Neil Fulwood's Reviews > Why We Get the Wrong Politicians

Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman
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did not like it

The title of this borderline fraudulent book makes two statements and associated inferences:

1. That our current tranche of politicians, of whatever party, are “wrong” (inference: politicians are a bad lot in general);

2. That the author knows why this is (inference: some potentially fraudulent transactional relationship between politicians and the public, hence the “we” in the title).

Apart from a first chapter that sets out the financial demands on a would-be MP, a fiscal grudge match that effectively rules out candidates from working class or underprivileged backgrounds, Hardman makes no attempt to drill down into either aspect. In fact, a better title would be ‘Why Parliament is a Bit Outmoded as an Institution’. Or ‘Stuff I Learned While Doing the Day Job’. Or, arguably most accurately, ‘I Got This Book Deal Because I Work for the New Statesman and the BBC’ (it says something that the back cover trumpets an endorsement from BBC maven Laura Kuennsberg).

Given that Hardman sympathises with MPs, plays devil’s advocate for them ad nauseum and indulges in rampant swathes of whataboutery in order to offset their glaringly evident failings and odious self-interest, it’s clear that the book was written less to interrogate the present political system as curry favour with those inimical to it who might serve to advance her own career ambitions.

A particularly risible moment comes in a chapter on the parliamentarian predisposition to addictive behaviours; Hardman quotes Sarah Wollaston’s comment on her colleagues’ drinking habits (“Who would go to see a surgeon who had just drunk a bottle of wine at lunchtime?”) and then refutes it with the staggeringly anodyne statement “MPs do not need the complex motor skills of a surgeon”, completely missing the point that, in any other form of employment, a staff member putting away a bottle of plonk over lunch and then staggering back to work would find themselves on the receiving end of disciplinary procedures, if not sacked outright.

Hardman then goes on to hand-wring for politicians driven to drink, without giving any consideration to the fact that many of these selfsame MPs have drafted, or helped vote into law, legislation that has driven many vulnerable people to suicide. In one of the latter chapters, Hardman even has the temerity to state that suicides triggered by government policies shouldn’t be indicative of the failure of said policies because “it is irresponsible to suggest that suicide has one clear cause”. A statement as ill-informed as it is heartless..

But then again, Hardman evinces sympathy for such odious individuals as Andrew Lansley, Margaret Hodge, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, so it’s probably unrealistic to expect her to have a finely calibrated moral compass, or cheerlead for civilised behaviours.

Isabel Hardman has a fixation on, and groupie-like reverence for, politicians, despite her book’s title (which I strongly suspect was either foisted on it by the publisher or served purely as a pitch just to tie down the publishing deal). Ultimately, ‘Why We Get the Wrong Politicians’ is a shallow and sanitised piece of hack work: the literary equivalent of click bait.
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Reading Progress

June 3, 2019 – Started Reading
June 3, 2019 – Shelved
June 6, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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Neil Denham So I'm not clear, is it any good...


message 2: by Neil (new) - rated it 1 star

Neil Fulwood Yeah, I sat on the fence a bit with that review, didn’t I?


Greg It contained many useful insights, but, although a little harsh IMO, I find myself agreeing with much of what you said.


Adam She works at the Spectator, not the New Statesman. Also what's wrong with journalists getting book deals writing about politics when their day job is writing about politics?


message 5: by Simon (new) - added it

Simon Bale Did you approach this book with as open a mind as you hope you have?


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