Campaign Corner: What campaigning books are worth reading?

The Campaign Corner series looks to give three tips about commonly asked campaign issues. Do get in touch if you have any questions you would like to suggest.

Today’s Campaign Corner question: I prefer learning by reading rather than by hearing people speak at training sessions. What campaigning books would you recommend?

Lots of possible answers, but in the spirit of Campaign Corner’s love of threes, here are just three, deliberately chosen as one each from the main party perspectives:

  1. Talking to a Brick Wall by Deborah Mattinson – as I wrote in my review of Talking to a Brick Wall, ” It is a welcome difference to read a book about British politics where the female vote (the majority, after all) is central to the account rather than relegated to a special chapter or section”. Moreover, the book gives a great account of how the fortunes of political parties are shaped by the public’s general impression of them, which can be influenced by policy details but which are often based on a (for a politician) frustratingly low level of public attention to policy details.
  2. Minority Verdict by Michael Ashcroft – as I wrote previously about Minority Verdict: “It is a detailed account of how policy, research and campaigning was integrated in an attempt to reach floating voters with the issues that most matter to them”.
  3. Campaigning In Your Community by Mark Pack and Shaun Roberts – there are not many Liberal Democrat campaigning books which is why, ahem, I’ve picked one co-written by myself. But one of the motivations for writing it was to fill a gap left by other previous publications. You can buy a copy from the ALDC Online Shop (party members only).

Got any other tips? You can post them up in the comment thread below or if you’ve got any questions that you would rather not ask in public (e.g. about the particular circumstances in your local party), please head over to the Campaigning section of our Members’ Forum and post up a message there.

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  • Going Negative by Ansolabehere and Iyengar

    An interesting study as it used mock campaign adverts shown to people in the middle of an actual election campaign so it takes account of the “noise” of a genuine campaign. Published several years ago but I still relevant today.

    Any of the Bob Worcester “Explaining…” books looking at polling etc in each of the Parliaments and campaigns from 1997 onwards.

    And seeing as Mark is plugging his own books – Winning Elections Vols 1 & 2 which I edited for ALDC and which cover campaign techniques. A good companion to the book above. (Mark also wrote Vol 3 which covered election law)

  • Cheltenham Robin 30th Oct '11 - 9:08pm

    Every campaigner should read:

    Buck Up, Suck Up and come back when you Foul Up – by James Carville and Paul Begala.

  • The Political Brain by Drew Weston is fairly lengthy, but a fascinating read. It goes through how people actually make decisions about which way they vote and how historically, the Republicans in the US have been so far ahead of the Democrats in their understanding of this, that they won lots of elections they really had no right to win. Particularly good if you’re interested in US politics, but also invaluable for anyone who writes election leaflets.

  • Shaun Roberts 31st Oct '11 - 9:56pm

    My favourite is also buck up, suck up and come back when you foul up. It’s almost guaranteed to give any campaigner an adrenaline shot!

    Parts of David Plouffe’s The audacity to win are excellent and have very good UK relevant lessons too.

  • Shaun – you’ve picked both I’d have gone for. Of all the things that have been written about Obama I thought it was far more interesting actually finding out how the campaign itself was put together from nothing. That’s probably the political nerd in me though.

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