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Gordon Brown [Paperback]

Tom Bower
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Mar 2005

The gripping inside story of the complex and ambitious Chancellor of the Exchequer’s time in power.

Gordon Brown’s arrival at the Treasury in May 1997 was greeted with great excitement – not to mention anticipation. Officials of every rank looked on expectantly to see what miracles the chancellor would work. And so, as Master of the New Era, Brown created relationships across every Whitehall department and extended his influence to every aspect of government. He brought into effect the most important budgetary changes of the past decade: the commitment to Private Finance Initiative, which would alter infrastructure from the London Underground to the NHS and state schools; the management of the Inland Revenue; the increase in taxes; and the demise of Britain’s pension funds.

In this gripping and fully updated biography, reissued to coincide with Brown’s assumption of Tony Blair’s mantle, bestselling author Tom Bower documents the rise to power of a driven and complex politician, and exposes how the ambitions of the Labour Party’s leader-in-waiting will affect the country for decades to come.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New edition edition (7 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007741278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007175413
  • ASIN: 0007175418
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 670,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Bower has a distinguished reputation as an investigative historian, broadcaster and journalist and is the author of several ground-breaking books about tycoons. His most recent works are 'Branson' and 'Gordon Brown: Prime Minister'. His books about the Nazis include 'Blood Money' and the definitive biography of Klaus Barbie. Among his other much-debated biographies are those of Mohammed Fayed, Richard Branson and Robert Maxwell.

Product Description


‘As a psychological profile, an exploration of personal ambition and a study of political obsession driven by religious angst, this biography is gripping.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Intensively researched but coolly critical…this remains the most thorough biography we have.’ Independent

‘What makes this worth reading is Bower’s damning indictment of Brown's main boast: his supposedly sure stewardship of the economy.’ The Times

‘A powerful book which poses serious questions.’ James Naughtie

‘Compulsively readable…essential reading.’ Norman Lamont

About the Author

Tom Bower has a distinguished reputation as an investigative historian, broadcaster and journalist and is the author of several ground-breaking books about tycoons. His most recent works are ‘Conrad and Lady Black’, ‘The Squeeze’ and his biographies of Simon Cowell and Bernie Ecclestone. Among his other much-debated biographies are those of Mohammed Fayed, Richard Branson and Robert Maxwell.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very readable, but unfulfilling 2 Nov 2004
Buy this book if, like me, you are interested in the career of this deep, intriguing man, especially his recent career. I have never been one to particularly enjoy reading in depth analyses of a subject's upbringing and childhood and wasn't disappointed that Bower has this done and dusted in the first chapter. If this is your bag then I would recommend The Rivals by James Naughtie.
I enjoyed the book but found Bower's style somewhat unsatisfying. I found this also with Broken Dreams but put that down his not being a his audience with lots of supporting information but so bluntly and to such excess that I can't help (in both their cases) questioning the accuracy of what is presented. In this case the case put forward is damning, in fact it's too damning and one sided. With the personality flaws and career failures listed by Bower I wonder how Brown ever became the second most powerful man in the country (and in some cases the most powerful). I also found his conclusion unsatisfactory. Almost an afterthought with no arguments given in the preceding chapters to really support his assertion about Brown and the leadership.
In short, a good read but left me feeling unsatisfied. Probably worth waiting for the paperback.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brown - flawed and fortunate 18 April 2005
By A Customer
This was not a well-crafted book in terms of the writing style. It also seems irritatingly repetitive at regular intervals. On the other hand it paints a compelling portrait of a driven but flawed man. Disturbingly, it illustrates his persistent refusal to listen to unwelcome opinions, his obsessiveness with targets as a management tool, and his unwillingness and inability to carry colleagues with him rather than dictating to them.
The book does a good job of showing how fortunate Brown has been in being able to present himself as prudent whilst, at the same time, following an increasingly reckless approach to the public finances against a backdrop of falling underlying revenues - a contrast beautifully finessed by his management of the press in an environment made favourable by the Iraqi "misfortunes" of Blair and others.
Puzzlingly, the book fails to comment much on why it is that Brown has no apparent interest in other Cabinet roles - though his ability to control from the Treasury via budgets may be a factor.
Overall the picture is of a dictatorial control freak who would be a disaster as a Prime Minister. This book is a must-read for those contemplating the forthcoming election, as Brown appears sure that Blair will resign in late 2006 and leave him to take over.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just a hatchet job! 19 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tom Bower's book makes scary reading.

The scale of the personal ambition and the single-minded process of trying to attain it paints a vivid picture of a deeply flawed man in a deeply flawed government.

It is clear that Gordon Brown is a conviction politician. It is unfortunate that the conviction is that he is right and that everyone else is wrong and must be punished for their impertinence if they disagree.

No-one comes out of this very well, although the civil servants are portrayed as merely being carried away by the Brown/Balls machine.

This book was published in 2004. Subsequent events demonstrate most of the points amply demonstrated by the text. Indecision, overconfidence, massive personal vanity, a willingness to make repetitive and inaccurate sound bites a substitute for truth, and a refusal to concede error have all been proved by recent events.

The writing style can be wearing but the content is both repellant and moreish.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Psychologically flawed 17 Dec 2008
I feel that the other reader reviews here are unfair. It is true that the book is somewhat repetitive, not a work of great literature and one-sided. However, for me, it helped me understand how he seems to come to the decisions he does come to in politics. The picture Bower paints is also completely consistent with the man I hear (very occasionally) being on The Today Programme. The book is more a polemic than a proper biography, but if you buy it in that light you will not be disappointed by its one-sidedness.

For me, Gordon Brown is a boy who has never come to terms with the fact that he is not the cleverest boy in the class, and cannot actually get everything he wants by throwing tantrums and bullying those around him. Many people grow up like this to a greater or lesser extent. Because they can never accept constructive criticism, or learn from their mistakes they make very bad leaders of companies and countries, even though their dominant behaviour often puts them in those very positions. Tony Blair may be laughing all the way to the bank that he has lumbered his old enemy with the fallout of ten years terrible policies, but he has done the rest of us a terrible mis-service.
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