Book review: Campaign 2010, The Making of the Prime Minister by Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones - Campaign 2010 book coverI am usually sceptical about instant history book as they come out before there has been time for reflection or gathering of further data and yet whilst events are still fresh in your mind. Too often therefore the instant history account simply tells you what you can still remember, and no more.

However, Nicholas Jones’s book does a good job of avoiding this trap by being rather more about Campaign 2005 – 2009 than Campaign 2010. The book may be titled Campaign 2010, but much of it is better reflected in the subtitle, The Making of the Prime Minister, for it is about the longer story of where David Cameron came from and how he repositioned the Conservative Party.

Close followers of the Westminster political scene with good memories will find little completely new in this account, but even they will find it a comprehensive and lucid summary of events as seen from the Whitehall bubble. That perspective makes the book a compliment to Deborah Mattinson’s Talking to a brick wall. Mattinson concentrates on the views of floating voters and the story of Labour; Jones concentrates on the views of Westminster and the story of the Conservatives.

The book gives the impression at times that Nicholas Jones’s writing plans were caught out by the Liberal Democrat surge following the first TV debate and then entry into government. Jones has a track record of being a well-informed and expert political journalist, yet the coverage of the Liberal Democrats is little more than what could be culled from the press cuttings – even when the accounts in the press cuttings have since been publicly revised. Therefore we get the original line that all Liberal Democrat MPs supported the coalition deal rather than the refined version that no Liberal Democrat MPs opposed it (but as subsequently became clear at least one, Charles Kennedy, abstained).

When talking about the Conservatives the book also shows some signs of its speedy publication date, as when the discussion about the rise and fall of the Conservative Party’s A-List initiative to secure more women and BME MPs ends with figures about the number of candidates for the election rather than with figures for the number of MPs eventually elected.

Nicholas Jones’s book expertly chronicles the love/hate relationship between right-wing tabloids and David Cameron, with the Daily Mail both headlining a piece “Wannabe Tory leader who wants to go soft on drugs” and ending a leader “Heaven help us all” and also at other times cheerleading for Cameron. Likewise the Daily Telegraph has also often praised Cameron highly yet, in Jones’s words, ran a story attacking him “undaunted by the lack of evidence”.

It is in telling the story of how politicians and the media interact that Jones is at his best, particularly in the insights his own journalistic experience give as to why Andy Coulson has been so effective working for Cameron. Coulson has the tabloid journalist’s eye for seeing how a policy or speech may be reported, and so how to avoid the blunder or turn the boring into the reportable. He also has the knack of seeing how to present policies in a way that makes them appear to echo the editorial lines of newspapers, whether by repeating their terminology (as when Cameron echoed The Sun by talking about “anarchy in the UK”) or by talking about the issues they are campaigning on (as with the many Conservative initiatives on the treatment of members of the armed forces). Both approaches generate more, and more positive, coverage in the tabloids.

Jones’s tale of the Conservatives is almost always extremely positive about Cameron, talking of his “inner confidence”, his “master stroke” and more. Events will either make Jones’s tone look remarkably prescient or embarrassingly misplaced. But that is for the future. For the present, the book gives a fast-paced and clear account of Westminster politics over the last five years.

If you like this, you might also be interested in The British General Election of 2010.

Got a view on this review? Then please rate it on Amazon.

Buy Campaign 2010: The Making of the Prime Minister by Nicholas Jones here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.