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Eddie Hughes reviews John O’Farrell's 'Family Politics'

Image by: Roger Ashford / Alamy Stock Photo

3 min read

A tale of offspring returning to the family nest with a political twist, John O’Farrell’s latest book will perpetuate his reputation for comedy genius

In the autumn of 1999, I caught pneumonia and spent a week in hospital. This would have been an entirely miserable experience had it not been for the fact that a friend brought me in a copy of John O’Farrell’s first book, Things Can Only Get Better. This personal account of a Labour supporter who survived 18 years of Conservative government was a genuinely laugh-out-loud read, which occasionally left me inhaling heavily from my oxygen mask. 

In May of that year, I had been elected as a councillor for the first time and could completely empathise with his vivid descriptions of life on the frontline of local election campaigning. Little did I know then that I would feel the need to re-read the book in the years ahead, as Conservatives experienced their own wilderness years.

So, when I settled down to read O’Farrell’s latest offering, my expectations were high – not least because a lead character of the book was one Eddie Hughes. 

Family Politics takes us on an amusing and thought-provoking journey as parents Emma and Eddie Hughes experience the realities of offspring returning to the family home post-university, with a political twist.

I voted Labour the first time I ever voted, simply to keep my mother happy

Eddie Hughes
A post-uni 22-year-old Eddie Hughes

As the Conservative MP son of Irish immigrant, lifelong Labour-voting parents myself, I had some sympathy with the political tensions which played out as the story progressed. Indeed, I voted Labour the first time I ever voted, simply to keep my mother happy. After three subsequent years at university, I never repeated the mistake!

The return from university of Emma and Eddie’s son Dylan coincides with a significant local event that will be all too familiar to readers: a parliamentary by-election. As Emma dreams of the possibility of having the house to herself during the week, while her husband serves as an MP in Westminster, their son wrestles with his suppressed political identity.

Family Politics coverO’Farrell draws, once again, on his experience of the characters who comprise the local membership of both main political parties. He also touches on the petty news coverage which sometimes accompanies a by-election due to the need to fill today’s demands for 24-hour news. I did, however, feel the main Conservative character was something of a caricature. That was, until I returned to the Commons after reading the book and bumped into a colleague on whom that character may well have been based! 

But at its heart, this is not a book about politics, rather a story about the everyday challenges faced by parents and the young adults they seek to create, as both come to terms with the changing power dynamic that often accompanies the journey to adolescence. It will be enjoyed by those of all political affiliations and none – and will perpetuate O’Farrell’s reputation as a purveyor of light-hearted comedy genius.

Eddie Hughes is Conservative MP for Walsall North

Family Politics
By John O’Farrell
Published by Doubleday on Thursday 14 March

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