For many years and over many editions the Robert Waller and Byron Criddle Almanac of British Politics was the essential guide to Britain’s constituencies. For 2015, however, Robert Waller has teamed up with Iain Dale and colleagues (who have done their own previous guides) to produce a comprehensive combined effort: The Politicos Guide to the 2015 General Election, edited by Iain Dale, Greg Callus, Daniel Hamilton and Robert Waller.
The choice of chapter authors is good, including Mark Wallace, Paul Richards, Caron Lindsay respectively covering the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems in chapters that are sympathetic to their own parties but not uncritical. However, Paul Richards’s picture of Labour’s team is so united as to be implausible and he oscillates between presenting all as good and happy with the Labour campaign team and pointing to poll figures, especially for Miliband, which are anything but.
Gawain Towler covers Ukip and has much the least interesting chapter of the quartet as it’s all written in super-100%-loyalist mode, perhaps inevitably given his press job for the party, but still disappointing as it’s an account that gives no time to Ukip’s problems like the ditching of several candidates and rewriting of several policies.
The other chapters are generally of a high standard, though Joey Jones’s one on the TV debates is surprisingly insular. Despite only having one previous Westminster general election with TV debates to draw on for experience, he sticks to looking at that rather than also pulling in experience from previous Welsh, Scottish and London televised election debates.
But the very fact that I’ve highlighted this point shows how good the book overall is. The text is basically correct as of August 2014, so in a very small number of places already feels a little dated (Ukip picked up another defector from the Tories and Salmond lost the referendum) but these are only small and inevitable wrinkles.
It’s a great resource for anyone interested in the outcome of the 2015 general election.
If you like this, you might also be interested in Chance Encounters: Tales from a varied life by Tim Razzall and Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin by Damian McBride.
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Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.