Every Little Helps (in no way affiliated with Tesco)

  • November 25, 2010 14:42
  • Katy Scholes

Whether it’s five days, three men or one document, the 2010 general election showed that even the smallest things can change the face of history. Remember the film The Butterfly Effect? Well, it’s like that, but with more politics, less Ashton Kutcher and, you know, actually interesting.

In his new book 5 Days To Power, Rob Wilson studies the negotiations that led to the political earthquake of a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government, collating information from key figures in all three political parties who were involved in the discussions and crafting the most comprehensive account of the talks that shaped our current political climate. And he comes to the conclusion that the most important figure of those tumultuous days in May was... the guy from the civil service.

No really, Rob says it in this article on ConservativeHome.

Now, we don’t know if it’s just because he’s a great writer (shameless PR), but the theory, which says that without a chapter in the Cabinet Manual entitled ‘Elections and Government Formation’ our history could have been dramatically different, does make sense. Alright, so without Gordon Brown or David Cameron or Nick Clegg or David Laws (another person who we have a book with, another moment of shameless PR) or any of the major negotiators, then we wouldn’t have our current situation. But we at Biteback like Rob Wilson for celebrating the men behind the scenes, because the men on stage get all the press these days.

You can now buy Rob Wilson’s full account of the five days (and butterflies) that changed the country forever, 5 Days To Power in paperback and e-book format for £9.99 and £4.60, respectively.


Rage Against The Office Machine

  • November 24, 2010 15:07
  • Katy Scholes

We love our swanky new offices, but the swanky new phone system doesn’t inspire quite the same affection. In fact, the swanky new phone system can go take a long walk off a short pier (if people still use that expression, which they should, it’s funny). Having just lost or incorrectly diverted my third phone call today, I’m thinking it would be better if we didn’t have a phone system, then at least our beloved clients wouldn’t think we’d intentionally just hung up on them or sent them to an intern rather than the Head of Sales. And it’s not like I’m painting my nails here, I’m trying to get this right, but when there is an enigma in the office it is usually met with cries of “this always happens” and “when’s the guy coming in?” rather than anyone actually battling through and working it out.

We have a few of these office enigmas, as does every office, and they can be anything from the scanner that breaks after every third page to the ghost that has been stopping e-mails coming through for the past four hours (it could be because we’re not popular, but we refuse to accept that).

We wish we had a codebreaker who could unravel these enigmas. We wish we had Dilly. Alfred Dillwyn Knox (Dilly) was one of the leading figures in the British codebreaking successes of the World Wars. In Dilly: The Man Who Broke Enigmas, Mavis Batey, who was one of the young female codebreakers sent to help the great man break the various Enigma ciphers, brilliantly tells the story of Dilly’s triumphant life’s work and his vital role in the triumph of Britain over Nazi Germany.

Even if we haven’t got Dilly in the office, we’ve still got the book. But I don’t think it’ll help us or the next person who dares call reception.

Dilly: The Man Who Broke Enigmas is out now in paperback for £9.99


Total Politics Editor Ben Duckworth In Conversation with David Laws and Rob Wilson

  • November 24, 2010 13:23
  • Katy Scholes

As you know, Biteback have been busy hosting and attending a number of events to celebrate the launch of our two coalition books, 22 Days in May and 5 Days to Power.

In a separate, packed-out event last night, Total Politics editor Ben Duckworth hosted both David Laws and Rob Wilson for an In Conversation discussion.

Reporter Calum Benson reveals all and ConHome's Jonathan Isaby gives a sneak peak too.


For the full accounts, both 22 Days in May and 5 Days to Power are available now to buy for £9.99 paperback and £4.60 Kindle edition e-book.


Two authors, two books, one event. People might think we planned this.

  • November 23, 2010 17:57
  • Katy Scholes

With the recent release of two big Biteback titles, David Laws’s 22 Days in May and Rob Wilson’s 5 Days to Power, we got to go to a fancy event with the authors (so we should, they’re our books!) Both books deal with the formation and early days of the Liberal Democrat- Conservative coalition government and, just as each book complements the other, the discussion worked brilliantly, with Wilson and Laws melding research and ideas for a balanced and comprehensive recreation of those enthralling days in May that shaped our current political climate. Also, Nick Robinson was there! Excuse us for being geeky enough to squeal like teenage girls.


The discussion began with Peter Riddell asking about the sentiments of all parties before the election, with Laws stating that there was never any bias towards a Lib-Con coalition, except perhaps amongst a rather more inflexible minority. His later assertion was that the most important thing for the Liberal Democrats was to reach a position in which they could have some influence over policies and implement some ideas that they wanted.

Wilson, working on his own in-depth research for 5 Days to Power, agreed, citing various instances in which the Lib Dems showed their willingness to hurry the process along, driven partly by the pressures of an anxious public and the movement of world markets. A large part of the discussion studied the allusive Labour deal, with speculation over whether Nick Clegg told David Cameron about the Labour offer. Wilson said the biggest surprise offered by his research was how ill-prepared the Labour Party had seemed, despite early evidence which pointed towards a hung Parliament.

Nick Robinson asked the authors if, by Nick Clegg’s assertion that he would be talking primarily with the party with the highest results, Clegg had always had a mandate to co-operate with the Conservatives. David Laws denied this, stating that, whilst the Lib Dems would firstly speak to those with the most votes, they still had every intention of negotiating with all the parties involved.

We at Biteback enjoyed seeing the fusion of both extensive accounts of these events, but agree that an hour with both authors hardly compares to the comprehensive studies in the books. We also enjoyed the cous-cous salad with aubergine (told you it was a fancy event), but the reader of this blog is less able to enjoy that than our brilliant new titles, out now.

Rob Wilson's 5 Days to Power is available in paperback and e-book format at £9.99 and £4.60, respectively.

22 Days In May by David Laws is also available in paperback for £9.99 and e-book format for £4.60.


Dinner with David

  • November 23, 2010 11:21
  • Katy Scholes

We love it when you buy the exclusive insider story of one of the most exciting moments in modern political history and the author, as well as producing his fascinating report of the birth of the coalition government, cares enough to add flavour to the already delicious menu of events.

David Laws, speaking last night on BBC Somerset, was asked by political reporter Ruth Bradley why he included so much detail, even down to times and locations of meetings, to which he replied that it adds to the "richness of the tapestry". Yes David! We’re literature people, and we love that. Ruth herself even seemed to agree, noting that the mood came across effectively.

22 Days in May is the unique account of the days that formed our current coalition government, including some quite startling revelations about the negotiations of the Liberal Democrats with the two lobbying parties. Bradley wasted no time in getting to these "juicy bits" (her words, not ours, although they look great on this blog and work with this extended metaphor about food).

When asked whether Labour took the talks seriously, the author said that "Gordon Brown was quite serious about seeing if he could stay in power... as was Lord Adonis". However, whilst the Conservatives were making "all sorts of concessions", not only were various select members of the Labour camp "difficult to deal with" but Laws says he felt there were "a number of comments meant to sabotage the negotiations". He even claims that Ed Balls directly stated "there are many Labour MPs who won’t like these ideas", planting the notion that the Party would not be behind any form of coalition in its entirety.


Aside from these tasty morsels, Bradley also asked the author whether he was at some point planning to return to frontline politics, as David Cameron’s letter to him, which is included in the book, states that the PM hopes he will consider coming back:

‘I’m happy with the job I’m doing . . . in the meantime I will lobby strongly for the things I think the government should be doing [including] extra money for schools in the most disadvantaged circumstances.’

For the full three courses, you can buy David Laws’ 22 Days in May in paperback and e-book formats for £9.99 and £4.60, respectively.