Paul Flynn’s autobiography the Unusual Suspect has already generated headlines and controversy and even an Early Day Motion. All good publicity I’m sure, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it is, as you’d expect, a good read. And away from the newsy bits, there are plenty of interesting titbits.
For instance, I didn’t know that when Flynn was going through the selection process for Newport West in the 80s, that he faced an attempt by Labour heavyweight Ivor Richard to muscle in on the constituency. There’s a marvellous vignette describing the future Lord Richard ‘squeezing into a nursery school chair’ at a selection meeting before offering the other candidates miniature bottles of whisky which seemed to hang from his belt.
Flynn recalls becoming shadow Social Security minister and getting some advice from Ron Davies that confirms something I’ve often thought about front bench politicians:
‘Ron Davies came to my rescue. It’s just number crunching he explained. None of us thoroughly understand our briefs. We are all walking on eggshells. The trick was to do it convincingly. Speak with a cultivated air of authority that disguises the fact that your knowledge of the subject is exhausted when you come to the end of your prepared notes. That’s fine for set-piece speeches until an opponent intervenes and asks, “What precisely do you mean by that?” …’
And before you say it, the same is often true for journalists too.