In the Thick of It: The Private Diaries of a Minister by former UK Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan, is to be published next month. UK & Commonwealth rights were acquired by William Collins in a significant pre-emptive deal from Northbank’s Martin Redfern, and will publish on Thursday 15 April.
Sir Alan Duncan was at the centre of the Conservative Party for thirty years. In his last role as Minister of State at the Foreign Office he deputised for Boris Johnson. Once described as the then Foreign Secretary’s ‘pooper-scooper’, few are more attuned to Johnson’s suitability for high office than the man who helped clear up his mistakes. Not since Alan Clark have an MP’s diaries offered such a rich personal account of political life. Covering the pressures on a minister and the ructions of a fractured Parliament, In the Thick of It is a unique cocktail of acerbic wit and serious perceptions; it is as insightful as it is entertaining.
Duncan’s riotously candid diaries span the four years from the eve of the referendum to the UK’s eventual exit from the EU, covering the fall of two prime ministers, the course of two elections, and Theresa May’s survival of a no-confidence vote. He records a treasure-trove of insider gossip, giving biting and often hilarious accounts of petty rivalries, poor decision-making, big egos, and big crises. Across these unfiltered daily entries, Duncan builds a revealing and often profound picture of UK politics and personalities from deep inside the engine room of power. Spiced with withering putdowns of fellow Conservative MPs and ministerial colleagues, and irreverent anecdotes about ambassadors, foreign dignitaries and the glamorous party set in Mustique, the diaries are a rich seam of high politics and low intrigue.
Alan Duncan says, ‘My mantra is “always be a happy politician”. A sure protection against fury and frustration is to vent onto the page by writing everything down. That’s how these diaries arose – both for therapy in the moment, and as a lasting insurance against the brain-fade of age. They offered me a fulfilling medium through which to record the dramas of my daily life. To combine being a foreign minister with working closely with Boris Johnson and Theresa May, against a backdrop of a divisive issue and a fractured parliament, proved to be the richest possible stimulus. I hope they are as much a source of entertainment as they are an accurate account of this crucial period in our recent political history.’
Martin Redfern says: ‘It has been a great honour for Northbank to represent Sir Alan, who is one of the UK’s most colourful politicians and a highly respected authority on international affairs. Nothing exposes the cut and thrust of politics quite like a minister’s daily diary, and In the Thick of It is up there with the very best in the genre. It is destined to become a classic.’
Arabella Pike, William Collins publishing director, says: ‘Alan Duncan’s diaries offer an unrestrained perspective on political personalities from inside government, as May and then Johnson hurtle from Brexit crisis to catastrophe, and back again. But it is much more than tittle-tattle. Important themes run through the diaries, including the frustrations of ministerial life, the complexities of Middle Eastern politics, and concern about the UK’s declining standing in the world. These are diaries which will make a splash and show Duncan to be one of the great political diarists of modern times.’
Sir Alan Duncan was the UK’s Foreign Minister, and the de facto Deputy Foreign Secretary, from 2016 to 2019. He was the Member of Parliament for Rutland and Melton until stepping down in 2019. For the past thirty years, he has been at the centre of British political life. He has been at the heart of every Conservative Party leadership race since John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher in 1990, spearheading William Hague’s 1997 leadership campaign, and has held senior positions such as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and Shadow Minister for Justice. He was the first ever openly gay Conservative MP, coming out in 2002.
In David Cameron’s government, Sir Alan was Minister of State for International Development (2010 to 2014). He then served as the government’s Special Envoy to Yemen and on the Intelligence and Security Committee until 2016. He completed his parliamentary career with three years as Minister of State for Europe and the Americas.
One of UK politics’ most forthright and engaging personalities, Sir Alan is recognised as one of the best-connected and well-informed experts on the Middle East and, as Boris Johnson’s deputy in the Foreign Office, sat in the very midst of everything in government that took place between the EU referendum and the UK’s eventual exit from the EU in January 2020.
In the Thick of It will be published on 15 April and is available for pre-order now. For speaking enquiries, please contact our corporate agent Tom Copson.