Paul RoutledgeWhen it comes to the slings and arrows of politics, Paul Routledge has seen it all – from Arthur Scargill’s battles with Thatcherism to the rise of Tony Blair’s New Labour. Aside from being a hard-hitting columnist, the chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror newspaper is also an accomplished author. He has penned biographies of Gordon Brown, Betty Boothroyd, Airey Neave, John Hume and Scargill as well as the Bumper Book of British Lefties. An avid reader and customer of AbeBooks, Paul has recommended 10 political biographies that illustrate life in the corridors of power and far beyond.

Image courtesy of the Daily Mirror

Smear! Wilson and the Secret State

Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay

This superlative example of investigative biography exposes the role of the security services in the attempt to bring down a democratically elected Labour government in the Cold War.

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Murder in Samarkand

Craig Murray

Just out, this is the autobiography of a diplomat - Our Man in Tashkent - who exposed the corrupt and barbaric Karimov regime in Uzbekistan, and was fired for his pains. The Foreign Office tried to ban this book, and when they couldn't, censored it under threat of litigation.

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Tom Driberg

Francis Wheen

The funniest, best written biography of recent years, telling the story of an outrageously gay top Labour politician of the 1950s, who spied for both sides and attempted to seduce most of the men he met.

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The Rebel Who Lost His Cause

Francis Beckett

The moving tragedy of John Beckett, Labour's youngest MP in 1925, spoken of as a future leader but driven out of Parliament. He flirted with Oswald Mosley, formed his own Fascist Party and campaigned against going to war with Germany. He was interned, and ended his life in obscurity. The tale is told sensitively by his son.

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Victor Grayson

David Clark

A short biography, necessarily so because its hero disappeared after World War I, which he began as a pacifist and ended in the trenches. A Socialist MP for Colne Valley, Yorkshire, whose fiery radicalism was emasculated by the London glitterati, his oratory burned bright, and then out.

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Great Parliamentary Scandals

Matthew Parris

Not strictly a biography, this book tells the stories of the men (and a few women) who scandalised the nation - or sometimes, just the media - with their exotic/corrupt lives at Westminster. Good bathroom reading.

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The Dictionary of Labour Biography

Greg Rosen

Again, a collection rather than a single biography. Well written, usually sympathetic portraits, often by writers or politicians who knew their subjects. From Diane Abbott to Konni Zilliacus. I contributed the entry on Arthur Scargill.

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Muck, Silk and Socialism

John Platts-Mills

The autobiography of a brilliant, infamous Communist QC, who had a finger in every "progressive" pie at home and abroad for 50 years from the mid-1930s. Impossibly self-esteeming but fascinating.

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Good and Faithful Servant

Robert Harris

Better known as a top-flight thriller writer, Harris wrote this warts and all biography of Bernard Ingham, Thatcher's hard-line press secretary for a decade, while working as a political journalist. Exposes Ingham's "socialist" roots and small-town mindset.

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Eastern Approaches

Fitzroy Maclean

Probably my favourite book, the autobiography of a diplomat, who visited forbidden Soviet central Asia during the 1930s while serving as military attache in Moscow. Became a Conservative MP, fought with the fledgling SAS in the Western Desert and was sent on a personal mission to Tito by Churchill to establish military links with the partisans in Yugoslavia. A classic story of a British soldier-politician - a genre that no longer exists.

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