The crucial test for books of this nature is whether the authors resonate with the book buying public. Are they liked? Are they respected? Do the public have a thirst for more knowledge about the author? Cherie scores a possible one out of three, while Levy and Prescott score zeros - in Prescott's case a bg fat one, largely because he didn't write the book himself - Hunter Davies did.
Political geeks and those who inhabit the Westminster village will of course devour all three. The book review pages will be full of reviews of each of the titles, way out of proportion to their actual appeal.
So who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs? In the end, you have to lay the blame fairly and squarely at the door of the respective publishers, who have allowed these books to appear without challenging their vacuousness. In the extracts from the three books we have so far learned that...
* Tony didn't like Gordon
* Gordon didn't like Tony
* Tony and Cherie did 'it' at Balmoral
* Lord Levy thinks he did nothing wrong
Well, tell us something we didn't know! We all know that a work of political autobraphy is a self-penned work of fiction, but surely the role of an editor is to challenge an author to tell the truth rather than spin. Prescott appears to skim over the Tracey Temple affair as if it were a minor episode in his life, rather than one which hastened the end of his career and almost wrecked his marriage. By not telling it as it was he has both cheated his publisher and everyone who was unwise enough to pay £18.99 for a book which he was seemingly incapable of writing himself.
Lord Levy falls into the same trap. He skates over key questions in the cash for peerages affair as if they were of no consequences. His ghost writer was Ned Temko of The Observer, a thoroughly professional journalist, but it's clear that in the world of political memoir ghost-writing, it's he who pays the piper that calls the tune.
At least Cherie wrote her book herself, but even here there's a problem. According to Lord Levy she let her husband vet (or censor?) the manuscript before it went to the publisher, removing several controversial and embarrassing passages. He then rang Levy asking for the same priviledge. To his credit, Levy told him to bugger off.
So again, with Cherie's book, the publisher and reader have a right to feel at least a little cheated.
Publishers need to stop paying huge advances for books like this, which will never wash their faces commercially and are entirely reliant on newspaper serialisations. The latter are dependant on one killer fact. In all three cases, these books failed to deliver, yet the newspapers devoted page after page to them based on very thin gruel indeed. So newspapers join the ranks of publishers and authors in the great political memoir cheating game.
But they continue to play the game because they know that if they don't, most of their rivals will. Just to show how ridiculous things have got, it is not unknown for one newspaper group to buy the serial rights to a memoir for a six figure sum and then never actually print a word. Why would they do this? Firstly because they can, but secondly to stop their rivals getting it.
It's a mad, mad world.UPDATE: Julian Glover has written a superb article on political memoirs for The Guardian. Julian has form here, as he helped John Major with his bestsellin autobiography.