My daughter bought me Andrew Rawnsley’s book, The End of the Party, for Christmas and it’s been what you might call a deliberately delayed delight.
I did not want to fritter the gift by dipping in for a few pages at a time, so I resisted the temptation to open it until I had time to consume it in great, hearty chunks.
What better opportunity to make a start than on a transatlantic flight?
As I absorbed myself in the spectacularly devious machinations of Blair, Brown, Mandelson and Campbell (far more Machiavellian than you could ever imagine) the trip passed in no time.
Rawnsley is a man with the ability to convert his canny observations into compelling prose.
In doing so, he has created an epic of contemporary politics in which the genesis, glory days and grubby disintegration of the New Labour experiment is unsparingly chronicled.
It is a book Vince Cable would be well advised to – as my old English teacher used to say – read, learn and inwardly digest.
It is hardly credible that a man who has risen to ministerial status could be so naïve as to criticise the Conservatives for being ‘ruthless, brutal and thoroughly tribal.’
Surely he must have realised by now that it’s what political parties do.
These unattractive characteristics may not be their reasons for existing, but they are certainly their means of surviving.
The vacillating Cable (who once seemed the Lib Dems’ best hope of acquiring a leader of substance) has been a disappointment since the Alliance was stitched together.
His participation was always going to be a victory for vanity over principle.
As a consequence, he has spent the last 12 months teetering along a political tightrope, trying to balance national interest with party credibility.
The same has applied to the lubricious Chris Huhne, who is saying one thing as a concession to government consensus, and another as a sop to the party faithful.
Both men know Clegg is doomed as party leader, and both have their eyes on the succession. The irony is, neither now has a hope of getting it.