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Haven't You Heard?: Gossip, power, and how politics really works

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Ever wondered why the indiscretions of some MPs make the front page while others don't? How close journalists really are to politicians? Or how on earth the country is run when the British political system is in such a mess? In Haven't You Heard?, Marie Le Conte looks at the role gossip, whispers and tittle-tattle play in all areas of politics - for the MPs and their advise Ever wondered why the indiscretions of some MPs make the front page while others don't? How close journalists really are to politicians? Or how on earth the country is run when the British political system is in such a mess? In Haven't You Heard?, Marie Le Conte looks at the role gossip, whispers and tittle-tattle play in all areas of politics - for the MPs and their advisers, the press who cover them and the civil servants in the middle of it all. From policy rows which aren't about policy at all and boozy nights with dramatic consequences, to people spinning their way to the top and dark secrets never seeing the light of day, Marie explores in great and entertaining detail the human side of the people running the country against a backdrop of political mayhem.


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Ever wondered why the indiscretions of some MPs make the front page while others don't? How close journalists really are to politicians? Or how on earth the country is run when the British political system is in such a mess? In Haven't You Heard?, Marie Le Conte looks at the role gossip, whispers and tittle-tattle play in all areas of politics - for the MPs and their advise Ever wondered why the indiscretions of some MPs make the front page while others don't? How close journalists really are to politicians? Or how on earth the country is run when the British political system is in such a mess? In Haven't You Heard?, Marie Le Conte looks at the role gossip, whispers and tittle-tattle play in all areas of politics - for the MPs and their advisers, the press who cover them and the civil servants in the middle of it all. From policy rows which aren't about policy at all and boozy nights with dramatic consequences, to people spinning their way to the top and dark secrets never seeing the light of day, Marie explores in great and entertaining detail the human side of the people running the country against a backdrop of political mayhem.

30 review for Haven't You Heard?: Gossip, power, and how politics really works

  1. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    A very entertaining look at how gossip drives Westminster. You will need to be interested in the operation of British politics to enjoy this, and it is in no way a starting point for the uninformed. It's a terrific picture of a chaotic unregulated system driven by informal engines of gossip and networking because there aren't sufficient sensible formal structures to keep the place functional. Le Conte also stresses the humanity of MPs, something it's easy to forget: we all gossip at work and hav A very entertaining look at how gossip drives Westminster. You will need to be interested in the operation of British politics to enjoy this, and it is in no way a starting point for the uninformed. It's a terrific picture of a chaotic unregulated system driven by informal engines of gossip and networking because there aren't sufficient sensible formal structures to keep the place functional. Le Conte also stresses the humanity of MPs, something it's easy to forget: we all gossip at work and have our little groups, it's just most of us don't run the country on that basis. Very well written with lots of good stories and one-liners. I enjoyed it immensely and now want a completely new political system please.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

    I feel a little oddly about this book. It’s a good book and it’s funny and it’s well-written and it’s probably right.* But I hate the fact that it’s probably right, because I want politics to be more about policy and less about personality and process. But I want that to be the case at the same time as working in public affairs where obviously I work on building relationships for the good of the causes I work for. I suppose in some ways it all comes back to one of Marie’s early conclusions: poli I feel a little oddly about this book. It’s a good book and it’s funny and it’s well-written and it’s probably right.* But I hate the fact that it’s probably right, because I want politics to be more about policy and less about personality and process. But I want that to be the case at the same time as working in public affairs where obviously I work on building relationships for the good of the causes I work for. I suppose in some ways it all comes back to one of Marie’s early conclusions: politics is messy. *Marie is wrong that agency PA bods are more interesting than in-house PA bods; they’re just less likely to have values. ;)

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Mytton

    If you don't know how Westminster politics works, this is a good run through backed up by interesting quotes from relevant people. It's written in an easy, tabloid style which makes it fun to read. As a general description of the key areas of how politics is done, it works well. However, unlike Tim Shipman's works, particularly the likes of All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class, it doesn't reveal anything new or surprising if you're already in that world. It's If you don't know how Westminster politics works, this is a good run through backed up by interesting quotes from relevant people. It's written in an easy, tabloid style which makes it fun to read. As a general description of the key areas of how politics is done, it works well. However, unlike Tim Shipman's works, particularly the likes of All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class, it doesn't reveal anything new or surprising if you're already in that world. It's not a narrative of events with behind the scenes commentary, rather it explains how those events might come about in general. It's also a great manual on why you would never actually want to go into politics and especially never want to be an MP.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erin Lee

    Brilliantly accessible book on the informal side of Westminster. I loved the anecdotes dotted throughout and learning more about what you don't always see on the news. The author is clearly well connected and well informed and it's a fascinating read regardless of your level of political knowledge. I felt that the second half of the book was a bit of a struggle for me - I flew through the first half but found it hard to stay quite as interested later on. I think it's because it got a bit repetiti Brilliantly accessible book on the informal side of Westminster. I loved the anecdotes dotted throughout and learning more about what you don't always see on the news. The author is clearly well connected and well informed and it's a fascinating read regardless of your level of political knowledge. I felt that the second half of the book was a bit of a struggle for me - I flew through the first half but found it hard to stay quite as interested later on. I think it's because it got a bit repetitive at points. Would still recommend for those interested in what happens behind the scenes in SW1.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra McCaffrey

    Interesting but too long The central hypothesis of this book is interesting and there are certainly some good anecdotes from sw1. However once you get into the second half it feels like the author is relying on a lot of filler to bulk the book out and starts to drag a bit.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Stelling

    A light-hearted and in places comical discussion of how the Westminster system really works and the role played by gossip and informality plays in the decision making process.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Like all such books, by the end it feels it's just making some very similar points again, but it's backed up by nice quotes and anecdotes and remains utterly readable. Enjoyed it Like all such books, by the end it feels it's just making some very similar points again, but it's backed up by nice quotes and anecdotes and remains utterly readable. Enjoyed it

  8. 5 out of 5

    John

    A really great read. Lots of fun anecdotes and stories about life inside the Westminster bubble, but also more seriously about the relationship between those in power and those who report of them and how this dynamic plays out in actuality. Perhaps a tad repetitive in places (there's only so many times you can be reminded that MPs are human people before it starts to grate) but otherwise a must for anyone with an interest in British Politics. I look forward to the next book! A really great read. Lots of fun anecdotes and stories about life inside the Westminster bubble, but also more seriously about the relationship between those in power and those who report of them and how this dynamic plays out in actuality. Perhaps a tad repetitive in places (there's only so many times you can be reminded that MPs are human people before it starts to grate) but otherwise a must for anyone with an interest in British Politics. I look forward to the next book!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Enjoyed it, but I would say that if you're interested in Westminster politics (and if you're reading this book, you're likely to be), it probably doesn't tell you a whole lot that's new. The best parts by far are the humorous anecdotes. Enjoyed it, but I would say that if you're interested in Westminster politics (and if you're reading this book, you're likely to be), it probably doesn't tell you a whole lot that's new. The best parts by far are the humorous anecdotes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    This book feels lazy. It that starts with a pretty basic thesis- I.e the wheels of westminster are determined by information sharing through informal networks - and reiterates it throughout in a number of vaguely thematic chapters. The majority of the book is based on a small number of long interviews that the author has clearly conducted and think it seems sufficient for the 250 pages- and long meandering quotes are laid out verbatim. Even worse, often she references other people’s researched q This book feels lazy. It that starts with a pretty basic thesis- I.e the wheels of westminster are determined by information sharing through informal networks - and reiterates it throughout in a number of vaguely thematic chapters. The majority of the book is based on a small number of long interviews that the author has clearly conducted and think it seems sufficient for the 250 pages- and long meandering quotes are laid out verbatim. Even worse, often she references other people’s researched quotes from other books or interviews- sometime taking pages- therefore not having collected any research of her own. That said, it paints a nice atmospheric picture of a number of political locations (specifically Westminster bars), and the political events (specifically party conference. It also, for the novice, lays out a number of lobbying and spin doctor tactics, the relationship between politics and the press, and the interdependency amongst all. So for a light touch read for someone with a vague interest in politics that does not require much depth of thought, this wouldn’t be a bad choice.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Seventh

    I started reading this book mere days after it came out after spotting it in a bookshop. Unfortunately when I got home from the bookshop after getting about a chapter in I misplaced the book and only found it again a couple weeks back - and I'm glad I did. Perhaps somewhat expectedly for a book about gossip in the heart of British politics it was funny and fascinating in equal measure and a definite page-turner. Some days the book was so hard to put down that I kept on reading well into the nigh I started reading this book mere days after it came out after spotting it in a bookshop. Unfortunately when I got home from the bookshop after getting about a chapter in I misplaced the book and only found it again a couple weeks back - and I'm glad I did. Perhaps somewhat expectedly for a book about gossip in the heart of British politics it was funny and fascinating in equal measure and a definite page-turner. Some days the book was so hard to put down that I kept on reading well into the night to see what anecdote or interesting fact would appear on the next page. In the book, Le Conte combines humour, scatterings of academic research, keen insight, and anecdotes ranging from the comical to the horrifying to provide a unique behind the scenes look at Westminster. 'Haven't You Heard?' is definitely not a book for everyone but anyone who wants to understand how and why decisions get made in UK politics would be foolish to avoid this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence White

    Accessible and at times amusing insight into how British politics and Westminster really work, but like other readers I found it somewhat repetitive in places. Too many of the anecdotes are very old, or anonymous, or both, so it has more the air of well-stitched-together clippings piece than a book with lots of fresh juicy gossip.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel Phillips

    Some great insights and fun stories included. However, it's one step away from being a fantastic book. Some great insights and fun stories included. However, it's one step away from being a fantastic book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kevinjwoods

    Among this clan of forgotten men and women of Parliament there is gossip, at least that is what they are saying, i know did you evah, but what a swell party this makes it. and in this book you can hear the normal stories of boys, girls, and unrequited love, which admittedly sounds like a soap opera you should tune in tomorrow for, or cry about what a swell party it sounds like you are missing. you will not hear unfortunately of frills and frocks, but will of broads, No furs, they don't rock and th Among this clan of forgotten men and women of Parliament there is gossip, at least that is what they are saying, i know did you evah, but what a swell party this makes it. and in this book you can hear the normal stories of boys, girls, and unrequited love, which admittedly sounds like a soap opera you should tune in tomorrow for, or cry about what a swell party it sounds like you are missing. you will not hear unfortunately of frills and frocks, but will of broads, No furs, they don't rock and they're not bootiful, but you will never read about such gaiety, never have I read such gaiety, in fact its all a bit too risque for some really. Of course there are bars selling Domestic French Champagne, its good for the brain as they were going to say, where they'll thank you for saying they are brilliant fellows but please my friend don't eat my glass if you pick it up jack. Where they still talk about Blanche (false name), a game girl who got run down in an avalanche but still came fourth, are you kids still having a nice time, the footnotes will drop you a line. Never named is MImsie Starr, (false name) who got sloshed in a Parliament Bar, not to mention pinched and stoned, i mean did you evah, what a swell party this all sounds. And all the SPADS checking out each others acts at conferences, thinking Oh such a nice dress, i think I can talk her out of it. This book is great, this book is grand, this book is a wonderland, so sing La Da Da Da Hear Secretaries sing, almost as rare as Camembert, or Baba au Rhum, if you dig that kind of crooning chum. Remember they all think their stars, up until July when we collide with Mars, and Did you Evah, what a Swell Parliament, what a swelligent elegant parliament this is. They'll drink to your health, they'll drink to your wealth, they'll call you Bon Ami, and explain that it;s french for their Liberty Fraternity. And finally Remember they all think their stars, up until July when we collide with Mars, and Did you Evah, what a Swell Parliament, what a swelligent elegant parliament this is. (my deepest apologises and thanks to Cole Porter)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adam Clark

    An enjoyable stitching together of insights into the less formal side of Westminster/Whitehall life but not a political classic. It's comprehensive, even extending to clerks and lobbyists, and clearly written from deep familiarity and affection - potentially too much of the latter, as it robs the book of some potential bite. There's an awful lot 'oh we're all awful people really' but not much judgement passed. There are some enlightening passages. The importance of physical spaces is highlighted An enjoyable stitching together of insights into the less formal side of Westminster/Whitehall life but not a political classic. It's comprehensive, even extending to clerks and lobbyists, and clearly written from deep familiarity and affection - potentially too much of the latter, as it robs the book of some potential bite. There's an awful lot 'oh we're all awful people really' but not much judgement passed. There are some enlightening passages. The importance of physical spaces is highlighted, such as the central role of Portcullis House for MPs --a building 99% of the British public wouldn't be able to identify-- or the network of pubs around Westminster. Conversely there are also good points on the rising importance of social messaging apps - how much easier is it to organise a political coup when no-one can see you plotting - but how many people will actually back up their WhatsApp messages? The potential for a single message to become the basis for an entire day's news cycle is a problem no-one has solved yet. But there aren't enough concrete examples here to prove the primary argument -- that gossip, or more widely informal contact, is as important if not more so than formal politics. The most gossiped about figures aren't those at the top but relative nonentities such as Lembit Opik or Simon Danczuk. Particularly in the post-Brexit referendum years, few of the major British political characters - Boris Johnson, Theresa May, Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn - have been gossipy schemers in the same way as was true of New Labour or the Tory Notting Hill set. This suggests gossip is more important at times of relatively settled politics. The book addresses this in the final few pages by broadening the argument to the importance of charisma, shamelessness and the attraction of power, but that's a rather different argument.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ellesse

    Haven’t you heard is something very different for me, politics is something that I vaguely follow but don’t have a KEEN interest like some of my friends. The book was interesting to find out how information goes through Westmintiser. To work there as an MP who doesn’t have a certain background it is a minefield, there are rules that aren’t written but aren’t know. Personally, I struggle to think the people in control all come from the same small pool of privileged people, but that is another sto Haven’t you heard is something very different for me, politics is something that I vaguely follow but don’t have a KEEN interest like some of my friends. The book was interesting to find out how information goes through Westmintiser. To work there as an MP who doesn’t have a certain background it is a minefield, there are rules that aren’t written but aren’t know. Personally, I struggle to think the people in control all come from the same small pool of privileged people, but that is another story I guess. The book covers the different ways information and gossip spreads…there are ways of getting information out without people knowing the true source or the opposite keeping something that really should be a scandal quiet and away from the papers and media. The book does cover how the internet and social media (especially Twitter) have affected the way people interact with each other and how something online can affect what happens in the chamber. 3* - I think the book may be of interest to some but does get slightly repetitive for me at times.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Phil Swatton

    Haven't You Heard? is a fascinating insight into the human side of British politics. Focusing on gossip, informal relationships and the very human ways in which these can influence the way the country is run, this is an incredibly insightful read as to how politics really works. All too often the tendency in both journalism and academic work is to focus on politicians either as placements on a political spectrum or worse, to treat them as utterly self-interested - either way ignoring the human d Haven't You Heard? is a fascinating insight into the human side of British politics. Focusing on gossip, informal relationships and the very human ways in which these can influence the way the country is run, this is an incredibly insightful read as to how politics really works. All too often the tendency in both journalism and academic work is to focus on politicians either as placements on a political spectrum or worse, to treat them as utterly self-interested - either way ignoring the human dynamics that occur in any workplace but that become especially important in SW1. Offering insight into the real reasons why MPs might rebel on a vote, the way in which a relationship between MPs and journalists can influence what actually gets reported on and how gossip can influence policy-making, this book is readable, salacious and important in equal measures and a must-read for any politics nerd.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Will

    This was a fun read. I opened the book expecting it to just be political gossip the whole way through. In hindsight, this was probably naive. Acquiring that much gossip would require a lot of work, and printing would involve burning a lot of bridges! Nonetheless, it's the gossip-y bits I enjoyed the most (especially the naughty bits), and the book is well worth reading for those parts. Alongside the gossip was analysis of how British politics works. I enjoyed this to some extent, but have read oth This was a fun read. I opened the book expecting it to just be political gossip the whole way through. In hindsight, this was probably naive. Acquiring that much gossip would require a lot of work, and printing would involve burning a lot of bridges! Nonetheless, it's the gossip-y bits I enjoyed the most (especially the naughty bits), and the book is well worth reading for those parts. Alongside the gossip was analysis of how British politics works. I enjoyed this to some extent, but have read other books along similar veins (e.g. Isabel Hardman's 'Why We Get the Wrong Politicians') and felt the book was less unique on some of these topics. It was fine, but it wasn't personally new to me, in the same way that Simon Danczuk's personal life was. Overall, it was funny and eye-catching in parts, but others felt like more of a drag. Pretty good, on the whole. 4 / 5 (Disclaimer - I read this book about 3 months ago and my recollections are somewhat hazy).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Adam Thomas

    A fascinating, entertaining, and sometimes terrifying, journey through the informal mechanisms of SW1. Marie Le Conte introduces us to the messy relationships between politicians, advisors, press and public, the ways gossip spreads, and how some ends up as news and other bits don't. Le Conte is a thoughtful guide, who shows us some of the tensions and compromises, and also reminds us that people in Westminster are still people after all. She's also an entertaining guide, and pulls in a lot of am A fascinating, entertaining, and sometimes terrifying, journey through the informal mechanisms of SW1. Marie Le Conte introduces us to the messy relationships between politicians, advisors, press and public, the ways gossip spreads, and how some ends up as news and other bits don't. Le Conte is a thoughtful guide, who shows us some of the tensions and compromises, and also reminds us that people in Westminster are still people after all. She's also an entertaining guide, and pulls in a lot of amusing anecdotes along the way. This is a great way for people outside the Westminster bubble to get a better idea of what really happens, for better or worse, on the inside.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter Black

    An interesting and insightful tour of the Westminster bubble and the role of gossip in government, perhaps explaining at the same time why Parliament is so dysfunctional, and why we have had to endure three years of chaos since the 2016 referendum. The book is a bit didactic in parts (a perception that may be due to me knowing more about the Westminster bubble than the average reader) and I was hoping for a bit more gossip. Still it is worth reading to get a better understanding of how we are go An interesting and insightful tour of the Westminster bubble and the role of gossip in government, perhaps explaining at the same time why Parliament is so dysfunctional, and why we have had to endure three years of chaos since the 2016 referendum. The book is a bit didactic in parts (a perception that may be due to me knowing more about the Westminster bubble than the average reader) and I was hoping for a bit more gossip. Still it is worth reading to get a better understanding of how we are governed (or not as the case maybe).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tom Snape

    Really fascinating deconstruction of the role gossip plays in the Westminster Bubble from someone who quite clearly loves it but is also able to step back and analyse what impact the system has and what downsides it creates. Also has some fantastic anecdotes (some anonymous, some not) about what it means in practice. Well worth a read to any political nerd.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kit Eyre

    Great book for those interested in how Westminster works. Plenty of scenarios (true and hypothetical) to consider, although I agree with others that the second half of the book was less interesting than the first. This may just have been that, on a personal level, I preferred the "gossip" of the earlier chapters. Great book for those interested in how Westminster works. Plenty of scenarios (true and hypothetical) to consider, although I agree with others that the second half of the book was less interesting than the first. This may just have been that, on a personal level, I preferred the "gossip" of the earlier chapters.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Simon J Alvey

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is a real treat, funny, constantly on the edge of scandal, but full of real insight about how politics works. It's written by someone who is clearly fond of their beat and this gives it a delicious insider vibe. However, it is also full of real insight and I came away feeling like I knew a lot more. This book is a real treat, funny, constantly on the edge of scandal, but full of real insight about how politics works. It's written by someone who is clearly fond of their beat and this gives it a delicious insider vibe. However, it is also full of real insight and I came away feeling like I knew a lot more.

  24. 5 out of 5

    James Hoddy

    This is one for the political geeks, as Marie Le Conte says those of us who are this interested in politics are in the minority, and a niche minority we are, however within these pages are some really interesting facts, invaluable information and insights into the inner workings of Parliament many of us on the outside would not really know.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Angelique

    I loved this and I love her. I didn’t take away a whole lot. But the big thing for me is how we hold these people to different people standards, when people are going to people. She’s a great writer, fantastic speaker and this book flowed so easily and a great quarantine read because it reminds me of the old times. I wonder what parliament is like now…

  26. 4 out of 5

    Neil Morris

    An interesting and engaging look at the relationship between the press and Westminster. Explains what the various roles like Spads, Whips etc that we’ve all heard about actually do and how they do it. Can be a little depressing as the whole world of politics is often reduced to a game but worth the read all the same.

  27. 5 out of 5

    George Clarke

    Genuinely made me think differently about politics and some wonderful gossip. Made all the better by experienced political journalist Harry Cole make one of the authors described basic mistakes in the last couple of days in real life. Great commuter fodder

  28. 4 out of 5

    Niamh

    An interesting look at how gossip controls Parliament and how entrenched it is in how politics work, but felt a bit more like an instruction or how-to manual about navigating Parliament rather than an in-depth look at the inner workings of Parliament.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael Macdonald

    Jolly romp the bleeding obvious Well written but overlong, this book confirms politicians are obsessive like a drink or six and gossip. Discovery of humanity in Westminster is as shocking as finding our ursine friends defecating in sylvian glades.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dinesh Perera

    A book about how gossip and interpersonal relations start out and continue to work within Westminister. Also briefly details how something becomes gossip that spreads as opposed to something else. The audiobook is very well read by Joanna Neary.

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