Sunday, 3 October 2010

Penguin no. 110: Disraeli by Andre Maurois

This is another biography by Andre Maurois, and it is difficult to know how much to believe. It reads very much like a novel; he seems a bit too keen on his subject. The most interesting part is the discussion about how elections were conducted in those times, only a few hundred years ago. The Blackadder joke about Rotten Boroughs turns out to be no joke, there really were electorates with a handful of voters. And other electorates in which the votes were up for sale, everyone knew and it was all above board.

It was an interesting time to choose to read all this. Corruption in the elections in Afghanistan is shocking, except our own systems of government were little better such a short time ago. Governments changed not at elections, but when their legislation was defeated in the lower house. Here in Australia with our new minority government, the government had a bill defeated for the first time since 1941, but they remain in power. And Disraeli was a politician who was adamant that public opinion was ill-informed and must be ignored. The right action must be taken, not the popular one. With our focus groups and constant polling, we have the complete opposite now. Some things better, some things worse; this book is interesting because it gives a detailed picture of the past.

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