Fall Out by Tim Shipman. Sequel to the same author's book "All Out War" about the EU referendum and its aftermath: this one covers the year around the 2016 election. His sources and sympathies are largely on the Conservative side: he covers Labour but with much less depth.
The pace rattles along. It feels like there's good inside information, though it's hard to know how accurate the self-serving or anonymous sources really are.
Theresa May comes across as a fatally cautious character, always taking the advice she's given. She complains weakly about the election strategy, but goes along with it. After the resignation of her advisors post-election, she uses politically naive civil servants and infuriates the party by not thanking or apologising in her statement. She takes police advice that it would be unsafe to meet the Grenfell survivors, when apparently it's routine for police to warn and to override the advice.
She also seems to have an odd lack of personal charm or charisma for a politician. There are lots of accounts of long, strange silences in one-to-one meetings. She annoyed campaign staff by giving a standard stump speech when addressing them, rather than thanking or motivating them.
On the election, Shipman emphasizes the flaws of the Conservative campaign. Everything was apparently done in haste. The manifesto was weak on sellable points, had fatal flaws like the "dementia tax", and apparently written more as a philosophical statement than a hard sell. Authoritiy was split between May's advisors Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, and Lynton Crosby's team. He depicts Fiona Hill as undermining the campaign by concentrating on personal feuds, alienating enemies, changing plans at the last minute, refusing to release timely statements, and not doing enough on social media. He ascribes this partly to a hatred of David Camerons's team and a desire not to do whatever they did.
I think this is a bit overblown. Campaigns are always chaotic, and there were plenty of problems on the Labour side. The author is a natural conservative, and blaming the campaign is the intellectually cosiest option. The Conservatives have had only one tiny majority in the last 25 years. Economic factors like the decline of home ownership and years of slow growth have weakened them. Also Corbyn's policies like rail nationalisation have always polled well with the public, even while he personally has polled badly.
Similarly, the abrasive power-tripping of Theresa May's advisors Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill might be oversold a bit. There are lots of examples of shocking rudeness to ministers as well as junior staff. But having resigned they're convenient scapegoats. On the other hand if his depiction of Theresa May as passive and easily steered is correct maybe they did have too much influence. With so many sources obviously score-settling with their old rivals, it's hard to know the truth.
Overall, a great read for UK politics obsessives, will baffle everyone else.
What I'm Watching
Saw Logan Lucky at home. Decent heist movie about a group of "rednecks" robbing a racetrack. Watchable and good fun. Probably a bit patronising if you're actually from the area. I wasn't that convinced by Daniel Craig's accent, but I guess we're owed for Dick Van Dyke and Keanu Reeves
What I'm Watching
Watched The City and the City, a 4-part BBC series based on China Mieville's novel, mainly because I was curious about how they would film it. The setting is the two physically connected cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma, where peace is kept by the inhabitants of each "unseeing" the other city: pretending it doesn't exist until they really become oblivious to it.
By selectively blurring the screen and using different colour palettes they manage to depict it very well. It's an amazing visual moment when near the end they unblur and show both cities together.
The series has the same weakenesses as the novel, a low-key ending and some detective-novel clichés. Overall though not bad.
Thought I was over it but the running injury has come back. I've been doing more cycling and swimming though. Have been able to use those rental bikes to get to work and back about every other time, though it's a short journey and I do it in work clothes so can't get too sweaty. Might try some longer rides for exercise in the morning.
Sci/Tech. Button hickacking. Windows Notepad to support Unix line endings. The mastoverse. This Decade Has Been Boring for the Web. Non-Native English Speakers Learning Computer Programming. Private Stack Overflow for teams.
Politics. A slew of recent books seeks to reduce democracy to a defense of political "norms", but Democracy is norm erosion. Is the evidence for the racism of Trump voters overstated? The only crisis of free speech in UK universities is the government's own censorship.
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