November 04, 2019 09:00
And that, as they say, is that. After months of back and forth, of deliberations and heated debates, we are now due for our first December election since 1923. Out with Brexit, and in with by-elections- at least for the time being.
However, the outcome of this election has never looked less certain. Brexit will dominate the next month as it has the past few years, and the end result is just as likely to be a landslide election for the Conservative Party as it is for the Liberal Democrats. What to do? How to prepare?
Fortunately, we are a political publishing company, and so we have access to a great back catalogue of election-themed books. If you’re looking for some pointers on how some of the best analytical minds think the votes might stack up, or if you’re looking to learn from the lessons of Theresa May’s ill-fated 2017 Election, then you’ve come to the right place.
For the next two weeks, all of the books below will cost only £5 each- and if you order more than £20, you’ll get free postage.
Our top picks
Sex, Lies and Politics, ed. Philip Cowley and Rob Ford
101 Ways to Win an Election, by Mark Pack and Edward Maxfield
The Big Book of Boris, by Iain Dale and Jakub Szweda
Our how-to guides
How to win a Marginal Seat, by Gavin Barwell
How to be an MP, by Paul Flynn
How to be a Minister, by John Hutton and Leigh Lewis
How to be Government Whip, by Helen Jones
How to be a Parliamentary Researcher, by Robert Dale
How to be a Civil Servant, by Martin Stanley
How to be a Spin Doctor, by Paul Richards
More political know-how
Punch and Judy Politics, by Ayesha Hazarika
Fighters and Quitters, by Theo Barclay
The Art of Lobbying, by Darcy Nicole
Betting the House, by Tim Ross and Tom McTague
People Power, by Richard Askwith
October 28, 2019 13:58
As Hallowe’en draws closer, it’s only right that we dig into our back catalogue for some spooky reads to delve into. Read on for a selection of weird and wonderful tales about graves and grave tidings…
Finding the Plot: 100 Graves to Visit Before You Die by Ann Treneman
Essential reading for those not yet dead, this tour of 100 graves in Britain explores the subterranean actors, painters, poets and victims of gruesome crimes. Bill Bryson claimed it was the ‘most fun I have ever had with dead bodies’. Not only a fascinating travelogue, this part biography, part social history provides insight into the British rituals associated with death.
Grave Tidings: An Anthology of Famous Last Words by Paul Berra
‘In the midst of life, we are in death’, this book begins. The exclamations of those in close proximity to death seem to reflect this, sometimes with grace and wit, and often with irony and despair. These figures – made famous in life as in death – certainly did not choke on their final utterances.
And for some real-life spooky…
Cleaning Up the Mess: After the MP’s Expenses Scandal, by Ian Kennedy
We couldn’t resist a political entry, and here it is. In 2009, news broke that MPs had been claiming taxpayers’ money to pay for such excesses as a floating duck-house, moat-cleaning services and 550 sacks of manure. The revelations shook Westminster and compromised the voters’ trust- and ten years on, Ian Kennedy discuses his time as chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), cleaning up the mess that politicians had left behind.
Spooky reads not taking your fancy? Don’t worry: we’ve got something for everybody. Simply visit our New Releases page to find out more…
October 18, 2019 12:00
Jordan Wylie is a busy man. On top of being the first man to row the most dangerous shipping strait in the world- between Djibouti and Yemen- he’s also found time to write a book (Running for My Life, out soon) and squeeze in a day job as a hunter on Channel 4’s shows Hunted and Celebrity Hunted. As Celebrity Hunted takes to our screens, we found time to catch up with Jordan and ask him some questions about what his days are like on set.
Becoming a hunter
Working for Hunted has definitely been a whirlwind, but it lets me put the skills I learnt in the military to good use. I spent many years in an armoured close reconnaissance troop and all my operational experience was in an intelligence role: as a result, I got to do lots of training in surveillance, target acquisition and tactical questioning at the defence intelligence centre at a place called Chicksands in Bedfordshire. I also served two tours of Iraq as a Prisoner Handler and Tactical Questioner, which was an incredibly interesting and rewarding responsibility. Essentially my job was to extract information from the bad guys that we could then use to combat terrorist operations in my area of operations.
After I left the military, I also did a BA and then an MA in Security & Risk with Criminology, so this kind of enhanced my CV too. A friend of mine in the security industry asked if I was interested in joining the Hunted cast and I went for a couple of interviews. I had to interrogate the producers a little bit, and next thing you know, I was on Channel 4!
Life on set
Without giving all our trade secrets away, I can certainly say that we work extremely long hours carrying out our investigations and following up lines of enquiries tracking people down! We live in hotels for the whole filming period and we never know which hotel until the last minute, as we are of course running around the UK chasing fugitives. It really does depend where they have headed too (or where ‘we think’ they have anyway…). We also like to get some physical training in too whilst we are on the move and it’s a bit of a lottery with regards to hotel facilities so running and plenty of body weight exercises in our rooms is the usual procedure.
Every day really is different which is what makes it so much fun filming the show. The producers encourage creativity and innovation on a show like Hunted which I feel will really shine through in the new series. We have so many assets at our disposal that we can use such as dog units, helicopters, drones and undercover operatives- and we are always trying to use deception and social engineering to disrupt the fugitives’ networks.
The most rewarding part of the day, though, is most definitely capturing a fugitive! We genuinely work extremely hard and although I’m there more as a bit of an action man that enjoys the ribs, helicopters, climbing, chasing and so on, most of my colleagues are leading experts in their fields and some are still serving in government units. I learnt so much from these people and it’s a real privilege to work alongside the UK’s elite police, military and security services personnel.
At the end of the day, I usually wind down with a G&T (always a Hendricks with Cucumber) with my team- although we do like to order a cheeky bottle champagne if we get a capture that day!
Catch Jordan Wylie on Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted on Sundays at 9pm, and pre-order his book, Running for My Life, on Amazon now!
October 11, 2019 16:11
Peter Brookes has made a career out of skewering the rich and famous. From the Prime Minister to backbench MPs, his hilarious sketches have graced The Times for years, resulting in several art exhibitions and ten books, the latest of which- Critical Times- was published by Biteback at the start of this month.
But how did he become a cartoonist? And who are his favourite subjects to draw? We sat down to find out more about the man behind the drawings.
How did you become a cartoonist?
I was recruited by the New Statesman to deputise for Nicholas Garland when he was on holiday, in the early 70s, shortly after leaving art college. I’d always had the interest, but never the confidence, to pursue political cartooning. I remained an illustrator for another ten years or so before joining The Times as their political cartoonist. But it wasn’t until 1992 that I took this up full time.
What’s the best/ your favourite cartoon that you’ve ever drawn?
I think it was probably the cartoon I drew during the Tory leadership race after Cameron resigned in 2016 following the EU Referendum. Boris Johnson was about to announce his candidature, when Michael Gove (who was running his campaign) decided to stand against him. It was a highly charged, outrageously disloyal (on Gove’s part) moment, and one he was to regret, as he was soundly defeated as a result. Politics, red in tooth and claw. I drew Gove stabbing Johnson in the back; the blade goes straight through and it stabs him in the front.
Who’s your favourite politician to draw?
There are quite a few! Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, Diane Abbott, Corbyn, Milne, Farage, Trump... usually the ones for whom I have the most contempt.
What do you like most about being a cartoonist?
I most like the freedom I’m given to air my political grievances and prejudices on half a page in The Times four days a week! And I masochistically enjoy the process of it all, whereby I agonisingly struggle daily with ideas until I find that Eureka moment... if I’m lucky. It’s an immense privilege.
What’s one thing you hope people will take away from your book?
After five books, over ten years, I hope most of all that people might take away the sense that, unlike our current politics, I’m not in terminal decline! And despite the whole sorry mess we’re in, I hope people can, along with me, laugh at it all. Albeit bleakly!
Peter Brookes’ new book, Critical Times, is out now. Shop for it here on Amazon and Waterstones, or catch him at the Cheltenham Literary Festival in 12th October.
October 07, 2019 15:17
Roger Lewis of The Times has a lot of good things to say about Patrick Kidd's new book...
Brexit, a catastrophe for the rest of us, has been a boon to the political sketchwriter, who hitherto was compelled to cook up jokes about legislation to protect hedgehogs, committees pondering the fluoridation of the water supply, and earnest debates regarding raising the legal age for buying fireworks and using sunbeds.
Suddenly, after the referendum in 2016, bigger issues were at stake — not how Westminster could unpick more than 40 years of European integration, but whether John Bercow could beat his personal record of spending 684 minutes in the Speaker’s chair without needing the lavatory. Patrick Kidd’s theory is ingenious. There must be a secret “feeding and filtration system” fitted under the green leather upholstery.
Kidd, sketchwriter for The Times from 2014 to 2019, clearly relishes what he calls parliament’s “cabaret hour”, especially the eccentric rituals, involving the Cap of Maintenance, the Loose Change of Necessity, the Cuppa of Relief, the Biro of Whimsy and the Notepads of Irreverence. He cherishes too the endangered fauna found in these crumbling, leaking neo-gothic buildings — “loons, thieving magpies, gannets, boobies, bustards, lots of spotted shags and a multitude of tits”.
The Weak are a Long Time in Politics is a gathering of, as it were, verbal Peter Brookes cartoons, a skewering of characters capable of unabashedly giving diametrically opposed answers in five minutes to the same important question.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, for example, with his antique suits and snooty manner, is “MP for the 19th century”, his drawl putting Kidd in mind of “lemon curd on a crumpet”. Make no mistake, however, Rees-Mogg is as genial as a gangster performing dentistry with a pair of pliers.
Theresa May resembles “a lightly grilled camembert”, and Kidd describes her “stern, birdlike face and sophisticated fashion sense” — her habit of decking herself in coloured pebbles. In action she could be like “Margaret Thatcher without the warmth”, and her speaking skills were, apparently, nonexistent, like “a nervous librarian reading the phone book to a conference of narcoleptics”.
Keir Starmer, we are informed, “always looks perplexed and on the verge of tears, like Stan Laurel”, while David Davis looks like “an East End boxing promoter”. Zac Goldsmith speaks with all the passion of “a vicar in Waitrose who has discovered they’re all out of halloumi”. Nigel Farage barks his speeches like “an eel salesman in Billingsgate”.
Kidd, whose language is as joyously absurdist as Wodehouse’s, is sensitive to linguistic misuse. He can’t abide the ghastly Whitehall clichés that assail his ears day after day. Ukip may have been (in David Cameron’s words) “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”, but Farage’s militaristic verbiage, as quoted by Kidd, is sinister: “We need to reform the columns of the People’s Army and get back in battle order.” They must be running out of black shirts in Jermyn Street.
Nor, at the other declamatory extreme, is Kidd taken in by the empty baroque rhetoric of Boris Johnson, the stupid person’s idea of a clever person. His speeches, despite the orotundity, seem to have been scribbled on an envelope a moment ago in the lift. Kidd, a Classics scholar, notices when Johnson gets his ancient mythology allusions muddled up. Without mercy he shows Johnson mixing bizarre metaphors about flying buttresses (“Yes, a buttress... supportive of the EU kirk but not particularly fussy about exactly how the masonry interlocks”), and he has no patience with Johnson’s obsession with silly photo opportunities: Boris eating pies, waving flags, driving lorries, “his chest thrust forward like a gorilla”.
The unexpected star turn of this collection of sketches, however, is Jeremy Corbyn. Kidd can’t get enough of this dreary, whining phenomenon, who is like one of those indestructible beetles who’ll crawl out of the rubble after a nuclear war. Kidd has fun with a ticket inspector asking a Labour flunkey whether Corbyn had a railcard, as if the Labour leader were “a catatonic patient in a geriatric ward”.
Corbyn is less interested in Britain’s woes than in “arranging rallies in aid of Peruvian basket-weavers”. He takes pictures of manhole covers as a hobby, owns an allotment (where he meditates on “the wonders of planting beans”) and makes rambling speeches, “fluffing every seventh word”. “I’ve just come from a bio-gas generating plant,” is the opener to one speech, “nailing the rhetoric like Churchill”.
Like all good satire, at bottom Kidd’s work is deeply serious. When the nation is “in greater need of talented leadership than at any point since the Second World War”, we have a leader of the opposition who achieved two Es at A level, who in debate turns winning positions into losing ones, and who is constitutionally “unable to press home an advantage”.
With Cameron, who resigned when the referendum result came through, we had an unhelpful patrician and complacent smugness. He was a man given to making “that trademark smirk when he thinks he has been clever”. Johnson, as foreign secretary, had wondered: “Where have they put Ceylon?” His attitude as we confront the Brexit brink is still: “What a lark leaving the EU would be!”
Kidd imagines the most rabid of Leavers would be happy to see the “blocking up of the Channel tunnel and the banning of the production of croissants”. That may be no exaggeration — I know of old folks’ home inmates who were Brexiteers because the Hungarian chef had made their food too spicy.
Kidd quotes, without mockery, Sir Nicholas Soames’s view that, instead of going to war, as in the past, the EU has ensured “freedom, security and prosperity” across the Continent. Britain is now being destroyed not by external enemies, such as Mr Hitler or Napoleon, but by mad internal stresses and schisms, egged on by politicians who muse: “Why can’t we have a system like that nice Mr Erdogan is after in Turkey?”
I predict Kidd’s masterly volume will be considered vastly more enjoyable, and insightful, than any of the dour official chronicles of our era, which academics, historians and commentators even now may be busy drafting.
The Weak are a Long Time in Politics: Sketches from the Brexit Neverendum by Patrick Kidd, Biteback, 349pp, £12.99
Read the original article here.