British parliamentarians clearly know what they’re there for. Or, if you’re feeling less generous, they don’t know they’re doing.
For the most borrowed book in 2012 at the House of Commons library is How to Be an MP, according to figures released to the Daily Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act.
The book, by veteran member Paul Flynn, called, offers “a step-by-step guide on how to placate constituents, advance one’s career, claim expenses and fend off an inquisitive press”, explains Matthew Holehouse.
It offers tips on how to ‘doughnut’ – or surround a speaker in Parliament in order to create the impression on television that the session is well-attended – and how to prevent a political career from derailing a marriage.
Chapter titles include “How to convince voters that the MP never stops working”, “How to dilute boredom”, “How to Climb the Greasy Pole” and “How to write an Abusive Letter”.
Which got me wondering what might be popular in our own house of representatives.
Top of the list of loans since 2005 at the Parliamentary Library, which serves the reading needs of MPs and parliamentary agency staff, and provided to the Listener by the good people at the Parliamentary Service, is a different sort of political manual: Nicky Hager’s The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception.
A devastating exposé of the Don Brash led National Party’s approach to the 2005 election, it might easily be subtitled How Not to Be an MP.
Second is Geoffrey Palmer’s essential Bridled Power: New Zealand’s Constitution and Government.
And third, Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn: A Jolly Murder Mystery. Which is fiction, obviously.
Tenth on the list, just after Alexander McCall Smith’s Tears of the Giraffe – note the theme – is our very own cage rattler, Jane Clifton, and her Political Animals: Confessions of a Parliamentary Zoologist.
The full top 10:
1. The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception – Nicky Hager
2. Bridled Power : New Zealand’s Constitution and Government – Geoffrey Palmer
3. One Good Turn: A Jolly Murder Mystery – Kate Atkinson
4. The Hour Game – David Baldacci
5. My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
6. Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand – David McGee
7. The Other Side of the Story – Marian Keyes
8. Persuader – Lee Child
9. Tears of the Giraffe – Alexander McCall Smith
10. Political Animals: Confessions of a Parliamentary Zoologist – Jane Clifton