Things Can Only Get Worse? by John O'Farrell

John O'Farrell's hugely successful memoir of supporting the Labour Party through 18 years of Tory rule, Things Can Only Get Better, was published just after Tony Blair came to power.

Now, in 2018, we've had eight years of the Tories, the British public have inexplicably voted to send their own economy nosediving into the black hole by leaving the European Union, America has elected a sociopathic Cheesy Wotsit with the mind of a Nazi toddler and the Labour Party is being led by a Marxist jam-maker who looks like a sociology lecturer. Clearly it's time for a sequel.

Things Can Only Get Worse? picks up where its predecessor ended, taking us through the Iraq War and Blair's departure, the media's savaging of Gordon Brown, the Cameron-Clegg coalition, Milifandom and of course, the car-crash that was the EU Referendum. But although punctuated by big events, it's a personal and honest account of O'Farrell's own activism which also covers his children growing up, his parents ageing and - let's not forget - the general elections he fought as a candidate (in one of which he was beaten by Theresa May, a woman he felt would have been best suited to a role as "headmistress of a small independent girls' school in Surrey").

Perhaps most interesting of all are O'Farrell's musings on how, during the same period, he successfully campaigned for a new secondary school to be built in his home borough and became Chair of the Board of Governors, an experience which has many a parallel to the wider political climate. When is it OK to compromise? When can you admit that things are not quite panning out to be the socialist utopia you'd been led to expect? And latterly, if you dare to suggest that winning power might be, you know, quite handy for actually changing anything for the better, does this - as some in the Labour Party would currently have us believe - automatically make you Red Tory bourgeois Blairite scum?

This book is one of the funniest I've read in a very long time, so much so that my other half kept asking me what I was chuckling at as I was reading it. O'Farrell's observations not only of major political events but also of the small-scale minutiae of political campaigning and activism are extremely witty and insightful. However, Things Can Only Get Worse? is a thoughtful and perceptive read too, and genuinely moving at times. O'Farrell clearly cares very deeply about particular issues and this really shines through.

John O'Farrell is a staunch Remainer whose Labour MP is Kate Hoey - you may remember her from such absolute shit-shows as the painfully embarrassing Thames Brexit flotilla, in which she cuddled up to Nigel Farage at the helm of a boat if they were about to stage some sort of fascist pound-shop remake of Titanic. This means that in the last general election, he was faced for the first time in his life with a genuine voting dilemma. Does he tear up his Labour Party membership card and end a political relationship almost akin to a long marriage? I'll leave you to find out for yourself - but you'll no doubt have seen the question mark at the end of the title. While this book deals with Labour's fall from power, its horribly divisive leadership battle and the twin catastrophes of Trump and Brexit it still has at its heart a satisfying glimmer of hope.

Things Can Only Get Worse? is published on 14 September and if you have any kind of interest in British politics and a sense of humour, I highly recommend you read it. 

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