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The British General Election of 2010 [Paperback]

Philip Cowley , Dennis Kavanagh
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: £24.99
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Book Description

29 Sep 2010
The British General Election of 2010 is a must-read for anyone wanting to know how the action unfolded in the most dramatic election for a generation. Drawing on hundreds of confidential interviews with all the key players, it offers a compelling insider's guide to the election's background, campaign and results, including a detailed account of what really happened in the formation of the UK's first coalition government since the second world war.
Designed to appeal to everyone from Westminster insiders, to politics students and to the wider general public, this is the authoritative account of the 2010 election.

Continuing a proud Palgrave Macmillan tradition, The British General Election of 2010 is the eighteenth in the prestigious series of books dating back to 1945.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (29 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230521908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230521902
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 236,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


 '...the Bible of General Elections.' David Dimbleby, BBC

'...a riveting read... Forget the Blair and Mandelson works - this is easily the best political book of the year.' - Mike Smithson, 
'It's popular academic writing at its best, combining a clear narrative (using anecdotes and quotes garnered from more than 300 background interviews) with lots of solid, meaty number-crunching.' Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian
'Dennis Kavanagh and Philip Cowley have penned a political thriller.... The book is distinguished by the quality of its sources: the ministers, aides and strategists who open up to these academics in a way they might not to journalists.' - The Observer
'Indispensable' Matthew d'Ancona, The Telegraph
'...magisterial...' - David Mills,
'…excellent and indispensable…' -
'Mandelson and Blair's books will get all the attention, but if you want real insight into the last election, Kavanagh and Cowley look like they're on the money.' - Paul Waugh, London Evening Standard  
'required reading for anyone interested in British politics' – Progress 

'A British General Election is not over until this book appears.'
Peter Hennessy, FBA, Attlee Professor of Contemporary History, Queen Mary, University of London, UK
'The quality of the analysis is as sharp as ever' - Lord Adonis, Fabian Review
'The original and still the best. Kavanagh and Cowley use their unparalleled access to Britain's top politicians and their backroom staff to produce an account of this historic election, and the formation of the coalition that followed it, which rings true at every level. Authoritative, fascinating, and often wryly amusing, this book once again sets the standard.'
Tim Bale, Professor of Politics, Sussex University, author of The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron.

'The gold standard of political writing. If you want to know what really happened in the 2010 General Election, look no further. This is the first draft of history, fresh and authoritative ... our first TV debates, the election that never was in 2007, the whole drama is explained with wit and authority.'
Gary Gibbon, Political Editor, Channel 4

'As lively as the best journalism and as rigorous as the best academic treatise, the ... series fully deserve their reputation as the best books on national elections anywhere in the world. In order to unravel the full story of the 2010 election and its extraordinary aftermath, Dennis Kavanagh and Philip Cowley have talked at length to insiders at the heart of each party's campaign – and it shows. The result is a book that fully maintains the dazzling standards set over half a century by the incomparable David Butler.'
Peter Kellner, President, YouGov

'The General Election series of books has become an institution. Dennis Kavanagh is one of the wisest minds patrolling the borders of academic politics and contemporary history and Philip Cowley is a brilliant choice to join him in maintaining the series. He is one of the sharpest chroniclers of Westminster politics: I admire his independence of judgement and willingness to puncture bubbles of media myth about the way that Parliament and Government works.'
John Rentoul, Chief Political Editor, Independent on Sunday

'The 2010 election was like no other. There is still much to learn about what happened during the campaign and Cowley and Kavanagh lay out all the facts in clear, comprehensible detail. Access to sources at the very top of the political parties ensures this book is essential reading if you want to know what really went on behind the scenes.'
Andrew Hawkins, Chief Executive, ComRes

'The 65-year-old series of books on British General Elections has become the Wisden of politics – essential reading for anyone wanting to know what happened during the campaigns and the significance of the outcome.'
Peter Riddell, Senior Fellow, The Institute for Government and former Chief Political Commentator of The Times

Praise for previous editions

'a unique cocktail of analysis, narrative and insider insight, are the authoritative guide to postwar electoral politics.'
Andrew Adonis, Times Literary Supplement

'A formidable achievement ... The studies have become by now almost part of our democratic fabric.'
Anthony Howard, The Listener

'The renowned ... election books demand shelf space and deserve frequent reference. Essential to the scholar of the British politics of our time.'
Robert Worcester, MORI, Parliamentary History

'Anyone familiar with previous volumes knows what a joy this book is, how it is packed with juicy morsels of political fact and incisive analysis.'
Jay Adams, Times Higher Education Supplement

'If generations to come want to know exactly what happened they have a reliable source to look it up in ... the solid, objective, verifiable story of what happened, when and why, set in impeccably numerate context.'
David McKie, Guardian

'The best series anywhere on national elections.'
Lancelot L. Farrar, Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science 



Book Description

The definitive guide to the British General Election

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharper, spikier and better 13 Oct 2010
This is indeed a great return to form. I reviewed the 2005 book which was disappointing - it seemed tired and didn't have enough to say. This is a considerable improvement. The writing style is punchier, more mordant and sharper than ever before and stays - just - on the right side of polemic. In fact, it is a rattling good read which may come as a surprise to many.

After many years (the last time was the book dealing with the February 1974 election) there is once again a separate section on the outcome of the election and the night of drama is handled very well. I could never understand why Butler and Kavanagh had dispensed with the 'outcome' section as a separate entity and it is good to see it back.

In some ways it is strange to read about the recent past portrayed as settled history, although the passage of time will sort out the perspective. All the pivotal moments - 'Bigotgate', the debates and the extraordinary aftermath are in their proper place and dealt with well.

If I have a tiny quibble, it is the lack of a table showing all the opinion polls published throughout the campaign. Mythology often grows up over time about 'late swing' or other factors, and such a table can be a helpful corrective to this.

However, this is a book well worth getting.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book well worth reading 7 Nov 2010
By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER
There are two simple tests I have for books that recount events I was in some way involved in: do they accurately retell events that I have direct first-hand knowledge of and do they tell me something new about events I was one step removed from? If a book pasts both those tests, chances are the rest of the book is interesting and well-informed too - and The British General Election of 2010 by Dennis Kavanagh and Philip Cowley passes both tests with near flying colours (the description of Guildford as a "top" Liberal Democrat target betraying an over-attention to swings to win list over actual party priorities whilst the quote from Disraeli about coalitions is actually rather misleading).

In large part that is because their account is based on hundreds of off the record interviews carried out during the last Parliament and in the immediate aftermath of the general election. Because the interviews have been carried out across political parties (and across factions within them), the authors present a much more robust picture of events than is the fate of some journalists who source their off the record information much more narrowly.

The conduct of these interviews is nothing new for the Nuffield series, which has covered each general election since the Second World War, but this book makes much more extensive use of them than previous volumes. It stands in particular contrast to the 2005 volume, being much longer and more detailed.

Part of the audience for what has become the standard reference series on British elections are scholars decades in the future, for whom accurate summaries of what was publicly said at the time is useful.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 23 Nov 2010
I read this book cover to cover in two days (I was in hospital at the time!) and for a couple of academics the authors have done an excellent job of writing compelling action with narrative drive. But does it lack something? This was after all a most unusual election; maybe even a watershed in British politics. And it leaves many big questions: why did Labour hang on so relatively well after the bashing they and their leader had been taking well before and well into the election? and what of 'Cleggmania'? As a lifelong Liberal it seemed as if the promised land had finally arrived only it turned out to be a mirage. And what happened to public contempt for politicians after the expenses hooha? The authors do not ignore these questions but they are dealt with in bits and pieces as they plough a chronological furrow to the bitter end - or was it a glorious end?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to the usual standard 13 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For the political obsessive, the 'Nuffield' election guides have been essential reading for decades. I still remember first stumbling across a copy of the 1983 review in Foyles in the mid-80s and buying it on the spot. All the traditional elements are here: an overview of the previous few years, a detailed qualitative description of the election under different headings, and lots of statistics. The 2005 review seemed a bit less comprehensive than previous editions, but this book is right back on form.
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