Poppy Mitchell-Rose's three top reads

The associate director of freuds and former special adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer is intrigued by the Nudge Unit, Alastair Campbell and the influence of alcohol in politics.

by Poppy Mitchell-Rose
Last Updated: 13 Jun 2016

1. Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes can Make a Big Difference, by David Halpern, WH Allen, 2015

I remember the excitement in our office surrounding the publication of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge in 2009. Once in Government, the Prime Minister established his own ‘Nudge’ Behavioural Insights Unit, just down the corridor from No 10, in the Cabinet Office. In this book David Halpern, CEO of what is now an independent social purpose company, reveals how his team applied psychology to policy making inside Whitehall to encourage the public to make better decisions. And it seems to have worked. Changing the wording of a tax bill generated millions more in receipts; 100,000 people signed the organ donor register while reapplying for car tax.

2. The Blair Years: Extracts from The Alastair Campbell Diaries, by Alastair Campbell, Hutchinson, 2007

Alastair Campbell’s diaries, published just two weeks after Blair left office, give an amazing first hand account into the new Labour spin machine by a man who rewrote the rules of the game between the politicians and the media. I went to the same school as Tony Blair, studying politics during Labour's 1997 election win. This is where my spark for politics was ignited, even if for the other side. When I later met Blair and mentioned his alma mater, he boasted that he'd dated the only girl at the school, who happened to be the headmaster's daughter.

3. Order, Order!: How Politicians Drink and What Happens When They Do, by Ben Wright, Duckworth Overlook, 2016

Anyone working in Westminster can tell you how alcohol oils the cogs of politics, with Parliament boasting no fewer than 23 refreshment establishments. The division bell, the eight-minute warning that summons MPs to the voting lobbies, is wired to pubs within a mile radius of the Commons, jolting even the most inebriated of politicians back in time. In this book Wright argues there has long been a link between political institutions and inebriation, from Churchill to Nixon, from the Reichstag to the Kremlin. Packed full of anecdotes and interviews, he uses alcohol as a lens to understand politicians over the centuries, and what drove them to drink. He's also my husband, so I'll be in trouble if I don't mention it.

Hear Poppy Mitchell-Rose speak at Inspiring Women Edinburgh on 17 March.  

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