One Minute to Ten is an odd book. It is ostensibly about the three main party leaders, about their characters and their psyches, in the run up to the 2015 general election. Yet the main premise (Cameron had entitlement, Clegg was a man of Europe, Miliband was odd, but they all sacrificed themselves in the pursuit of power) is repeated, consistently, but not really developed.
Dan Hodges makes a living by charting his political journey to the right. His columns are commissioned by newspaper editors who want to show their readers that the left is something reasonably to be abandoned. He trades in a cynical and war-weary portrayal of politics; he understands what it is like to be born into the political class and as a result he is savage about the idiocies and illogicalities that come from forming a coherent political force.
This is really a book for people who think that politics is a bit rubbish and that the people who do politics (politicians, lobbyists, commentators) are a bit rubbish. Hodges enjoys exploring the cock-ups, the confusion, the mistakes, the ego, the paranoia, the casual betrayal. Each anecdote is milked for the lolz (but almost always in a deprecating way), and to ram home the inadequacies and insecurities of the key players (with the exception of the Conservatives Lynton Crosby and Craig Oliver whom Hodges clearly admires for their cojones). The result is that the book is about four times as long as it could have been. It is remarkably short of anecdote but those that are there are extremely long. Flicking through this in the (second hand, charity) shop, I note that there’s a great story about Ed Miliband and the columnist and speechwriter Philip Collins. Three pounds, three hundred and sixty pages later, I can report that there’s a great anecdote about Ed Miliband and the columnist Philip Collins. See how the padding works?
The padding does allow Hodges to entertain the reader (I like in particular an homage to Catch 22) but the overall effect is to provide ‘proof’ for those who already believe that all our elected representatives are venal incompetents. If you believe politics can be a force for good then you will find this enervating and frustrating, despite the occasional giggles. Nor does it really provide much analysis as to why the Conservatives won the election (other than that Lynton Crosby and Craig Oliver had big cojones). I don’t do a formal rating system on this blog but considered introducing one so I could give this book one or two stars out of five. Look elsewhere.