Robert Dale, author of How to Be a Parliamentary Researcher, talks about the crucial role of researchers in Westminster and how to get ahead in a career in parliament

  • September 18, 2015 13:00
  • Robert Dale

Thousands of young people every year apply to work as an MP’s parliamentary researcher. It’s a glamorous role: you’re based at the heart of the Westminster Village; you see famous politicians and celebrities on a daily basis; and you’ll have the power and responsibility to exert significant influence over the Member of Parliament you work for.

Other books that Biteback have published have added to the air of intrigue and mystique about those who work for MPs. Power Trip by Damian McBride is especially brilliant, and I know many political staffers who have found it to be hugely resourceful and informative.

However, How to Be a Parliamentary Researcher is the first book to take a close look at the work of a parliamentary researcher. So: who are they; what do they do; and how can you beat the competition to become one?

In short, the role requires you to do a bit of everything. From speechwriting and media relations to diary management, bag-carrying, overseeing your MP’s Facebook page and Twitter account, and running their errands. It’s different, exciting and fast-paced every day. More importantly, though, parliamentary researchers are playing a hugely important role in our democratic system: they allow their MPs to listen to, engage with and understand their constituents better than ever before. It is partly for this reason that John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, in his foreword to my book calls parliamentary researchers the ‘unsung heroes of the Westminster Village’.

The new parliament brings new MPs, all of whom will have been busy over the summer setting up their offices in Parliament and in their constituency, recruiting staff to work in both. Some are still going through this process – a search on w4mp (a popular space where MPs can list vacancies in their offices for free) shows there are about twenty roles currently being advertised.

Should you wish to apply to one of these positions, the MP will be looking to see that you’re committed to their party and have a genuine desire to work for them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know everything about how Parliament works – no one does when they first start, not even new MPs.

Your commitment can be demonstrated by any work experience, campaign participation (knocking on doors, phone banking, leaflet delivering) or student politics that you may be participating in. If you don’t have experience in any of this, it would be worth getting involved in the local elections taking place in your area next May.

You must also tailor your CV and covering letter to the MP. For each role they advertise, an MP is likely to receive about 200 applicants. Every MP and their office should be thought of as a small business, with its own unique brand, targets, priorities and culture; invest some time in going through Google, the MP’s website and their record on TheyWorkForYou.

While it may be tempting to go ‘fishing’ and send your CV and covering letter to all MPs who have vacancies, you will achieve much better results if your approach to each is tailored. An MP wants to feel that you are interested in working for him or her, not just anyone who will give you a job.

Having worked in Parliament myself, I know that it’s worth putting in this extra effort. Your reward will be landing yourself a job right at the heart of British politics, and one that will support you in acquiring the skills, knowledge and friends that will form the foundations upon which to build a successful, productive and fulfilling career.

"A great resource for anyone beginning their career at the heart of British politics." – Professor Tim Bale

"This book is filled with the theoretical and practical guidance necessary to help demystify Parliament and make it more accessible to anyone who aspires to work at the heart of our vibrant democracy." – The Speaker, John Bercow MP

How to Be a Parliamentary Researcher by Robert Dale is available at the Biteback Publishing website and under our two week price promise!


BITEBACK ACQUIRE Comrade Jeremy: A Very Unlikely Coup: How Jeremy Corbyn Stormed to the Labour Leadership

  • September 12, 2015 11:45
  • Sam Jones

Biteback has acquired World rights to Comrade Jeremy, the biography of the newly-elected Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, by journalist Rosa Prince.  

Until recently, Jeremy Corbyn was barely known outside political circles, yet today he has ridden a wave of popular enthusiasm to win the Labour Party leadership by a landslide.

How did this very British iconoclast manage to snatch the leadership of a party he spent forty years rebelling against? Who is he and where did he come from? And what exactly happened over the space of an extraordinary summer to propel an old lefty called Jeremy to inspire and excite hundreds of thousands of people, and breathe new life into the socialist ideals he has, almost alone, held true to for so many years? From Corbyn’s cosy rural upbringing, through three marriages – including his decision to divorce one wife for sending their son to grammar school – and his long espousal of contentious causes, including Irish republicanism and a free Palestine, Comrade Jeremy is the story of the most unexpected leadership contest ever to take place in modern British politics.

Rosa Prince said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn's unlikely journey to the leadership of the Labour Party is one of the great adventures of modern British political history. I am so honoured to have been trusted with the task of telling his extraordinary story.’

Iain Dale said: ‘The 2015 Labour Leadership election has been a riveting episode, and Jeremy Corbyn’s unlikely victory will go down in political history. Love him or hate him, Corbyn is a fascinating character, and I’m delighted that Biteback will be publishing his remarkable story.’

Comrade Jeremy will be published in January 2016, and supported by a major press campaign.

For more details please contact  020 7091 1260


Biteback Acquire My Way: Berlusconi In His Own Words

  • September 10, 2015 09:00
  • Vicky Gilder

Iain Dale has acquired UK rights to My Way: Berlusconi In His Own Words by award-winning journalist Alan Friedman for Biteback Publishing from Caroline Michel at PFD.  

Inspired by the Frost/Nixon interviews, and written with the full co-operation of the billionaire media mogul turned Prime Minister, My Way is the life story – warts and all – of the man who has dominated Italian politics for the past twenty years.

Having started his career as a cruise-ship crooner, Silvio Berlusconi went on to become a real estate tycoon before starting the world’s first commercial television network, and turning AC Milan into a world-class soccer club. And that was all before he entered the squalid swampland of Italian politics, becoming Italy’s longest-serving Prime Minister, and generating, arguably, the most controversy of any world leader today. In a series of candid and revealing interviews, he spills the beans on everything from the infamous bunga-bunga parties to his most secret moments with world leaders including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and many others.

My Way will be published in October, and supported by a major press campaign.

Iain Dale said: ‘Silvio Berlusconi is undoubtedly the most colourful character to have graced the world’s political stage in recent years. Alan Friedman has done a remarkable job at really getting Berlusconi to open up about his astonishing life and career. The result is a book full of candid insights and fresh revelations, and I am delighted that Biteback will be publishing it.’

For more details please contact  020 7091 1260


Introducing the British Leaders series...

  • September 03, 2015 10:00
  • Charles Clarke & Toby S. James

Political leadership matters, as we can see now across the world.

Commentators call for clearer and more effective political leadership to deal with European crises, such as migration across the Mediterranean and conflict between Ukraine and Russia. The rival candidates to succeed Barrack Obama go up and down in the opinion polls, as they battle to set out a future for Americans. The Chinese leadership has to tackle major economic changes.

And, of course, in Britain, the 2015 general election opened up party leadership battles, after both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg failed to deliver electoral success.

Even among the Conservatives, speculation continues to grow about the rival leadership qualities of George Osborne, Boris Johnson and Theresa May, when David Cameron decides to stand down.

The who’s in, who’s out, who’s up and who’s down of politics aren’t just games. The answers can change the lives of millions.   

But despite its importance, it’s difficult to know what makes good political leadership and which individuals are likely to have what it takes.

Our political leaders are under greater pressure than ever before as their decisions and actions are often scrutinised or challenged instantly by a 24/7 media.

The decisions themselves, whether about overall stance and orientation, strategy or policy, are increasingly complex – with long-term implications. Personal behaviour can easily give rise to public controversy.

And our global interdependence, notably in relation to the economy, means that the actions of British political leaders are increasingly constrained in their freedom to act.

The overall stance, strategies, decisions and actions – or lack thereof – of our political leaders determine how our society and economy deal with the problems they face in a world that is changing increasingly rapidly.

Of course, leadership is not only about the leaders of political parties and governments; it is also about a wide range of dispersed leadership, both in national and local politics and throughout the country, in business, public services and our communities.

However, the role of national political leadership is central – never more so.

The Biteback British Leaders series is designed to try to offer some answers and ways of looking at the issue. We have co-edited the Labour and Conservative books, which are published in parallel with that of the Liberals.

The purpose of these books is to assess the political leadership of the main parties over the period from their foundation until today.

We have done that through the lens of the ‘statecraft’ analytical framework, and by statistical comparison of the leaders’ general election performances. Biographers of all the political leaders from 1832 onwards then brilliantly illuminate these overall assessments.

Over that time, the challenges and objectives of political leadership have changed dramatically.

Though the appearance and practices of the Houses of Parliament and the panoply of politics all seem untouched over the decades, the whole context within which politics is conducted has been utterly transformed. The franchise has been enormously widened, the values of our society are completely different, there have been revolutionary changes in the media, and the geo-political order and the world have been globalised. Consequently, leaders have needed to rethink the techniques, skills and strategies necessary to deliver successful political leadership.

The ways in which these goals have been pursued, as well as the techniques used, have often varied dramatically from leader to leader. At every change, each political party has had to choose a new leader who combines his or her own individual personal leadership attributes with the general political direction he or she would be likely to follow.

After their election, the chosen leaders, and their parties, have faced profound choices as to the way in which they respond to particular events, the best objective to target, the best strategic course to follow and the most effective organisational techniques to use. They have very often been challenged in their choices and their conduct, from both within and without the party they led. They all had to deal with alternative approaches, and sometimes alternative people, throughout the course of their leadership.

These tests, all in their different circumstances, are vividly described for each leader in the chapters of these books. 

The quality of political leadership is insufficiently considered. What these books demonstrate is that the overall leadership quality of each leader does matter. Things could have been done differently – perhaps better, perhaps worse – and the outcomes would have been different, though in what precise way maybe goes too far into the counter-factual.

Some commentators tend to suggest that the quality of a leader, or potential leader, can be reduced to just physical appearance, particular communication skills or personal history. Others may think it simply to be a matter of ideology, political direction or even a particular policy seen as symbolic.

But these books seek to encourage the view that the quality of political leadership is not only important in its own right – more important than people sometimes allow – but that this quality needs to be judged widely and across a number of different attributes.

We seek to offer a means of considering the quality of political leaders and to urge that every political party gives the highest possible consideration of the overall quality of political leadership when choosing its leaders.

Charles Clarke and Toby S. James


September Releases from Biteback Publishing

  • September 02, 2015 17:00
  • Sam Jones

September is packed with fantastic new releases from Biteback Publishing. We proudly introduce: the new British Leaders series – a set of beautiful books to complement any bookshelf; Paul Gambaccini’s eagerly anticipated memoir Love, Paul Gambaccini; Norman Baker’s compelling and revelatory insider account of the coalition – and plenty more to keep you entertained and informed as the nights begin to get a little longer…

The British Leaders Series

Edited by Tim Bale, Duncan Brack, Charles Clarke, Patrick Diamond, Robert Ingham, Toby S. James & Tony Little








These comprehensive and enlightening books are vital contributions to the study of party leadership and the understanding of British political history. The series considers the attributes and achievements of leaders from the three most historic parties in British politics, offering a compelling analytical framework by which they may be judged, detailed personal biographies from some of the country's foremost political critics, and exclusive interviews with former leaders themselves. An essential collection for anyone interested in the history of this nation’s politics.


Breaking the Code

By Gyles Brandreth

Newly updated with a wealth of extra material, this new paperback edition of Gyles Brandreth’s modern political classic unflinchingly reveals the secret and intricate workings of the government Whips’ Office. Brandreth’s charming, hilarious and at times touching account paints an extraordinary portrait of the Whitehall and Westminster of the past thirty years.




Love, Paul Gambaccini

By Paul Gambaccini

Arrested in the dead of night in October 2013, Paul Gambaccini endured twelve horrific months of slander, gossip and witch-hunting, having been falsely accused of sexual abuse as part of Operation Yewtree. Now, in his resolute and personal account of that time, Gambaccini exposes the hard-fought battle for the justice he deserved.  





Pay Me Forty Quid and I’ll Tell You

By Michael Ashcroft and Kevin Culwick

Discover what was really going on behind the polling numbers for the 2015 general election. Reports from Lord Ashcroft Polls, collected here for the first time, are packed with funny and insightful observations from voters, and reveal what the public truly thought during all the steps in the race to Downing Street.





How to Be a Parliamentary Researcher

By Robert Dale

While rumours abound of them being glorified bag-carriers and sackable by Post-it note, parliamentary researchers are a keystone in the day-to-day operations of British politics. In this compelling insight, Robert Dale combines practical advice with acute personal observations – the result is a must-have for aspiring politicians looking to make their first step on the ladder, and a fascinating read for anyone else interested in what happens behind the scenes of our political system.



Project Fear

By Joe Pike

A groundbreaking account of Scottish politics over the past twelve months. Project Fear – taking its name from the term used to refer to the Better Together organisation and the No vote campaign in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum – examines Scotland’s astounding political landscape, from the referendum itself, through its dramatic aftermath, and on to the astonishing rise of the SNP in the 2015 general election.



Against the Grain

By Norman Baker

In this enthralling memoir, one-of-a-kind former Lib Dem MP Norman Baker lifts the lid on the coalition, Department for Transport, Home Office and the scandals and conflicts of Westminster during his illustrious career.