IS­ABEL HARD­MAN At­lantic, 307pp, £18.99, Oldie price £12.54 inc p&p

‘You wouldn’t know it from the ti­tle of her book, which pan­ders to the prej­u­dice that the es­tate of West­min­ster is en­tirely rot­ten, but Is­abel Hard­man thinks that there is quite a lot to ad­mire about our politi­cians.’ So wrote An­drew Rawns­ley in his re­view for the

Ob­server. Hard­man, as­sis­tant ed­i­tor of the Spec­ta­tor, ‘finds much to say in praise of MPS and is gen­er­ally rather warm about them as hu­man be­ings’, but she is scorn­ful of the party ma­chines that cre­ate them, the crip­plingly ex­pen­sive se­lec­tion process, and the ex­ces­sive bur­dens un­der which they labour.

‘The hor­ri­ble irony is that a lot of MPS’ con­stituency case­work in­volves try­ing to sort out per­sonal crises for con­stituents that have been cre­ated by the im­pact of rub­bish leg­is­la­tion. MPS have had to be­come good at case­work be­cause they are rot­ten law­mak­ers.’ Rawns­ley was full of praise for her anal­y­sis. ‘This is a re­ally good book. Well-struc­tured and well-writ­ten, it mar­shals well-se­lected sta­tis­tics and com­bines them with hu­man sto­ries to cast valu­able il­lu­mi­na­tion on how politi­cians re­ally spend their, of­ten frus­trat­ing and mis­er­able, time. The au­thor makes some use­ful sug­ges­tions about how we might get more ef­fec­tive MPS with­out pre­tend­ing that she has a magic cure.’

The Daily Tele­graph’s re­viewer, Asa Ben­nett, thought ‘her ideas to put it right – like a na­tional bur­sary scheme for par­ties to help their can­di­dates af­ford “the most ex­pen­sive and time-con­sum­ing job in­ter­view on earth” – de­serve se­ri­ous at­ten­tion’ and wel­comed her sug­ges­tion that ‘the job of scru­ti­n­is­ing leg­is­la­tion should fall… to se­lect com­mit­tees’. She ‘could so eas­ily have just given the po­lit­i­cal class a kick­ing, but the so­lu­tions she of­fers make this book a must-read for any­one who wants a bet­ter Par­lia­ment. Crammed with in­sight and gos­sip, it will hope­fully pro­voke the West­min­ster bub­ble to clean it­self up.’

Quite a lot to ad­mire about our MPS

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