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Back from the Brink: The Extraordinary Fall and Rise of the Conservative Party Paperback – 30 Sep 2010

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Back from the Brink: The Extraordinary Fall and Rise of the Conservative Party + The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron + Cameron: Practically a Conservative
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (30 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007308841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007308842
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 48,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Snowdon is a contemporary historian and journalist. 'Back from the Brink', which charts the Conservative Party's extraordinary fall and rise over the last decade, is published by HarperCollins. The paperback edition is updated with the inside story of the 2010 general election and the coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats. Peter has written on politics for the Sunday Times and Yorkshire Post, among other papers and magazines, and is one of the producers on BBC Radio 4's flagship Today programme. His previous work includes several collaborations with Anthony Seldon: having led the research on Seldon's acclaimed biography of Tony Blair, 'Blair', in 2004, Peter co-authored the second volume 'Blair Unbound' in 2007 (both published by Simon & Schuster). 'Blair Unbound' was shortlisted for the 2007 Channel 4 Political Book of the Year Award. He is married and lives in London.

Product Description


‘A superb new history of the last decade in Tory politics…Peter Snowdon’s meticulous narrative, ‘Back From The Brink’, records the highs and lows of the party both before and after David Cameron captured the leadership’ The Times

‘This is political history ‘Band of Brothers’-style, the feelgood story of a bunch of friends who take over a three-quarters-dead political party and charge, heads down, towards victory…like all the best war stories, it is exciting, immediate and intermittently grim…Snowdon’s book is among the best of a crop of Tory literature…a definitive account’ Guardian

‘[Peter Snowdon] is even-handed with his judgements…a riveting read for anyone interested in politics’ Telegraph

‘A well researched, authoritative and workmanlike account of the Conservative Party’s brush with extinction after 1990…an easy read, taking us, with the help of much quotation from the dramatise personae themselves, through the whole extraordinary story’ Spectator

About the Author

Peter Snowdon is a writer and journalist, and the co-author of ‘Blair Unbound’ with the renowned historian Anthony Seldon. As a journalist at the BBC, he has worked on several acclaimed documentaries, including ‘The Prime Ministers’ on Radio 4, and the ‘Politics Show’. He is currently a producer on the ‘Today’ programme. He lives in London.

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Maxwell Stone on 18 Jun 2010
Format: Paperback
I suspect that most people lost interest in the Conservative Party during the mid 1990s and this never recovered after Labour's 1997 landslide. Consequently few people know a great deal, or probably care, about what the Tories got up to during their wilderness years. This book brings back some of those times with a cringeing jolt, remember Hague's answer to Labour's Cool Britannia? His naff baseball cap wearing exploits at a theme park still grate today - albeit he has matured into an outstanding politician.

Snowdon reminds us what a bunch of clowns many of the Conservatives were by ruining Major's premiership with internecine battles which they carried on post '97. They then deluded themselves that Labour would simply implode and the electorate would return to them when the reality was the reverse. Wading through the chapters on Duncan-Smith was marginally less painful than watching the poor man trying to rally the troops at their party conference. Who can forget the awfulness of the 'quiet man turning up the volume?' But this is where Snowdon scores because much of the modern Conservative Party is based on the thoughtful and socially conscious policies that Duncan-Smith espoused but could not push through because he wasn't the right man for the job and the party wasn't ready.

Michael Howard is described as steadying the ship and saving it from disaster in 2005. Indeed it was his help to Cameron which subsequently allowed the Cameroons to take over the party. But, even then the party was, and still is, not entirely comfortable with its leader. Although Cameron was thought by some, and characterised by Labour, as just a 'Tory Toff', the truth is that Cameron was a Liberal Conservative long before the election result. Thus, hooking up with Clegg and co.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By D J Collings on 15 Mar 2010
Format: Paperback
In this masterpiece of contemporary history, Peter Snowdon takes us deep inside the engine room of the modern Conservative Party. Taking Margaret Thatcher's ignominious demise as his starting point, Snowdon asks just what went wrong for the party in the early 1990s and beyond. He chronicles the stumbles of successive leaders Hague, Duncan Smith and Howard as the party lurches dangerously towards oblivion. At the same time, he skilfully weaves into his narrative the early history of the party's `modernisers' who would later find their champion in David Cameron.

From 2005 onwards, Cameron takes centre stage in Snowdon's compelling account, which draws on astonishingly good access to the party's high command. Level headed and balanced, Snowdon presents Cameron's triumphs and disasters with the critical eye of a historian but the dramatic sense of a novelist. The end result is a deeply insightful text, which will leave even the casual reader with a clear sense of where Cameron has come from, his at times uneasy relationship with his Party and what all this might mean for a future Conservative government.

All in all, this book is essential reading for anyone looking for the inside scoop on Britain and British politics today (watch out for Michael Howard's appearance in his dressing gown!). Snowdon has served up a subtle but deliciously decadent political dish. This is something to linger over, savour and enjoy.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The updated edition of Peter Snowdon's history of the Conservative Party in opposition, quickly revised last year to include the final stage in their recovery, has four white men on its cover striding towards the reader - Cameron, Osborne, Hague and Clegg. It tells you immediately the sort of book that this is, tightly focused in on politics as seen from and carried out in Westminster.

This is an account of senior political figures and their political, policy and media manoeuvrings. The public feature very rarely (unlike in Deborah Mattinson's memoirs from the Labour side), except in aggregate in voting figures or polling results and even then only occasionally. Despite the majority of voters in the election which put David Cameron into first place in May 2010 being female, women only rarely feature save in the form of Mrs Thatcher or changing party candidate selection rules.

If you take as given that very narrow focus, the book is extremely well executed with a clear narrative style packed full of detailed interview accounts from the main participants. Generally both sides of the argument are put when it comes to assessing personalities, with David Davis and Chris Grayling being the only two senior Conservatives whose reputations come out worse at the end of the book than at the start.

Overall the book's message is that the Conservative modernisers got it right, and where they didn't it was for not pushing on effectively enough with modernisation. That is not a message someone such as ConservativeHome's Tim Mongtomerie would agree with, the absence of a serious consideration of the different strategies available to the party is a shame.

Missing too is any real sense of quite who David Cameron is, deep down.
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