Who Decides? is like an excellent after dinner speaker – not too long, with plenty of laughs and a bit of knowledge imparted.
The book intertwines Lib Dem peer and former MP Lord Tyler’s amusing recollections of collective decision making during his political career (including Parliamentary committees, candidate selection meetings and party management bodies) with extracts from the guide to understanding, managing and exploiting committees published in 1962 by the former government chief psychologist, Edgar Anstey.
Though Tyler’s recollections are supplemented by a sprinkling of non-political accounts, such as how the Man Booker prize winner is chosen, it is a book with a very strong political flavour.
The various, mostly failed, attempts to reform the House of Lords feature particularly prominently, and they do make for a good case study in how a nominal majority in favour of reform has repeatedly run into the sand thanks to the failure to manage the committees and other bodies which would otherwise have translated desire into results.
It is a shame that the extracts from Anstey are not greater in number because, amusing and interesting though Tyler’s stories are, they work best when used directly to illustrate Anstey’s points about how committees do and don’t work, and the best tactics for committee members to use. The absence of more extracts therefore makes the book more entertaining than educational, though to be fair it does still impart a fair amount of advice for committee members.
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Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.