Guilty Men tells the story of Conservative P arty politics in Britain from 1992 to 1997. Hywel Williams p resents a damning picture of a petulant Prime Minister and a n arrogant political party. '
In brutally assessing the history of a government which ended in electoral disaster, Hywel Williams looks in thrilling detail at the events of the time. His own position as advisor to John Redwood gave him an interesting perspective, in that he did not have strong attachments to the Conservative Party, but saw much of the workings of the Major government from the inside. The author's objectivity is very rare, especially when found in a book so clearly aimed at criticism. Williams shows the flaws of leadership and policy without restricting himself to one perspective on them, and so the conclusion is all the more damning precisely because it is not based simply on right- or left-wing views. The eloquence of the author comes through in philosophical and at times extremely witty observations. His description of the mid-nineties Michael Portillo as "GCSE Enoch Powell" is priceless.
Working for John Redwood from 1993 to 1997, Williams was present during his time as Wales Secretary as well as both his leadership campaigns. The personal insights into his interesting and enigmatic master are numerous, and this work is probably the nearest we can come to a biography of Redwood until the man himself writes his memoirs. The Redwood influence is clear on Williams at times, most noticeably in his verdict on the economics of the Exchange Rate Mechanism which is identical to that detailed by Redwood in his work "Our Currency, Our Country".
The accounts of the leadership elections in particular are excellent and extremely revealing of the nature of the Conservative Party and British politics. For an academic criticism of the Major years, this is unparalleled.
The book's problems are few but noticeable. Northern Ireland and its problems are almost unmentioned, and the Labour Party's unique Blairite threat underexamined, but both are detailed exhaustively elsewhere for those determined for an absolutely complete political picture of these years.
Overall, Guilty Men is successful in its aims. The reader can be in little doubt by the end why the Major government collapsed, and of how strong the case is that it deserved to. Excellent writing packed with detail and truthful thinking combined with this very interesting period in recent political history make the book essential for any who wish to understand events of recent years better.
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