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

2013

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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The dog at the end of the lead may be small, but in fact what I’m walking is a hound of love

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel.

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel. I seem to have become a temporary co-owner of an enthusiastic Chorkie. A Chorkie, in case you’re not quite up to speed with your canine crossbreeds, is a mixture of a chihuahua and a Yorkshire Terrier, and while my friend K— busies herself elsewhere I am looking after this hound.

This falls squarely into the category of Things I Never Thought I’d Do. I’m a cat person, taking my cue from their idleness, cruelty and beauty. Dogs, with their loyalty, their enthusiasm and their barking, are all a little too much for me, even after the first drink of the day. But the dog is here, and I am in loco parentis, and it is up to me to make sure that she is looked after and entertained, and that there is no repetition of the unfortunate accident that occurred outside my housemate’s room, and which needed several tissues and a little poo baggie to make good.

As it is, the dog thinks I am the bee’s knees. To give you an idea of how beeskneesian it finds me, it is licking my feet as I write. “All right,” I feel like saying to her, “you don’t have to go that far.”

But it’s quite nice to be worshipped like this, I have decided. She has also fallen in love with the Hovel, and literally writhes with delight at the stinky cushions on the sofa. Named after Trude Fleischmann, the lesbian erotic photographer of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, she has decided, with admirable open-mindedness, that I am the Leader of the Pack. When I take the lead, K— gets a little vexed.

“She’s walking on a loose lead, with you,” K— says. “She never does that when I’m walking her.” I don’t even know what that means, until I have a think and work it out.

“She’s also walking to heel with you,” K— adds, and once again I have to join a couple of mental dots before the mists part. It would appear that when it comes to dogs, I have a natural competence and authority, qualities I had never, not even in my most deranged flights of self-love, considered myself to possess in any measurable quantity at all.

And golly, does having a dog change the relationship the British urban flâneur has with the rest of society. The British, especially those living south of Watford, and above all those in London, do not recognise other people’s existence unless they want to buy something off them or stop them standing on the left of the sodding escalator, you idiot. This all changes when you have a dog with you. You are now fair game for any dog-fancier to come up to you and ask the most personal questions about the dog’s history and genealogy. They don’t even have to have a dog of their own; but if you do, you are obliged by law to stop and exchange dog facts.

My knowledge of dog facts is scant, extending not much further beyond them having a leg at each corner and chasing squirrels, so I leave the talking to K—, who, being a friendly sort who could probably talk dog all day long if pressed, is quite happy to do that. I look meanwhile in a kind of blank wonder at whichever brand of dog we’ve just encountered, and marvel not only at the incredible diversity of dog that abounds in the world, but at a realisation that had hitherto escaped me: almost half of London seems to have one.

And here’s the really interesting thing. When I have the leash, the city looks at me another way. And, specifically, the young women of the city. Having reached the age when one ceases to be visible to any member of the opposite sex under 30, I find, all of a sudden, that I exist again. Women of improbable beauty look at Trude, who looks far more Yorkie than chihuahua, apart from when she does that thing with the ears, and then look at me, and smile unguardedly and unironically, signalling to me that they have decided I am a Good Thing and would, were their schedules not preventing them, like to chat and get to know me and the dog a bit better.

I wonder at first if I am imagining this. I mention it to K—.

“Oh yes,” she says, “it’s a thing. My friend P-J regularly borrows her when he wants to get laid. He reckons he’s had about 12 shags thanks to her in the last six months. The problems only arise when they come back again and notice the dog isn’t there.”

I do the maths. Twelve in six months! That’s one a fortnight. An idea begins to form in my mind. I suppose you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what it is. But no. I couldn’t. Could I?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism