25th August 2017
Whether it’s Brexit negotiations, leadership bids or yet another General Election, those working in the world of politics have a lot to brush up on before Parliament returns.
With just over a week left until the House of Commons resumes, there is still just enough time for you to cram in some reading to prepare for the political twists and turns ahead.
To assist, the Grayling team has compiled our top five must-reads…
For plotting a leadership bid:
Lustrum, Robert Harris
After a summer of Cabinet backstabbing and leadership manoeuvring, now is an opportune time to delve into the blood-and-guts Roman power struggles of Robert Harris’s Lustrum. Set in the years around 63BC, the second book in Harris’s Cicero trilogy charts the cut-throat political battles between a thrilling cast of ambitious historical characters, including master politician Cicero, scheming Julius Caesar and dripping-with-wealth Crassus. There are many lessons to be learned from this book – not least Cicero’s line that politics is “like fighting the Hydra – no sooner do I lop off one head than another two grow back in its place”. Leadership contenders take note.
For understanding the characters behind Brexit:
All Out War, Tim Shipman
Anyone who wants to understand the personalities that shaped – and continue to shape – the current political landscape should read All Out War. Not only does the book provide eye-watering detail on the altercations and skirmishes leading up to the EU Referendum and beyond, but it also offers many a lesson about political campaigning more broadly. We learn about the behind-the-scenes parliamentary scheming of Steve Baker, the ruthless media manoeuvring of Dominic Cummings, and the inward soul-searching of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove as they sever old friendships during and after last year’s bruising campaign. For a book about how British politics has got to where it is in 2017, look no further.
For getting through another election campaign:
Fear and loathing on the campaign trail ’72, Hunter S Thompson
After June’s election campaign shocker, one book that will open your eyes to the cut and thrust of political campaigning while putting a smile on your face is Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the campaign Trail ‘72. Over 500 pages, it flies by like no other political book as readers experience car rides with President Nixon and drug fuelled antics on the Democratic Candidate’s plane on Election Day. Thompson’s approach to gonzo journalism mean you never know whether you are reading truth or fiction. Despite Thompson’s diet of illegal narcotics he manages to give a full run down of the campaign from the first New Hampshire primary to his horror on Election Day as Nixon wins 49 of 50 states.
For swotting up ahead of a select committee inquiry:
The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World, Brad Stone
This book tracks the early highs and lows of Uber and Airbnb, undeniably the two most disruptive businesses that have entered the global market in recent years. As influential policy-makers such as Rachel Reeves, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, and others look to run inquiries into the work of these companies, getting to grips with what drives their founders and where their mission statement comes from is vital, as well as understanding where they have faced legislative difficulty before.
For those seeking perspective:
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
If you enjoyed the recent TV adaptation aired on Channel 4, then delve back into Margaret Atwood’s 1985 chilling yet oh-so-real masterpiece of dystopian fiction. The Handmaid’s Tale is a chilling account of a young woman trapped and enslaved in a New England totalitarian theocracy. Atwood’s descriptions of state-sponsored violence, the withdrawal of the freedom of sections of society, 24/7 surveillance from The Eye secret police, religious fundamentalism, and the belief in protection from behind The Wall, are all shockingly resonant to today’s 21st century political narratives. Dismal and at times distressing, yes, this brilliant novel speaks of resilience and survival through even the darkest of times for politics and civil liberties.
… and for those who prefer reading subtitles to books:
1993, Sky Atlantic
For those who are partial to the moving picture medium, look no further than the subtitled Italian political drama 1993. Currently in its second season and airing on Sky Atlantic, the series focusses on six people whose lives are entangled in the Clean Hands investigation into political corruption of the early 1990s. Although the series may focus on a number of the more tawdry aspects of power and political life, there are endless witticisms and communications truths to be seized from smooth advertising man Leonardo Notte. His recognition that the previous Italian political and business dynasty – the “First Republic – must come to an end will strike chords with those wondering about the future of globalisation and liberal democracies across the West. And for those still struggling to understand how Donald Trump rose to power, this dramatisation of the years before Silvio Berlusconi’s Prime Ministership will provoke some challenging parallels.
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