What’s on your Christmas reading list?

A short post, prompted by a comment from one of our Lib Dem Voice editors. She was keen to read something other than Brexit and post-election analysis on these pages.

I haven’t read a proper book in what feels like months – the election campaign left little time or energy for reading. This is something I plan to put right over the Christmas break and there are two books in particular which I have in mind.

Firstly, I’m looking forward to re-reading Penhaligon, about David Penhaligon MP, written by his widow Annette. He represented the seat where I stood in the election, and it is remarkable how frequently his name still comes up on the doorstep more than thirty years after he died in a car crash. It’s a great read, and the lessons – about campaigning, and about what it means to represent the community – are still relevant today.

I’m also going to track down New Power by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms which was making waves last summer. I’m interested in what it can teach us locally about how we organise and campaign.

What’s on your Christmas reading list? Share your tips in the comments.

* Ruth Gripper is our PPC for Truro and Falmouth

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Warren 23rd Dec '19 - 8:08pm

    My current interest is in the authoritarian socialist/Marxist left. The local library where I live has a really good selection and I am currently reading Trotsky; 1927-40 The darker the night the brighter the star by Tony Cliff.

    On a similar theme I have recently finished Reg Birch; engineer, trade unionist, communist by Will Podmore.

    Prior to that I read a lot of Liberal history and biography. I do have a copy of the Orange book which I intend to tackle soon.

    Any recommendations welcome.

  • Ruth – the day David Penhaligon died was one of the worst for this party that I can remember. Annette’s book is a delight to read and I recommend it to anyone – perhaps particularly to our younger/newer members who want to know more about how the party survived disappointing elections in the past.
    Me? I need to read something right now that is a million miles away from politics, so I’m half-way through ‘A Gentleman in Moscow,’ by Amor Townes, which is terrific. Elegant and funny, full of inspired observations and asides. I feel like it is re-booting me after the trials and tribulations of the last few weeks.
    When it’s finished, I intend to delve into my shelf of P.G. Wodehouse, which has been
    too neglected of late. I don’t actually tend to read the Jeeves & Wooster novels – he wrote so much more than those. I prefer his Blandings Castle books, so I will probably pick one of those, or maybe some of his short stories. It’s a nice choice to look forward to. Happy holidays everyone!

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Dec '19 - 8:36pm

    I met her at Liberal Assembly.
    I said that I had asked the BBC for a copy of Desert Island Discs.
    They refused, saying that there were eight pieces of music on it, each with different copyright agreements.
    She said that they had made an exception for her.
    Elsewhere on Liberal Democrat Voice I have described him as ‘the lost leader.’
    All candidates should follow his practice and advice, especially Liberals, Paddy did.
    Asked at a hustings (in Cornwall) about the price of barley the Labour and Conservative candidates read out from their policy briefings.
    The Liberal said “I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about the price of barley”
    and was greeted by a loud voice saying “I’ll vote for thee!!!”
    “There isn’t any barley grown within 100 miles of here.”

  • Roger Roberts 23rd Dec '19 - 8:51pm

    No Enid Blytons or Ruperts this year, In serious and dangerous waters I’ve finished reading Madeleine Albright’s “Fascism – a warning” and have started Richard J Evans’ “The coming of the Third Reich ” We mustn’t be caught unawares!

  • Kate Harris 23rd Dec '19 - 9:14pm

    I might re-read Why Nations Fail by Acemoglu and Robinson. As an extractive society we are quite far down the road to becoming one. Also ‘Upheaval’, by Jared Diamond: I’ve read part of it – how different countries have dealt with crises in their histories. Chile was interesting: no one thought Pinochet would ‘happen’. Complacency is very dangerous – I do think too many decent UK politicians think that most of their ilk are broadly similar. They are not. We will learn this hard lesson soon. Finland was interesting: two good leaders enabled them to face Russia and the EU whilst maintaining their identity and building their industrial base. Pride in their unique language played a part.

  • All candidates should follow his practice and advice, especially Liberals, Paddy did.
    Asked at a hustings (in Cornwall) about the price of barley the Labour and Conservative candidates read out from their policy briefings.
    The Liberal said “I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about the price of barley”
    and was greeted by a loud voice saying “I’ll vote for thee!!!”
    “There isn’t any barley grown within 100 miles of here.”

    It seems Paddy not only followed his advice but also nicked his anecdote 🙂

  • Tony Greaves 23rd Dec '19 - 10:33pm

    As ever…

  • I need a break over Christmas!
    I’ve just found copies of two books I first borrowed from the public library (what are those?) and read as a teenager. ‘No Bed for Bacon’ and ‘Don’t, Mr Disraeli’, by Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon. I hope they are as funny now as they seemed then. And for rather more solid fare, William Dalrymple on the history of the East India Company – doesn’t sound quite like the version we were taught at school.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Dec '19 - 11:21pm

    I’m really looking forward to reading a book that my Dad put together. He lives in Berwick and is part of a creative writing group. The group’s mentor died suddenly earlier this year, but not before she had arranged a meeting with the town’s archivist.

    The group went ahead with that meeting and their subsequent trawl through local records inspired a collection of short stories, Crime and Punishment in Berwick, which was published last month. My Dad wrote two of them. He is not entirely thrilled that copies of this book may be appearing in Lib Dem raffles in the not too distant future, but I am very proud of him for being the driving force behind this project.

  • Yousuf Farah 24th Dec '19 - 6:43am

    Whilst rereading George rr Martin’s asoiaf books, I am also reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

  • I’m currently reading Crime In Progress, about the Trump-Russia investigations. Frightening parallels with this country.

  • I needed some light relief, so I’m reading Seventy Two Virgins by Boris Johnson – it’s actually pretty good.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Dec '19 - 9:32am

    “the day David Penhaligon died was one of the worst for this party that I can remember”

    Not least because he was one of the few engineers in Parliament.

    @Richard Underhill
    The Desert Island Discs programme appears to be available for listening online:

  • Richard Underhill 24th Dec '19 - 9:35am

    Adam 24th Dec ’19 – 8:32am
    I bought a copy remaindered. We sold it on E-Bay, including a review from the Observer.
    At the end the author includes an apology to the police “who keep us safe.” The American President described is nothing like the present one, but he was surprised not to have been told about large numbers of American soldiers in France, Dead.

  • John Marriott 24th Dec '19 - 9:39am

    Just waiting for Amazon to deliver “The Downfall of the Liberal Party 1914 -1934” by Trevor Wilson, as recommended by Tony Greaves as an antidote to George Dangerfield’s “The Strange Death of Liberal England”, which I have just finished, following a recommendation from another LDV contributor. We shall see whether the noble Lord is right. He usually is, or at least he reckons so!

    When this latest dissection of Liberalism arrives it will have to wait it’s turn behind Cameron’s “On the Record” (pity it’s not “OFF the Record). Yes, I like to read both sides of the argument, having read David Laws’ effort a while back. I wonder whether exposure to the Californian sun will encourage a certain senior member of the Facebook team to consider tapping out a few pages of explanation/apology for the folks he left behind.

    Mind you, I only manage to read books when I go to bed and, struggling to read only a few pages before Morpheus beckons me, it could be Easter before I get to Mr Wilson’s oeuvre.

  • The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Dec '19 - 10:50am

    Nonconformistradical 24th Dec ’19 – 9:32am
    Thank you very much indeed. What else could you want for Christmas?
    “Released On: 22 Mar 1987Available for over a year”
    After the bye-election which followed David Steel MP said on the radio that
    “He has got a larger majority than me.”
    At Lib Dem federal conference Jim Wallace, whom I had met on a Liberal International (British Group) tour of India,
    was chatting to
    I was collecting signatures for the re-election of the then President (in fact unopposed)
    and said to Matthew Taylor that, I had been knocking up second in the Ribble Valley bye-election. He had been knocking up third, I could hear him, he was catching me up.

  • What am I reading?
    The Hidden History Of Burma by Thant Myint-U (U Thant’s grandson) He kindly signed my copy in Burmese.
    China in Ten Words by Yu Hua.

  • No Jack Reacher for Lib Dems then?

  • John Marriott 24th Dec '19 - 3:08pm

    It’s arrived! According to the title, the ‘downfall’ of the Liberal Party took slightly longer. For ‘1934’ please read ‘1935’.

    Merry Christmas, David Raw – and many more of them!

  • Same to you, John, and many more to you too old pal.

    It’s worth having a look at Peter Sloman’s book, ‘ The Liberal Party and the Economy, 1929-1964’, in the New Year. It shows there was a lingering orangist tendency in what was left of the party post 1935.

  • John Marriott 24th Dec '19 - 4:19pm

    @David Raw
    Crickey, mate. I’ve already said what a slow reader I am! When am I going to have time to read ‘Mein Kampf’? In the original, of course!

  • I can’t believe a man of your calibre is a langsamer lesser.

  • Sorry to be ‘lowbrow’ but I’m re-reading my collection of Terry Pratchett.

    I’m interested in how truth is stranger than fiction..In this ‘real world’ C.M.T. Dibler actually got the population to buy his product..

  • William Wallace 24th Dec '19 - 9:40pm

    Paddy Ashdown’s last book, ‘Nein’, about the uncertainties and confusions of the German resistance to Hitler, which raises the question of whether the British should have encouraged its members rather than dismissing their efforts to make contact, is well worth reading; I’ve just finished it. I’m now reading Tudor Jones’s ‘The uneven path of British Liberalism’, which covers the past 60 years from the perspective of ideas and policy – well worth recalling (or discovering) what Liberals were arguing a generation ago. Some of what Jo Grimond was arguing at the end of the 1950s, sadly, still sounds radical now.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Dec '19 - 9:46am

    William Wallace 24th Dec ’19 – 9:40pm
    It is said that everyone remembers a good teacher.
    I remember one who drummed dates into us, 1520, 1620, 1720, the connections were purely mathematical.
    While the class that was studying for examinations was doing 55BC to 1385 AD, about which it was thought that nothing new would be discovered, we were free to learn about 1900-1955, much more relevant. That teacher recommended
    The Struggle for Europe by Chester Wilmot, an Australian historian. I have found a copy in a second hand bookshop (the book not the shop) and started to read it. Published at 25 shillings (£1.25). Sources include General Eisenhower and General Montgomery. The defeat of the Axis powers provided detailed access to their thinking and timing.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Dec '19 - 10:03am

    Kate Harris 23rd Dec ’19 – 9:14pm
    How to oppose a referendum in a dictatorship where the population are totally cowed?
    Alpha Dogs, Atlantic Books, 2009
    A tv advertisement in which two balloons are released, one showing the letter N, the other showing the letter O.
    It worked.!

  • Laurence Cox 25th Dec '19 - 3:05pm

    I recently finished reading “Circe” by Madeline Miller, the first novel I have bought for many years; currently I am reading “My Own Trumpet”, Sir Adrian Boult’s autobiography, which I acquired second-hand and which contains some revealing insights into Britain and Europe before the First World War – imagine, for example, being able to travel across Europe with no need for a passport. I also have Paddy Ashdown’s “Citizens’ Britain” on my bedside table.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Dec '19 - 12:53pm

    25th Dec ’19 – 9:46am
    Post war access to Axis sources enables the author to report simultaneously on both sides of the combat and on political aspects with military ones. Other histories have tended to report on what actually happened, such as the delay to the Normandy landings caused by the weather and the dispute between weather forecasters advising General Eisenhower. The weather also affected the plans to invade England in 1940 and eventually caused their cancellation.
    Approximately every 50 pages there is an exclamation mark, although almost every page deserves one.
    The PM’s speech “blood, toil, tears and sweat” was used to depress living UK standards and divert resources to the military. By contrast a footnote states that “In May 1943 the Fuhrer won’t approve a 100-gram reduction in the meat ration. Yet it id so necessary,” When this reduction proved unavoidable , Goebbels observed that it had “a very serious psychological effect.” ‘Diaries pp 285 and 303.’

  • Jane Ann Liston 26th Dec '19 - 8:27pm

    I never have time to read books now; it takes all my time to read my council papers and newspapers. However, I do enjoy the British Library reprints of Golden Age detective stories – there’s even one set in the House of Commons, ‘The Division Bell Mystery’, written by an MP, Ellen Wilkinson.

  • David Garlick 26th Dec '19 - 8:46pm

    Try ‘From What Is To What If’ by Rob Hopkins. Stimulating and informative .

  • Richard Underhill 27th Dec '19 - 8:45am

    Jane Ann Liston 26th Dec ’19 – 8:27pm
    Do you remember a minister who warned us about eggs and salmonella? she was right, although unpopular. She also wrote a fictional book about he House of Commons.
    She was married and so was the Prime Minister, but not to each other.

  • Steve Griffiths 27th Dec '19 - 3:23pm

    I shall use the holiday time to take off the shelf ‘The Liberal Future’ by Joe Grimmond, 1959. It will remind me why I joined the party all those years ago. Yes, it is dated and deals with some issues of the time, but some chapters especially the one entitled ‘Co-Ownership’, should be read by new members and our current crop of MPs and leaders. Grimmond’s vision was of a radical party of new ideas. Not a muddled, centrist, heavy on Butskellism version still espoused on other recent and current threads on this site. another chapter entitled ‘The Social Services’ is also worth a dip into.

  • @Steve Griffiths. I like Jo Grimond (no E; one M) – he was my sort of Liberal:

    “Liberals must stress at all times the virtues of the market, not only for efficiency but to enable the widest possible choice.”
    The Future of Liberalism (1980)

  • Richard Underhill 28th Dec '19 - 1:56pm

    Steve Griffiths 27th Dec ’19 – 3:23pm
    One M for Grimond please.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Dec '19 - 11:38am

    The first evening, page 286
    A few minutes before 9 pm, as 21st Panzer were assembling a column to make a dash for the coast there came from the Channel the distant drumming of hundreds of aircraft. They flew in like a swarm of bees, skimming low over the gleaming water so that the bright sun setting beyond them would blind the gunners at Le Havre. With two hundred and fifty tugs and two hundred and fifty gliders, escorted by a host of fighters, this was the largest glider-force yet to take the air in battle. It carried most of the 6th Air Landing Brigade, plus Gale’s artillery and reconnaissance regiments, including light tanks.
    As the aircraft crossed the coast the flak-guns opened up from strongpoints still unsubdued. The great, ungainly gliders made easy targets, but the German aim was wild, for Spitfires and Mustangs, driving almost to the muzzles of the batteries, raked them with cannon and machine -gun. Through the fiery trails of the tracer shells the tugs flew on unwavering. Behind them the gliders kept their steady course, cast off, hovered a moment and then banked, turned and slid down with a sighing of wind upon wood, almost brushing the tops of the houses and trees as they came in to land on the rough fields beside the Orne. The nerve and skill of the pilots was beyond all praise. Of the 249 gliders which crossed the coast, only one made its proper landfall, and this one was shot down. …
    The arrival of these reinforcements doubled the strength of 6th Airborne in one swift stroke and brought great relief to Gale’s weary parachute battalions. There was little doubt now that the flank along the Orne could and would be held.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Dec '19 - 12:09pm

    Attentat! Attentat! page 366 Footnote
    Many accounts of the ‘Plot of July 20th’ have been written, but in the nature of things there is very little documentary evidence available and the personal reports are, for the most part, based on hearsay or conjecture. Few of these accounts agree, even on the events on the vital day, and many of them contain self-contradictions. In this chapter I have not attempted to discuss the merits of the various sources but have presented what seems to me to be the narrative best supported by the evidence.

  • @ Richard Underhill I was moved to read your contribution, Richard.

    I was fortunate enough to know – and go back to Normandy a number of times with – a member of 6th Airborne Division, Lance Rooke. Lance was mentioned in Despatches for his part in the attack on the Merville Battery in the early hours of 6 June. Their glider landing took place in the dark just after midnight. I’m afraid there was no sign of Spitfires or Mustangs (your author exaggerates – they were used in daylight to attack the Luftwaffe and provide air cover). I was also fortunate enough to enjoy a very friendly conversation at Pegasus Bridge with Lance and General Hans von Luck of 21st Panzer Division. They became great friends – but sadly, my dear friend Lance died just over two years ago.

    As to air power, the ground forces owed much to the Hawker Typhoon squadron of 2nd TAF. Before D-Day they destroyed the enemy Radar stations and later provided air cover for the ground forces… destroying tanks and ground targets. Dad flew a Tiffy with 175 Squadron… and luckily survived Normandy and what followed. He witnessed Belsen… He lost a lot of his friends and hated war.

    Here’s a sample of what he had to do.

    Hawker Typhoon in action – YouTube
    https://www.youtube.com › watch
    Video for hawker typhoon d-day▶ 3:12

    The Typhoon was a British single-seat fighter-bomber, produced by Hawker Aircraft starting in 1941. The …

    What did do for the German

  • Ignore the last few words, Richard, … a typo,

  • Richard Underhill 4th Jan '20 - 10:21am

    William Wallace: I am still reading Chester Wilmot’s “The Struggle for Europe”.
    Rommel was one of the Fuhrer’s favourite generals, but, as with other generals, usually disliked Hitler’s commands not to fall back at all. Rommel had supported the attempted coup during the planning, but his own car was hit by Allied bombing. His driver crashed into a tree and was killed. Rommel was thrown out of the car and was concussed.
    Hitler’s revenge was widespread, even by Nazi standards, many totally innocent people had been named as suitable to administer the Reich after Hitler’s planned death. Goebbels found a list. I am waiting to find out whether Rommel was one of them.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Jan '20 - 6:47pm

    David Raw 31st Dec ’19 – 3:39pm “your author exaggerates”
    No, he is an historian’s historian, an eye-witness as an Australian working for the BBC as a war correspondent, on the beaches on D-Day. This is a highlight of his prose style.
    Flying with the sun behind you is a tactic used by both sides in both world wars, although in the Battle of Britain some fighters were ordered to fly at the same height as the Luftwaffe bombers although the Luftwaffe fighter escorts were higher.
    There is scope for criticising the film “The Longest Day”. Much of it is true and President FD Roosevelt’s son insisting on going ashore with his men on D-Day is credible.
    Were there actually Free French commandoes with them? Is there any reliable evidence of that?
    The film assumes that the day was won by the Allies and ends with pictures of John Wayne, but one of the Mulberry harbours had been destroyed, slowing down the essential processes of reinforcement and re-supply on subsequent days.
    The film does depict the barriers built on the beaches by Field Marshall Rommel, but completely ignores the British inventions used to clear them and should credit the open-minded British Defence Minister W S Churchill (who had been given free reign in WW1 by the then PM David Lloyd George) after returning from France. Some of Rommel’s barriers were laid below the water line and mined. Wading in deep water to ‘delouse’ them was heroic.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Jan '20 - 7:01pm

    Mine Enemy by Amalia and Aharon Barnea is available in English. It has been read by many Israelis and Palestinians.
    John le Carre’ (a pseudonym) commented “This is a timely and important book.”
    “Salah Ta’mari’s extraordinary story is surely as compelling and moving as the man himself. I am very pleased that the Barneas have written of the inspiration of peace and reconciliation which Salah is so capable of inspiring.”
    The first wife of King Hussein of Jordan is a key figure.

  • richard underhill 14th Mar '20 - 12:44pm

    5th Jan ’20 – 6:47pm
    The Struggle for Europe
    (how we won the war and lost the peace)
    chapter XXIV page 469
    Patton sent his Corps Commanders advancing east, but by August 30th Third Army’s petrol reserves were almost exhausted. That day Patton received only 32,000 gallons of the 42,000 gallons he had demanded, and when met by Bradley at Chartres he was warned that no extra petrol would be available to him before September 3rd. If Bradley thought that this would restrain Patton, he was wrong. When he returned to his own HQ, that afternoon, Patton found that XII Corps had stopped at St. Dizier because its commander (Major General Manton S. Eddy) had reported that if he were to go any farther “he would find his tanks without any gasoline”. Patton promptly ordered him “to continue until the tanks stopped and then get out and walk.” Paton may not have realized that this order amounted to an act of defiance, but he must have known that if his armoured divisions advanced until their tanks ran dry Bradley would have to provide him with petrol at the expense of the operations to which Eisenhower had given priority — the offensive into Belgium.
    Page 480 Von Runstedt reported to Hitler September 6th that “the whole organization takes time”, but his forces had had not the strength to gain that time. “All our own troops are committed, are being heavily attacked and are becoming exhausted. There are no reserves worth mentioning.” “Whereas the Allies were advancing with some 2,000 tanks (an accurate estimate) Army Group B has about 100 tanks fit for action.” ” I again request that all available tanks be sent forward at once to protect the Rhine-Westphalia area.” He needed at least 2,000 tanks and assault guns.

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