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A book not to miss

January 17, 2010

Having mentioned my signing at Kesley’s in Haddington yesterday, I must tell you  of a very pleasant meeting there. Once the early rush had died down, Simon was able to tell me of a forth-coming event on Saturday, January, 23, a visit by Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, Baron Selkirk of Douglas, as part of the launch of his autobiography, ‘After You, Prime Minister’. More than that he told me that James had asked him to pass on his regards. I had no sooner bought a copy of  the book and requested a signature by the author, than the shop door opened and the man himself walked in. A mutual signing session ensued. Afterwards, when I saw the generosity of the dedication on my book, I was embarrassed by the brevity of mine on his. If I could, I would ask for it back and  add the words, ‘To the nicest man, and finest gentleman, in British politics, and one of  our finest all-rounders.’ I do not believe that anyone who knows him, not even his most strident ideological opposite, would disagree with that description.

James is the younger brother of the present Duke of Hamilton. He began his professional life as an advocate,  but spent most of it in politics. He was an MP for a marginal constituency for 23 years ( Fine testimony to his popularity) and was a minister in the Thatcher and Major governments for ten of those. When that came to an end he was elected to the Scottish Parliament where he sat fora further eight years until his retirement in 2007. Members of our Parliaments have been vilified over the last few months. In some case this has been entirely appropriate, but Lord James stands apart from that crowd. I believe that people enter politics for two basic reasons. The majority hunger for the power buzz and influence that such a career brings, a few are driven there by ego, and some, perhaps the smallest of the three groups, seek office out of a desire, maybe even a duty, to help improve the lot of their fellow man. Unlikely as it may seem of someone who might be described in shorthand as a Tory Grandee, the former MP for Edinburgh West belongs firmly in the third  group.

But there’s much more to him than politics. He is a top-class golfer. In his youth he was a fine amateur boxer. He has always been a keen military historian, and has published works on incidents in the Second World War II in which his family  were involved. Whatever your view of his politics he is living a very interesting  life, and his account of it . . . so far . . . makes excellent reading. Knowing the man, having met him thirty years ago in what was for me another life, it took me only a couple of pages to know for sure that there was no ghost writer involved in the telling.

‘After You Prime Minister,’ is published by Stacey International, Price £14.95. Trust me on this one: I’m an author.

(Who’s the nicest woman in British politics? My friend Jacqui Lait, MP)

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