This detestable book
That's how Margaret Pope has described Bassett's Working with David book in the NZ Herald today. Although only a small fraction of the way through it at present, I have some sympathy with what she has said in the article and I'm getting a strong and acrid taste already about where Bassett is heading in his tome on the machinations of the Lange government:
Working with David does much to suggest that David hit the mark. The writing is purple, overheated, even foam-flecked. The method is unusual for a scholarly work. It starts with an idea or, more often, with a slur, and looks for facts which back it up. If the author can't find any facts, he makes something up.
This is the book's idea of me: I was a rigid and old-fashioned Labour supporter, an old-style socialist, ideologically opposed to the economic changes of the 1980s. Taking advantage of the prime minister's infatuation, I seized my chance to bend him to my will, leading him to fall out with his finance minister while I took control of his office and brought about the destruction of the fourth Labour Government. It's not surprising that reviewers have resorted to asking if the author could possibly be serious.
And earlier she proclaims:
the first time I ever met Dr Michael Bassett I felt my flesh creep.
Well the feeling was, and still is, clearly mutual. And to be fair, when you see his photograph on the inside dust jacket, he does appear to be creepy. He's got that creepy look in his eye.
Bassett mentioned that when asked what he saw in her, Lange replied "she thinks like me." Now this strikes Bassett as absurd and he can't make much sense of it, but after reading Pope's scathing reply I think Lange might have seen a fellow soul, a less ideological person than those surrounding him at the time, and perhaps someone he could talk to removed from the sort of inside scheming that Lange accuses Bassett of in his memoir - and that Bassett by his own account seems to confess with some pride in his own book. He was eternally "doing the numbers" and involved himself in plots and maneoverings aplenty. Lange had no time at all for that side of politics. That might have been part of the attraction to Pope, seeing as how she was not born and bred Labour. It's hard to tell at this point.
In reading Bassett and Pope, the struggle has all the hallmarks of jealousy.