15 NOVEMBER 1997, Page 39

Alan Watkins

In a period when television creates largely spurious 'constitutional experts', it is a pleasure to welcome books by two real ones: Rodney Brazier's Ministers of the Crown (OUP, £45) and the fifth edition of John Griffith's classic, The Politics of the Judiciary (Fontana, £8.99). Patrick Devlin was one of the few postwar judges who could write halfway decent English, proba- bly because he was partly Irish. His only rivals were Lords Asquith (now forgotten), Denning and Radcliffe, but Devlin was better. His Taken at the Flood (Taverner Publications, £12.50) is a posthumous autobiography which covers 1905-35 but is none the less fascinating for that. It con- tains a good account of the 1931 crisis and a spirited defence of Ramsay MacDonald. Kenneth 0. Morgan's Callaghan: A Life (OUP, £25) is political biography on a Victorian scale, though Jim, like all politicians today, wrote many fewer letters than his predecessors. It should have been published in the Victorian manner also, in two volumes. It is slightly too indulgent to its subject, though Dr Morgan does point out that Callaghan could be both bad- tempered and vindictive.