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Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor [Unabridged] [Paperback]

Jack Straw
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 May 2013

As a small boy in Epping Forest, Jack Straw could never have imagined that one day he would become Britain's Lord Chancellor. As one of five children of divorced parents, he was bright enough to get a scholarship to a direct-grant school, but spent his holidays as a plumbers' mate for his uncles to bring in some much-needed extra income. Yet he spent 13 years and 11 days in government, including long and influential spells as Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary. This is the story of how he got there. His memoirs offer a unique insight into the complex, sometimes self-serving but always fascinating world of British politics and reveals the toll that high office takes, but , more importantly, the enormous satisfaction and extraordinary privilege of serving both your constituents and your country.

Straw’s has been a very public life, but he reveals the private face, too and offers readers a vivid and authoritative insight into the Blair/Brown era and, indeed, the last forty years of British politics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Unabridged edition (23 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447222768
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447222767
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 141,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This book succeeds on three levels. First as the memoir of a man who rose from modest origins to occupy three of the highest offices in the land. Second as an inside account of the rise and fall of new Labour and, finally, as a masterclass in the art of government by one of its foremost practitioners. It is lucid, engaging, humorous, occasionally self-deprecating and generally frank." --Chris Mullin, Times

"One of the least self-pitying memoirs I have read: a blessed relief ... this well-told, humane and entertaining tale of high office shows that Labour has been jolly lucky to have Rubber Jack around for so long" -- Anne McElvoy, Sunday Times

"Unexpectedly interesting ... His put-downs are few and far between, but all the more devastating for being so measured and euphemistic." --4 **** Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

"There is none of the puffed-up grandness that many politicians acquire. On the contrary, Straw seems to remain decent, his mistakes freely admitted and his feet firmly rooted on the ground" --Douglas Carswell, Sunday Express

"These memoirs are better written than most. There is ample gossip and genuinely funny stories ... As well as waspish observations about personalities Charles Clarke is "a quixotic contrarian" there are revealing anecdotes."
--Peter Wilby, Guardian

"A fascinating insight into life at the heart of New Labour ... crafted with literary elegance erudite, forensic and fascinating ... This book will stand the test of time. Straw's account of Labour's journeys in and out of power over nearly five decades is a must for serious students of governments and politics" --Peter Hain, Observer

"This book is no dull ministerial CV. One of Straw's virtues as a politician was that he was one of the few interviewees who would, at 8.10am on the Today programme, answer the questions and engage in the argument. No surprise, then, that he is a good writer, with a nice line in understated wit ... I had no idea that Straw's early life was so difficult, and he tells the story well ... You might think, after all the memoirs of the New Labour years, that it would be hard to add much that is new. Yet each different voice adds a different perspective, and this is one of the best and most distinctive." --John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday

"After a few years in government, Tony Blair used to joke that every successive week was his worst ever. Jack Straw's recent memoir Last Man Standing is a reminder that, in an age of ceaseless scrutiny, a government can easily appear beset by troubles...But one of the themes that emerges from Mr Straw's memoirs is that political crises end up at the centre of government even if they do not originate there..." --Times

"'Last Man Standing' is one of the better memoirs by a leading light of the New Labour years. Straw's prose is like the man himself: cautious, measured, dependable."
--Private Eye --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Jack Straw was born in Buckhurst Hill in 1946. Brought up in Loughton, he studied law at Leeds University and practised criminal law before becoming an MP in 1971. He served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons during Tony Blair's premiership and Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor under Gordon Brown. Married with two children, he lives in London and his Blackburn constituency.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping 12 Oct 2012
By E. Goz
I have read some biographies before but I am not a big biography geek. Nevertheless, I decided to give this one a try and I have to say overall I truly enjoyed it. It's a big book and I was worried at first it would take me a long time to finish, but once I got to the chapters on Jack Straw's ministerial adventures, I was captivated and without realising it, I was reading page after page. The first four chapters start with the author's childhood and the years he spent in NUS, ILEA and working as a researcher. They describe how he slowly started getting involved in politics from an early age and how his family drama and his troubles at school formed some of the opinions that shaped the rest of his life. These first chapters give a more human portrayal of his persona; as the reader, you no longer just view him as a minister in the cabinet who made important decisions, but also as an individual with an interesting story, a man who had a strange relationship with his father, ran away from school various times and went through the terrible experience of losing a baby. All these anecdotes eventually lead to the time when Jack became an MP and from that point onwards, his image reverts back to the what most of us will be familiar with.

His time as the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary is also fascinating. As the story progresses, at times describing the passage of a bill and at other times indulging in some Labour party intrigue, I experienced mixed feelings, both of interest and frustration as I was getting drawn into the complexity and gravity of the events unfolding around him.

The story is set not so long ago and the events should still be fresh in people's minds, allowing them to rethink back to when they actually occurred.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review by a fellow 'Old-Brentwood' 10 Dec 2012
I have followed Jack Straw's career more closely than others because we attended the same school. I remember feeling strangely proud when he was appointed Foreign Secretary and later Justice Secretary. This stemmed from the realisation that we had sat on the same pews during school chapel, eaten lunch at the same tables, and since he had gone on to a life in politics, so too, perhaps, could I.

It is difficult to dislike Jack Straw. `I love politics, Parliament, my Blackburn constituency,' is Straw's first sentence in Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor. He has always been a reassuring figure, if perhaps a little dull. It is this intrinsic likeability that helps explain why he has been a political survivor.

Straw says the first rule of politics is to survive. He remained in top Cabinet posts throughout Labour's 13 years in government, including spells as Home then Foreign Secretary, Commons Leader and finally Lord Chancellor. He earned the nickname Rubber Jack, the Politician who remained intact whatever was thrown at him.

The big philosophical ideas of politics are not Straw's primary concern. He prefers to follow a crowd with his head down. Ahead of the 1959 election, aged 13, he wrote `to each of the main parties to ask for details of what they were intending to do.' Though his love of politics is clear, what drives him is less apparent.

For example, Straw has always been a Eurosceptic. In 1975, he helped organise the `No' campaign in the referendum on the Common Market. But when he was Foreign Secretary, Straw not only opposed a referendum, he advocated a European Constitution and described the EU as a `noble institution'. Straw was simply putting survival before belief.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable: a mirror of our time 31 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A confession: Jack Straw and I were at Leeds University at the same time and his influence on my early life was as a result quite considerable. I feared an exposé on student politics, but discovered a well argued and convincing version of what it must have been like to go well beyond student politics and enter the real world of local and national government. Truly a survivor, Jack Straw grew in stature and sat at the pinnacle of government while never forgetting his constituency (Blackburn) and all the people who gave his life both in and out of parliament such meaning. Well balanced, objective and above all readable. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unmissable read 29 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Despite being a life-long liberal democrat, Jack Straw is one of the few politicians that I trust. I therefore bought this book with high expectations and was not disappointed. What I did not expect was the degree of openness and welcome lack of the party line. Throughout it gave a balanced view giving credit to members of other parties where he felt it was due, including Margaret Thatcher. For anyone interested in what really happenned at the centre of politics over the last few decades it is an unmissable read. Mistakes are admitted and not glossed over - so unusual for a politician. As one disgusted by the 2nd Iraq war, his incisive defence of the original decision and demonisation of the failure of a few Americans to prepare for the aftermath and stopping everyone else, gave me much pause for thought. The detailed history of how he worked with people of all races and backgrounds does him great credit. I am not used to a political autobiography being a page turner but this is.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent
Published 1 month ago by Ian Leslie
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant honest insight
If there is ever a directors cut - that is a longer version- of this book I will be buying it. Fascinating insight into the new Labour experiment and Straw's role within the same. Read more
Published 2 months ago by H. Bell
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insight from 'The Last Man Standing'
Interesting insight from 'The Last Man Standing'. Why do I have to write more words, just means I'll stop doing reviews.
Published 5 months ago by Ms A J West
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring!!!
I don't know what I expected from this book, but I think perhaps more of his personal life than the political documentary it tuned out to be. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Paula Hirst
5.0 out of 5 stars Straw
I am a collector (and hopefully one day) reader of political biography's and have quite a collection. Should be a good read.
Published 6 months ago by Mr. E. Goody
5.0 out of 5 stars As expected.
Just as expected - I knew what I was buying. Delivered promptly. Not sure what else to regarding the purchase of a book - there shouldn't be any surprises!
Published 7 months ago by kyg54
1.0 out of 5 stars This is a classic, apparently
I was interested to see this book in the Classics section of Waterstones, placed next to Kidnapped by RL Stevenson. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mr Roger C Patrick
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the rest.
Jack Straw was an important part in the New Labour movement and often stood between Brown and Blair. Useful in learning more about New Labour and their time in government.
Published 9 months ago by mfsx7mh3
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite knocked over!
Frank, well written and lacking pomp. An interesting insight about the descent from power in political life. More Kindle than hardback value.
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars A moderate man who did well with little going for him
An interesting book showing that modest ability can achieve a successful career by doing little to offend anyome. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Gerry Summers
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