Saturday, December 23, 2006

Right Side Up

Paul Wells first book, Right Side Up (can't really link to Chapters now that Heather Reisman isn't a Liberal...), has been called everything from "a masterpiece" to "sheer brilliance"; and those are just the comments from Wells himself. I picked up the book back in November at the Calgary launch and quickly read through it. Unfortunately, between the Liberal convention and the real world, I didn't have the time to do a proper review and I forget many of the what were no doubt brilliant and insightful comments about the book I thought up as I read it the first time. So instead, I offer up a condensed review and the recommendation that the book is certainly worth picking up at the mall tonight if you're last second shopping for that political geek near and dear to you.

For those who don't already know the gist of Right Side Up, it's a summary of Canadian federal politics from 2003 to present day, framed as the clash between Stephen Harper and Paul Martin Jr. The book jumps back and forth between the two men and while I don't believe there were any direct interviews with either of the protagonists, we see a lot of analysis from the strategists close to them. Which is a good thing since this is a book on political strategy and maneuvering rather than an academic analysis of elections you'd see in something like Big Red Machine. And there certainly is a lot of talk about maneuvering, from internal Liberal feuding to Tory market analysis and election strategy.

I think the main lesson to be taken from the book is that the Scouts have been on to something with their "Be Prepared" motto. After reading the book, you get the sense is that the Tories lost in 2004 because they just weren't ready to fight a campaign. In 2006, it was the Liberals who weren't prepared for an early election whereas the CPC had a tightly choreographed campaign down to the hour...until the last two weeks when Harper ran out of messaging and things went sour, likely costing him a majority. Liberals eager for a spring non-confidence vote would be wise to remember what happens to parties who are rushed into elections.

As for the writhing itself, if you like Inkless Wells, you'll like this book. It's written in the same style you see on the blog and reads like a collection of lengthy posts slapped together. Of course, if you don't like Wells' writing style then this probably isn't the book for you and I imagine the Bob Rae books are going to be really marked down for obvious reasons so maybe that's the one you should pick up.

The one knock I would give the book is that it goes on too long. Not in terms on length - I could have read another hundred pages easily. What I mean is that the book should have ended after Harper's win on January 23rd and been left with a quick epilogue. Instead we see lengthy analysis of Harper's first months and the Liberals return to the wilderness. It's not that this isn't interesting material, it's just that it's too soon to get any meaningful interpretation of what it all means. The two things which really stick out is the talk of Harper's environmental strategy and the Liberal leadership race - Wells' analysis is already out of date by the time the books hit the store shelves and not just because it took so long for the books to hit the store shelves in many cities. The book was about Harper's rise and Martin's fall and I think the post-election chapters should have been saved for the sequel (The Rise of Stephane Dion and the Fall of Stephen Harper?).

8 Comments:

  • As for the writhing itself
    ...
    if you don't like Wells' writhing style


    I assume that's supposed to be "writing."

    By Blogger IslandLiberal, at 8:55 PM  

  • You might want to reread the last paragraph of the book.

    By Blogger Candace, at 1:02 AM  

  • I wouldn't underestimate Harper and overestimate the Liberals. They've proven to be arrogant as hell and power hungry. The next election will be interesting and I predict nothing b/c things can change so fast.

    By Blogger Emil Vargas, at 2:46 AM  

  • That book was good. I liked Full Circle also. It was more detailed. The ultimate Stephen Harper fan book is "Stephen Harper" by William Johnson with the updated material. Great read

    By Blogger Emil Vargas, at 2:48 AM  

  • Thanks for the review, Dan. I bought the book for my dad for Christmas.

    By Blogger Hatrock, at 2:05 PM  

  • Thanks, Bart. (Are we still calling you Bart?) I disagree about the utility of the back third of the book, but then I would, wouldn't I. I'm just happy you got a copy of the damned thing before the supply chain collapsed entirely.

    And writhing is the best term for what I do that I've read anywhere.

    By Blogger Paul, at 10:00 AM  

  • Great article, Thank you!

    By Anonymous Data recovery software, at 2:14 AM  

  • Many thanks, Bart. (Tend to be all of us nevertheless phoning a person Bart? )#) We don't agree concerning the power from the back again 3rd from the guide, however I'd, would not We. I am simply pleased you have the duplicate from the darned point prior to the provide string hit bottom completely.



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