Review published on August 17, 2017.
Most political memoirs are dull as dishwater. I worked at Westminster for thirteen years and avoided them like the plague. But there are a few exceptions, Alan Johnson being the best – possibly because his childhood, working life and approach to the world around him is unburdened with public schools, university student unions and moving seamlessly from political advisor to PM.
This is the third in a wonderful series of memoirs that cover his work as a trade union negotiator for the post office (having worked as a postie) for many years and his election as MP in Hull, through the Blair years of Government to the end of the Labour reign in 2010.
Having met Alan, he writes as he is. Genuinely getting to know people’s concerns as a constituency MP and climbing the Ministerial ladder with some trepidation – many established MPs (not just Tories) looked down on him for his upbringing, lack of ‘proper’ education and believed ‘leftie’ views.
It is worth reading the memoirs in sequence – This Boy, Please Mister Postman and now this one – as they provide an honestly searing story of how Alan and his sister Linda were brought up in poverty, lived together when their mother died and have both seen troubles and personal traumas yet remain optimistic and have offered so much back into the jobs and worlds they now inhabit.
As someone who was around during the turmoils in the later Labour years as Blair finally resigned and Brown took over as Leader, there are some matters I might question. But politics often makes strange alliances. Overall, Johnson’s page-turning writing draws you in wanting more of his life and exudes his love of people and especially music (he continues to be a frustrated pop star and was starstruck meeting Paul McCartney!) He can thoroughly pat himself on the back for his style of writing and totally deserved to be the Winner of the Parliamentary Book Award for Best Memoir in 2016.
I feel a future novel maybe forming on his desk in his retirement…..I do hope so!
Great personal read and the series may be a great idea for book clubs.
Philipa Coughlan 4/5
The Long and Winding Road by Alan Johnson
Corgi 9780552172158 pbk Jun 2017