CAN politics ever be exciting, thrilling? It can be and it is when it's written about with the verve and style of Tim Newark.
This book produced in me sharp intakes of breath and frequent bouts of laughing out loud. It's an account of how the British public got fed up with the main political parties and became attracted to outsiders and mavericks: Nigel Farage and Robert Kilroy-Silk to name but two.
We can all remember Farage's plane crash on the day of the general election in 2010, but I didn't know before I read Newark's no-holds-barred version of contemporary politics what a reckless and accident-prone life Farage has led from his early gargantuan appetite for booze - which he has since moderated - to his being knocked down in the street and breaking nearly all his bones, only to discover, about the same time, that he had testicular cancer.
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That today he is restored to rude health and hurls himself around Europe with the pace and stamina of two men betokens something approaching a minor miracle. Farage's decades-long feud, slanging match and (one suspects) near fisticuffs with Alan Sked - the snooty, acidic academic who founded UKIP - are lovingly and deliciously detailed.
But there are wilder sketches than even these. There's a telling pen-picture of the awful George Galloway, who loudly regretted the fall of the USSR and backed the butcher Saddam Hussein. Galloway stood in Bethnal Green as a candidate - don't laugh - for the Respect party and won. Respect was founded by - let me be discreet - the eccentric lefty Green George Monbiot, referred to throughout Fleet Street as "Moonbat".
Robert Kilroy-Silk, host of the TV audience-participation show Kilroy was enthusiastically welcomed into UKIP as a celebrity with clout - but it all ended in tears when Kilroy-Silk had designs on becoming its leader. Big dust-up followed and Robert went off to form his own ironically-named party, Veritas.
Farage keeps popping up. Michael Howard, when leader of the Conservative party, tried to neutralise the threat from UKIP by offering Nigel the safe Tory seat of Tunbridge Wells: a bribe with strings attached: specifically, that Farage must agree to dropping his insistence that Britain leave the EU. Nigel was gleefully disgusted and turned down Howard's offer.
Newark's pacey, racy gossip about political murky doings frequently made me chortle, and it also cleared up a few mysteries. For example, I had long wondered how the Labour party came to drop its opposition to our belonging to the EU - the party voted overwhelmingly against membership in 1975 - claiming that it was all a swizz and a "rich men's club."
Newark writes, "The exact moment when the Left stopped hating the EU and started loving it was on 8th September 1988."
This was when Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission - remember the notorious headline in The Sun "Up Yours, Delors!" - publicly sucked up to the British trades unions, promising socialism by the back door via "the platform of guaranteed social rights".
Thus in the eyes of the British Left, the EU turned from rich men's club to socialist paradise overnight.
Ooh! they do get up to some tricks, these presidents of the European Commission. Farage exposed Jose Manuel Barroso who in 2005 spent his summer hols as the guest of the Greek shipping billionaire Spiro Latsis - "just a month before the Commission approved ten million euros of aid to the same gentleman's shipping company".
And Newark quotes Jack Straw's famous clanger, "Oops, we let in a million!" - referring to the then home secretary in the Labour government and his admitting that they had planned net immigration from the new EU states in eastern Europe at around 8000 each year but, as Straw said, " Events proved these forecasts worthless. Net immigration reached close to 250,000 at its peak in 2010."
He added candidly, "Lots of red faces there - mine included!"
This book is a treat: a political book which is the antidote to politics. You'll love it, I promise.