The Best Books, Podcasts & Films About The Tories
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Going For Broke: The Rise Of Sunak
By Michael Ashcroft
When Michael Ashcroft wields a pen, prominent Tories tend to wince. That unforgettable story about David Cameron, the Bullingdon Club and an unfortunate pig is just one of the revelations made in his previous books. Published in late 2020 – at the peak of Dishy Rishi’s popularity – Ashcroft’s tome about the ex-chancellor is largely flattering. Lots has happened since then, but for understanding what Tory MPs see in the diminutive former hedge funder, Going for Broke remains a fine starting point.
A Short History Of Brexit
By Kevin O’Rourke
After dominating political chatter through the 2010s, Brexit might be 2022’s least appetising topic of dinner party conversation. Nevertheless, the fallout from the UK’s EU departure is still seeping into all areas of public life. Economic historian Kevin O’Rourke does his best to distil all of Brexit’s main themes into this concise, readable primer that comes in at a manageable 384 pages. From David Cameron reluctantly calling the 2016 referendum to appease Tory eurosceptics to the ongoing issues around the Northern Ireland protocol, it’s all here.
All Out War
By Tim Shipman
If Brexit still gets your juices flowing, you might want to dive a little deeper… In which case, Tim Shipman’s three leviathan volumes are for you. Coming in at a combined 1,300 pages, the first two volumes are out now. The third instalment from the Sunday Times political editor is due in November – and we’re told it’s currently a breezy 500 pages. Back in 2017, Andrew Marr called the first volume his ‘political book of the year’, so expect your time to be richly rewarded.
By Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore & Liz Truss
What better way to get a sense of someone than reading their own words? Liz Truss is among the co-authors of this 2012 manifesto that rails against the UK’s “inevitable slide into mediocrity”. Working alongside fellow Tory MPs Kwarteng, Patel, Raab and Skidmore, Truss reveals a business-focused approach to halting the nation’s decline. Apparently, the ideas within this slender book informed some of Boris Johnson’s policy objectives as PM. If Truss takes her old boss’s job, those ideas will be front and centre like never before – and there will be no excuses left if they don’t work.
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography
By Charles Moore
Margaret Thatcher is as relevant as ever to understanding how the Conservative party thinks and works – and not just because Liz Truss has spent the leadership campaign aping the Iron Lady’s sartorial style. Charles Moore’s three-volume survey of Thatcher’s life, career and times is the only account you need. It covers her rise to No 10, the Falklands War, her landslide 1983 election victory and eventual downfall in the last days of the Cold War. This is the place to find out why her deregulatory, neoliberal economics still influence Tory policy making today.
Deep dives into individual figures are an engaging way of making sense of British politics at large. Late last year, the New Statesman podcast team dedicated this series to each of the previous six prime ministers. The episodes on David Cameron and Theresa May are particularly relevant for anyone seeking to understand how the Conservatives rose to power under the pro-European David Cameron, before he left fellow Remainer Theresa May to negotiate with the increasingly powerful Eurosceptic wing of the party.
Radio 4’s Profile is a long-running podcast series that recently released an episode apiece on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. Each episode only runs to around 15 minutes, but they manage to cover cover Sunak’s rise to chancellor during Covid-19 and Truss’s unconventional journey from child of nuclear disarmament campaigners to preferred leadership candidate of the Tory right. Requiring just half an hour of your time, this is an invaluable resource.
The Slow Newscast
Priding itself on taking news slowly, Tortoise Media’s drops a weekly podcast that takes a deep dive approach to contemporary political issues. In its archive you’ll already find episodes on events and issues affecting the Conservatives today, including a Rishi Sunak special, Boris Johnson’s ‘Londongrad’ scandal and the controversial Rwanda asylum policy. For a more considered approach to current affairs, this podcast is a great regular listen.
The Rest Is Politics
Tony Blair’s infamous former spin doctor Alastair Campbell and former Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart form an unlikely duo in this more conversational listen. Coming across as friends from across the divide, they are both willing to indulge each other’s tangential takes on the world. But at heart this is still very much a current affairs podcast, enlivened by hosts who have been on the frontline of UK politics over the past two decades. Recent episodes include a fascinating discussion of the ‘blue on blue’ infighting that’s marred the leadership race to this point.
The Downfall Of Boris Johnson
It all started so well. Brexit got done, as the slogan went, there was a landslide election victory – and even a successful Covid vaccination programme. But the party’s now over for Boris Johnson. Former BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg delves into the scandals, bribes and lies surrounding his premiership in this episode of BBC One’s longstanding Panorama show. She uncovers new insights into how Johnson became the torchbearer for a more paternalistic Brexit-based conservatism that’s far removed from the pro-globalisation leadership of predecessors like David Cameron.
Dubbed a “poignant stroll through a disappearing world” by the Observer’s Wendy Ide, filmmaker Zed Nelson’s narrows the scope of this 2019 documentary to just one street: Hoxton Street, a traditionally working-class shopping area in east London. Nominally about gentrification, and its effects on high streets, property prices and affordability for existing low-income residents, The Street also serves as a snapshot of mid-to-late 2010s British politics. Interviewees react to Brexit and the Grenfell Tower fire – in which Khadija Saye, a young woman involved in the street’s art gallery, died – among other issues. For a tightly focused primer on the issues that have defined the Tories’ long current run in power, look no further.
Brexit: The Uncivil War
Less than three years after the Brexit vote, the dramatised version appeared on screens – with Benedict Cumberbatch taking on the role of a lifetime. As Dominic Cummings, the actor showed what it might have been like to work on the infamous Vote Leave campaign. Carol Midgeley of The Times was so taken with his performance she described Brexit: The Uncivil War as “Brexit without the boring bits”. So watch this and you’ll learn a lot – without having to stifle any yawns.
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