Tony Wright is a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Labour party, and this puts him in a good position to introduce British politics to the uninitiated. He writes from experience as well as from academic knowledge, and gives many interesting anecdotes from his own experience.
His position as an MP, however, also means that he has a few axes to grind, and keeps coming back to a small set of themes:
-Strong government is good, but needs better accountability (from Parliament, specifically).
-Parliament is a weak institution.
-The "first-past-the-post" election system does not reflect the true opinion of the electorate.
-The business of government has become the business of being re-elected.
As you read, you may get sick of seeing these same themes repeated again and again. However, they are important issues for discussion.
While giving excellent coverage of power from a political perspective, he virtually ignores the power of the media over politics, except to comment "Instead of the media feeding off Parliament, as was once the case, it is now more common for Parliament to feed off the media." This could use elaboration in order to properly explain the state of modern British politics.
I was recently listening to a discussion on BBC radio 4 about the centers of political power, commentators discussed the increasing concentration of power in the executive (as Wright does). Then one commentator said that the real power is now in the media, and the rest of them agreed unanimously. They had all been thinking in terms of official political positions, but the reality is that power does not always, or even primarily, lie in official places. However, Wright only deals with the politicians' part of this, which is to spin everything.
Writing about spin and soundbites, Wright states, "Presentation is all. Spin blots out substance. Soundbites substitute for arguments. Repitition replaces originality." Said the kettle to the pot... I guess he misses the irony of writing about soundbites using a series of short, repetitive, sentences. In any case, he scarcely mentions why it is that politicians have gone in for spin: the media.
One more cavil is that there are a couple of typographic errors, which is really unacceptable from such a respected press as the OUP.
Other than missing out on the power of the media, this is a good summary of the political situation in Britian today, and of how it got there. If you need a readable overview of the British political system and its workings, this little book will serve your purposes well.