What have MPs been reading this summer?

Alan Johnson's childhood memoir, Charles Moore's biography of Thatcher and back issues of the New Statesman.

Freed from the confines of Westminster, what books have MPs taken to the beach to inspire them this summer? ComRes polls them every year to find out and has published its results today. 

Top of the list is Charles Moore's biography of Margaret Thatcher (reviewed by David Owen for the NS) followed by Alan Johnson's childhood memoir This Boy, Andrew Adonis's account of the hung parliament negotiations, 5 Days in May (which I reviewed - it's excellent), Jesse Norman's biography of Edmund Burke (reviewed by John Gray) and David Kynaston's Modernity Britain (reviewed by Mark Damazer). 

Tory MPs, perhaps unsurprisingly, plumped for Thatcher (their conference will open with a tribute to her), and Burke, while their Labour counterparts took Johnson and Adonis away with them. The Lib Dems, a free-thinking bunch, "expressed no clear choice" but slightly ahead of the rest was Tony Juniper’s What has nature ever done for us? (a reminder that they haven't forgotten about climate change even if much of the rest of Westminster has). 

Other notable titles which didn’t make it into the top lists include the House of Cards trilogy, The Summons by John Grisham and, happily, back issues of the New Statesman ("Haven't had enough time to read them for a few months"). Below are the results in full. 

All MPs


1. Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not For Turning - Charles Moore

2. This Boy: A Memoir of a Childhood - Alan Johnson

3. 5 Days in May: The Coalition and Beyond - Andrew Adonis 

4. Edmund Burke: Philosopher, Politician, Prophet - Jesse Norman

5. Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-1959 - David Kynaston

Conservative MPs

1. Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not For Turning - Charles Moore

2. Edmund Burke: Philosopher, Politician, Prophet - Jesse Norman

3. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn / Defeat into Victory – Sir William Slim / John Bright: Statesman, Orator, Agitator - Bill Cash

Labour MPs

1. This Boy: A Memoir of a Childhood - Alan Johnson

2. 5 Days in May: The Coalition and Beyond - Andrew Adonis 

3. Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-1959 - David Kynaston

Lib Dem MPs

1. What Has Nature Ever Done For Us: How Money Really Does Grow On Trees - Tony Juniper

Alan Johnson's This Boy was the most-read book among Labour MPs and the second most-read among all MPs. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood