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.

Talking to a Brick Wall by Deborah Mattinson – a fascinating account of how politics looks through the eyes of the voter.

A Fortunate Life by Paddy Ashdown - a great read covering many topics, including a chapter on how he won Yeovil. Still very relevant.

Minority Verdict by Michael Ashcroft – find out how the Conservative party used data and targeting in its key seats at the last general election.

The Victory Lab by Sasha Issenberg – the essential introduction to how smart political campaigns run tests to find out what works.

101 Ways To Win An Election – well I would recommend it, wouldn’t I? But one of the reasons for writing it was that Ed and I felt there is so much about campaigning which other books don’t tell you.

Happy reading!

Got some other must reads? Do share them in the comments.

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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3 Comments

  • Kirsten de Keyser 13th Nov '12 - 11:07am

    Great picks Mark.
    Even better, they’re all available from UK tax paying online bookseller Bookstore(dot)co(dot)uk so you don’t even have to sully yourself by putting your dollar with Amazon!
    It’s a win win

  • Liberal Neil 13th Nov '12 - 11:46am

    My faves are:

    The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – by Joe Trippi, who masterminded the ground-breaking Howard Dean campaign. A brilliant explanation of how to use the internet to empower people to campaign and honest in parts about what can go wrong.

    The Political Brain – by Drew Weston – about the role emotion plays in determining how people vote – and an essential read for any Lib Dem that thinks we don’t win because we don’t explain enough of the detail of our excellent policies in our leaflets.

    And if we’re publicising our own books, I still have a few copies of my campaign guides on recruiting people – People Power – and fund-raising – It Could Be You – that I wrote for ALDC back in 1997 and 1998. Other than the fact that the internet has been invented since then they still stand up pretty well! Free to good Lib Dem homes :-)

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Nov '12 - 12:33pm

    From Mark’s review of Deborah Mattinson’s book

    The book gives a good account of how and why focus groups became such a popular tool for Labour, enabling people – when done well – to understand the deeper and longer-term trends which lie behind headline figures.

    Mark, this fits in with the comment I made at the meeting in LB Greenwich which you misinterpreted and used in misinterpretation to attack me in the “Libby Local” thing.

    I’m not against the use of focus groups and other such devices to find out what works with the electorate and how our message is getting across, not am I against training to help activists do the sort of things that work well with the electorate. My real point was that if we had a broad membership – and people at the top of the party – which reflected the background of the electorate as a whole in terms of social background and life experience, there would be less need to constantly resort to these things to get anywhere, because activists and those at the top would already have the background to have a good feel for what works and what does not work.

    I am very concerned about the popular image of “the politician” as a person who is remote from ordinary life experience, as someone from a special sort of elite class, as someone who has silly ideas or is actively hostile to ordinary people because of that. If that is what people think – and by and large they do seem to do so – it is a mark of great failure in the political parties, because the whole point of mass membership political parties was to connect the people to politics. It seems to me that countering this by more use of focus groups and the like is doing something about the symptoms but nothing about the disease. We need to find ways of portraying the Liberal Democrats as an association of ordinary people who share similar ideas (but may differ from each other on details!) who get together to further those ideas through the opportunities which democracy provides, conscious of the fact that only by working together can ordinary people combat the power of wealth and the influence it brings which even when there is formally a democracy greatly distorts the government the system provides.

    I don’t think most people see our party (or any other) in that way – indeed, my experience is that people tend to be astonished when one tries to describe the role of parties in that way. Yet it doesn’t seem to me that those at the top of our party are at all interested in changing that. I feel that democracy itself is in danger because most people don’t see parties as they used to be seen, the parties aren’t interested in being seen that way, and yet there really isn’t a viable alternative – for all the talk of the vibrancy of protest groups and internet discussion groups and the like, none of these has built an alternative way which works with our democratic system. Instead they seem content with the idea of politicians as some sort of immovable aristocracy of whom one must beg for favours – rather than a bunch of people we have chosen as our representatives, so we can change them if we like.

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