Book review: Inside the Parliament of Fools by Quentin Letts

Along with a gaggle of other newspaper sketchwriters, Quentin Letts was refused admission to a photo call at Downing Street in 2007 on the grounds that he wasn’t a ‘real journalist’.

It’s a slight he is more than happy to shoulder, gleefully aware that the parliamentary sketchwriter’s freedom from the constraints of balanced journalism makes him/her the scourge of Westminster.

Letts has been firing editorial bullets at the poseurs and pooh-bahs of British public life for over 10 years now...first from behind the barricades at the Daily Telegraph and now from his trusty trench at the Daily Mail.

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This new collection of some of his best and most acerbic political sketches and reviews lets off more steam than a Chinese laundry and is guaranteed to blow fuses and dent holes in the inflated egos of those posturing parliamentary prima donnas.

Letts’ sustained attack on the noughties’ naughtiest starts at the height of Blairism and charts ‘its slow, grotty demise’ through a hard-hitting and sometimes hilarious series of sketches evoking the sights, sounds and even smells of political debate.

In the direct line of fire come figures like former New Labour cabinet minister Peter Mandelson, here unforgettably described as ‘a soft-soled schmoozer, a spotter of seamless nothings, a shadowy figure of silken, sugared insouciance’.

Also taking a hail of bullets is former House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin (‘Gorbals Mick’), ‘a purple-faced disaster for democracy’ well-known for his ‘puce-cheeked, finger-wagging, dooon’t- you-cross-me-Jimmy tantrums’.

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Apart from the prime suspects – Tony Blair, Gordon Brown et al – Letts also lets rip at the likes of Alan Sugar (‘Lord Sugarlump of Clapham’), ‘sausageboy’ John Prescott and Yvette Cooper whose ‘fake’ and ‘northernish’ accent belies a life story that has not exactly been one of ‘unremitting hardship’.

A master of trenchant wit, Letts takes no prisoners in this anguished, angry and achingly funny put-down.

The modern Establishment won’t like it, that’s for sure...but there’s plenty of pleasure here for those who have nothing to lose.

The perfect gift for cynics!

(Constable, hardback, £12.99)