Category Archives: Books

And the top book read by Lib Dem MPs this summer was…

capital pikettyPolling firm ComRes has published its annual list of the books MPs have been reading this year, based on a survey of 154 MPs weighted by party and region to be representative of the House of Commons.

Here’s what Lib Dem MPs have taken to the beach with them…

2014
1. Capital in the 21st Century – Thomas Piketty
2. When Britain Burned the White House – Peter Snow

(And here’s what they took last year…

2013
1. What Has Nature Ever Done For Us – Tony Juniper)

Piketty’s tome polled strongly with MPs of all three main parties; though Margaret Thatcher (who topped last year’s list) wasn’t far behind:

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My pick of 15 top books to read this summer

reading summer - photo by hans van der bergThe newspapers are awash with summer best-reads at the moment, as well-known writers pick the books to relax with by the pool. You know the kind of thing: “It’s at this time of year I typically embark on re-reading Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, translating it into Russian (which I’m learning to relax as I prepare for my Grade 8 piano exam) from our rustic cottage in Tuscany.” Or, alternatively: “Here’s a book written by my mate.”

Always eager to copy a …

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Eddie Clein on ‘Falling off the Fence’, his memoir of six decades in Liverpool politics

falling off the fence eddie cleinEddie Clein, a long-standing former Lib Dem councillor and former Lord Mayor of Liverpool, has recently published his memoirs of his six decades’ involvement in the city’s politics – from his first win in 1969 through to his final defeat in 2012, aged 77. Here Eddie tells LDV a little more about his life and what the book covers…

As a key player in Liverpool’s Liberal Democrat administration (1998-2010), I thought it was important to place on record some of the party’s achievements and some of the

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Ukip examined: who they are, what they stand for, and what it all means for British politics

revolt on the right ukipI’ve just finished reading Revolt on the Right, Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin’s fascinating book analysing the rise of Ukip and what makes the party and its voters tick. Mark Pack has already written a very good review for LibDemVoice here. Here’s my take on some of its key insights.

Who votes for Ukip? The ‘left behind’

For a start, it debunks the myth that Ukip is a party of disaffected, well-to-do, shire-Tories obsessed by Europe and upset by David Cameron’s mild social liberalism on same-sex marriage. Yes, there are some Ukip voters like that, but they tend to be its peripheral voters, the ones most likely to give the Tories a kick in the Euros next month then return to their traditional True Blue ways in time for the general election. Ukip’s core vote in reality is made up of what the authors define as ‘left behind’ voters, overwhelmingly comprising older white working class males with no formal educational qualifications.

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Jeremy Browne, South Korea and ‘Race Plan’

jeremy browne_Reform_Race_plan_coverIs Jeremy Browne really a secret lover of state intervention and a sceptic of free markets, believing in big state spending, government economic planning and regular intervention in the market? For all of the veneer of free marketeering in his book Race Plan, not to mention his choice of Reform as the publisher, it’s a question that comes to mind because in-between praising specific free market, small state policies, Browne regularly praises the results of governments such as the Chinese and the South Koreans, who are anything but.

It’s his praise of South Korea that is the most intriguing, for China can simply be put to one side as dramatic but its own unique case (though, as Stephen Tall has said, it is still an odd example for Jeremy Browne to trumpet).

South Korea is, as Browne rightly points out, seen by many developing countries as the one to emulate, transforming itself from a poor dictatorship to a wealthy democracy with globally successful industries in less than half of one person’s life time.

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‘The Welsh Liberals’: new book published this month

welsh liberalsPublished this month: The Welsh Liberals: The History of the Liberal and Liberal Democrat parties in Wales.

Despite being Wales’ oldest political party this is the first published history of the Welsh Liberal Party or its successor, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Party.

The Welsh Liberals: The History of the Liberal and Liberal Democrat parties in Wales charts the highs and lows of an extraordinary party.

This comprehensive study includes over 40 interviews with senior figures from within the Welsh Liberal Party, the Welsh SDP and Welsh Liberal Democrat Party.

You can order it from …

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Jeremy Browne’s ‘Race Plan’. I’ve read it, so here’s my review…

Jeremy Browne bookThree points to make right from the start about Jeremy Browne’s new book, Race Plan.

First, it’s a wholly Good Thing that a Lib Dem MP is choosing to think aloud, to set out clearly his views. Nick Clegg having decided that he did, after all, like one of the Beecroft recommendations and decided to fire-at-will his home office minister, Jeremy could have slunk away, tail between his legs, to nurse his bitterness. He’s chosen a rather more constructive outlet for his disappointment. By which I mean this book, rather than his short-lived, C.19th-throwback, gap year beard.

Secondly, there is a fundamental problem with the central conceit of this book: that Britain is in a global race, and that if we don’t get fitter, we’ll be overtaken by or competitors in the coming Asian Century, fall behind, and become poorer.

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Book Review: Money for Everyone

A Citizen’s Income Convincingly Argued

In ‘Money for Everyone’, Malcolm Torry delivers a blockbuster argument in favour of a Citizen’s Income to wholly or partially replace current benefits. His book is well-researched, well-informed, well-written, and is articulate and readable. His main argument is that, given widespread acceptance of a benefits scheme of some sort, then a Citizen’s Income is by far the best option. Specifically it avoids the disincentives of very high marginal deduction rates of current benefits which create the familiar unemployment and poverty traps. According to Torry, a Citizen’s Income would incentivise employment, training, new business formation, women’s …

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A Sunday afternoon read – Rosie Wallace: The Sisters

Earlier this year, I talked to Rosie Wallace about her first two novels which I’d devoured in a couple of days over last Christmas.

Her third novel is still a work in progress but the Scotsman featured her short story The Sisters as part of its The Write Stuff series. Here’s a snippet:

The younger one has always been a chatterer. Silence is a vacuum to be filled with whatever thoughts are passing through her mind. As she wraps a china lamp base in old newspaper, she explains how her daughter could have been a doctor if the physics teacher

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FREE: Extract of Paddy

Aurum Press, the publishers of Paddy Ashdown’s bestselling autobiography A Fortunate Life, have released a chapter of the book for free download.

It’s called 1983 – The Winning of Yeovil, and as I wrote in 2009:

MP also stands for Military Precision, so it’s no surprise that Paddy Ashdown’s campaign to become MP for Yeovil was long on discipline and short on creature comforts.

If you haven’t packed a book for the train to Conference yet, 1983 – The Winning of Yeovil is vital reading for all Liberal Democrat campaigners. And as is typical of the Chair of the Party’s …

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Book review: Liberal Democrats do God

liberaldemocratsdogodMainstream Christianity often does battle with mainstream liberal values, be that over women in the church, LGBT rights or contraception and abortion. So when I learned that there was a Liberal Democrat Christian Forum and they’d embarked on a new publication entitled “Liberal Democrats do God” my interest was piqued.

At £6.67 on Amazon, I was somewhat surprised when it arrived at its rather lightweight look and feel. At just 70-80 pages, this is no War and Peace.

My first impression of the book upon opening was the number of high profile writers from Tim Farron, Duncan Hames, to Baroness Brinton and Sir Alan Beith … an  undoubted breadth and range of Lib Dem opinion and experience.

The books is split into two sections, the first “Why should we do God?”  covers essays by John Pugh MP, Tm Farron MP, Greg Mulholland MP and Sir Andrew Stunnell MP. All seek to explain why they hold their respective faiths and how they interlink with liberalism.

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Book review: ‘People Power’ by Dan Jellinek

peoplepowerDan Jellinek’s book ‘People Power‘, which was published last month, is subtitled ‘A user’s guide to democracy’, and in it he comprehensively outlines the principles and practice of democracy in the UK.

This is not a book for political nerds, although even they may find some new nuggets of information within. Instead he is writing for members of the general public who may be curious to know how our political institutions work. Does that sound like someone you know?

The title, of course, encapsulates the power of the vote at election time, which he describes as ‘the heartbeat of democracy’, but Jellinek is also deeply interested in participatory democracy and explains how citizens can make their voices heard between elections.

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Book Review “The Lost Continent”

European Union flags - Some rights reserved by tristam sparksOn my holidays earlier this year, I read “The Lost Continent” by Gavin Hewitt, the BBC News’s Europe Editor, about the causes, effects and response to the European financial crisis, with its outlying crises in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

It was a great read and I heartily recommend it to any of you, especially those going on holiday as it both rewards in-depth attention and travel makes a good backdrop to its change of focus between different countries. I find …

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Our pick of the 17 top books to read this summer

2011-10-06 12.38.58 SpainThe newspapers are awash with summer best-reads at the moment, as well-known writers pick the books to relax with by the pool. You know the kind of thing: “It’s at this time of year I typically embark on re-reading Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, translating it into Russian (which I’m learning to relax as I prepare for my Grade 8 piano exam) from our rustic cottage in Tuscany.” Or, alternatively: “Here’s a book written by my mate.”

Always eager to copy a trite-and-tested and formula, here’s …

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The Green Book – new directions for Liberals in government

green-bookYesterday saw the launch of a book project that I’ve been working on with colleagues over the last year. Between us, we persuaded 27 authors to put pen to paper and say what should be in a programme for government, one that’s fit for the world we live in today. Some 70 people from business, NGOs, academia, think-tanks and political parties joined us in Westminster for the launch.

Our choice of the title “Green Book” is a very conscious nod towards the Orange Book of a decade ago and indeed Lloyd George’s Yellow Book – really authored by John Maynard Keynes – 85 years ago. Last week I wrote how times have changed since then.

Each author has a specific point of view but all were united in saying we can’t go on as we are, both as a country and as a party. As editors, we were clear that the LibDems are now a party of national government; we need a programme to put before the voters that’s frank about the challenges Britain faces: the first industrialised nation that has largely exhausted its natural resources and now has to compete for energy, food and raw materials with the burgeoning economies of India, Brazil and China.

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Yellow, orange, green… time for new book, and a different approach

Back in 1928, publication of The Yellow Book – the report of a party inquiry “Britain’s Industrial Future” – provided the basis for Lloyd George’s 1929 general election programme “We can conquer unemployment!”. It put the party firmly in the camp of an interventionist economic strategy, with John Maynard Keynes as its intellectual lodestar. With the Great Depression ranging, the party firmly rejected laisser-faire liberalism.

Come 2004 and the Orange Book -subtitled Reclaiming Liberalism and edited by David Laws and Paul Marshall – challenged what some were calling nanny-state liberalism. It promoted choice and competition and argued that the Liberal Democrats …

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Want to learn about political campaigning? 5 books for Christmas

Looking forward to some festive season reading or wondering what books to get some of your politically-minded friends?

Here are my top five books which will tell the reader about how political campaigning really works. Not the starry-eyed fun fiction of the West Wing but real politics and real campaigning.

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Mothers of Liberty: Women who built British Liberalism

For an organisation that looks to the past and to party politics, it is almost inevitable that the Liberal Democrat History Group’s publications are rather dominated with accounts of men. Even now, well into the 21st century, we only just have the first female Liberal Democrat ministers, whilst female Liberal Democrat Cabinet members or party leaders are still something for the future.

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A flagship borough: 25 years of a Liberal Democrat Sutton Council

Look round the room at the next Liberal Democrat event you attend and ask yourself how many people in the room will have their names recorded in places that future political historians can find. A few, certainly, especially if they have been elected to public office.

For most, however, their contribution to a political party slips away through the cracks of the historical record, disappearing as the direct personal memories people have of them fade and then end with death.

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Order! Order! A Parliamentary Miscellany

Robert Rogers, the Clerk of the House of Commons, is the latest in a long line of distinguished authors to have produced a miscellany of Parliamentary history, information and quirks. His volume Order! Order! A Parliamentary Miscellany is a worthy addition to that sequence.

Originally published in 2009 it has just been republished with little changed other than a new Foreword. As a result, although it is not quite as up to date as its 2012 publication date might suggest, it is still pretty fresh. Given Rogers’s background, it is also no surprise that this is primarily a miscellany of the House of Commons. The House of Lords is much the neglected partner.

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Review: 101 Ways To Win An Election by Mark Pack & Edward Maxfield

101 Ways To Win An Election is a welcome and pleasant surprise.

Now that might seem a lukewarm introduction to a review of a book co-written by my co-editor Mark Pack, together with fellow Lib Dem Edward Maxfield. But it’s not intended to be either ironic or half-hearted because what makes this book such an excellent guide to political campaigning is that it succeeds in being a whole lot more than that.

In fact, its 308 pacy pages cheerfully zig-zag between marketing manual, self-help book, and campaigning A-Z — with dollops of political history, pop-psychology, and behavioural economics thrown in for good measure.

The authors have clearly put a lot of thought into creating a book which people will actually want to read — and to re-read — on a subject many but the most obsessed political aficionado might initially dismiss as dull and boring.

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Book review: William Gladstone – New Studies & Perspectives

Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and William Ewart Gladstone, giants of the nineteenth century, were all born in 1809 yet as Frank M Turner argues in this collection of essays Darwin and Lincoln are much better remembered today. I am sure this is true even for Liberal Democrats. In the final essay, Eugenio Biagini reflects on a 1992 Economist front cover describing Gladstone as ‘A prophet of the Left’. Gladstone’s legacy has been appropriated by Thatcherites who over simplify the Victorian Liberal view of the roles of government and private enterprise. …

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Reframe: How to solve the world’s trickiest problems?

How you view Eric Knight’s book by the end will depend very heavily on what you want out of it. At one level it works extremely well: a very readable and lively introduction to many of the issues which dominate the agendas of politicians and diplomats – fighting terrorism, regulating the financial markets, handling immigration, dealing with climate change and more.

Eric Knight, however, sets out to do more than present a primer on major current issues, as the subtitle suggests: “How to solve the world’s trickiest problems”.

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101 Ways To Win An Election: now available for Kindle

You may have noticed my excitement as the book I wrote with Ed Maxfield finally appearedstarted being shipped to buyers and even made it to bookshop shelves.

Quite a few people have asked whether it would be available as an e-book, which was the plan but has taken a little while to sort.

The good news is that first of the e-book versions is now out – for the Kindle. As with the paperback, it’s packed full of tips on how to win an election …

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The Politics of Coalition: How the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government Works

Robert Hazell and Ben Yong’s work, The Politics of Coalition: How the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government Works, is a very readable volume, written mostly in the style of an introductory politics textbook and based on extensive interviews with the participants, including at very senior levels.

The book is well done, readable, comprehensive and has a few gems lurking in the revelations from all the interviews, such as the limited involvement of Andrew Lansley and Paul Burstow in drafting the health section of the Coalition Agreement.

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Jo Grimond: Towards the sound of gunfire

A better understanding of Jo Grimond’s life is always a healthy corrective to some of the cartoon caricatures about right-wing lurches and Thatcherite policies that sometimes get thrown around over the views of contemporary Liberal Democrats.

Grimond was, after all, a man who talked of himself as being on the centre-left and who pushed for a progressive realignment of politics that would see a new centre-left party supplant Labour. Off and on feelers went out to those in Labour ranks during his career. And yet, he was …

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Can you tell the heroes from the villains in the sub-prime mortgage disaster?

Michael Lewis’s highly readable account of the collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage market and the worldwide financial crisis it triggered focuses on a small number of characters. People with iconoclastic views determined not to be constrained by the old conventional rules. People who created new financial investments. People who put money into places their investors did not really understand on a good day and did not even know what had been done with their money on a bad day. People who made huge profits …

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The New Depression: Richard Duncan’s prognosis of our economic ills and the answer to them

A slight change from the usual in my day job at MHP Communications has come courtesy of our client Richard Duncan and his new book, The New Depression, which is primarily about the US but with lessons that are very applicable to the UK.

In a nutshell, his case is half-Austrian. Or indeed half-Keynesian. That is because whilst Duncan’s diagnosis of the current economic ills is very much in the Austrian school of economics, with its emphasis on the role of credit, his prescription for fixing the economy is large-scale borrowing to fund infrastructure work, all of which sounds rather Keynesian.

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Vince Cable: Free Radical – what the memoirs say about the man

A little belatedly, I’ve got round to reading Vince Cable’s memoirs (or rather, listening to the audio book version – what better accompaniment to a delivery round?).

Vince Cable’s memoirs do much to explain both the praise and the criticism he has received. At one point he writes how “I am often asked why I am not party leader…”. Conceit or modesty? You can read that comment either way and it is easy to see why he produces such different views.

Views differ too over quite where …

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Gurkha: The true story of a campaign for justice by Peter Carroll

The Gurkha Justice campaign, seeking to give those who had served in the British army the right to settle in Britain afterwards, is a classic and heartwarming story of how a small number of people can bring justice and joy to many.

For many years Gurkhas and others had raised the injustice of ex-soldiers being told ‘thank you for your bravery, now go and live elsewhere’. It was, however, only when Peter Carroll got involved that an effective campaign really started to take shape and then took off after a chance remark from a passing member of the public tipped him off to Joanna Lumley’s potential backing.

As Peter Carroll puts it in this account of the campaign:

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