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“Don’t Take No For An Answer: The 2011 Referendum and the Future of Electoral Reform”

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“Don’t Take No For An Answer: The 2011 Referendum and the Future of Electoral Reform”

Posted on 10 September 2011 by admin

Authors: Lewis Baston and Ken Ritchie

The May 2011 national referendum was only the second ever in the history of the United Kingdom. Those who had campaigned for decades for electoral reform were given, finally, a chance to make the case for change as the nation decided for or against the Alternative Vote (AV).

Yet, whilst opinion polls in the months before the vote showed the Yes campaign to have a small lead amongst the public, on polling day it was comprehensively defeated: more than two-thirds of voters opted instead to maintain the status quo. The Yes side won in only ten of 440 counting areas.

Don’t Take No For An Answer tells the story of that referendum, in all its blackly comic detail – from duck houses to deathbed conversions.

Yet it is not simply an historical account. It seeks to understand what went wrong for the Yes campaign, and why. It also looks to the future – how to ensure that electoral reform returns to the political agenda and how to run a reform campaign capable of success.

Don’t Take No For An Answer is an analysis of the mistakes made in the past. But it also contains a message of hope – that the chance for a referendum will come again and, this time, those in favour of reform will not take no for an answer.

Published on 16th September 2011 by Biteback Publishing

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“Reggie” Featured on Fivebooks.com

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“Reggie” Featured on Fivebooks.com

Posted on 04 August 2010 by admin

This is a biography that takes you right into the heart of 1950s Conservatism in the same way that Robert Caro’s life of Lyndon Johnson takes you right into the Senate of the same period

Executive Editor of The Times, Daniel Finkenstein, praises Lewis Baston’s Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling on prestigious review site Fivebooks.com.

Your next book is very British.

I have deliberately chosen to be a bit arcane with my third book: Reggie by Lewis Baston. If you want to realise how conservative movements all over the world are exceptionalist in the same way that Republicans believe in American exceptionalism, then nothing could be better than reading histories of obscure British politicians. This is a book about Reginald Maudling, who was a very senior politician, singularly undynamic – so much so that when punched by a Member of Parliament over Bloody Sunday [the shooting in Northern Ireland of protesters by members of the British forces] because he was Home Secretary at the time, somebody shouted, ‘My God! She’s woken him up!’

This is a biography that takes you right into the heart of 1950s Conservatism in the same way that Robert Caro’s life of Lyndon Johnson takes you right into the Senate of the same period – it is very difficult to do if you live in another country but very important to understanding something as nationally individualist as conservatism.

Maudling was twice a contender for leader of the Party, once in a very serious way, and he lost because really, although he was thought to be the finest politician, he was thought to be too lazy. He then ran to seed, and ended up having to resign because of his relationship with a corrupt architect called John Poulson. And I think that Lewis Baston makes it pretty clear that Maudling’s business relationships were corrupt, I suppose in the way that Caro does with Johnson as well.

Maudling therefore emerges as a bit of a wasted talent. But, on the other hand, he does reflect the kind of solid centre of Conservatism that wouldn’t be familiar to an American audience in the way that Margaret Thatcher is. It was the Conservatism that preceded her, the equivalent of Eisenhower conservatism. I also recommend it as a wonderful book of British history and it’s very well-written.

When Jim Callaghan, later the Labour Prime Minister, took over from him as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1964, Maudling, as he was leaving, popped his head around the door and said, ‘Sorry to have left it all in such a mess, old cock.’ And Callaghan thought he meant his office, but he meant the national finances.

Buy Reggie from the Lewis Baston Amazon Bookshop here

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The Political Map of Britain

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The Political Map of Britain

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

The ultimate political reference book for amateur psephologists and political obsessives everywhere. From the team which brought you the Politico’s Guide to the General Election.

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Sleaze: The State of the Nation

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Sleaze: The State of the Nation

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

Amazon.co.uk Review

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Never have these words been more true than in the 20th century. If “sleaze” is a term associated with the 1990s, another is “soundbite” and this engaging history of modern political impropriety is replete with ripe quotation, enhanced by the dramatic irony that hindsight brings to bear on the indignant bon mots. Sleaze is a positive delight for those who feed on the political bungee-jumping of the great and the grating.The adage runs that Tories fall to sexual scandal whereas Labour’s achilles heel is financial but, while this is broadly true, there are members who are happy to cross the floor. Lewis Baston assembles the usual suspects of post-war intrigue; some hapless, some unscrupulous, but most lascivious in either boardroom or bedroom: the outrageous Tom Driberg, John Belcher, John Profumo, Bob Boothby, John Poulson and Jeremy Thorpe, through to the familiar faces of the 1980s and 1990s. Understandably, most space is given to recent misdemeanours, including the Mohamed Fayed v Neil Hamilton libel case, but by then the catwalk of audacious miscreants has somewhat blurred through prolificacy. Baston adroitly chronicles the collapse of the symbiotic relationship between the press and MPs, showing how the move from deference to hostility spawned both investigative journalism and its frivolous sibling, “bonk journalism”. Sleaze, in a similar vein to Matthew Parris’s Great Parliamentary Scandals, shows that tales of hypocrisy and hubris can always stand a decent retelling. The best response to the pomposity of this rogues’ gallery is schadenfreuden and Sleaze is as stuffed with delicious bounties as a Mohamed Fayed brown envelope. –David Vincent

Product Description

A TV tie-in to a Channel 4 series, this book is based on recorded testimonies, giving a no-holds barred expose of the British government under both Conservative and Labour leadership. It investigates MP’s private lives as well as their public ones, considers what they are paid for and party funding.

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Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling

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Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

Sunday Telegraph, 14 November 2004

‘Vividly written by a young academic, it is a remarkable achievement’

Product Description

In the memoirs and biographies of his contemporaries, Reggie Maudling – “hired by Winston Churchill, fired by Margaret Thatcher” – is a marginal figure: a puzzling walk-on part in the Tory leadership crisis of 1963, a witty man with a clever turn of phrase, or a tragic figure who squandered his natural talents. In histories of political scandals, he is depicted as a greedy failed politician who crossed the line in to corruption. This biography redresses the balance, presenting a picture of a man who was feared and respected inside and outside his party and who was a major influence on post-war Britain. To Thatcherites, Maudling represented the very worst of post-war Conservatism. He had given away an empire, appeased the unions, built up the public sector, welcomed the permissive society and worked for co-existence with the Soviet Union. His ideas now seem well to the left of New Labour. With full access to Maudling’s private, ministerial and constituency papers, the support of the Maudling family and from interviews with colleagues and opponents, journalists, friends and business contacts of Maudling’s, Lewis Baston tells the full story of Maudling’s rise and fall.

From the Inside Flap

Reginald Maudling, seen by the Observer in 1955 as ‘a future Prime Minister’, never fulfilled his early promise. In this, the first biography of Maudling, Lewis Baston presents a picture of a popular and respected politician with a major influence on post-war Britain whose career ended in scandal and ignominy.In the 1960s and 1970s Maudling occupied a succession of high offices and was twice a candidate for the Conservative leadership. He was also a political thinker whose ideas influenced Tory politics for thirty years. He helped liquidate the British Empire, he was the unions’ favourite Tory Chancellor, a permissive Home Secretary and an outspoken opponent of Margaret Thatcher. He now seems well to the left of New Labour.

When Maudling failed to reach the top in 1965, the impact on his life was devastating. His personal and business life started to go wrong and he lost his ethical moorings. He formed a business partnership with corrupt architect John Poulson and sought riches in the Middle East. When Poulson’s corruption was revealed in 1972, Maudling resigned as Home Secretary. In the years that followed Maudling was investigated by the Fraud Squad (who wanted him prosecuted), bankruptcy investigators, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Inland Revenue. The true scale of his involvement in the Poulson scandal is revealed here for the first time.

With access to previously secret government and police files, and interviews with family, friends, colleagues and investigators, Lewis Baston is in a unique position to tell the full tragic story of Maudling’s rise and fall, and reveal the man behind the politician. Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling restores an extraordinary man to his rightful place in the history of twentieth-century Britain.

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Turning Out or Turning Off? An Analysis of Political Engagement and What Can Be Done About It

Turning Out or Turning Off? An Analysis of Political Engagement and What Can Be Done About It

Posted on 10 September 2004 by admin

by Lewis Baston and Ken Ritchie

Available from the Electoral Reform Society publications online store

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