Powell Jonathan, The New Machiavelli: How to wield power in the modern world (London, The Bodley Head, 2010)
This is an interesting book, built around Machiavelli; although in the early part Machiavelli seems to get in the way of the story about the Blair days in power. Indeed, it sounds more like the butler's view of what goes on inside No 10 than a text book on `how to wield power'. The picture however, is entertaining, the garden girls, `switch', the comings and goings of ministers and foreign dignitaries.
The flashes of insight also are fascinating, such as the importance of Blair's Chicago speech of 1999, the role of the PM in the European parliament or the need for Europe to be dealt with by a minister in the cabinet office rather than the FCO and the excellent and illuminating assessment on how to be a bridge between the US and Europe.
The curious use of `we' however, puzzled this reader at first. `We won' might be assumed to refer to Labour, but then `we appointed' or we moved out of Downing St makes it clear that it is a royal we of (the unelected) Powell and the PM.
Some of the best chapters however, are the appraisal of `inquiries', or the muddle over Europe, although one misses a candid analysis of the dominating oppressive presence of the Blair wars. Perhaps the subtext should be `how I hate Gordon Brown' as the latter seems to stray onto most pages in a threatening way.
At the end of the book, one is left with a sense of hiatus - the remarkable (unique?)ten year partnership of PM & chancellor and the reasons behind Blair's loyalty to Brown, are never really addressed.
Also was Brown's repeated complaint of Blair's moral corruption reflected by the latter's apparent deception over WMD in the Iraq war and his explanation of going into Hellman province not to fight but to assist development? Again perhaps sometime, despite `not doing God' , might we look forward to an examination of why Blair, the devout attender at mass, despite Christ's anti-war teaching was the most militaristic of all our post-1914 PMs.