24 NOVEMBER 1990, Page 29

Alan Watkins

A good year for political biography. I missed John Grigg's The Young Lloyd George when it first came out in 1973. It has now been reissued in paperback (Methuen, £12.99) and seems to me even better than the reviewers said it was. Grigg destroys the Asquith-Nicolson-Keynes pic- ture of LG as some semi-educated, amoral force of nature without in any way glossing over the young rascal's faults. Among Grigg's revelations are that he was once taken home drunk from the Commons, went a fortnight without changing his pants and described the inhabitants of South Wales as consumed by 'morbid football- ism'. Francis Wheen's Tom Dri berg (Chat- to, £18) deals most readably with another rascal of very different background and — literally — tastes. Though Wheen has a splendid go at Chapman Pincher, I still suspect that Driberg put a toe in the murky waters of Intelligence. In Crossman (Cape, £16.99) Anthony Howard writes the biography of a politician who gave the impression of being a rascal through a combination of insensitivity, changes of mind and a desire to shock. I learnt a great deal I did not know about Crossman's life before 1945. For understandable reasons — we already have three big diary volumes covering the period — Howard devotes only one chapter out of 16 to Crossman's ministerial career 1964-70. He does not tell us, for example, how and why Crossman's reform of the Lords came to grief. (It was because of Harold Wilson's sulks following the Lords' rejection of the Rhodesia Order.) I think three out of 18 chapters would have been a more satisfactory prop- ortion.