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The New Few: Or a Very British Oligarchy [Hardcover]

Ferdinand Mount
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
Price: 13.89 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

26 April 2012
This was supposed to be the era when democracy came into its own, but instead power and wealth in Britain have slowly been consolidated the hands of a small elite, while the rest of the country struggles financially and switches off politically. We are now ruled by a gang of fat-cats with fingers in every pie who squabble for power among themselves while growing richer. Bored with watching corrupt politicians jockeying for power, ordinary Britons are feeling disconnected from politics and increasingly cynical about the back-scratching relationship between politicians and big business. The New Few shows us what has led to this point, and asks the critical questions: why has Britain become a more unequal society over the past thirty years? Why have the banks been bailed out with taxpayers' money, while bankers are still receiving huge bonuses? Why have those responsible not been held accountable for the financial crash? Why has power in Britain become so concentrated in the hands of corrupt politicians who have been exposed cheating their constituents in the expenses scandal? Despite this bleak diagnosis, there are solutions to the rise of the new ruling class in the modern West. The New Few sets out some of the ways in which we can restore our democracy, bringing back real accountability to British business and fairness to our society.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Edition 1st Printing edition (26 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847378005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847378002
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 205,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

This is a timely book…Wise and entertaining - Guardian

Ferdinand Mount gives a lucid account of political decay...This book should be compulsory reading for the cabinet - Spectator

[A] penetrating study of modern oligarchy - Independent on Sunday

The level of reward to top people exposed by the crunch is one of the most unexpected features of modern times. What is even more astonishing is that is persists in the face of disaster. As this excellent book hits the streets, a serious shareholder revolt looms at Barclays - Daily Telegraph

Beautifully written and infused with a slow-burning anger…Much to agree with, yet more to admire - New Statesman

Polemicists come and go, but Mount is one we should heed. A distinguished literary critic and novelist, he was also a perceptive political commentator for many years... Now he takes a double-barrelled aim at what he calls the corrosion of capitalism and the erosion of democracy... Overall, the message of this heart felt cri de coeur is that equality is back on the agenda - Mail on Sunday

This thoughtful book elegantly underlines, any system in which the wealthy are rewarded for failure is not a competition. And when the rest of us are left to pick up the bill, it's certainly not free - Observer

A rage against inequality. Ferdinand Mount has written a gripping polemic that skewers everyone from greedy boses to arrogant bankers, and offer lessons to readers of every political stripe... Exhilarating... Mount delineates the reasons for public disillusion brilliantly, and points his accusing finger in the right directions - The Times

Why is the gap between the rich and poor growing? Why are the political parties hollowed-out shells? Ferdinand Mount identifies a British oligarchy on that needs to be dismantled now - Guardian

Mount's book is a brilliant attempt to import rigour and coherence; indeed, the case is better made than anyone in the administration... It demands respect and has to be read - Independent

An exhilarating polemicist, never a whinger, he laces radical prescription with arresting phrases. And, though he deplores the rampant rise in inequality, he hasn't entirely lost hope that the coalition government might reverse it - Intelligent Life

Mount is true democratic radical. His book is original and on occasion brilliant... David Cameron could do worse than read his relative's report on the start of the nation. If he acted on a few of its suggestions, he might yet save his premiership from mediocrity - Literary Review

There is not a whiff of rhetoric or sloganeering in his elegant treatise about contemporary Britain - Sunday Telegraph

An elegant attack on inequality in society and how power and wealth are being concentrated in fewer hands --Sunday Times Culture

There is not a whiff of rhetoric or sloganeering in his elegant treatise about contemporary Britain... It is an important and timely study, bracingly free of cant...Mount s plea for Britain in which everyone can feel a part not a them and us society riddled with inequality and resentment has the ring of quiet, indisputable truth --Sunday Telegraph

An elegant attack on inequality in society and how power and wealth are being concentrated in fewer hands. --Sunday Times Culture

It might be a mark of our times that the ideas contained in this cogent and gracefully written book can be seen as radical. Without Thatcher, would there be a New Few ? Probably- global capitalism s trends are hard to escape. But they might have been a smaller and less odious phenomenon, and have therefore given the author less to be angry about --Ian Jack, Guardian

An elegant attack on inequality in society and how power and wealth are being concentrated in fewer hands. --Sunday Times Culture

About the Author

Ferdinand Mount was born in 1939. For many years he was a columnist at the Spectator and then the Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times. In between, he was head of the Downing Street Policy Unit and then editor of the Times Literary Supplement. He is now a prize-winning novelist and author of, most recently, the bestselling memoir Cold Cream. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent: insightful, eloquent --- and angry 5 May 2012
Format:Hardcover
Those familiar with Ferdinand Mount's more literary works will know already that he writes beautiful, clear English. Those familiar with his 'social' works and his autobiography will be aware of his insight and perception. Those familiar with the history of his career -- columnist for the Daily Telegraph, The Spectator and Standpoint and chief of Mrs Thatcher's Downing Street policy Unit -- may be surprised at the anger that boils off the pages of this book.

Mount is no friend of the chancers and spivs who populate the boardrooms of some of the larger UK companies. He writes prose about Fred Goodwin and his behaviour that would strip rust off old iron and has little more time for any of his colleagues in folly in other boardrooms. He is excoriatingly critical of facile, toadying politicians who lie and wriggle while steadily eroding public trust, and the slick chancers who surround them.

Taken together with Dial M For Murdoch this is an excellent summary of what has gone wrong with the value structure of society over the last thirty years. Mount and Watson/Hickman come from very different backgrounds but on the basis of their arguments share similar sets of core values. We should listen and heed what they have tried to show us.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
By Brian R. Martin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An oligarchy historically is a society where political and economic life is dominated by a small number of very rich individuals, the oligarchs. The thesis put forward by Ferdinand Mount in this book is that Britain is an oligarchy, which has arisen because politicians and others have successfully put across the view that only by concentrating power can the nation/company/organization achieve its goals. Inherent laziness of the bulk of the population has resulted in failure to challenge this unproven assumption. There are many consequences: politicians have come to believe they always know what is best, despite evidence of their many catastrophic failures; the powers of local councils have been drastically reduced, because 90% of their funds now come from central government; senior people in the financial sector have been allowed to set up structures that pay themselves vast salaries, often independent of the performance of the company they manage. Above all, the influence of Parliament has been drastically reduced, and even Cabinet under Tony Blair ceased to be a serious policy-making body. This in particular has contributed hugely to the disillusionment with the political process of the bulk of the population, resulting in dismally low turnouts at elections. All these aspects, and many others, of the British oligarchy are discussed in detail by Mount in a beautiful crystal-clear style that is devastating in its exposure of the failures, both ethical and practical, of so many powerful people.

Many books on modern social problems make a good analysis of the problems, but fizzle out with a few unrealistic suggestions for a solution. This is not a criticism that can be leveled against Mount.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fair diagnosis, poor prognosis 22 May 2012
By JPMT
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book deserves credit for being (I think) the first to diagnose the British decline from representative democracy to oligarchy. It's a civilized book written by an experienced, knowledgeable, and moderate man, who carefully documents his facts, compares the situation with other nations, and offers sharp personal insights.

But ultimately I found its proposed treatment of the disease to be lacking in balance and highly implausible.

The book spends a lot of space on the iniquities of greedy bankers, and how these might be moderated. This is a worthy topic, but the solutions proposed can be easily avoided. And, ultimately, so what? Greedy companies go bust. They only become a danger when governments support them, for example by bailing them out, or granting them monopolies. But that's a problem of government, not of the greedy managers who will be always with us.

So it's much more important to understand why the once universally-respected British system of government has fallen so low and why the nation is now rated as being mildly corrupt. In particular, how it has morphed from a democracy into a classic oligarchy, in which all 'respectable' political parties have the same policies on essential issues, the media supports them by de-legitimizing upstart parties, and where this consensus contradicts the majority views of the citizens - on the EU, immigration, crime and punishment, welfare, and the economy.

The author argues that the ConLib Coalition is restoring democracy, but it is not, since its actions (as opposed to words) in all of the disputed areas continue those of is predecessors.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars IMPORTANT BUT SHALLOW 12 May 2012
By Diacha
Format:Hardcover
Ferdinand Mount's "The New Few" is destined to be an important book, contributing to the national debate despite its superficial analyses and anemic prescriptions.

"Few" is an important book because its headline topics of income inequality and the alienation of the masses have visceral appeal in today's disgruntled society and because its author is not a bleeding heart liberal but a well credentialed Tory whose book will receive prominent reviews in the national press. Mount's fluent and confident prose doesn't hurt either.

In terms of diagnosis, Mount's almost impassioned analysis is thin soup compared to the FT `s Washington correspondent, Ed Luce's, recent "Time to Start Thinking" which addresses more of the same issues in US society and is all the more alarming for its comprehensiveness.

Mount's book provides food for thought and almost a call to action but its diagnosis focuses on two only loosely (one might say, sloppily) related themes: growing income inequality in Britain and the relentless centralization of power and disengagement of constituents in our political society.Mount mentions global competition but fails to reflect on its consequences for the prosperity of skilled blue collar and many white collar workers. He spends little time examining other root causes such as how decades of misguided social, educational and industrial policy have hollowed out society and left the country almost devoid of both skills and values.

Given the incompleteness of "The New Few's" diagnosis, it is not surprising that its prescriptions for a cure are unconvincing. Shareholder restraint on compensation (Mount cites JP Morgan -the man not the bank's - rule of thumb that a CEO should earn no more than 20 times the average worker.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written
Basically a well written book advancing an interesting thesis which seems to be true, but could do with more on why politicians are so out of touch and what needs to happen to... Read more
Published 5 months ago by P. J. Taylor
3.0 out of 5 stars Good at complaining, less so at suggesting remedies
A fine series of complaints, but when it comes to analysis there's not much there. If you give government to powerful political parties, if you give money-creation to the Bank of... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ivo Mosley
5.0 out of 5 stars An elegant overview
This book gives one an understanding of how a few wealthy people are controlling all the levers of power in the United Kingdom. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Hobbesian
4.0 out of 5 stars A considered opinion of the new elite
Mount has written a considered account of the rise of the British oligarchy. He looks at the way that the power and money has become concentrated in the hands of a few business... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Half Man, Half Book
3.0 out of 5 stars 279 pages of Sunday journalism
This book is very well written and starts promisingly, but degenerates into a personal ramble in contemporary politics. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Stephen
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive analysis
The best minds are the least uncluttered and therefore the most clear-headed. Add to this a facility for unadorned and elegant English and you have, in this case, a book that tells... Read more
Published 11 months ago by C. M. Knowles
1.0 out of 5 stars Thatcherite still can't see his failings
Starts off with an objective analysis of the problems and greed in the boardroom and the failure of demorcracy in politics, however, he soon shows that he is a one eyed Tory with... Read more
Published 11 months ago by treker
5.0 out of 5 stars Everbody should read it
If you have any interest in what has gone wrong in Britain and what is still going wrong then this is the author for you. It has opened my eyes.
Published 11 months ago by billy megger
3.0 out of 5 stars Off it's time
Dated now but certainly interesting to mark our current position against the roadmap presented and its optimistic tone. Good read but not worth buying this edition.
Published 12 months ago by JC
2.0 out of 5 stars Ferdinand Mount, the amnesiac ally of oligarchy
It has clearly not escaped Ferdinand Mount's attention that the Thatcherite project which he helped launch - a project involving deregulation, privatisation, attacks on trade union... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Rainborough
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