Congratulations to our newest MP - and a summer reading list for reformers

22 Jul 2023

Success in Somerton and Frome

Another fantastic by-election win and a welcome to Sarah Dyke as our latest MP. Well done to everyone who helped.

Great also to see both Sarah and deputy leader Daisy Cooper reframing questions on tactical voting into a call for a fair, equal voting system.

There's no doubt that our electoral system is broken, but you have shown that the Conservatives can still be beaten under it...I am truly honoured by the faith the people of Somerton and Frome have placed in me tonight.(Sarah Dyke, in her acceptance speech: click here to read the full text)

I would love it if we had a fairer voting system where every single person could vote proactively and positively for the person or party of their choice...(Daisy Cooper, in a BBC interview live from Westminster: see the video here)


Summer reading for reformers

Just in case there's time to sit back in this febrile, by-election-opportunity-rich Summer, here is some leisure time reading, as recommended by the LDER exec!

How Westminster Works - and Why It Doesn't - Ian Dunt (Weidenfeld and Nicholson)

Follow The Money - Paul Johnson (Abacus)

These two recently-published books strongly complement each other -

How Westminster Works exposes the dysfunctionality of our politics, from how we vote through to the Commons, Select Committees, the Lords - you name it and Ian Dunt provides a forensic, informed insight into how our system operates (or doesn't). There are some surprises - such as the case for a reformed but still appointed upper chamber - and a confirmation that our rotten electoral system lies at the root our constitutional ills. Ian Dunt refreshingly assesses how the consequent macho tribalist short-termism damages the way Westminster operates. Voters are cheated not just at the ballot box, but in the subsequent lack of scrutiny and attention given to legislation and statutory instruments. A must-read.

Follow the Money takes the UK revenue and expenditure of the past financial year (April 2022-March 2023) and traces where Government gets income - and where it spends - or all too often - wastes it.


Butler to the World - Oliver Bullough (Profile Books)

How London's financial hub has become the home of dubious financial dealings and investments.

Haven't You Heard? Gossip, Politics and Power - Marie Le Conte (Bonnier Books Ltd)

A topical read on how these three interrelate - addressing, among other things, how the country is run when the British political system is in such a mess.

How Democracies Die - Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (Penguin)

Published in the US during Trump's Presidency, this book reveals how democracies can be compromised - and how attempts to do so have been made through history and what we can learn, and what bulwarks of democracy need to be in place. Fascinatingly, this was published before the Johnson/Cummings attempts to prorogue Parliament and the rest - a chilling insight into the threats we face and why there is no room for complacency.

Cult of Progress - David Olusoga (Profile Books Ltd)

Olusoga explores the history of early encounters between different cultures through art, showing how, through the nineteenth century, artists increasingly questioned the imperial ideology and gave creative expression to alternative viewpoints.

An Uneasy Inheritance: My Family and Other Radicals - Polly Toynbee (Atlantic)

Pro-reform Guardian columnist - and founder member of the SDP Polly Toynbee reflects on her own family background - "middle-class liberal-left" and its influence on herself and our society.

One article:

Previewing a revised role for the WTO and the case and need for 're-globilisation' in an increasingly 'de-coupled', factionalised world

One substack:

Reimagining the global financial system and other structural changes we need

And two novels!

Rather Be the Devil - Ian Rankin (Orion Books)

A treat for all Rebus fans (and maybe some new converts) which is listed here because its plot line illustrates some of the shady goings-on exposed in Butler to the World.

On Java Road - Lawrence Osborne (Vintage)

Hong Kong in 2019 as the clampdown on street protests takes effect. It's a generation now since Paddy Ashdown bravely stood up for the rights of Hong Kong people, and this is a sober, even-handed (maybe Graham Greene-ish) story about how people respond to authoritarian change. And a bonus for Liberal Democrats - the denouement takes place at the National Liberal Club in London!​

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