Non fiction

This Land: The story of a movement by Owen Jones

It’s not unusual for me to read a non fiction book. But this is a political analysis of when the hopes and dreams for a better future for many in this country, finally turned to ashes. I appreciate this book might not be for everyone but for me it was a chance to pick over the remnants of what is left, and why it all went so horribly wrong.

About the Book

The No.1 bestselling author of The Establishment returns with an urgent analysis of where the Left – and Britain – goes next

We live in an age of upheaval. The global crisis of Covid-19 has laid bare the deep social and economic inequalities which were the toxic legacy of austerity. These revolutionary times are an opportunity for a radical rethink of Britain as we know it, as the politically impossible suddenly becomes imaginable.

And yet, the Left’s last attempt to upend the established order and transform millions of lives came to a crashing halt on 12th December 2019, when Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour party to its worst electoral defeat since 1935. In This Land, Owen Jones provides an insider’s honest and unflinching appraisal of a movement: how it promised to change everything, why it went so badly wrong, where this failure leaves its values and ideas, and where the Left goes next in the new world we find ourselves in.

He takes us on a compelling, page-turning journey through a tumultuous decade in British politics, gaining unprecedented access to key figures across the political spectrum. It is a tale of high hopes and hubris, dysfunction and disillusionment. There is, Jones urges, no future for any progressive project that does not face up to and learn from its errors. We have the opportunity to build a fairer country and a more equal world, but if our time is to come, then we must learn from our past.

What I thought

I voted labour in the elections, I voted remain in the referendum. I would have loved Corbyn to at least have been given a chance at bringing change and hope to the lives of those less well off. If you’re a socialist, if you joined the Labour party when Corbyn became leader because you saw it as a fresh new chance to change then you will enjoy this book, you will learn things, that like me, you didn’t realise. The chaos, the lack of strategy, the lack of communication that went on in the run up to the election. You will also see a few Labour names bandied about, so that you know who, and this is my own slant on it, ‘the bad guys’ were. There seems to be a lot of politicians certainly within the Parliamentary Labour Party who wouldn’t know socialism if they fell over it. But then we already knew that, but now we know who they were and still are.

Though I was never bored reading the book, as I got towards the middle I did feel like I was ploughing through a three hundred page essay. I’m not entirely sure about the structure of the book, it makes for hard going. There are few chapters, no dialogue, no charts, no subheadings, basically no white space. Just acres and acres of writing, and though always interesting I did begin to feel like I may never reach the end.

In fact part way through the analysis of Labour’s handling of the Brexit debate I did flick through. At the time it was happening it became tedious in my opinion, so to read about it all again wasn’t something I was enjoying too much, although I did learn quite a lot that I hadn’t realised at the time it was happening.

After a bit more skim reading and flicking through, and bearing in mind it had taken me over a week to get to 60% of the way through the book, I skipped to the end and worked my way back to the beginning of the last chapter – the summing up and the lessons learned from what went wrong. I did find this really interesting, and am still working my way backwards through the book. I’m not in the habit of reading books backwards but as mine was an advance copy of the e-book there are no links to chapters. Obviously in a physical book it’s much easier to find the parts you want to read fully.

All in all I enjoyed the majority of what I read and will probably dip back into it at some point in the future. It is well written obviously, as Owen Jones is a columnist, and he certainly goes into detail, leaving no stone unturned. I think it was, overall, well balanced and told very much how it was and without bias. But that’s just my opinion and I certainly don’t profess to be an expert.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The book was published on 24 September 2020 in e-book and hardback and can be found in bookshops and on Amazon

With thanks to the publisher Allen Lane for an advance review copy via Netgalley.

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