Following the public devouring of Alan Clark's Diaries, the "long-awaited" second helping takes the form of a posthumous prequel, covering 1972 to1982, the formative years of this idiosyncratic political wag. And what do we discover? Blithely racist, he considers standing for the National Front, and writes that "I'm the nearest thing they're likely to get to an MP". He professes belief in National Socialism, is vehemently anti-European, and thrills to the sight of "fair-haired children" waiting outside school for their mums when he visits the Falklands in 1982. Indeed, blondes dominate his vision: his lecherous eye is everywhere, even propositioning in the Commons' public gallery, while his wife Jane stoically picks up the pieces.
After the first volume, some flatteringly spoke of Clark as a diarist to rival Samuel Pepys or Sir Henry "Chips" Channon. This time, the comparison begged is with Adrian Mole. A melancholic first half details an interminable string of losses at backgammon, neurosis over ageing, perpetual hypochondria, as well as quite affecting parental concerns. Politics remains a sideline, even when elected as an MP in 1974. It's only when the Conservatives come to power in 1979 under Margaret "The Lady" Thatcher (who reminds Clark of his mother), that the tone settles and becomes familiarly expansive, perhaps with an awareness of a future audience. Despite his hatred of his Plymouth constituency--such a pain--he revels in Commons clubbability, developing heroes such as Enoch Powell, chums such as Jonathan Aitken, and adversaries such as the "odious" Michael Heseltine, or that "butterball", Ken Clarke. The Falklands War is greeted as a personal triumph, albeit from the backbenches, but he does well to remind us how unpopular the Government was prior to it, and the lifeline it gave to Thatcher. Moving with caddish bounds from obsequious simpering to bovver-boy arrogance, Clark longed for immortality, and in a peculiar way he has found it: as a charmingly solipsistic narcissist, whose irreverence continues to tickle a British funny bone. However, as the mists of time descend, and the footnotes lengthen, perhaps future generations will wonder at such dubious charm, and our more dubious fascination with Clark's rakish progress. --David Vincent [via]