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by Staff reporter
05 November 2021
Life Stories: Daniel Johnson

Life Stories: Daniel Johnson

What was your favourite book as a child?  
Probably The Twits by Roald Dahl. It’s one of the first books I can remember being really into. My dad had a beard, so I remember loving all the gruesome descriptions of the stuff found in Mr Twit’s beard!  

Is there a book that got you into politics? 
When I was younger, I had a book called Comparative Political Systems, which was a reference book, almost a sort of encyclopaedia. I’ve never been a huge reader of fiction, but I remember that as something I could dip into to find out about politics and the world.

Which book could you not finish? Just about anything by Charles Dickens. I know a lot of people love Dickens, but I’ve always struggled with him. Great Expectations was one of the set texts we had to read at school, and I don’t think I ever finished it – I just couldn’t bear it. I feel dreadful because I know it’s one of the classics that a lot of people love.

What is your favourite novel and why?  
When I was in my early 20s, I read In the Blue Light of African Dreams by Paul Watkins. It tells the story of an American pilot in North Africa and the descriptions of the setting were just so vivid that they’ve stayed with me all these years later. I tend to save my novel reading for summer holidays, but I love John le Carré and I really enjoyed Any Human Heart by William Boyd. I read the book after watching the TV adaptation, and it was even better and more complex.

Is there a book you would recommend to other MSPs? 
Yes, the book I’m currently reading – The Prime Minister We Never Had by Steve Richards. It looks at the careers of leading politicians and why they never made it into Number 10. The first chapter is about Rab Butler, who is obviously someone I know of but was a bit before my time, so it’s interesting to get to grips with his politics. There are also some Labour heroes in there, people like Barbara Castle, Roy Jenkins and Neil Kinnock.

Which book would you be embarrassed about others seeing on your bookshelf during a Zoom call? 
I have a copy of Tony Benn’s diaries which is perhaps not the sort of thing people would expect, given my political orientation within the Labour Party. I also have a copy of Red Tory, which is an analysis of how the Tories changed to attract traditional Labour voters written by Philip Blond, one of David Cameron’s former advisers. I believe in knowing your enemies! 

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