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John O'Farrell Presents his Choice of the Best Election Reads

Posted on 30th May 2017 by Martha Greengrass

'This book makes you realise just how much history can turn on the tiniest of things, and so each of us getting involved might make a crucial difference.'

With less than two weeks to go before the election, sifting through the melee of manifestos, interviews, political spiel and spin can leave you feeling none-the-wiser. Luckily, John O’Farrell, the award winning author of the best-selling political memoir Things Can Only Get Better and one of the writers behind Spitting Image and Have I Got News For You, has put together a selection of ideal pre-election reads exclusively for Waterstones to get you to the heart of the real issues at stake.

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On the night of 7 May 2015, Ed Balls thought there was a chance he would wake up the next morning as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. Instead, he woke up without a job. Speaking Out is a record of a life in politics, but also much more. It is about how power can be used for good, and the lessons to be learned when things go wrong. ‘Honest and revealing.’ - Michael Palin
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At election time, it’s good to be reminded that our politicians are human, and this is an interesting, honest and entertaining memoir from the former Labour minister who kept Britain out of the Euro, oversaw major reforms in education, and somehow is best known for his attempts at ballroom dancing. He lost his seat in 2015, though I hope we might one day see him waving on the steps of Downing Street… as the Prime Minister’s husband. 

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What is the state? And what's it ever done for you? Toynbee and Walker travelled around Great Britain gathering the voices of the people who make up the state: nurses and patients, teachers and parents, policemen and civilians; laying bare the deliberate dismantling of the public sector and the consequences for us all.
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An important account and analysis of how British public services have been run down and sold off, leaving a fragmented NHS, divided education system, a reduced police force and so many other holes in the vital safety net that make a civilised society. But it is not without optimism.  A well argued, well-researched and very timely book by that rare combination; a husband and wife team, in which people keep forgetting to mention the man!

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Based on unrivalled access to all the key politicians and their advisors Tim Shipman has written a political history that reads like a thriller, and offers a gripping, day-by-day account of what really happened behind-the-scenes in Downing Street, from the Leave campaigns, the Labour Party, Ukip and Britain Stronger in Europe. ‘The best political book of the year' - Andrew Marr
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This is the definitive account of the 2016 Brexit Referendum that led us to the god-awful mess we’re in today. Packed with bizarre twists and turns and larger-than-life characters making idiotic choices; it reads like a great tragic novel that left me wishing this really was in the fiction section.  This book makes you realise just how much history can turn on the tiniest of things, and so each of us getting involved might make a crucial difference.  It is a big heavy volume, this is the book we should throw at Boris Johnson.

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In this empathic, wry and passionate exploration of class in Britain today, Lynsey Hanley looks at how people are kept apart, and keep themselves apart - and the costs involved in the journey from 'there' to 'here'. 'Hanley is clear-eyed…about what is gained, as well as what is lost, in making the long and arduous journey from one class to another.’ - The Financial Times
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This is an important short book that quietly rages against the inequities of the British class system as the author recalls her journey from a working class estate in Birmingham. She makes a powerful case for how the odds are stacked so heavily against most people in this country at a time when it is only getting worse.  Buy your posh friends two copies so they keep a spare in their cottage in Gloucestershire.

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Nothing to Envy weaves together the stories of adversity and resilience of six defectors and recreated the concerns, culture and lifestyles of North Korean citizens in a gripping narrative, and vividly reconstructed the inner workings of this extraordinary and secretive country. 'A fascinating portrait’ – The Guardian
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Just when we are despairing at the state of politics in the West, this is an important reminder of what can happen to a society when politics really goes badly wrong.  By turns fascinating, tragic, shocking and moving, this book will make you eternally grateful that you live in a democracy. The next time someone you know points out a speed camera and says George Orwell’s 1984 has actually come true, suggest they move to North Korea and see just how close to that novel a society really can get.

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Behind our democracy lurks a powerful but unaccountable network of people who wield massive power and reap huge profits in the process. In this book, the author takes you on a journey into the heart of our Establishment. No matter what your political views it puts forward a clear and passionate argument making the case for re-examining the British political system.
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A calm, thoroughly-researched and yet searing analysis of the ways in which the corporate, political and media institutions act in the interests of the few and against the interests of the many and how they will go to any means to cling on to all the power and privilege they enjoy. It makes you realise that just voting once every few years is nowhere near enough.  But informing yourself is part of the battle – read all the above books and more, recommend them to friends, and the battle of ideas will swing our way again!

John O’Farrell’s long-awaited sequel Things Can Only Get Worse, will be published in September and is available for pre-order with Waterstones now.

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The long-awaited sequel to the best-selling Things Can Only Get Better is for everyone who could use a good laugh after Brexit, Boris and Trump. A roller-coaster ride through the last two decades via the very best political jokes (excluding the ones that keep getting elected).
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