Category Archives: Books

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.

Also posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , and | 58 Comments

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 …

Tagged | 39 Comments

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

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | Leave a comment

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 …

Also posted in News | Tagged and | 2 Comments

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.

Tagged , and | 45 Comments

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.

Tagged | 2 Comments

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 …

12 Comments

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 …

Tagged | 8 Comments

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.

Also posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

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 …

Also posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 8 Comments

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.

Tagged | 3 Comments

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , and | 3 Comments

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.

Also posted in Local government and London | Tagged , , and | 3 Comments

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.

Also posted in Parliament | Tagged and | Leave a comment

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.

Tagged and | 2 Comments

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. …

Tagged and | 2 Comments

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”.

Tagged and | 3 Comments

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 …

Tagged | 1 Comment

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , and | Leave a comment

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 …

Tagged , , and | 8 Comments

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 …

Tagged , , and | 8 Comments

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.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

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 …

Tagged , and | 1 Comment

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:

Tagged , and | Leave a comment

Paddy Ashdown: A Fortunate Life

It is a tribute to Paddy Ashdown’s varied and fascinating careers that even hardened politicos reading his autobiography, A Fortunate Life, do not express regret at how relatively briefly his British political career features in it.

Around two-thirds of the book document his times as a Royal Marine, in the Special Boat Service, then as a spy and finally, after time as an MP and leader of the Liberal Democrats, international peacemaker in the former Yugoslavia. Even if his time as leader of the Liberal Democrats had ended quickly in ignominious failure, Ashdown would have multiple impressive legacies to outweigh it. That in fact his time as leader saw remarkable success in rescuing the party from death’s door makes all but the most hardened reader end up feeling their life is just rather tame, straight-forward and under-performing compared to Ashdown’s.

Tagged and | Leave a comment

Plan C: The Social Liberal Forum’s economic prognosis

There has been a very welcome recent revival of policy thinking in the Liberal Democrats, despite the large cuts to the party’s official policy research staff. This has included a new think tank (Liberal Insight) and good work by Richard Kemp and the local government sector in encouraging imaginative plans for making use of the new legal powers going to local government.

Added to this is the Social Liberal Forum’s further foray into economic policy-making, following up on some of their successful events with their first policy pamphlet. Prateek Buch’s “Plan C – social liberal approaches to a fair, …

Tagged , , , , , , and | 7 Comments

Peace, Reform and Liberation: how does the new party history measure up?

Late last year a new history of the Liberal Democrats and its predecessor parties was published. In this post William Wallace reviews it, whilst you can watch Paddy Ashdown, Julian Glover and Shirley Williams talk at the book launch here.

I had not expected to enjoy this book as much as I did, or to learn as much from it. It covers the political history of 332 years in 372 pages, unavoidably gliding past major episodes with passing glances. Eleven chapters by different authors suggested a degree of incoherence. Yet there are some clear underlying themes, and a number of aspects …

Tagged | 1 Comment

Flying Free: Nigel Farage’s take on his own life

Events and the political calendar are likely to keep UKIP as one of the most prominent ‘other’ political parties in the UK over the next few years, making this newly revised and expanded autobiography of its most high-profile and flamboyant personality, Nigel Farage, timely not only for the party’s own fans but for anyone else interested in British politics.

It is a well written, lively book, full of the sort of pugnacious language that has helped give Farage his high popularity. It is also rather kinder to some of his opponents that you might expect if you had only come across Farage through his headline grabbing strings of insults aimed at others, though when it comes to the EU and its main functionaries he doesn’t hold back. He even has some kinds words to say for the man who threatened to kill him – and rightly so given the person’s mental health had fallen apart.

Tagged and | 9 Comments

What our readers have been buying this year…

Lib Dem Voice has an affinity deal with Amazon, which means if you purchase goods from Amazon via our link, Lib Dem Voice earns a small commission. We don’t get to know about people’s individual orders, but Amazon does report overall sales and these show that the five best-sellers to our readers in 2011 were:

1. The British General Election of 2010 (reviewed here)
2. 22 Days in May by David Laws (reviewed here)
3. Peace, Reform and Liberation: A history of liberal politics in Britain 1679-2011 (watch the book launch with Paddy Ashdown and Shirley Williams here)
4. Don’t Take No For

Also posted in Site news | 1 Comment

Brown at 10: the authoritative account – which lays into Ed Balls

When it first came out Brown at 10 by Anthony Seldon and Guy Lodge was extremely well received for its authoritative detail and the revised paperback edition maintains that standard well. With Seldon being one of the founders of the modern school of contemporary history, it is no surprise that the book follows the thorough, heavily documented approach contemporary historians strive for – with over 1 million words of interviews recorded for posterity (even if many are, for the next 30 years, withheld from public view) and extensive access to private diaries.

The huge depth of research is accompanied by …

Tagged , , , , , and | 3 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User Avatarpaul barker 20th Apr - 5:12pm
    On the question of how we will do in The Euros. We know that we have been reduced to our core vote in Local Elections...
  • User AvatarRuaraidh 20th Apr - 4:37pm
    @ChrisB I don't think there'd be a great reduction in the number of people visiting the site if there were no comments, given that it's...
  • User AvatarSimon 20th Apr - 4:33pm
    My prediction is that before the year is out there will be one of two former Mirror journalists behind bars - I think some of...
  • User AvatarSandy 20th Apr - 4:31pm
    Yes, it's childish and ridiculous. I feel even a bit embarrassed by grown men and women spending their time with jokes like that but really,...
  • User AvatarJohnTilley 20th Apr - 4:29pm
    Chocolate Teapot was my suggestion for a representation of the coalition. Not sure if that is why my earlier comment was blocked?
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 20th Apr - 3:45pm
    Heck there's someone here pointing out they bet on us getting more than 1 MEP. Wow!! I am so encouraged by such reckless optimism. However...