BACK in the day, my first job in publishing was working as a copywriter. My role was to write the blurbs on the back of the books – all that (supposedly sharply written) text that hopefully made someone pick up a book.

As starter jobs went, it wasn’t a bad one – I turned up, read a manuscript, wrote a blurb, went home.

The variety of books I had to read was also a great introduction to publishing and my first step to becoming a commissioning editor.

Some books were more exciting to work on than others. There was something thrilling about being given the new novel by Beryl Bainbridge or Patricia Cornwell before anyone else.

There was something slightly less thrilling about being given the latest novel by Edwina Currie to read. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the former Conservative minister was reinventing herself as an author: I dutifully read the lot, from growing-up-in-the-sixties tomes to steamy parliamentary romps.

In 2002, Edwina Currie published her memoirs under great secrecy: this was the one book of hers I wanted to read but was not allowed to. Instead, it was kept under lock and key in the office next door to mine.

On the Friday before it was published, I remember many fraught conversations behind closed doors. The Times were serialising the revelations that she had had an affair with John Major and a dummy edition of the front page had been created to hide their scoop. Their political editor Philip Webster, meanwhile, was desperately trying to track Major down, to speak to him before the story broke.

Philip Webster, who is coming to speak to the Salisbury Literary Political Dining Club next week, recounts the episode in his new memoir, Inside Story. His book is a fascinating account into politics over the last four decades, for which Webster enjoyed a ringside seat.

Webster is one of many speakers the Dining Club has welcomed over the last few years to talk about politics from a variety of viewpoints: recent guests include JP Floru speaking on North Korea and Today Programme editor Peter Snowden on David Cameron.

The Literary Political Dining Club is not the only outlet the city has for political discussion. On the other side of the tracks, this coming Saturday sees the latest edition of the newly formed Democracy Cafe at the Arts Centre.

Here, rather than listening to guests coming in to talk, the emphasis is on opening up the floor for everyone to contribute, in an attempt to think a little deeper about the issues in question.

The Democracy Cafe was set up by Dickie Bellringer, and I caught up with him last week to talk about the concept. He described how the group has its origins in the work of US thinker Christopher Plummer. It was Plummer who twenty years ago came up with the original Socrates Cafe – a regular meeting of minds and exchange of ideas.

Bellringer explained how the shape of the discussions were aimed to echo the model of ancient Greece (though presumably with more coffee and fewer chitons). Rather than the more confrontational approach of back-and-forth debate, the Democracy Cafe looks at the subjects chosen in a more thoughtful, discursive manner – less about the answers and more about the questions thrown up. Plummer’s aim was to offer an ‘oasis of reasonableness in a desert of rising intolerance and polarisation’. Bellringer described how in previous sessions people across the political spectrum have come together, left and right finding surprisingly common cause in the discussions.

So if you like your latte with a sprinkling of ideas on the side, the Democracy Cafe might be the place for you.

n The next meeting of the Salisbury Literary Political Dining Club is at the White Hart on Thursday, November 16. The Democracy Cafe is at Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday, November 11 from 10am-12pm and monthly thereafter.