Six books, nearly all fun to read (expect perhaps one that is rather technical, with more in the way of regression equations than memorable case studies) and all packed full of useful election winning and party rebuilding advice.
New Labour may seem a more obvious hate figure for Liberal Democrats than something to learn from, yet the basic challenge Labour’s modernisers faced is the same as that faced by the Liberal Democrats now. How do you make the public think a party is credible and competent?
Gould’s book is a brilliant study of how Labour did it – and so also has plenty of clues for what the Liberal Democrat rebuilding should also involve (even if, in one key respect, the challenge is the opposite of Labour’s).
This value of this book from a few years back and another country isn’t really about increasing turnout at the next elections in the UK, although there are some useful ideas on that in the book which convert to contemporary Britain.
But really, it’s about how to run tests and learn which campaign tactics actually work – and how to optimise those that do.
That’s something in which the Liberal Democrats lag behind, in the offline world in particular – making it a must read for anyone who wants to understand how you go about testing campaign options, and the huge benefits such a scientific mindset brings.
Don’t think of an elephant. Now what animal is in your mind? An elephant.
George Lakoff’s book is the classic on how to frame political debates in a way that works – not elephant-like saying something which then is immediately counter-productive, but saying things that win people over.
It’s one of those rare books which has since been so influential and widely adopted that it is easy to forget how original it was at the time, but even so it remains a quick, enjoyable and important read.
An unconventional yet essential perspective on politics – and a great example of the value of focus group research:
An entertaining read that paints a vivid picture of the utterly dysfunctional way Labour operated for years, as if emulating a group of sulky teenagers is the blueprint to follow.
She had a close up view of much that happened in 1983-2010, and the book tells it from the perspective of the voters she frequently focus grouped rather than from the more traditional perspective of Westminster bubble gossip.
Affluence, Austerity and Electoral Change in Britain by Paul Whiteley, Harold D. Clarke, David Sanders and Marianne C. Stewart
The core thesis of Affluence, Austerity and Electoral Change in Britain is that Britain’s recent general elections have been decided by “valence factors” – that is ones where voters choose between parties based on evaluation of their competence rather than making choices based on competing ideology…
For the Liberal Democrats an emphasis on valence rather than policy positions helps explain the party’s low poll ratings during the 2010-15 Parliament despite polling finding individual policies popular and the party’s position on the left/right political spectrum close to that of voters. The challenge the party faces isn’t about policies but about the party’s perceived ability to deliver on what it believes in.
It also helps explain why the economic recovery during the 2010-15 Parliament boosted the Conservative poll rating more than the Lib Dem one (even if not as much as Conservatives hoped). As the authors wrote in the first half of the Parliament of their statistical analysis: “A telling difference between the Conservative and Liberal Democrats is that the former party’s prospects were enhanced by public perception that the Coalition Government is handling the crisis well … However, this was not the case for the latter party … This finding implies that the Conservatives are likely to be credited for an economic revival if their current strategy proves to be successful, but their Liberal Democrat partners will not be so fortunate”.
“Packed full of useful tips and insights … It covers all aspects of campaigning: people, money, messaging, meetings, and both online and offline” – Phil Cowley
“Jolly but serious” – The Parliamentary Bookshop
“It’s not just the structure that helps the book whip along, it’s also its jaunty irreverent tone” – Stephen Tall
“A rattling good read” – Tribune
Next up, six fiction books for people interested in politics. What would you recommend I include in that list? Comment away…