Research assistants required at Biteback Publishing

  • May 05, 2010 09:41
  • Katy Scholes


Biteback Publishing, the sister company of Total Politics magazine is looking for two researchers to work on a new publishing project related to the new Parliament from mid May to the end of June. It will involve extensive research in a rewarding and entertaining field. Knowledge of parliament and the media will be an advantage, along with a well developed sense of humour and the ability to work as part of a team and to deadlines.

Fixed project fee of £1,000

Apply to Iain Dale, enclosing a CV and a covering letter.

Closing date Wednesday 12 May 2010


Yes, Prime Minister competition!

  • May 04, 2010 13:33
  • Katy Scholes

Yes Minister Miscellany

One of the most successful television comedies of all time, Yes, Prime Minister, now comes to the stage in a special production to mark its 30th anniversary, opening on May 13th.

“Thirty years ago the first episode of Yes, Minister was broadcast and went on to become television’s most successful political comedy ever. It and the equally successful sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, captured a niche in the political consciousness of the nation.

The original writers of these classic series have reunited for this anniversary production and now the Prime Minister Jim Hacker, his Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby and his Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley are all back, in a brand new play.”

For more details on the production, click the link below:

Yes, Prime Minister at the Chicester Theatre

To mark this milestone anniversary, Biteback are giving away 5 copies of The Yes Minister Miscellany. For your chance to win, answer this simple question:

Jim Hacker was Minister for which department before becoming Prime Minister?

Send your answer, name and contact details to

The closing date is Monday 31st May and 5 winners will be randomly selected from all correct answers.

Good luck!


Shane Greer on his new book So you want to be a politician

  • April 27, 2010 09:43
  • Katy Scholes


Politicians aren’t exactly the most loved individuals at the moment. And after the expenses scandal, who can really blame the public for feeling little more than contempt for those individuals who sit on Parliament’s green benches. But, as is so often the case, the actions of the few should not come to tarnish the reputations of the many. For every genuine abuser of the expenses system, there were several other MPs whose claims were altogether reasonable.

For sure, politics attracts some bad apples. But more often, it attracts the very best. And it’s in recognition of this fact that I decided to put together a book which actively championed the cause of becoming a politician. You see, whilst some would have us believe that any desire to attain political office should be met with only contempt and scorn, I firmly believe that those who feel the calling to politics should, more often than not, be encouraged in this pursuit.

So You Want to Be a Politician is a robustly practical guide to getting elected. And it’s not afraid to shout from the rooftops about the virtues of our politicians. Yes, there are politicians worthy of our disdain. But without democratically elected politicians, the freedoms we have come to take for granted would rapidly evaporate and any desire to build a better society would flounder before it took its first steps.

So, if you want to be a politician, this is the book for you.


Paul Flynn's The Unusual Suspect reviewed on

  • April 26, 2010 14:31
  • Katy Scholes

The Unusual Suspect by Paul Flynn
Reviewed by Tom Harris for

I probably disagree with Paul Flynn on more issues than I care to list. He and I do not occupy the same geographical position on the broad and colourful spectrum that is the modern Labour Party. He clearly does not share my admiration for Tony Blair or my enthusiasm for nuclear power.

He is, nevertheless, one of the best writers I know – not just ‘a good writer for an MP’, but a very good writer. Full stop. His love of wordcraft comes across powerfully, beautifully and movingly.

The Unusual Suspect, the Newport West MP’s memoirs, is the kind of book that could achieve the virtually impossible task of persuading the reader that politicians are more than speech-makers, legislators and soundbite-creators; that they are, in fact, rounded human beings with the same back story as those they represent.

Paul, as a highly regarded parliamentarian – now in his seventies and standing again for re-election in his Welsh seat – recalls his life’s main events with a beguiling clarity and honesty.

The dramatic and serendipitous events that formed the careers of better-known political figures are well documented: Tony Blair’s successful lobbying to be reinstated on the Sedgefield shortlist after his name had been removed, Gordon Brown becoming the youngest-ever rector of Edinburgh University, William Hague’s famous (infamous?) teenage appearance on the Tory conference rostrum.

Flynn reminds his readers that a less extraordinary hinterland need not be a barrier to a political career. His early failure in academic life, his financial struggles as he and his wife brought up a young family, his job in the Llanwern steelworks, his divorce and remarriage… There is much to which the ordinary reader from a non-political background can relate.

He also successfully communicates his life’s great loves: the Welsh language and his wife, Sam, the description of whose battle with breast cancer reveals the very human and vulnerable side to Flynn.

But it is his retelling of when he and his first wife discovered the dead body of their 16-year-old daughter Rachel in her bedroom, that best illustrates Flynn’s writing ability. Here it is calm, measured and factual, but with human despair and desolation intruding through every dot and comma.

Throughout most of The Unusual Suspect, however, Flynn’s charm and humour shine through. His description of the early days in the Commons of a group of newly elected Welsh MPs brought a smile of recognition to my lips, while his plentiful and detailed analyses of various Labour Party selection contests made me grimace – again, with recognition.

He is, as one might expect, ruthless in his denunciation of those with whom he has crossed swords over the years. His personal attacks on Labour parliamentary colleagues come across as just a bit too bitter, and almost spoil the generally generous tone of the rest of the book. He falls into the trap of extreme sanctimoniousness when he dismisses the motives of those who wish to serve as ministers rather than backbenchers:

“My guru Tony Wright helpfully defined MPs as the Whys and the Whens. The Whens are obsessed with when they will get a job, go on a trip, be recognised as leaders. The Whys seek out the truth and remedies for reform.”

Flynn himself, as he records, served on Labour’s front bench in the Welsh and social security briefs, so was, at least for a time, a ‘When’ himself. Given how accessible The Unusual Suspect is to the non-political reader, it’s a pity that Flynn has chosen to perpetuate the anti-politics media myth that only backbenchers can ever be true to their principles, and that seeking ministerial office is, of itself, a compromise too far.

Nevertheless, most of the book is an unashamed celebration of politics. Like his previous book, Commons Knowledge (which I bought at Labour conference shortly after being selected as a candidate, but before I was elected), it’s packed with fantastic anecdotes illustrating the often weird life of an MP, whether at constituency or parliamentary level.

The Unusual Suspect is one of the best – and best written – political memoirs I’ve read. Any personal frailties which Flynn, either wittingly or unwittingly, exposes simply confirm the view that the electorate are best served by individuals as flawed and as complicated as themselves.

The Unusual Suspect by Paul Flynn
Biteback £19.99 256pp


So You Want to be a Politician?

  • April 15, 2010 09:34
  • Katy Scholes


Everything you will ever need to know to campaign and win at every level of public life.

So You Want to be a Politician is a must read for any first time candidate or anyone looking to put together and run an effective campaign at any level of public life.

This accessible, practical guide offers common sense advice for almost any scenario, covering the basics, such as personal presentation, writing and making speeches, how to dress and how to present yourself on television and radio, fundraising, polling, traditional and online campaigning, understanding the media and handling difficult situations.

Featuring contributions and advice from some of the leading names in contemporary British campaigning, So You Want to be a Politician is an essential resource that some of today’s serving politicians could make good use of.