Not Cut out for a Career in Politics; BOOKS

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), December 20, 2009 | Go to article overview

Not Cut out for a Career in Politics; BOOKS


Byline: Fiona O'Malley

The Candidate by Susan O'Keeffe Currach Press e14.99 **

Journalist and unsuccessful European election candidate Susan O'Keeffe set herself a great challenge in writing this: making a book out of a diary of an election campaign and keeping it interesting. I admire her for taking on the challenge, as I do for putting her name forward for election, but I am not sure that the book succeeds.

Susan O'Keeffe came to politics as a novice. She appears not to have been reared in a political household and had remained above party politics in her work, even though she undoubtedly contributed to the political life of the country through her career as an influential journalist. Her decision to contest an election for Labour, a party she had only just joined, is admirable, particularly an election as gruelling as a European one. And her musings on 'the political game' provide an interesting outsider's perspective.

However, trying to keep the reader's interest up for 192 pages is a big ask and this is where, despite her journalistic skills, the book fails.

An election campaign is an exhilarating experience for those who are in it. Despite your daily routine being more or less fixed, no two days are ever the same and the people you meet along the way add flavour, colour and enjoyment to the whole experience.

The stresses and tensions can be laughed at and this is vital to keep your sense of humour alive.

But this is merely a list of places visited and number of cups of tea drunk, which is not enough to sustain the reader. Her struggle to fill the pages is evidenced by her inclusion of full press releases and letters to various people. There was material here for a chapter rather than a whole book.

I didn't get the sense that the candidate took to the role all that comfortably. She seemed to question why she had to go out and meet people and felt awkward canvassing.

I got the impression that she never believed she was going to win and I can't understand anyone standing for election who does not have this conviction. It's vital. If you don't believe you're going to win, how can you convince your team, never mind the voters? …

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