The Broken Compass: How British Politics lost its way by Peter Hitchens

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The Broken Compass: How British Politics lost its way by Peter Hitchens

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Thought-provoking pieces on the state of Britain today. If you agree with Hitchens you will love his arguments, but if you're undecided (or worse) then the content is probably too slight to convince. Cautiously recommended.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Continuum
ISBN: 978-1847064059

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I've long held that there is no difference between the major political parties such that could command you to vote for one or the other. The new Labour party now seems to stand somewhere to the right of what I though of as the old Conservative party and the Lib Dems appear to be a coalition of those who don't fit comfortably into either of the other main parties. My voting patterns have changed radically from supporting a party because of its views to voting against another because of its actions. I was hoping that The Broken Compass might clarify my thoughts.

And so it did – but not quite in the way that I hoped it would. Peter Hitchens and I are never going to find ourselves on the same side of an argument. He's a Mail on Sunday columnist. I'm a Guardian reader with a weekend excursion to the Observer, but I've long recognised that whilst I might not always agree with him he usually has the capacity to make me think.

The premise of the book is that right and left no longer hold firm but inhabit a rather boggy middle ground with subjects which used to be hotly debated now being settled by the political classes as a whole, if not behind closed doors then certainly over a lunch table. The blame for this, he maintains, sits with the Conservatives who have allowed many of Labour's reforms to live unchanged when they came to power. He cites numerous examples – all perfectly valid – but fails to mention that there will be many people who would argue the reverse – that many of the Thatcher government's actions, for instance, have not been reversed under a Labour government when many supporters thought that this would be the case. There is, of course, truth on both sides, not least because governments have to deal with the here and now rather than troubling to unpick each other's stitching.

Parts of this book are excellent – he's knowledgeable and informative on the subject of the railways in particular and transport in general. On comprehensive education he's enlightening – we've moved from selection by merit to selection by parental wealth. If you can afford to live in the catchment area of a good comprehensive school then it's likely that your child will be educated to their potential – otherwise the results will be patchier. But these subjects, you see, are ones where I agree with Peter Hitchens.

In the areas where there is clear water between us I am less convinced and it strikes me that this is a relatively slim book to cover so much ground. Where I agreed with the views expressed I had no need of gaps being filled, but where I was undecided (and occasionally willing to be convinced) the book lacked the depth I needed.

There are a couple of quirks which are worth mentioning. Tony Blair is referred to as 'Anthony Blair' apart from on one occasion when he becomes 'Tony' once again. 'Anthony' might be his name, but it's not the name he's known by any more than we know Tam Dalyell as Thomas Dalyell. On a more positive note, do have a look at the index: I don't think I've ever seen one which made me laugh so much.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If a book which makes you think appeals to you then you might like to have a look at our list of Top Ten Non-Fiction Books To Make You Think.

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Buy The Broken Compass: How British Politics lost its way by Peter Hitchens at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Broken Compass: How British Politics lost its way by Peter Hitchens at Amazon.com.

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