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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Book Review: 22 Days In May by David Laws

I've wanted to read this one for some time but thought it might be a little heavy for the 'fun' reading I tend to do away from my PhD. I was right. However, I still enjoyed the in-depth look at the first general election I really paid attention to and the ramifications of a hung parliament and coalition negotiations. I came out of this book with my positive thoughts towards Laws himself intact (yes, I know I'm in a minority along with David Cameron here) but generally disliking the Liberal Democrats more than I had before.

What comes across in this book is the sheer importance that the Lib Dems put on voting reform as a condition for joining any coalition, either with Labour or the Conservatives. As someone who was opposed to AV in the 2011 referendum on the subject, I find this immensely amusing considering the scale of the defeat. Of course, the negotiating Lib Dem team did have admirable goals - and they did seem to be focused on the deficit as much as their own interests - but reading this two years on from the general election means it's easy to see how assumptions have been smashed and solid relationships have broken down. The Lib Dems were perfectly aware of the impact going into coalition would have on their poll rating but I think they were confident they could win an AV referendum and so maintain some representation in the House of Commons in coming years. I think the scale of discontent both within the party and the public was vastly underestimated. Looking at everything agreed within those negotiations with hindsight is remarkable and I'm certainly glad I waited to read this.

However, the book tended to cement my opinion of one of the government's major problems: communication. David Laws was an effective communicator during his brief time in ministerial office. I can't help but wonder how the government image might have fared if he'd been involved in relaying decisions to the public.

This one's definitely a book to read if you're interested in British politics but I wouldn't read it as relaxation!

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