After every general election, The Times publishes its guide to the new House of Commons. I have a complete set from 1945 onwards as well as copies (reprinted by Politico’s) for the 1910, 1911, 1919, 1929, 1931 and 1935 Houses. They make for fascinating reading, providing data on the MP and the election in each constituency.
The Times Guide to the House of Commons 2010 differs from its predecessors in one important respect. It continues to provide valuable information on the results and the MP as well as reverting to the practice of giving some details of the other principal candidates in a seat. However, it supplements factual information on each MP with a subjective thumbnail sketch – the sort of thing that Andrew Roth used to provide in his Parliamentary Profiles.
Thus, for example:
‘A survivor. Slightly pompous. A prominent Freemason. Euro-enthusiast and opposed Iraq war.’
‘Ruddy-cheeked, unreconstructed figure from Labour Left. Not so much old Labour as dinosaur Labour.’
‘Unremarkable shire Tory. Cantankerous and slightly bumptious’.
‘Rather ra ra and military – a former SAS man with belligerent tribal instincts’.
The speed with which the guide is produced means that the odd (and occasionally spectacular) mistake slips in. It would not be the first time, though, that it included the wrong photograph for an MP…