comedy. The reason for my amusement was that someone had clearly told Rawnsley "porkies" and he was reporting them as facts. He obviously didn't want the truth to get in the way of a good story. But the real reason this and other books have to be sensational is not to sell copies of the tome itself, but to sell the rights to a paper, which will pay top money only for a good yarn. The Mail group is said to have a budget of £4m to buy up book rights. Not only did Rawnsley serialise his book in his own paper, the Observer, but he also sold the "Ecclestone" story to the Mail. No wonder he is now known among lobby hacks as "Mega bucks" Rawnsley. The reason he is not favourite in the political books stakes, however, is that Julia Langdon's effort on St Mo was sold exclusively to the Mail on Sunday for more than £100,000. It also had the advantage of having some real stories, rather than reheated gossip.

The real loser in the battle of the books is poor old Don Macintyre. His first effort on Peter Mandelson was trumped by our very own Paul Routledge, who revealed the "home loan" story in his Mandy book; he then saw his efforts "pulped" for containing a libel. His updated version reveals that Mandelson told Gordon Brown that he would back him to be the next leader. No doubt Gordon pleaded with him to back someone else. Unfortunately for Macintyre, his latest effort is serialised in the Independent, which pays "peanuts". Well, that's what Routledge told me, who was offered just £300 by the "Sindy" for his Betty Boothroyd book.

This article first appeared in the 25 September 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Women: still firmly in their place