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Why We Get the Wrong Politicians

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  229 ratings  ·  31 reviews

As one of the country's leading political journalists, Isabel Hardman has spent many years in that bizarre rabbit-warren we call the Houses of Parliament. She's conducted thousands of interviews with MPs ranging from fresh-faced recruits to Prime Ministers. With some notable exceptions, she has found them to be decent, hard-working people, doing a hugely difficult and dema

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 6th 2018 by Atlantic Books
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  229 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Paul Bryant
Dec 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
December 2018 : Britain is stuck fast in the most absurd political quicksand. As the date for leaving the EU looms nearer (29 March 2019) these damned politicians literally don’t know what to do. Theresa May, the massively incompetent prime minister who almost lost the last election when it should have been a stroll in the park for the Conservatives, has spent two years in eye-bugging migraine-inducing negotiations with the EU and has hammered out a detailed (585 page long!) agreement that to he ...more
Holly Law
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel much more knowledgable about how Parliament works, and the problems that frustrate good laws being made after finishing this book.

Really interesting for anyone interested in how our country is run, especially for people like me with ambitions to become a parliamentary candidate. This book has strengthened my belief that I have the right intentions.
Alex Robinson
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
The somewhat sensationalist title is misleading, but 'why being an MP is hard (plus how legislation works)' probably wouldn't sell. It's a fine guide to that topic, though a bit lacking in the pizzazz department.
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman is brilliant. If you’re interested in political sciences and why Westminster hasn’t been working for the British people then this is the book for you. Read by the author, the audio edition was really compelling. There isn’t a clear separation of power between the government and MPs which makes legislating harder. The incentives and conditions to be an MP aren’t working as only privileged and well-connected people can realistically be candidates. ...more
Julie Hudson
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent look at parliamentary life from the inside. It's such a massive thing to change but so desperately in need of reform to make it fit for purpose for current times. Very frustrating reading about the various legislations that have been passed without proper scrutiny and no real measures in place to improve the situation. There must be other political structures around the world that work better that we could emulate. Did I have more sympathy for MPs after reading the book? I can't say I ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was really good. It's a well-considered, non-judgemental examination of flaws in the way our parliament scrutinises legislation. It raised a lot of things that I'd not considered before, in particular:

- the ridiculous cost & time investment of becoming an MP (obviously limiting the pool of those that can & will apply)

- the enormous size of our executive branch (over 100 MPs are on the government payroll, essentially binding them to vote with the government and preventing
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a really eye opening insight into the way our Parliament works (or rather, doesn't work). I understand things about the mechanics of government that were murky to me as a layperson, with Hardman explaining things in a relatable and non-partisan style that ought to appeal to all.

She poses the problems (mainly all traceable back to the fact that politicians are flawed people, like we all are) and then some solutions, but there are no revolutionary suggestions here. Rather, incremental
Michael Nicholson
A really interesting insight into the personal aspects of the processes of becoming, being, and ceasing to be an MP and the impact that these have on the recruitment of good candidates. It also explores some of less visible Westminster processes and demonstrates why they're a poor use of everyone's time and in need of reform. The anecdotes from serving and former MPs make this a rich text that leave you with a rare feeling these days- empathy and sympathy for politicians.
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a quick read but a good canter through some of the drivers of dysfunctionality in Westminster and, in less detail, what could be done about it. The chapter on the pressures on MPs’ families and personal lives is particularly well-researched, as are the bits on how ill-defined the role of an MP is. The final chapter (how things could be improved) is a combination of really good ideas -giving Select Committees more power to bring forward legislation and treating that as a serious career op ...more
Matthew Kilburn
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
The title is a little misleading, as part of Isabel Hardman's argument is that the popular perception (if she sets it up accurately) that the United Kingdom has the wrong politicians is mistaken, and that to some extent politicians are trapped in a system which too many people have vested interests in not changing. The bias towards people able and willing to fund their own campaigns - both to become a candidate, and then to be elected to parliament - and against women - with conservatism over wo ...more
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book just as the British Parliament once again descended into chaos about Brexit. It’s so easy to watch the news and think that the people we’ve elected are idiots. That they’re thinking about themselves and what their ideologies want versus what’s good for the country. And while that’s about 95% true, we have to go deeper to understand why politics and MPs work the way they do.

Journalist Isabel Hardman takes us under the skin of British politics, examining every stage of being
Will Tomsett
This was a very interesting, if slightly flawed, book. On the plus side, the author's diagnoses are very strong - particularly on the issues around the lack of legislative scrutiny and the excessive focus on constituency work. I really learnt a lot from these (slightly depressing) chapters which highlight just how unrewarding being a legislator is (vs jockeying for ministerial position) and how overwhelmed MPs are by constituency work. Additionally, Ms Hardman's prescriptions for the problem, th ...more
Carolyn Lochhead
I read this book almost in one sitting, so gripped was I by Hardman’s arguments and obvious frustration with our political system. Much of what she writes is well known - that politicians now face terrible abuse, threats and actual danger to themselves and their families, and that we expect them to be both above reproach and just like us: an impossible mission. But she also set out the ridiculous process a Westminster candidate is expected to go through in order to first get nominated and then w ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very human and readable account from someone who has lived in the atmosphere of Westminster and met a huge number of politicians and advisers. In other words, she walks her talk. And I think she gets it right. People put in a lot of time and effort, unpaid until they get elected, to get there. Standing for the local council, I know what that means. Once they become an MP, it is really hard work, they are not equipped to question legislation in detail which leads to sloppy, poorly thou ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great starting point if you're interested in the myriad reasons why MPs can be ineffective legislators and scrutineers. Hardman explores the life-cycle of the MP, from selection as a Parliamentary candidate to seeking elevation to Government to searching for a new job after losing their seat. It runs through the hurdles at each of these stages, some of which come back to the prohibitive cost of standing for Parliament and others where responsibility lies with the stranglehold of the pa ...more
Julia MacBeath
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, very fair and sympathetic look at the process of entering parliament and the legislative system in the UK. Includes some interesting suggestions for improvements to the current system which would help MPs do a better job of scrutinising legislation and holding the government to account. A really enjoyable read considering given the subject matter it could have been rather dry and technical. The author includes lots of stories about current and former MPs which gives her book a human ...more
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recommend anyone who wants to stand for public office to read this book.

I recognise a lot of what the first half of this book talks about either through my own personal experience of being a Council candidate or helping to campaign for others during differing elections. It doesn't matter what level you are standing for: Council; Scottish Parliament; Westminster; a lot of what is referred to is common to all.

Chloe Hutchinson
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Brilliant examination of the issues in the ways in which the UK parliament functions, how MPs are selected and the barriers individuals face, and the expectations the electorate have.

The writing style is accessible and makes it easy to follow what can be a complex debate. The extensive notes section at the back and referencing throughout makes it a great introduction to anyone wanting to learn more about Parliament.
Stephen Hawker
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent insightful summary of the current state of Parliament and why it’s not working

Well worth a read if you want a clear and succinct summary of some of the deep flaws of our parliamentary system and the reasons why it so often fails to deliver the law making and oversight we need.
Matthew Tebbutt
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
The range of interviews gives the book a depth that I was not expecting. It adds a human element to the machine. The central point is clear and well reinforced. It could all to easily have been an insider expose but has more grace than that. I hope someone can write something similar for the aid industry.
Connor Wallace
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really, really good. Perfectly captures the impossible multiplicity we expect from MPs and why their job is a very tricky one to actually get right. By nature of the subject matter, certain parts are dry (bill committees etc) but it’s a fantastic read overall.
Mr Paul Thomson
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The must read book on today politics. Parliament is falling apart. The Building itself is in need of a major overhaul. The system is very secretive, and has lost its direction that it is there to serve the people. It has inexperienced politicians, and run by a government of those who shout the loudest and seldom the most competent.
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Good, if not slightly depressing, analysis of the British political system and why things go wrong. Would perhaps have liked more about how we can get better politicians/a better system.
Well written, and provides a good insight into Westminster and the inner workings (or as is often not-workings) of government.
Neil Wood
Interesting views expressed.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really engaging analysis of the issues in contemporary British politics along with some cracking anecdotes
Adrian Matthews
Mostly an explanation of what an MP does. Rather falls apart when trying to answer the question in the title. Felt like a political pamphlet etiolated into a longer book.
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read if you are interested in politics. Could have done more to suggest reform but an excellent balanced insight.
Luke  East
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deeply concerning. Everyone interested in politics has to read this.
Stephen Braban
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great insight into the life and why our political parties work how they do. Sign me up!
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