Honourable mentions.
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Reading between the party lines: a run-down of the key books of this election

Sometimes you need more than 140 characters.

Wasted: How Misunderstanding Young Britain Threatens Our Future, by Georgia Gould (Little, Brown)

A rousing argument against the idea that Britain’s feckless, apathetic youth are taking us to hell in a handcart, by a 28-year-old New Labour insider. Its central argument is that young people can drawn back into the political process, through low-tech graft at a community level. Packed full of anecdotes, research and statistics, it is let down by occasional lapses into boilerplate wonkish prose.
Helen Lewis


Five Year Mission: The Labour Party under Ed Miliband, by Time Bale (OUP)

For Labour, losing is like smoking: they tend to find it hard to stop once they’ve started. Tim Bale, professor of politics, gives us the definitive history of Ed Miliband’s attempt to defy history and get the party back into power in just one term. The book is exhaustive and scrupulously fair – but partisans may find the constant cycle of “crisis – big speech – moment of calm – repeat” somewhat waring. Whatever happens to its subject, the book will remain a useful first-stop to this period in Labour’s history.
Stephen Bush


How Good We Can Be: Ending the Mercenary Society and Building a Great Country, by Will Hutton (Little, Brown)

Two decades ago, Will Hutton captured the zeitgeist with The State We’re In, an excoriating critique of Thatcherism that was briefly embraced by Tony Blair. In How Good We Can Be, the Observer columnist seeks to offer a similarly comprehensive account of the UK’s economic, social and political maladies and the solutions required. Hutton argues for a fundamental redrawing of corporate governance, the replacement of austerity with investment, the renewal of trade unions as stakeholders in capitalism and the revival of public ownership in the case of natural monopolies such as the railways. The open question is whether Ed Miliband, who espouses much of this agenda, succeeds in preventing him from having to write another lament.
George Eaton


The Coalition Effect, 2010-2015, by Anthony Seldon and Mike Finn (Cambridge University Press)

Everyone has an opinion about the coalition government; here, as much as is possible, are the facts. The Liberal-Conservative administration’s record in health, education, the public realm, the running of parliament are asssessed by a series of wonks and analyists, all edited and coralled by Anthony Selsdon and Michael Finn.
Stephen Bush


None of the Above, by Rick Edwards (Simon & Schuster)

The host of BBC3’s Free Speech has produced a clunking fist of a book, directed squarely at young voters. It outlines policy areas and party positions in straightforward, accessible prose, leavened with dashes of wit. Edwards is obliged to be non-partisan, making this a refreshing read for anyone who has overdosed on polemics in the last few months.
Helen Lewis


Seat by Seat: A Political Anorak's Guide to Potential Gains and Losses in the 2015 General Election by Iain Dale (Biteback Publishing)

It has become a cliché that this is not just one election, but 650 of them. And for LBC presenter and political publisher Iain Dale, it's been even more. He's been updating his seat guide (on his blog) as circumstances have changed ever since it was published. He even amended his overall forecast from three-party coalition or second election to a minority government. His multiple revisions – he changed his mind twice on Hampstead & Kilburn, for example, and went from SNP surge-sceptic to giving it 54 seats – do make you wonder if it was worth enshrining this information in a book.
Anoosh Chakelian


The Purple Revolution: The Year That Changed Everything, by Nigel Farage (Biteback Publishing)

The Ukip leader’s second autobiography is a tortured polemic complete with Alan Partridge-isms like “it’s the National Health Service, not the International Health Service” and “Britain was just one star on [the] EU flag.”
Still, prescient in parts. On his party: “It is far more exciting being the horse that comes up on the inside . . . than having to keep the pace.”
Stephanie Boland


Sex, Lies & the Ballot Box: 50 things you need to know about British elections, by Philip Cowley​ (Biteback Publishing)

Or Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Politics, But Were Afraid To Ask. Does canvassing change anything? (A bit.) Why do the Conservatives struggle with ethnic minorities? (It’s complicated.) Do you inherit voting behaviour from your parents? (Less so than you used to.) And which party’s supporters are most likely to want to have a three-way? (I’m not referring to televised debates.) Philip Cowley and Rob Ford bring together pollsters and academics to answer politics’ biggest questions.
Stephen Bush


Get It Together, by Zoe Williams (Cornerstone Publishing)

Another whistlestop tour of Britain’s social ills, from a firmly left-wing perspective. The book covers housing, climate change, welfare and tax, among many other subjects, and will provide useful ammunition for pub arguments or if (god forbid) you find yourself on Question Time being berated by a Tory. The best line is a description of Vivienne Westwood “rolling conspiracy theories into the crowd like boules into a box of frogs”.
Helen Lewis


Honourable Friends? Parliament and the Fight for Change, by Caroline Lucas (Portobello)

The only Green MP ever to darken Westminster's “1970s pub” carpets, Caroline Lucas, gives an account of Commons life with no “honourable friends”. The most illuminating part is her navigation of parliament as an independent operator. Less intriguing are her recollections of environmental battles she has fought. Her gripe that media interviews rarely allow time to “fill in the background” of green issues has clearly been bubbling way, exploding in detail in this book like an aggressively-fracked dale.
Anoosh Chakelian


Al Murray: Let’s Re-Great Britain by Al Murray (Penguin)

Al Murray’s pub landlord character – which he first started doing in 1994 – had felt like quite a tired act long before he declared his intention to challenge Nigel Farage by running for parliament in Thanet South. Controversial too, since there’s a question mark over whether the audiences are packing out theatres to laugh ironically at the landlord’s quasi-Ukip brand of patriotic xenophobia, or to laugh approvingly. His manifesto video for the “Free the United Kingdom Party” was moderately amusing when it was released back in January, but presumably Murray’s management team have since realised that there’s no money to be made from slogging it on the doorsteps in east Kent, and have therefore fallen back on the hardy perennial of the comedy world: the tie-in book. Suffice it to say the font is quite big, there are quite a lot of bullet points, and there are little illustrations of beer tankards on the corner of every page. But since the whole premise of FUKP was supposed to be that its manifesto had been drawn up on the back of a fag packet, I suggest you bypass the book and just go right to the source: 

Caroline Crampton


Be Your Own Politician: Why It's Time for a New Kind of Politics​, by Paul Twivy (Biteback Publishing)

How do we fix our broken politics? If the answer is a series of barely-connected historical anecdotes by a baby boomer, with a political programme that swings wildly from right to left, washed down with some vague platitudes about devolving power and communities, Paul Twivy’s book may hold the answers.
Stephen Bush

Green Party
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Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley: "The Greens can win over Ukip voters too"

The party co-leaders condemned Labour's "witch hunt" of Green-supporting members. 

“You only have to cast your eyes along those green benches to think this place doesn't really represent modern Britain,” said Caroline Lucas, the UK’s only Green MP, of the House of Commons. “There are lots of things you could do about it, and one is say: ‘Why not have job share MPs?’”

Politics is full of partnerships and rivalries, but not job shares. When Lucas and Jonathan Bartley were elected co-leaders of the Green party in September, they made history. 

“I don't think any week's been typical so far,” said Bartley, when I met the co-leaders in Westminster’s Portcullis House. During the debate on the Hinkley power plant, he said, Lucas was in her constituency: “I was in Westminster, so I could pop over to do the interviews.”

Other times, it’s Bartley who travels: “I’ve been over to Calais already, and I was up in Morecambe and Lancaster. It means we’re not left without a leader.”

The two Green leaders have had varied careers. Lucas has become a familiar face in Parliament since 2010, whereas Bartley has spent most of his career in political backrooms and wonkish circles (he co-founded the think tank Ekklesia). In the six weeks since being elected, though, they seem to have mastered the knack of backing each other up. After Lucas, who represents Brighton Pavilion, made her point about the green benches, Bartley chimed in. “My son is a wheelchair user. He is now 14," he said. "I just spent a month with him, because he had to have a major operation and he was in the recovery period. The job share allows that opportunity.”

It’s hard enough for Labour’s shadow cabinet to stay on message. So how will the Greens do it? “We basically said that although we've got two leaders, we've got one set of policies,” said Lucas. She smiled. “Whereas Labour kind of has the opposite.”

The ranks of the Greens, like Labour, have swelled since the referendum. Many are the usual suspects - Remainers still distressed about Brexit. But Lucas and Bartley believe they can tap into some of the discontent driving the Ukip vote in northern England.

“In Morecambe, I was chatting to someone who was deciding whether to vote Ukip or Green,” said Bartley. “He was really distrustful of the big political parties, and he wanted to send a clear message.”

Bartley points to an Ashcroft poll showing roughly half of Leave voters believed capitalism was a force for ill (a larger proportion nevertheless was deeply suspicious of the green movement). Nevertheless, the idea of voters moving from a party defined by border control to one that is against open borders “for now” seems counterintuitive. 

“This issue in the local election wasn’t about migration,” Bartley said. “This voter was talking about power and control, and he recognised the Greens could give him that.

“He was remarking it was the first time anyone had knocked on his door.”

According to a 2015 study by the LSE researcher James Dennison, Greens and Kippers stand out almost equally for their mistrust in politicians, and their dissatisfaction with British democracy. 

Lucas believes Ukip voters want to give “the system” a “bloody big kick” and “people who vote Green are sometimes doing that too”. 

She said: “We’re standing up against the system in a very different way from Ukip, but to that extent there is a commonality.”

The Greens say what they believe, she added: “We’re not going to limit our ambitions to the social liberal.”

A more reliable source of support may be the young. A May 2015 YouGov poll found 7 per cent of voters aged 18 to 29 intended to vote Green, compared to just 2 per cent of those aged 60+. 

Bartley is cautious about inflaming a generational divide, but Lucas acknowledges that young people feel “massively let down”.

She said: “They are certainly let down by our housing market, they are let down by universities. 

“The Greens are still against tuition fees - we want a small tax for the biggest businesses to fund education because for us education is a public good, not a private commodity.”

Of course, it’s all very well telling young people what they want to hear, but in the meantime the Tory government is moving towards a hard Brexit and scrapping maintenance grants. Lucas and Bartley are some of the biggest cheerleaders for a progressive alliance, and Lucas co-authored a book with rising Labour star Lisa Nandy on the subject. On the book tour, she was “amazed” by how many people turned up “on wet Friday evenings” to hear about “how we choose a less tribal politics”. 

Nevertheless, the idea is still controversial, not least among many in Nandy's own party. The recent leadership contest saw a spate of members ejected for publicly supporting the Greens, among other parties. 

“It was like a witch hunt,” said Lucas. “Some of those tweets were from a year or two ago. They might have retweeted something that happened to be from me saying ‘come join us in opposing fracking’, which is now a Labour policy. To kick someone out for that is deeply shocking.”

By contrast, the Greens have recently launched a friends scheme for supporters, including those who are already a member of another party. “The idea that one party is going to know it all is nonsense,” said Bartley. “That isn’t reality.”

Lucas and Bartley believe the biggest potential for a progressive alliance is at constituency level, where local people feel empowered, not disenfranchised, by brokering deals. They recall the 1997 election, when voters rallied around the independent candidate Martin Bell to trounce the supposedly safe Tory MP Neil Hamilton. Citing a recent letter co-signed by the Greens, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru condemning Tory rhetoric on immigrants, Bartley points out that smaller parties are already finding ways to magnify their voice. The fact the party backed down on listing foreign workers was, he argued, “a significant win”. 

As for true electoral reform, in 2011, a referendum on changing Britain's rigid first past the post system failed miserably. But the dismal polls for the Labour party, could, Lucas thinks, open up a fresh debate.

“More and more people in the Labour party recognise now that no matter who their leader is, their chance of getting an outright majority at the next election is actually vanishingly small,” she said. “It’s in their interests to support electoral reform. That's the game changer.” 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.