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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > August 2017 > Books in brief

Books in brief

First Confession: A Sort of Memoir

by Chris Patten (Allen Lane, £20)

Chris Patten doesn’t like political memoirs: not the usual kind, anyway. At their worst, he writes in his own effort First Confession, they “seem almost written straight out of the office diary… who said or did what to whom… What colour boxer shorts was the prime minister wearing?” The standard memoir written by a politician specialises in tittle-tattle and not much else, he says, leaving the reader with little real understanding of the political system, and the people who inhabit it.

In this “Sort of Memoir,” as he subtitles it, Patten walks us through his time as Chairman of the Tory Party in the early 1990s, as well as his later stints as the Governor of Hong Kong, Chairman of the BBC and Chancellor of Oxford. But rather than giving us the minutiae of day-to-day work, he instead uses different events in his life as pegs from which to hang philosophical musings. “Who are we?” he asks in the book’s opening pages. “Which narratives, experiences and memories shape our behaviour?”

It almost comes off. Patten’s career is interesting—and unusual—enough to demand the reader’s attention, and the contemplative tone is engaging rather than irritating. He is clearly a man who likes to think—and knows his own mind. His recent foray back into the political sphere, when he claimed Theresa May was on “borrowed time,” shows just how much.

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In Prospect’s August issue: Adam Tooze, Helen Thompson, Ben Chu, Julian Baggini, Tom Clark and Hepzibah Anderson reveal the secret history of the banking crisis and its impact over the last decade. Tooze examines the secret history itself, suggesting the work done to repair the world’s finances could mean another crisis is just around the corner. Chu asks why more people at the top of the banks that failed haven’t faced more serious repercussions, and Anderson shows how post-crash Britain has retreated into cosiness. Elsewhere in the issue Alison Wolf asks whether universities are doing any good, and David Goldblatt explores how the decision to take football off free-to-view television in Argentina could backfire for the government. Also in this issue: Kasia Boddy asks why writers are still addicted to watching boxing despite falling viewing figures, Andrew Dickson profiles Tom Stoppard, Stephen Bush explains how Jeremy Corbyn learned to compromise and David Omand outlines the cyber-security challenges facing the UK and the wider world.
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