Summer reads recommended by the Public Affairs Group

By David Boot, chair of the CIPR Public Affairs Group

Summer recess. That gap between the frenetic pace of Westminster politics and the intrigue of the autumn party conferences is nearly upon us. A time to recharge and take a break from the relentless pace of public affairs. Or perhaps a chance to do some light reading?

Whether you are more Harold Macmillan (anything from Jane Austen) or Gordon Brown (the latest tome from a leading US economist), the Public Affairs Group has a few suggestions to make the summer fly by…

Everyday communication strategies - manage common issues to prevent a crisis and protect your brand, by Amanda Coleman (suggested by Sara McCracken)

Hardly a day goes past when a new 'crisis' emerges, featuring a cast of politicians and other business leaders. Reputation management is one of the skills that communications leaders have, and managing the response to a very public incident or crisis often involves intense work by the communications team.  

But what if we could prevent the incident from escalating in the first place? That is what we learn from this book - and it is at the top of my summer reading list. When I return refreshed from my holidays, I will share my new-found knowledge with the team and ensure we are ready for anything.

Johnson at 10, by Anthony Seldon (suggested by David Boot)

Perhaps a predictable choice, but a guaranteed good read. And for a Conservative Party that is very much not, at present at least, post-Boris, a vital read to understand the likely tussles in the Conservative Party to come this autumn.

Something to understand is the schisms within the Conservative Party and Boris himself. He and the party oscillate between Rooseveltian, Boris-Island-type state activism and small-state, low-tax Thatcherism; between pro-business and f**k business; between the red wall and the blue wall. Understanding the last few years may help, at least in theory, to understand the future.

Protest and Power, The Battle for the Labour Party by David Kogan; For the Record by David Cameron (suggested by Matt Broad)

Protest and Power is the definitive chronicle and analysis of the rise, fall and rise again of the left in the Labour movement. As Labour seems on course for electoral success next year, this book is a critical background read.

For those of a different political persuasion, For the Record by David Cameron gives a fascinating insight into his life at 10 Downing Street, as well as inside explanations of the decisions taken by his government. For those reminiscing about his dulcet tones, the Audible version is narrated by the former MP himself.

Why Westminster Works…and Why It Doesn’t by Ian Dunt (suggested by Sam Wilding)

Billed as providing “a full description of the mechanisms of the British government. And a vision of how we can fix it”, this isn’t light reading, but essential nonetheless.

Based on interviews with key political figures and insiders, the book promises to provide valuable insights for anyone in public affairs and beyond.

The Oz Principle by Craig Hickman, Tom Smith, and Roger Connors (suggested by Donna Castle) 

First published in 1994, The Oz Principle is about how accountability helps organisation's achieve and maintain the best results. With a lack of accountability in politics, it really wouldn’t hurt if a few more of our politicians read it. 

While the book is a little long and repetitive, the idea behind it is invaluable for understanding how to get results. 

Why we get the wrong politicians by Isabel Hardman (suggested by James Boyd-Wallis)

A damning critique of British MPs, The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman also takes aim at the injustices and inefficiencies in the mechanics of Parliament. 

Hardman concludes that politicians are not terrible people - they are often talented individuals who want to make a difference. But the culture and structure of the system encourage petty partisanship while discouraging proper scrutiny of legislation and seeing many MPs come from the same background. Hardman’s solutions? Separate the legislative from the executive and democratise the MP selection process.