Here’s an essay topic to discuss: People aren’t normally the best biographers of themselves, and politicians especially not. That is, it takes a certain self-obsession to make a real go of it in politics, and that’s not really compatible with a capacity to stand back and understand yourself and the era you played a role in shaping. Self-analysis needs distance, and distance is fatal in politics.

That could be the reason why The Costello Memoirs is one of the least-enthralling reads in years. It might also have something to do with it being co-written. Co-written memoirs don’t have a good track record. The best example is LBJ’s The Vantage Point, which was mostly ghost-written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and which manages to reduce one of the most outsized figures in US political history to a rather drab cardboard cut-out politician.

For the most part, Costello’s book is similar: flat, by-the-numbers stuff, with some eccentric decisions and howling errors (the Accord was not based on wages being "fixed in accordance with the movements of prices"). Significant characters or events suddenly appear, with no introduction or explanation.