Book Review: Why We Get the Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman | Sarah Stook

Star Rating: 5

Isabel Hardman manages something extraordinary in her 352 page book. She manages to make us feel sorry for our politicians.

That’s no easy task, considering how we see politicians. Most of us see MPs as self-serving sycophants who ride the gravy train through the Mystical Land of Expenses and waste tax payers money through their lies. I mean, that’s not exactly wrong, but this is what Hardman works to disprove. Through interviews of politicians throughout the system, she makes sure that she paints a whole picture of what we expect.

The book answers its own question thoroughly. We learn about how difficult and expensive it is to enter politics if you’re not rich or well connected. We learn that running as a parliamentary candidate can cost you thousands of pounds. We learn that the party is never supportive. Once someone gets to parliament, they find that the system blocks any chance of being a legislator and that it punishes those who don’t follow the party line. Once wide eyed politicians leave parliament cynical and broken down by The Bubble.

Hardman’s journalistic position allows her to be extremely well connected, and it shows. From the newly retired David Cameron to the soon to retire Gloria De Piero, she manages to work her way through the parties to get the experience from everyone, backbenches to Number 10. Though Hardman certainly has her own political views, she manages to push them aside in order to create an un-blinkered perspective of the Commons (and the Lords). Though she’d not shy in calling out Parliamentarians who have done a terrible job, she doesn’t categorise by party or ideology. Hardman is quick to praise but that’s all part of it- she strives to show positivity.

Though those who read this book are almost certainly politicos, it’s easy to read through Layman’s terms without being too simplistic. It’s the perfect length for its subject, not milking any areas but certainly not be too brief. It’s certainly directed at a certain audience, but a truly broad book is truly rare and politics is one of the genres that can’t cater to anyone outside of a certain niche. Hardman is aware of this, balancing explanation with the assumption that the reader has the most basic knowledge of the system.

It’s not an easy read in terms of knowledge- nobody will read this book without coming away with new knowledge. That’s a testament to Hardman’s skills as a networker and journalist. She gets the gossip that we all crave, sure, but she also teaches us about a parliamentary system that is extremely complicated to even its insiders.

To conclude, Why We Get the Wrong Politicians is a brilliant read and needs to be on the bookshelf of every politico and their mum. It’s not too heavy for those who aren’t avid readers, but is still worth the price of the book.  It manages to change the mind of the reader, something that non-fiction often struggles to do. That, in this time of political partisanship, is the most important of them all.

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