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Roy Jenkins [Hardcover]

John Campbell
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 30.00
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Book Description

27 Mar 2014

Roy Jenkins was probably the best Prime Minister Britain never had. But though he never reached 10 Downing Street, he left a more enduring mark on British society than most of those who did. His career spans the full half-century from Attlee to Tony Blair during which he helped transform almost every area of national life and politics.

First, as a radical Home Secretary in the 1960s he drove through the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the legalisation of abortion, abolished theatre censorship and introduced the first legislation to outlaw discrimination on grounds of both race and gender. Attacked by conservatives as the godfather of the permissive society, he was a pioneering champion of gay rights, racial equality and feminism. He also reformed the police and criminal trials and introduced the independent police complaints commission.

Second, he was an early and consistent advocate of European unity who played a decisive role in achieving British membership first of the Common Market and then of the European Union. From 1977 to 1980 he served as the first (and so far only) British president of the European Commission. Public opinion today is swinging against Europe; but for the past forty years participation in Europe was seen by all parties as an unquestioned benefit, and no-one had more influence than Jenkins in that historic redirection of British policy.

Third, in 1981, when both the Conservative and Labour parties had moved sharply to the right and left respectively he founded the centrist Social Democratic Party (SDP) which failed in its immediate ambition of breaking the mould of British politics - largely because the Falklands war transformed Mrs Thatcher's popularity - but merged with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats and paved the way for Tony Blair's creation of New Labour.

On top of all this, Jenkins was a compulsive writer whose twenty-three books included best-selling biographies of Asquith, Gladstone and Churchill. As Chancellor of Oxford University he was the embodiment of the liberal establishment with a genius for friendship who knew and cultivated everyone who mattered in the overlapping worlds of politics, literature, diplomacy and academia; he also had many close women friends and enjoyed an unconventional private life. His biography is the story of an exceptionally well-filled and well-rounded life.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (27 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224087509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224087506
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Captivating... I read every single one of the 749 pages of this long book with relish and fascination. It is a splendid tribute to one of the greatest British politicians and writers (not necessarily in that order) of the last century." (Peter Oborne Daily Telegraph)

"'Campbell is simply a master of the art... This book is effortlessly superior." (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times)

"Marvellous... The highest praise I can give to John Campbell's biography is that Roy Jenkins would have been proud to have been its author." (Alan Johnson Guardian)

"A magnificent biography... By any reckoning this was a remarkable life, to which Campbell has done full justice." (Chris Mullins Observer)

"Magnificent. As plump and benign as its subject." (A N Wilson Evening Standard)

Book Description

The authorised biography of the best Prime Minister Britain never had

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what if? 11 May 2014
Format:Hardcover
A very good, excellently written book. The chapters on his youth and in the war at Bletchley were interesting. After that I thought the book really took off from about 1963 onwards, how Jenkins positioned himself vis a vis Wilson and how he rose from Aviation Minister in 1964 to probably the best Home Secretary and Chancellor of the 20th century for those of liberal persuasion. From then on the story of how he (or Labour) lost the way in the 1970s, the rise and fall of the SDP and the Blair relationship are gripping reading for voyeurs of politics. For me Campbell comprehensively debunks the myth that Jenkins was lazy. A bit like Healey he prioritised life differently, couldn't be bothered to put the time in in the Commons tea room, did not do red boxes till midnight and gave himself the space to talk,listen and think. Bravo. But there was a price to pay.

Campbell also does Jenkins's other lives well, especially the author role. His books on Asquith, Gladstone and Churchill are really classics of their kind and are given due attention. I was hoping for a list of words used by Jenkins not in the averagely well educated vocabulary but that never came.

I didn't really have a different view of Jenkins as a result of reading the book but what it did well was to identify some crucial moments in British politics when life might have gone differently and in several of which Jenkins was involved.How he would have hated the politics of the last decade.Look at the expression on Vince Cable's face and imagine the distaste of Jenkins for the way the system has gone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More important than most PMs. 22 April 2014
By Dalgety
Format:Hardcover
John Campbell is fast becoming the most prolific and the best political biographer of British politics.Along wih Charles Moore on Thatcher this will be one of the great political biographies.Campells style is extremely readable -indeed it is hard to put the book down at some points.Campbell covers not just Jenkins political but comprehensively chronicles his complicated private life and his extensive writings as an author.
By the end of the book I was not sure that I really liked Jenkins, the smooth social climber from the Welsh valleys,who by the end of his life was able to patronise the Queen(and get away with it!),however the book forces you to recognise his importance.With the exceptions of Attlee and Thatcher ,he had more influence in shaping modern Britain than any post-war PM.Through his reforms as Home Secretary in the 60s -he largely shaped the country we now live in -for good or ill!Among non-PM politicians ,only Nye Bevan(of whom Campbell also wrote a biography) can match his influence.
If you lived through this period ,or have even the slightest interest in British politics-buy this book!-not to be missed!You will see that however pompous and self-regarding he was Jenkins towers above the current pygmies of British politics Cameron, Clegg and Milliband.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roy Jenkins, a Labour hero. 30 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed it immensely. I was born in Newport, South Wales. I saw parallels between his life and mine, though his achievements are unmatched. What a pity he didn't stay with the Labour Party! From our current perspective it is so clear his contributions that brought better lives for all were far in excess of Benn's or Foot's.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An affectionate portrait... 11 Jun 2014
By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Roy Jenkins was one of the most influential British Labour politicians of the second half of the twentieth century. The son of a miner, he was however far from working-class. His father had risen to become a successful Member of Parliament and made sure his son was given an advantageous education culminating in an Oxford degree. His socialism therefore was always of an intellectual kind rather than being rooted in the unions as his father's had been. And like many socialists, especially of that era, he gradually moved from the left towards the centre. A prominent Cabinet minister in the '60s and '70s, Jenkins held at different times two of the great offices of state, as Home Secretary and Chancellor, and was accounted to be successful in both positions. In the first role he is credited with pushing through the socially liberal legislation that some later claimed led to the 'permissive society', while as Chancellor he was seen as having transformed the balance of trade and fiscal position of the UK, which were still suffering from the aftermath of WW2. Consistently pro-Europe, he was one of the strongest proponents for Britain's entry to the Common Market.

Had the tensions between left and right within the Labour Party not become so toxic during the 1970s, there is very little doubt that Jenkins would have become party leader and quite probably Prime Minister. Instead, he decided to leave parliament to take up the post of President of the European Commission. But on his return, when the Labour Party was showing every sign of lurching even further to the Left, Jenkins ended up leading the breakaway group that was briefly known as the Social Democratic Party, before merging with the Liberal Party to become the Lib-Dems we all know and love today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A patrician's progress 8 Aug 2014
Format:Hardcover
Enjoyable read. Difficult not to have a sneaking liking for Jenkins through it all despite the endless grandiosity. Could have done with less extracts from the private letters in the early part of the story and the slightly gushing tones in which Jennifer Jenkins is mentioned, formidable and tolerant lady that she undoubtedly is. Campbell declares a conflict of interest early on regarding admiration for his subject and never quite manages to detach himself from this position, with Jenkins invariably judged to have been correct or 'prescient' in all the policy positions he advocated.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Good book very readable. Have read the autobiography so got the objective situation from this book.
Published 15 minutes ago by Patrick Anim-Addo
5.0 out of 5 stars addition to our knowledge of Jenkins
First class read with a lot of new information especially the early period.
The any
Anylasis is even handed and it flows from the page.
Published 10 hours ago by Paul
4.0 out of 5 stars The Origins Of Repressive Tolerance
At the 1945 Labour Party Conference Denis Healey said, "The upper classes in every country are selfish, depraved, dissolute and decadent". Read more
Published 3 days ago by Neutral
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the few politicians one can admire
For anyone interested in the workings of government, the inside maneuvering for position inside parties, the dishonesty of political activities this is a first class read. Read more
Published 11 days ago by AG Kay
5.0 out of 5 stars A book Woy would have been proud of
I bought this book purely on the strength of John Campbell's previous two volume work on the late Margaret Thatcher and was not disappointed. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Jo Lincoln
5.0 out of 5 stars A MAN WHO ENJOYED LIFE TO THE FULL & DID SOME GOOD TOO
A really well-written and fascinating journey through British politics in the second half of the 20th century. The case for Jenkins' importance is well-made. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Richard Koch (real name)
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for political geeks.
What a thorough telling of a complex man. I remember the confusing days of the SDP and it's effect on my political friends.
Published 2 months ago by JFBitmead
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic example of the biographer's art
John Campbell is a good biographer of figures like John Major and Mrs Thatcher. Politically he is closer to Jenkins than either of them, but this is an asset - he remains objective... Read more
Published 2 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars A grand picture of a great man.
Whilst reading this book, I understand why Roy Jenkins was deemed to be too good to be a .P.M. If the next few were anything to judge him by. Read more
Published 2 months ago by geoffry gray
3.0 out of 5 stars My impressions of Roy Jenkins book
Book too much like a textbook I studied History in uni in the fifties.Interesting in parts .Obviously an influential figure and he had a lot to do with social and legal... Read more
Published 3 months ago by derek gwynne jones
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A well-rounded book 0 9 May 2014
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