Simon Heffer

A Decent Sort



Little, Brown 534pp £20 order from our bookshop

Little, Brown 534pp £20

A few years ago, during what will probably prove to be the beginning of the locust decades of political biography, somebody published a life of Lord Hurd entitled Douglas Hurd: The Public Servant. It would be untrue to say that the work, even with its catchy title, caused intense excitement. But then Hurd is not at first glance an exciting figure: the grey man’s grey man, stiff of gesture, robotic of voice, radiating repression and caution. There was, however, reason to be more hopeful about the former Foreign Secretary’s memoirs. Hurd is a highly intelligent and literate man: King’s Scholar at Eton, Scholar of Trinity, Cambridge, and passed first into the Diplomatic Service. More to the point, in his earlier memoir of his time as Edward Heath’s political secretary – An End to Promises – he wrote one of the most impressive political studies of the last twenty-five years. Heath dismissed the book, Hurd tells us in this new volume, as ‘superficial’. The old monster should be bloody grateful that it was. Any detailed analysis would, even in Hurd’s sympathetic hands, have concluded that Heath presided over one of the most catastrophic failures of a government seen in this country in modern times. In fact, Hurd captured a fragment of a landscape rather in the manner of a fine impressionist painter, and did so with thoughtfulness and patience. That is why that earlier work was – whatever one might think of Hurd or Heath – so compelling.

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