Haywire: A Political History of Britain since 2000 by Andrew Hindmoor - review by Richard Vinen

Richard Vinen

Jam Tomorrow or Cake Today?

Haywire: A Political History of Britain since 2000

By

Allen Lane 640pp £35
 

Andrew Hindmoor has had the prescience to publish a book on British politics in recent decades in the middle of a general election campaign. We get a pacey narrative in which ten of the thirty-six chapters start with reference to a particular date. The book kicks off with the opening of the Millennium Dome on New Year’s Eve 1999. It then takes us through the governments of Blair, Brown, Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss and Sunak. Along the way, Hindmoor examines the economic and social problems that these governments faced, offering chapters on, for example, the ‘Windrush’ scandal, same-sex marriage and Covid-19. 

There is a lot to be said for narrative history, but one becomes a little weary of Hindmoor’s enthusiasm to share every nugget of knowledge. This is a common weakness among academics and it can be touching – as when, for example, an expert on Byzantine pottery cannot resist telling us a naughty story about Empress Theodora. The problem here is that readers of this book will have lived through the period and read many of the same books and newspaper articles as Hindmoor. The result is that we are told, sometimes at considerable length, things that we already know. A passage on the political significance of motoring swerves into a comprehensive account of Jeremy Clarkson’s television career. A passage on inequality includes a summary of a novel by John Lanchester. A reference to the British economy in 2007 being like a cartoon character who has gone over a cliff is accompanied by a paragraph about the Road Runner and Wile E Coyote.

I suspect that some well-meaning editor has told Hindmoor that punters are put off by academic jargon and that they must be drawn into the analysis with captivating details. But the result often feels contrived. One chapter opens with almost a page on the town of Aberystwyth. It turns out

Sign Up to our newsletter

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

RLF - March

Follow Literary Review on Twitter