Ours is an age in which the elites have lost their self-confidence. Terrified by the thought of attempting to justify their status, they try to survive by sucking up to the mob. Alan Watkins sits like patience on a monument, smiling at this folly but refusing to demean himself by joining in. Reading him is a pleasure and a reminder of how things used to be before postmodern irony decreed that nobody must take their work seriously.
Watkins has written another damned thick, square book about power, in this case how politicians become leaders of their party. As it contains no references to Madonna, or the Spice Girls, it hardly qualifies as modern political analysis and the reader has to make do with scholarship and sound judgement. Of this there is an abundance and Watkins explains with his distinctive mixture of lucidity and good sense a number of episodes that I have found puzzling. He has not tried to sweeten his offering with a racy account of the more interesting portions of the lives of contenders for leadership, starting with their struggles at their mother's knee and pursuing them through numerous boudoirs until finally they kiss the royal hand. Nor does