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Diary of an MP's Wife: Inside and Outside Power: 'riotously candid' Sunday Times

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The “mateocracy”, meanwhile, stayed in one another’s grace-and-favour homes, while furiously falling out over who had the best pad, the nicest curtains, the poshest official car or the biggest security detail. As her old friends argue fruitlessly over the best way to thwart a hard Brexit and plot unsuccessfully to manoeuvre Rudd into Downing Street, she backs the arch Brexiter Dominic Raab’s leadership bid before warming to the “slobbering golden retriever” Boris Johnson. For more than twenty years she has kept a secret diary detailing the trials and tribulations of being a political plus-one, and gives us a ringside seat at the seismic political events of the last decade.

Set against a backdrop of country house shooting weekends and boozy dinners at Chequers, but seen through the sceptical eyes of a woman one step removed from the head-butting stags, there is acute political intelligence at work from Lady Swire, wife of Sir Hugo Swire, former MP for East Devon from 2010-2016, a Minister of State for the Northern Ireland Office and Foreign Office and who was the daughter of John Nott. Diary of an MP’s Wife is a searingly honest, wildly indiscreet and often uproarious account of what life is like in the thick of it.

She was born and brought up in west Cornwall, where her father, Sir John Nott, was MP for the St Ives constituency. You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. She (Sarah Vine, Mrs Gove) being a highly successful and well paid journalist, the profession Sasha was in before giving it up to be an MP’s wife. I giggled when there was some mention of someone who had fallen foul of him and was a “name forever loathed in the Nott household” – ah, I thought, just like Nott in ours.

I am happy to give this book five stars and recommend everybody read it at least once in their lives. Ten years ago, reviewing Alastair Campbell's diaries for the Spectator, I concluded as follows: "Who will be the chroniclers of the Cameron government?

The Financial Times and its journalism are subject to a self-regulation regime under the FT Editorial Code of Practice. If you needed proof that Britain has been misruled by the unserious, entitled, snobbish, incestuous and curiously childish then the acerbic Lady Swire, unwittingly or not, has provided it. It is 30 years since Hazel Holt's biography; many more since David Cecil and Philip Larkin championed her novels. Its weaknesses were, as many have said, a lack of footnotes about who people referred to were, particularly in the early part of the journal. Nothing about 14 million children in poverty, hospital waiting lists rising, education suffering (except for hose who went to Eton or Cheltenham like the diarist and her chums), or the emergence of a underclass in low paid, vulnerable jobs.

Most explanations of why Britain voted first for Brexit, and then for Johnson’s radicalised strain of Conservatism, focus rightly on the wider demographic and economic shifts that fuelled a revolt against the status quo. Many people have commented on her referring to her father throughout as “Sir John” (Nott) and her mother-in-law, the Dowager Marchioness of Townshend as “the Dowager”; I can almost imagine her glee as she reads the reviews from people frothing at the mouth at this supposed evidence of snobbishness – I saw it as ironic and intentional – almost hoping to get a rise out of the silly readers.In 500-odd pages of deftly edited diary entries covering her observations and conversations during the tumultuous years of 2010 to 2019, she lifts the veil on the doings of a political class that is difficult to like, admire or respect. But then if only half her recollections of the Notting Hill set are true, she has done the rest of us a favour by removing all possible doubt about the unfitness of most of them to govern. Everything seems to be about competitively grasping for status symbols – a grander office, a more prestigious official car, a knighthood, getting one’s husband into the Cabinet. A professional partner and loyal spouse, Swire has strong political opinions herself - sometimes more 'No, Minister' than 'Yes'. We don’t share your credit card details with third-party sellers, and we don’t sell your information to others.

Swire is at least vaguely aware of how insufferable it can seem; glancing around the Camerons’ Downing Street Christmas party in 2011, she realises “we all holiday together, stay in each other’s grace and favour homes, our children play together, we text each other bypassing the civil servants … this is a very particular, narrow tribe of Britain and their hangers on. As the daughter of former defence secretary Sir John Nott, the author knows her own way round Whitehall, and her instincts are razor sharp; she is scathing from the off about “seven-year-old Gavin Williamson”, at the time just an eager young prime ministerial bag-carrier, and has Keir Starmer pegged as a potential Labour leader almost from the moment he enters parliament. Suffice to say that Michael Gove comes out of things badly; Swire portrays him as volatile, untrustworthy and faintly odd, while his longstanding consigliere Dominic Cummings “looks like one of those odd amoebas you find in jars in school science labs” and has an “over-inflated view of his own importance”). Imagine the Alan Clark diaries, but written by his wife Jane instead: all the high-octane political gossip, set against a backdrop of country house shooting weekends and boozy dinners at Chequers, but seen through the sceptical eyes of a woman one step removed from all the head-butting stags. These are the things which the author doesn’t realise she’s revealing: how utterly self-seeking, venal and empty-hearted are herself and her MP husband and, it could seem, the whole Cameron, Osborne, Johnson clique.My first laugh out load moment was when, attempting to get a glimmer of a smile from the Countess of Wessex, La Swire explained that she was a Slav, and therefore in a permanent state of wanting to murder people. My belief is that Mrs Thatcher, furious at the fact Nott’s proposed Naval cuts may have encouraged the Argentines to invade, refused his resignation and made him stay on as Defence Secretary throughout the Falklands War as a sort of punishment. He claimed to be busy with meetings, but daughter Florence, clearly knowing her father too well, quickly branded him a liar after spotting him watching back-to-back episodes of Game of Thrones. The diaries of Sacha Swire, the wife of Conservative Party Minister of State, Hugo Swire, during the period from 2010 - 2019 detail the comings and goings, gossip, assorted affairs, political intrigue and banalities of a Tory party in power.

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