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

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The 11 things we know after the Brexit plan debate

Labour may just have fallen into a trap. 

On Wednesday, both Labour and Tory MPs filed out of the Commons together to back a motion calling on the Prime Minister to commit to publish the government’s Brexit plan before Article 50 is triggered in March 2017. 

The motion was proposed by Labour, but the government agreed to back it after inserting its own amendment calling on MPs to “respect the wishes of the United Kingdom” and adhere to the original timetable. 

With questions on everything from the customs union to the Northern Irish border, it is clear that the Brexit minister David Davis will have a busy Christmas. Meanwhile, his declared intention to stay schtum about the meat of Brexit negotiations for now means the nation has been hanging off every titbit of news, including a snapped memo reading “have cake and eat it”. 

So, with confusion abounding, here is what we know from the Brexit plan debate: 

1. The government will set out a Brexit plan before triggering Article 50

The Brexit minister David Davis said that Parliament will get to hear the government’s “strategic plans” ahead of triggering Article 50, but that this will not include anything that will “jeopardise our negotiating position”. 

While this is something of a victory for the Remain MPs and the Opposition, the devil is in the detail. For example, this could still mean anything from a white paper to a brief description released days before the March deadline.

2. Parliament will get a say on converting EU law into UK law

Davis repeated that the Great Repeal Bill, which scraps the European Communities Act 1972, will be presented to the Commons during the two-year period following Article 50.

He said: “After that there will be a series of consequential legislative measures, some primary, some secondary, and on every measure the House will have a vote and say.”

In other words, MPs will get to debate how existing EU law is converted to UK law. But, crucially, that isn’t the same as getting to debate the trade negotiations. And the crucial trade-off between access to the single market versus freedom of movement is likely to be decided there. 

3. Parliament is almost sure to get a final vote on the Brexit deal

The European Parliament is expected to vote on the final Brexit deal, which means the government accepts it also needs parliamentary approval. Davis said: “It is inconceivable to me that if the European Parliament has a vote, this House does not.”

Davis also pledged to keep MPs as well-informed as MEPs will be.

However, as shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer pointed out to The New Statesman, this could still leave MPs facing the choice of passing a Brexit deal they disagree with or plunging into a post-EU abyss. 

4. The government still plans to trigger Article 50 in March

With German and French elections planned for 2017, Labour MP Geraint Davies asked if there was any point triggering Article 50 before the autumn. 

But Davis said there were 15 elections scheduled during the negotiation process, so such kind of delay was “simply not possible”. 

5. Themed debates are a clue to Brexit priorities

One way to get a measure of the government’s priorities is the themed debates it is holding on various areas covered by EU law, including two already held on workers’ rights and transport.  

Davis mentioned themed debates as a key way his department would be held to account. 

It's not exactly disclosure, but it is one step better than relying on a camera man papping advisers as they walk into No.10 with their notes on show. 

6. The immigration policy is likely to focus on unskilled migrants

At the Tory party conference, Theresa May hinted at a draconian immigration policy that had little time for “citizens of the world”, while Davis said the “clear message” from the Brexit vote was “control immigration”.

He struck a softer tone in the debate, saying: “Free movement of people cannot continue as it is now, but this will not mean pulling up the drawbridge.”

The government would try to win “the global battle for talent”, he added. If the government intends to stick to its migration target and, as this suggests, will keep the criteria for skilled immigrants flexible, the main target for a clampdown is clearly unskilled labour.  

7. The government is still trying to stay in the customs union

Pressed about the customs union by Anna Soubry, the outspoken Tory backbencher, Davis said the government is looking at “several options”. This includes Norway, which is in the single market but not the customs union, and Switzerland, which is in neither but has a customs agreement. 

(For what it's worth, the EU describes this as "a series of bilateral agreements where Switzerland has agreed to take on certain aspects of EU legislation in exchange for accessing the EU's single market". It also notes that Swiss exports to the EU are focused on a few sectors, like chemicals, machinery and, yes, watches.)

8. The government wants the status quo on security

Davis said that on security and law enforcement “our aim is to preserve the current relationship as best we can”. 

He said there is a “clear mutual interest in continued co-operation” and signalled a willingness for the UK to pitch in to ensure Europe is secure across borders. 

One of the big tests for this commitment will be if the government opts into Europol legislation which comes into force next year.

9. The Chancellor is wooing industries

Robin Walker, the under-secretary for Brexit, said Philip Hammond and Brexit ministers were meeting organisations in the City, and had also met representatives from the aerospace, energy, farming, chemicals, car manufacturing and tourism industries. 

However, Labour has already attacked the government for playing favourites with its secretive Nissan deal. Brexit ministers have a fine line to walk between diplomacy and what looks like a bribe. 

10. Devolved administrations are causing trouble

A meeting with leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ended badly, with the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon publicly declaring it “deeply frustrating”. The Scottish government has since ramped up its attempts to block Brexit in the courts. 

Walker took a more conciliatory tone, saying that the PM was “committed to full engagement with the devolved administrations” and said he undertook the task of “listening to the concerns” of their representatives. 

11. Remain MPs may have just voted for a trap

Those MPs backing Remain were divided on whether to back the debate with the government’s amendment, with the Green co-leader Caroline Lucas calling it “the Tories’ trap”.

She argued that it meant signing up to invoking Article 50 by March, and imposing a “tight timetable” and “arbitrary deadline”, all for a vaguely-worded Brexit plan. In the end, Lucas was one of the Remainers who voted against the motion, along with the SNP. 

George agrees – you can read his analysis of the Brexit trap here

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.