Arena of Ambition has been named as ‘Book of the Week’ by The Irish Times.

There’s a review by the historian Paul Readman in today’s edition – which you can read online here.

The Irish Times


Cambridge Evening News

10 June 2009

There’s a two-page spread on Arena of Ambition in today’s Cambridge Evening News (p.16)

You can read it online here – or see a PDF of the newspaper as it appeared.

There’s a mention of Arena of Ambition in the ‘Pandora’ column of today’s Independent:

Heffer: queen of Las Vegas?

Simon Heffer’s enthusiasm for elected office isn’t entirely new. According to Stephen Parkinson’s delightful work, Arena of Ambition: A History of the Cambridge Union, the straight-laced Telegraph columnist served as the Union’s social fixer. Apparently, the ginger terror would arrange such licentious entertainments as “juvenile delinquents parties” and Las Vegas evenings – for which he “hoped that the subtle combination of vices would secure a large attendance”. Good heavens. Whatever would his employers think?


Huffington Post

20 May 2009

I’ve written a piece for the Huffington Post, the American website founded and edited by former President of the Union, Arianna Huffington.

You can read it online here.

The Huffington Post

’nuff said:

Heffers, Cambridge

Heffers, Cambridge

Quentin Letts mentions – and quotes generously from – Arena of Ambition in his article on The First Post today.

In a piece lamenting the poor oratorical skills of Members of Parliament, he says:

One hesitates (though not long) to sound like an elitist but we might have a better standard of oratory from the green leather benches if more MPs had belonged to debating societies such as the Cambridge Union.

… A reasonably interesting history of the Union (Arena of Ambition – A History of the Cambridge Union, by Stephen Parkinson, Icon Books, £20) has just been written. It shows that past generations of undergraduate politicians benefited greatly from their studenty jousts. Those early attempts at building and conveying an argument, sometimes in the face of an over-refreshed throng, helped to create some of the big beasts of Westminster politics.

… Today’s best Commons performers employ the slightly arch style of the university debating parlours for the simple reason that it works … Former Union members know to speak clearly, briskly, without just enough assertion but not too much pomposity, and to leaven it with wit. It’s called “communicating” and it is an awful pity there are not more of them who can do it.

Read the full article online here.

Arena of Ambition has been reviewed in this week’s Varsity – one of the undergraduate newspapers at Cambridge – by the marvellous Livvy Potts, who was President of the Union last term. She had some very nice things to say:

“Stephen Parkinson’s research is meticulous and fascinating, clearly explained for non-Union aficionados …

Arena of Ambition is a treasure trove of anecdotes and juicy details …well-written and carefully compiled … it should be essential reading for anyone considering a Union career.”

But she gives it a very balanced review. You can read the full thing here.

Out now!

12 May 2009

Arena of Ambition is out now in all good bookshops – and from online retailers like Amazon.

Publication date

13 April 2009

The book is due to appear in just over a month’s time – it will be featured in the Easter 2009 edition of CAM magazine, which comes out in early June.

Please keep an eye on this site for more details.

The Oxford & Cambridge Club have very kindly invited me to one of their writers’ lunches on 18 June, when I’ll be speaking about the book and the role of the Oxford and Cambridge Unions more generally.

If you’re a member and would like to attend, please contact the club for more information.