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In the Thick of It Reviews

In the Thick of It by Alan Duncan

In the Thick of It: The Private Diaries of a Minister

Alan Duncan

2.90 out of 5

5 reviews

Imprint: William Collins
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 15 Apr 2021
ISBN: 9780008422264

'Sensational ... One of the most explosive political diaries ever to be published ... As candid, caustic and colourful as the sensational Alan Clark Diaries of the 1990s' DAILY MAIL

4 stars out of 5
24 Apr 2021

"The relentlessness of ministerial life is well captured"

These diaries are honest, and any of Duncan’s friends will instantly recognise the authenticity of his views. They document an important time in British politics, but are a long lament about the declining state of British diplomacy and the quality of parliament. The world as Duncan once saw it no longer exists, and a political era ends with his generation’s departure from parliament. The book somewhat poignantly closes just as the first UK cases of Covid-19 emerge — and the world changes again.


3 stars out of 5
Max Hastings
18 Apr 2021

"a former minister’s roll call of ruderies"

The former minister has ritually washed his hands in disgust. But if all of us turn our backs on the political struggle merely because we recoil from the present dominance of right-wing nationalists, many of them unimpressive, then our country’s future will be arid indeed. Duncan was a minor-league politician but a force for good sense. This makes me regret publication of these unreflective diaries, which diminish him. I disagree with few of the opinions that he expresses but the language and sentiments are cheaper than Britain’s plight deserves.

2 stars out of 5
Andrew Rawnsley
18 Apr 2021

"there are some good jokes along the way"

He can be an annoying tease. An entry from March 2017 reads: “Dinner at Peter Mandelson’s house off Regent’s Park with a bunch of people from Lazard. Time with Mandelson is never dull.” I would like to read more about that, but the author discloses nothing more, slamming the door in our faces.

Don’t read this diary in the expectation of any stunning revelations, delightful prose or profound reflections. Do if you want to better understand the bitter ache of frustrated ambition that gnaws the guts of so many of our politicians. And there are some good jokes along the way.

3 stars out of 5
Gaby Hinsliff
15 Apr 2021

"The diaries of the former Tory minister dismiss the PM’s Brexit arguments as ‘puerile junk’, but Britain’s stagnant politics is the real target"

But what saves the book from descending into bitterness and pomposity, despite flashes of both, is the feeling that Duncan frankly has a point; that after four years of purging remain supporters from the Tory ranks, what’s left is hardly a government of titans. And as he notes in the foreword, winning a majority has not solved the fundamental problem of reconciling their promises with reality. We may be in the thick of it for a while yet.

3 stars out of 5
10 Apr 2021

"Quentin Letts finds plenty of cheerful rudeness in the Conservative politician’s diaries of the toxic Brexit years"

Having chosen Remain, Duncan became an increasingly demonic anti-Brexiteer. It is this transformation, along with his diplomatic access, that makes the diaries more than merely bracingly readable. They serve the historical function of describing the vortex of vehemence that infected our elite from mid-2016. The craziness ended — if indeed it has quite stopped — only with the Conservatives’ 2019 general election win.