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Election fever: whether you need a survival guide or an elegant argument, there's a book to suit you
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2 Why Vote Conservative? by David Willetts; Why Vote Labour? by Tony Wright; Why Vote Liberal Democrat? by William Wallace (Penguin pounds 3.99 each). There is a grandeur to David "Two Brains" Willetts's elegantly Tory tract: T S Eliot is quoted on the first page, and General de Gaulle on the last. Tony Wright, the Labour member for Cannock and Burntwood, prefers privatised- industry anecdotes, with shockers from Railtrack and Severn Trent Water at the beginning of his book. And the LibDem Lord Wallace of Saltaire, Reader in International Relations at the LSE, begins with a spot of political theory, on the subject of "values" and "needs". These timely, useful books, 110 pages long, see Penguin return to its old role of the 1940s, publishing books fast to foster public debate. The arguments are more intellectual than those of the party manifestos, and some might say, clearer.

2 The Single Currency: Should Britain Join? (Vintage pounds 2.99). Hardly a book, barely a pamphlet, but none the less a pithy and reasonably clear attack on the pros and cons of this knotty question. The team of authors - Martin Kettle, John Palmer, Larry Elliott, Victor Keegan - regard it as "the single greatest dilemma facing Europe since at least the collapse of Communism, and perhaps since the end of the last European war in 1945" but not (lest we over-dramatise) "one of the great existential dilemmas of all time". In the end, though, they advise caution. Like everyone else, it seems.

2 The Election: A Voter's Guide (Fourth Estate pounds 12.99) is also a Guardian compilation, but this is not so much a debate as a nitty-gritty guidebook for the bewildered voter lost in the election maze. Lists, charts and statistics feature prominently - past constituency results; world competitiveness league tables; vote shares; Top Tens. It even lists policy statements in a range of fields; the status of this information as "fact" is of course a matter of conjecture. Legislation history, the spin-doctors' spin, do-it-yourself fact-bending and quotable quotes all make entertaining reading.

2 From Soapbox to Soundbite: Party Political Campaigning in Britain since 1945 by Martin Rosenbaum (Macmillan pounds 45/ pounds 16.99). New Labour, New Danger is too recent to have made it into this anatomy of propaganda, but otherwise, they're all here, right up to Major's soapbox oratory with a real old soapbox during the general election of 1992. A methodical, sociological account of political campaigning's many modern forms, with chapters on Advertising, Opinion Research, Personal Image and so on: a media-studies coursebook which suddenly looks much more fascinating and relevant than it would have done a month ago.

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