Simon Heffer

A Decent Sort

Memoirs

By

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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Tarantino's latest film is 'a fairy tale about Hollywood, where fantasy is an industrial product and the boulevards… ,
    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,