The UK parliamentary election is front and center of UK news this month and as the undecided make up their minds before May 7th, party political broadcasts, traveling campaigners, and two-cents pundits are all trying to make sense of the potential reshuffle of the House of Commons. But if you’re less than impressed with the party manifestos to choose from, there is another way to make up your mind… sort of. Here are 6 unlikely political manifestos from the land of literature, which may well give you a better idea of your own mind than the official documents:
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
The conservative-led government of the last four years has been focused on stabilizing the economy, imposing cuts and frugality to right the deficit. Compared to the other parties, the conservatives are promising a much slower return to feeling richer. Many feel let down by this invisible progress and distrust the hard times led by David Cameron. Charles Dickens would have been fascinated by this episode in our national politics and I’m sure would have penned an epic about it, but Hard Times, Dickens’ study of the Poor Law, Utilitarian philosophy and the trade unions, is the closest we’ll get.
The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend
Besides being a hilarious coming-of-age tale of a precocious and sensitive teenager, Adrian Mole’s diary shows us a humble view of the political landscape that preceded Tony Blair’s Labour. Adrian grows up page by page of Townsend’s books, always very aware of the class system in the Thatcher-led society he’s growing up into. If you feel like your knowledge of the immediate ancestors of our front-runners Ed Milliband and David Cameron is lacking, this book will give you an education without you even realizing it.
Richard II by William Shakespeare
Richard II is one of Shakespeare’s most complex, and unlikely tragic heroes. From the very first scene, his place on the English throne is insecure, and a crumbling, emasculating of his character follows until he is inevitably overthrown and killed. Bit dramatic, I know, but there are some similarities between Richard’s tragic silencing and the hung parliament we’ve just experienced, especially where Nick Clegg is concerned. Could this tragic hero rise from the ashes?
The Lorax by Dr. Suess
The Greens have filled out their manifesto with policies like ending austerity, making services like the rail network public, and generally doing better for “the common good.” But their reputation as eco-warriors still precedes them. The Lorax is Dr. Suess’ most didactic tale, about a creature who gives the tongue-less trees a voice under greedy dictator, the Once-ler. Through Suess’ signature rhymes and silliness, there is an actual message being communicated, to look after our weird and wonderful world; I confess it makes me want to vote Green much more than the manifesto does.
Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
The quintessential Welsh writer and his quintessential text. Under Milk Wood, a play for voices, portrays the musical, interwovenness of rural Wales. The story follows a huge array of characters who call the sleepy fishing village Llareggub home, through their dream lives, into their waking lives, and back to sleep again. Plaid Cymru may not affect those of us outside Wales, but its proud community is very much like the community of Llareggub, a rare example that can teach us how to stick together as neighbours.
The Bridge by Iain Banks
Scotland is closer than ever to the goings-on of Westminster since the referendum for independence last year, and the election coverage has expressed this change. The SNP is now a household name throughout the UK, and its figurehead Nicola Sturgeon has been impressing with her bold, unintimidated performances in the televised debates. But for people outside Scotland, the struggle for independence and other nuances of the SNP’s manifesto may be difficult to empathize with. The Bridge is a novel with traditional and developing Scotland at its heart, and gives an atmospheric insight into the recent history of Scotland and the symbolic nuts and bolts of its hardworking identity.
What political fiction are you reading right now? Or is all the election gossip enough of a fiction-trip? Let us know @Towerbabel!