The title is a little misleading, as part of Isabel Hardman's argument is that the popular perception (if she sets it up accurately) that the United Kingdom has the wrong politicians is mistaken, and that to some extent politicians are trapped in a system which too many people have vested interests in not changing. The bias towards people able and willing to fund their own campaigns - both to become a candidate, and then to be elected to parliament - and against women - with conservatism over women's roles rife in all parties. The book is rich in anecdotes about selection, election, bill committees, select committees, and the combined results of the efforts of the whips and the sheer weight of government business to ensure that bad bills reach the statute book. Few pages - indeed, only a few lines - are devoted to comparisons with other legislatures, and only a little more space is devoted to reform. Ideas include reviving bill committees after the passage of a bill so that members can hear evidence on how a bill works in practice, but it's difficult to see how this would provide a constructive method to improve on legislation. More concrete suggestions include salaries for parliamentary candidates, and salaries for members of select committees, as well as dedicated staff.

This isn't an apologia, even though Hardman did fall in love with one of her MP case studies which I'm sure isn't recommended practice. There is a lot of reporting of situations in recent years where MPs off and on the front benches should have done much better, being distracted by the legality of a proceeding - such as the invasions of Iraq and Libya - over the practicalities and details of the post-invasion plans, or in the case of Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill allowing it to career into the Commons without either of the Coalition government party leaders understanding what was planned. However, while entertaining it leaves one more frustrated with the state of affairs than confident about solutions.
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I've admired Maira Kalman's work when I have seen it, but haven't owned any of her books until this Christmas when I found this among my presents. Kalman's sensitivity towards her subjects was always evident and it's right that a volume should concentrate on her dogs, now needy, now loving, sometimes furious, often content. The original content which frames the book demonstrates relationship with dogs interwoven with her family background - which treated dogs with suspicion - and her marriage to Tibor Kalman, whose terminal illness led to her acquiring her 'beloved dog' Pete. I wasn't familiar with her series of children's books about the dog poet Max Stravinsky, but now know something of his flight to Paris to be a poet and his subsequent adventures among mondes belle and demi-. as well as many of the other dogs Kalman has depicted, curious, furious, studious or just stupidly happy in an endearing canine way. Pete's connection with death is never far away - prose accompanying the last painting of Pete compares her longing to hear a word from him to 'asking to hear one word from a loved one who has died' - but Kalman's art celebrates life in all its diversity, with dogs enjoying their own careers as well as offering mirrors to human souls.
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