I heard about this book on the radio, and decided to read Orwell's book beforehand. Whereas I found Orwell's infinitely interesting in terms of social history - though by no means questionable on some levels - Stephen Armstrong's attempt to 'revisit' the book seems like more of a device to take advantage of the current climate in British politics.
I should add at this point that the book has a lot of important things to say, and that for the general reader it's very useful as a point of reference in finding out how, for example, the benefits system functions under the coalition government. In a sense it's not too surprising, but some of the points Armstrong highlights are incredibly interesting - and, of course, make for very depressing reading (nowt wrong with that!)
However, the book does come across as fairly slipshod at points, and seems to have been very hastily written. I found myself questioning why the author even bothered to name his chapters after Orwell's when some of them mention the title topic, then go onto something completely different. For example, the 'Food' chapter made some interesting points about low income households and a lack of proper nutrition, then incorporated drugs and suicides. I sort of see what Armstrong was trying to get at, but sometimes you found yourself on another topic all of a sudden, thinking 'how the hell did we get onto this?!' As a reasonably long book, more attempt needs to be made to foster a sense of coherence.
Adding to the slipshod nature of the book are some passages in which the author seems to have missed Orwell's point. For example, Armstrong described how northern entrepreneurs are "bitterly scorned" by Orwell, but quotes a passage in which Orwell was actually talking about Charles Dickens' portrayal of the same.
A final criticism, for which the publisher rather than the author is to blame, is the fact that there are quite a number of grammatical errors and/or typos. I got the book out from the library and the reader before me, obviously similarly annoyed, had started to highlight these in the text! They included 'sheffield' (without a capital) and 'who's' instead of 'whose'. This added to the feeling that the book had been churned out under time pressure.
Overall, the book is important in terms of promoting debate, some sections are very interesting, and I certainly agree with many of the points it makes about our society, but it would have been better as a general social commentary rather than a work rather tenuously linked to Orwell's '...Wigan Pier'.