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.

Getty Images.
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Theresa May defies the right by maintaining 0.7% aid pledge

The Prime Minister offers rare continuity with David Cameron but vows to re-examine how the money is spent. 

From the moment Theresa May became Prime Minister, there was speculation that she would abandon the UK's 0.7 per cent aid pledge. She appointed Priti Patel, a previous opponent of the target, as International Development Secretary and repeatedly refused to extend the commitment beyond this parliament. When an early general election was called, the assumption was that 0.7 per cent would not make the manifesto.

But at a campaign event in her Maidenhead constituency, May announced that it would. "Let’s be clear – the 0.7 per cent commitment remains, and will remain," she said in response to a question from the Daily Telegraph's Kate McCann. But she added: "What we need to do, though, is to look at how that money will be spent, and make sure that we are able to spend that money in the most effective way." May has left open the possibility that the UK could abandon the OECD definition of aid and potentially reclassify defence spending for this purpose.

Yet by maintaining the 0.7 per cent pledge, May has faced down her party's right and title such as the Sun and the Daily Mail. On grammar schools, climate change and Brexit, Tory MPs have cheered the Prime Minister's stances but she has now upheld a key component of David Cameron's legacy. George Osborne was one of the first to praise May's decision, tweeting: "Recommitment to 0.7% aid target very welcome. Morally right, strengthens UK influence & was key to creating modern compassionate Conservatives".

A Conservative aide told me that the announcement reflected May's personal commitment to international development, pointing to her recent speech to International Development staff. 

But another Cameron-era target - the state pension "triple lock" - appears less secure. Asked whether the government would continue to raise pensions every year, May pointed to the Tories' record, rather than making any future commitment. The triple lock, which ensures pensions rise in line with average earnings, CPI inflation or by 2.5 per cent (whichever is highest), has long been regarded by some Conservatives as unaffordable. 

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has hinted that the Tories' "tax lock", which bars increases in income tax, VAT and National Insurance, could be similarly dropped. He said: "I’m a Conservative. I have no ideological desire to to raise taxes. But we need to manage the economy sensibly and sustainably. We need to get the fiscal accounts back into shape.

"It was self evidently clear that the commitments that were made in the 2015 manifesto did and do today constrain the ability to manage the economy flexibly."

May's short speech to workers at a GlaxoSmithKline factory was most notable for her emphasis that "the result is not certain" (the same message delivered by Jeremy Corbyn yesterday). As I reported on Wednesday, the Tories fear that the belief that Labour cannot win could reduce their lead as voters conclude there is no need to turn out. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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