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Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997
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Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  713 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Like bubonic plague and stone cladding, no-one took Margaret Thatcher seriously until it was too late. Her first act as leader was to appear before the cameras and do a V for Victory sign the wrong way round. She was smiling and telling the British people to f*** off at the same time. It was something we would have to get used to.'

Things Can Only Get Better is the personal
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Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by Black Swan (first published October 1st 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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NancyHelen
Mar 22, 2015 NancyHelen rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure about this book when I first started out, as my familiarity with the politics in Britain of the 1980s isn't that great, but actually this was a really entertaining memoir. It traced the course of a Labour supporter from idealism through to disillusionment and then to final acceptance during the long, dark years of Margaret Thatcher's rule. The books ends when 'New Labour' finally gain office in 1997 - an event I remember myself having arrived in Britain the year before. There are ...more
Richard Thomas
Nov 27, 2014 Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british-history
A good book to appreciate the glee felt by many (including me) at the end of the 18 years of Tory rule. He writes with an understanding of the politics of the time and of the hopes of the majority that we would see better government and governance than hitherto. We did for a while before the iron law of British politics clicked in when Blair heard the voices and began to want to strut on a larger stage than Westminster and Whitehall. The last PM who didn't do abroad with any enthusiasm was ...more
Pete
May 31, 2014 Pete rated it it was amazing
John O'Farrell's book on life under Margaret Thatcher is laugh out loud funny. John was a script writer for "Spitting Image" which alongside Margaret Thatcher was a defining component of my childhood. His description of growing up in Marlow as a Labour party supporting family brings smile t my face even now. A fabulous and highly amusing read that brings back many fond memories. Highly recommended.
Tiah
May 12, 2009 Tiah rated it liked it
John O'Farrell always makes me laugh out loud so hard my ribs hurt. If I was ever so lucky to meet the man in person, I'm sure I'd like him. I agree with a lot of what he says. Yet, I never seem to adore the books as a whole. In fact, I greatly disliked May Contain Nut. Things Can Only Get Better was humorous and gave me enormous history into the political landscape of the Thatcher years. I'm glad I read it. Yet, there is always the yet...
Gareth Evans
Fever Pitch-style biography where the focus is not football but on politics, specifically the Labour party. It's an easy, pleasant read, perhaps too much so for a book concerning politics. O'Farrell treats his party very much as other authors treat the football teams, with exasperation and blind loyalty. Written in late 1997, the book is rather spoiled by the ending in which Blair gains power and all is right with the world. Nevertheless an entertaining read.
John Molyneux
Mar 11, 2014 John Molyneux rated it it was amazing
A fantastic, witty read, O Farrell relives the dark days of the selfish, greed fuelled 80s, in a comic yet poignant way. He is actually quite self deprecating in his tales, despite the right wing press inevitably focusing solely on the rather ill-advised musings of a frustrated and angry young man after the Brighton bombing.
Becky Walker
Oct 31, 2013 Becky Walker rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, politics
So this sat on my shelf untouched for about 3 years, but after much scolding at Party Conference I finally got round to reading it. Brilliant, has to be read.
Simon Mcleish
Jan 21, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it
Originally published on my blog here in June 2002.

Many tragic events can seem comic in retrospect, and in this book the depression accompanying being a Labour Part supporter in Thatcher's Britain is made very funny indeed. As someone mildly left wing (rabidly so by the standards of the place where I grew up, where even the Conservatives are too left wing to be voted onto the local council), I shared many of the disappointments felt by John O'Farrell, albeit in a less committed way partly dictate
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Kim Stallwood
Aug 10, 2015 Kim Stallwood rated it it was ok
The narrative is a memoir of a coming of age as an activist in the British Labour Party. Some interesting recollections, particularly if you were there, which I was up to 1987. Thereafter, I was in the U.S. and watched developments from afar. It was these reminisces that were more interesting to me. But would not be the case if the reader lived in the U.K. throughout this period.

Published in 1998, and ending with the election of centrist Tony Blair as the first Labour Prime Minister after what
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Ashley
Oct 03, 2015 Ashley rated it really liked it
I was gifted a signed copy of this by my aunt who is life-long Labour member and politician.

It's a great read. Very funny and full of interesting tidbits for example Dave Nellist sharing an office with Tony B.

I must say it has also altered my opinion on how I view the centre and right of centre side of Labour. I have a little more sympathy for those who supported New Labour and the push to get into power because John conveys so well the alternative of being kept out of political power for all th
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Adrian P
Nov 01, 2013 Adrian P rated it it was amazing
Clever, funny and poignant. Anyone who was an unemployed graduate in the nineteen eighties will wince with recognition as John puts on a tie to hide in the library; and those frustrated by the arms race of that era will both laugh and cry as he describes the misguided idea that nuclear weapons can be disarmed by face-painting or by a 'die-in' in the street. And with the lightest of touches, he nails those politicians who are so self-centred that they can't even bear to laugh at a colleague's ...more
Nick Davies
Jan 24, 2016 Nick Davies rated it liked it
I enjoyed this more than I anticipated, but (not being a socialist) I couldn't completely get past that stumbling block. As well as O'Farrell writes, this was less funny than his novels, and I found it lacking in awareness - there was criticism of supporters of one party for behaving antisocially and irregularly, but no criticism of activists of the 'other' side (the author's chosen party) for doing exactly the same.
Vivienne
Jun 24, 2010 Vivienne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was another book group selection and one I found quite amusing and informative.

O'Farrell is passionate about politics and I could certainly relate to many of the things he wrote about here having lived through these years and events. He is also very funny and there were plenty of laugh out loud moments.

I do think though that its appeal will be mainly limited to politically-minded Brits as it is very focused on British politics during the period of 1979-1997.
Pippa Fox
Jun 13, 2009 Pippa Fox rated it liked it
still going with this one. what made me pick it up was the excerpt on the back cover: Like bubonic plage and stone cladding, no-one took Margaret Thatcher seriously until it was too late. her first act as leader was to appear before the cameras and do a V for Victory sign the wrong way round. She was smiling and telling the British people to f*** off at the same time. It was something we would have to get used to.
Vanessa
Nov 30, 2010 Vanessa rated it it was ok
err... I didn't like much the Political History part... I was hoping for something funny but bored me a bit. Plus I am Canadian and I don't give much a shit about politic here so form England even worst ' not giving a shit about it ' but still it's interesting to see the effort he put into this with all his heart. :)
Florence Penrice
Mar 20, 2010 Florence Penrice rated it really liked it
Having been active Labour supporters in the Period that John O'Farrell is writing about here, I can only say how well he relates what was going on at the time, and how people like us felt about it - especially when John Major got in. Very funny and the best thing he's done
Nigel
Jan 16, 2016 Nigel added it
Laugh out loud funny is the only way to describe this book. Self depricating while still full of hope and belief in a cause with a lovely ironic twist. I could read anything by John O'Farrell and probably will.
Libby Mcainsh
Apr 14, 2012 Libby Mcainsh rated it it was amazing
I can utterly empathise with this book. It was even more frustrating for us scots as she still managed to win with very few mp's being returned - bloody Nicholas Fairburn! Very funny book and sums up the feelings of many at that time.
Anna
Apr 30, 2016 Anna rated it liked it
Anyone who's ever been involved in community organising and political activism of any kind will find a lot to identify with, and laugh at, in this memoir.
Andrew
May 22, 2012 Andrew rated it liked it
Very very funny. If you came from a working class background, involved in politics on left of centre. You might identify with some of the things in this book.
Sophie
May 31, 2012 Sophie rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
Really good book; hilarious and just a pleasant read. It's also really nice because you know the ending to the book already, obviously.
Dave
Jul 11, 2008 Dave rated it liked it
While I liked this, I'm sure I would have liked it even better had I known more about British politics.
Mariana
May 05, 2016 Mariana rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Not a book I ever thought I would read, not being particularly politically minded, but actually very glad I did.
Louise
Dec 21, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it
Forgetting the fact it took me months to read because that was my fault rather than the book, I really enjoyed this. A good look at politics during this time and many humorous moments.
Jason O'Mahony
Jul 04, 2011 Jason O'Mahony rated it it was amazing
A superb book on the reality of being in politics in Britain (or Ireland, where I was)in the 1980s. Possibly the funniest book ever written on politics in the era.
Rachel
Aug 27, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you were in you were around in the 80s and were a Labour supporter you will love this.
A warm, witty and affectionate account of Labour's years in the political wilderness. Highly recommended
Dave
Sep 11, 2013 Dave rated it really liked it
Lived through these times, really true to my experiences at the time. Great book by a fine author.
Sarah
Aug 09, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it
Not as good as 'An Impartial History...', but very amusing and a fun way of reviewing British politics in the 80s and 90s.
Thomas Strömquist
Sep 20, 2015 Thomas Strömquist rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-collection
"Very English and very funny. Offering insights into British politics as well as the author. Highly recommended."
John
Jan 15, 2012 John rated it really liked it
If only the title was true- Ah well! An enjoyable read which put me in mind of Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch" but about politics rather than football
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John O'Farrell is the author of four novels: The Man Who Forgot His Wife, May Contain Nuts, This Is Your Life and The Best a Man Can Get. His novels have been translated into over twenty languages and have been adapted for radio and television. He has also written two best-selling history books: An Utterly Impartial History of Britain and An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain, as well ...more
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