Books and Arts; Book Review
British politics;Backroom boy
In the Corridors of Power: An Autobiography. By David Lipsey.
Political memoirs generally do two things. The first is to set the record straight. The second is to justify the writer's own career, arguing causes that have long since been lost, or won by others. David Lipsey's book is admirably long on the first, though not devoid of the second.
Lord Lipsey, a Labour man to the core, has been at or near the political coalface since the early 1970s. At 24 he became special political adviser (the term, like the job, barely existed at the time) to Tony Crosland, a leader of the social-democratic faction of the Labour Party who became foreign secretary and was the dominant intellectual figure of his political generation. Young Lipsey fell under his spell, and no one—certainly not Jim Callaghan, the beleaguered prime minister for whom he worked after Crosland's early death—ever really measured up.
Lipsey勋爵作为一名实实在在的工党人，从二十世纪七十年代早期起就要么在政治工作面上忙碌，要么也从事着相应的工作。24岁时，他成了Tony Crosland的“特别政治顾问”（当时政治顾问一词就像其所指代的职务一样根本不存在）——Tony当时是工党社会民主派的领袖，后来担任了外交大臣，属于他这一代政治人物中举足轻重的知识分子。年轻的Lipsey被Crosland的魅力征服，Crosland之后也没人——当然，也不可能是四面楚歌的Jim Callaghan总理，在Crosland早逝后，Lipsey在他手下服务——能真正符合Lipsey的标准。
As backroom special advisers do now, the author wrote speeches, drafted and redrafted policy papers, and negotiated electoral manifestos, all the while observing the foibles of his front-of-stage bosses. In what is clearly the emotional heart of the book, he chronicles the turbulence surrounding the decline and fall of Old Labour, the fight against the hard left, the economic debacle of the mid-1970s and the disastrous election of 1979—all with a keen eye for strategy and personality. There is delight in small details: the chill that settled on a lunch party when the young jobseeker had the temerity to hit the croquet ball of Roy Jenkins, a Labour grandee, into the flower bed, or Crosland's views on the inanities of ambassadors' wives.
When the door of Number 10 slammed shut in 1979, Lord Lipsey turned to journalism to earn his crust, notably at the Times and The Economist. He left the latter for the House of Lords in 1999 after Labour regained power. Further than before from the inside story, he nonetheless remained a backroom boy in a sense, beavering away in the upper chamber and on official commissions to review such hard-to-sort subjects as electoral reform and social care for the elderly. Though neither produced the results he wanted, his insights into how policy is made are revealing. As he tells it, the knock-down-drag-out fights over these matters (his gonads were threatened by a fellow member of the social-care commission) were no less vicious than the fight to control the Labour Party in the 1970s.
There are ways in which this well-written book could have been better. It follows the author out of politics and into the newspaper industry for a couple of decades. As a result, the reader hears almost nothing about the walkout of the “gang of four” (Jenkins, David Owen, William Rogers and Shirley Williams) and the transformation of the Labour Party. Yet these are precisely the sorts of issues that animate the first third of the book, and without them the last third is less enlightening than it might have been. At times Lord Lipsey seems to take disproportionate umbrage against people: Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, is ferociously raked over the coals for mishandling the referendum on the alternative vote, for example. And yet he has a disarming willingness to admit his personal limitations: his own work on voting reform “must rank the greatest failure among a number of failures in my political life”.
这本文笔好的书原本可以写得更好的。它记录了作者离开政坛，进入报业呆了几十个年头的经历。因此，读者难以查阅四人帮（Jenkins, David Owen, William Rogers and Shirley Williams）的倒台，也读不到工党的变化。但是这些俨然是推动此书前三分之一的那些问题。Lord Lipsey有时似乎会对人们发无名火：比如代理总理Nick Clegg没好好处理关于可选择能源的公民投票，因煤炭的事被他狠狠的痛骂了一顿。然而令人舒缓的是，他承认自己的个人不足之处：关于他选举改革方面的工作，“在我政治生涯里的数个错误中，这个必定是最大的错误”。
Through the years, Lord Lipsey says his ideas have remained broadly constant, while the political landscape has changed dramatically. “I, once regarded as a proto-fascist in Labour circles for my right-wing views, am now a dangerous leftie, without having changed my mind much on much.” Class has declined as the central divide in British politics. Partly in consequence, parties have become far less ideological. Politics these days is about what works. And a new professional political class is ever more cut off from the people who send its members to Westminster. What better sign of the times than this: former backroom-boy Lipsey rose to the dizzying heights of running the British Greyhound Racing Board, whereas another former special adviser, David Cameron, younger by almost 20 years, is running the country.