The Lies of the Land: A Brief History of Political Dishonesty by Adam Macqueen - review by Douglas Murray

Douglas Murray

Almanac of Ignominy

The Lies of the Land: A Brief History of Political Dishonesty


Atlantic Books 337pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

A book of ‘political liars’ would surely be one of the longest books ever written, as almost everyone apparently joked to Adam Macqueen while he was researching this book. As he mentions on his opening page, the old joke is that you can tell a politician is lying when you see their mouth move. And so on and so on.

Macqueen is a journalist for Private Eye and his ‘brief history of political dishonesty’ has a view of politics that will be familiar to readers of that magazine. In his conclusion he admits, ‘In my darker moments I describe my job as “professional cynic”.’ Such an attitude may, of course, be catching. Yet it is the behaviour not of politicians but of publishers that I spent much of this book marvelling at. There is nothing necessarily wrong about a book that sets out to provide a set of brief and breezy accounts of various political fibs and disgraces. Bumper books of political scandal have been written before and intermittently catch on as stocking fillers, often ending up in the lavatories of Home Counties houses.

But really, who is this for? In the opening chapters we read once again about Watergate, Philby, Suez, Profumo and Thorpe. There is nothing new in any of this because there can be nothing new to say. In his footnotes Macqueen pays appropriate due to the authoritative tomes on each

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