The Times Guide to the House of Commons 2015 by Ian Brunskill (Times Books, £60)
“Five year campaign, last minute shock,” is the phrase this guide’s editor Ian Brunskill has chosen to summarise May’s general election. Poring over the tables his team have compiled, every so often something will leap out and remind you just how shocking it was: the final polls that put Labour and the Tories neck and neck; the names “Cable, Vince,” “Alexander, Douglas” and “Balls, Ed” among the list of the defeated; Labour’s 19 most dramatic vote share losses, each bearing the dreaded acronym SNP (Scottish National Party).
If this May saw a political earthquake, Brunskill and his team have published the etchings of the seismograph.
There are essays here, too, with a contrite turn from the Times (and Prospect) pollster Peter Kellner of particular interest to political anoraks. But the data is the main attraction. The disparity between Ukip’s 3.9m votes per MP elected and the Tories’ 34,000 noted here, for example, sparked a brief post-poll debate on electoral reform. You might question the need to pay £60 for the profiles of MPs’ seats when you can get similar constituency guides for free online, courtesy of the excellent UK Polling Report website.
But if you’re a completist, you’ll probably want this book. True to the Times’s reputation, it has everything you want and nothing you don’t, intuitively arranged. Keep it around for this parliament and maybe next time round you’ll manage not to be quite so taken aback by the result.