How to Win an Election (Chris Wallace, NewSouth)
Journalist and historian Chris Wallace’s How to Win an Election can be read two ways. Firstly, as an autopsy of Labor’s shock 2019 defeat, and secondly as a witty Machiavellian explainer of how to win at contemporary politics. While the book’s tone is often playful and tongue-in-cheek, its aim is deadly serious. The book is divided into 10 key rules for success, among them: develop sensible policies, use polling judiciously (this chapter should be mandatory reading), work productively where possible with oppositions, engage positively with journalists, and make good cut-through ads. Another important rule: a leader must be a good performer who connects emotionally with people. While an important prerequisite for leaders is that they have profound self-belief, this can block clear thinking. Bruised egos can cause leaders to shut down and surround themselves with uncritical supporters. A delicate balance between self-belief and self-restraint is required. The bottom line? Labor lost due to a wooden leader whose strategists failed to read the polling properly. Worst of all, Labor tried to win government with a suite of ambitious policies while in opposition, while history shows that serious reform is best done while in government. How to Win an Election is essential reading for politicians and their staffers; it will also greatly appeal to voters of all ages and persuasions.
Chris Saliba is a co-owner of North Melbourne Books and a freelance reviewer.