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The Political Animal: An Anatomy [Paperback]

Jeremy Paxman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Sep 2003
Why don't we like politicians? In "The Political Animal", Jeremy Paxman takes a look at why governments and politicians so often fail to live up to expectations. It can be an unforgiving business for MPs - caricatured as either power-hungry hypocrites or hopeless idealists - years of effort can lead only to defeat, disgrace or obscurity. What sort of person likes having his or her business or family affairs all over the news, or mistakes trumpeted and triumphs belittled? What drives people to go into it - and what do they get from it all? Jeremy Paxman sets out to explore this strange world - and on the way gives us an unsparing, but essentially sympathetic portrait of modern politicians.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (4 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140288473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140288476
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 792,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Jeremy Paxman was born in Yorkshire. He grew up thinking of himself as 'English' despite being one quarter Scottish. He is a journalist, best known for his work presenting Newsnight and University Challenge. His books Friends in High Places, Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life, The English, On Royalty and The Political Animal are all published by Penguin.

Product Description


What does it take to become a truly 'political animal' - and why would anyone strive to become one, given the low opinion which we have, sooner or later, of almost all politicians? Paxman is not known for lacking cynicism concerning the ways and motives of the contemporary breed - but in this overview he presents what is billed as a 'witty, unsparing, but essentially sympathetic portrait of modern politicians and the strange world they inhabit'. The text is under wraps because of serialisation - but this promises to be a highly readable and lively take on those currently and recently purveying our brand of democracy, or the 'least bad form of government'. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jeremy Paxman is a journalist, best known for his work presenting Newsnight and University Challenge. His books include Friends In High Places and The English. He lives in Oxfordshire.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Where did they all come from, this extraordinary breed? Once upon a time, they must have been normal. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Naked ambition 28 Sep 2003
Why do we have such high expectations of politicians as a class yet such low expectations of the individuals? We enjoy the small change of political scandal – the revelations of unorthodox private lives or unsavoury business practice, while at the same time tuttutting that politicians are just as stupid, venal and corrupt as any of us. Paxman’s book makes an important contribution to a debate that’s just gaining currency – how can we re-engage people with politics when the so-called Westminster Village – parliament and the media circus that surrounds it – seems so self obsessed and distant from everyday life. His thesis is that this is essential, if civil society is to be maintained, and argues that our double standards do ourselves a disservice – politicians in the UK at least are less corrupt and sleazy than we might think, and certainly less so than in many other European democracies. But his main point is that politicians won’t exactly make this easy – for they’re a decidedly odd lot, an extension I suppose of the old adage that anyone who wants the job probably is unsuited to it by that very desire. In an episodic look at the politician’s life – the early years as a hack, candidacy, and the new MP through to the close of political life whether by election defeat, resignation or retirement – he aims to uncover just what it is that makes them tick. Paxman’s approach will be familiar to Newsnight viewers and here, he’s on home turf – feline, deceptively humorous yet with a menacing undercurrent. If you like his style you’ll find parts of The Political Animal laugh out loud funny, the odd irritating factual error notwithstanding - and not only for his Jeffrey Archer gags.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Journalism 19 Dec 2002
By A Customer
This is a rare tome - a book about politics that will entertain and instruct both political junkies and the common reader.
That means, of course, that it's not a work of academic political science. Rather it's a work of inspired journalism by a master feature-writer.
Feature writers commonly weave together three things - facts, quotes and anecdotes - and they hang them on a theme. Usually they provide plenty of facts and quotes but good anecdotes are normally in short supply (or badly written) even though they are the ingredients that build readability.
Jeremy Paxman not only provides plenty of facts and striking quotes in his analysis of British politicians and their wayward habits but also gives us a text fairly bristling with pertinent anecdotes drawn from the politics of the past century or so.
It's important to make this point because the questions he sets out to answer may seem dull to the common reader: "Where do politicians come from? Why do they do it? Why do we seem so disenchanted with them? And why does the experience of politics nearly always end in disillusion?"
With admirable impartiality and in a sparkling prose style, Paxman hangs his diverting collection of facts, quotes and anecdotes on the theme that politicians are generally untrustworthy, power-hungry, hypocritical, naive or disillusioned. Certainly almost all of them end with their ideals or illusions badly battered by the experience of an adversary system which is corrupted by competition, connivance, secrecy and rivalry. Privately few of them ever have a good word to say about a colleague or competitor.
Almost all of them end disillusioned and the most disillusioned of all are those who climb highest. If these high-flyers don't end in defeat or disgrace, they fade (thank goodness!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good fun read, but lacking insight 4 Nov 2003
By A Customer
Well written and engaging but ultimately not as insightful as you might hope. For anyone interested in politics and the political process Paxman's latest is an entertaining source of anecdotes and a useful introduction to the way democratic politics has developed in Britain. Despite this the book always feels a bit limited and falls down on two fronts. Firstly, the existence of other, better books on this subject (e.g. Gerald Kaufman's "How to be a Minister", Andrew Rawnsley's "Servants of the People"). Secondly (and possibly this is just me) the expectation that a commentator of Paxman's stature might have just a few more new ideas to throw into the melting pot. Ultimately an enjoyable read, just don't expect a great deal more.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dissection of Politics and politicians 12 Sep 2006
Two questions stand out in Jeremy Paxman's book. Why do people want to be politicians?; and why do the public mistrust politicians?

Why do people want to be politicians, there is one major reason given by the MP's themselves, to serve the public but as Paxman points out the aphrodisiac of "Power" and control is always there not very far beneath the surface.

Using examples both historic and modern he shows how Politicians climb their way up the ladder of power,only a few reaching the heights of cabinet posts. Some are shown to be very active in their constituency, others less so. Some have a history of voting with their conscience, most though have at least one eye on the main chance.

The second question is answered indirectly so many times in this book. We do not like Politicians because.

Loyalty to party is valued over personal integrity.

Party conferences are no longer anything but commercial side-shows.

The whips, especially New Labour ones, come across almost as Gauleiters, semi house-trained thugs there to oversee that no member considers voting with their conscience rather than what the Leader requires.

They blatantly lie.

The sycophantic questions at PMQ's.

They are backstabbers par-excellence, look at how Mo Mowlem was punished when party members dared to give her a standing ovation during Tony Blair's party conference speech.

They vote themselves inflation busting pay rises and protected pensions whilst dragging their feet over workers who have been sold out by their employers.

Party membership is in decline as people of all political hues despair of the self-serving chancers currently at Westminster.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Good read, very amusing and surprisingly not too cutting
Published 26 days ago by Mrs. A. Welch
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I love this and have lent it to other people to read too who also love it. Have bought others of Paxman's too
Published 4 months ago by Annie
3.0 out of 5 stars politics , people and power
it`s not the profoundest work of its kind but paxman succeeds in keeping ones attention and thus whetting an appetite for other more comprehensive works
Published 9 months ago by barry dietz
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, amusing and insightful
Not strictly scholarly, but a witty and sympathetic review of our politicians and "worthies" who try to make our political system work sometimes despite itself, and... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr Andy Laughton
5.0 out of 5 stars Politics & Politicians.
A very informative and witty book - politicians are dispatched in print with the withering sarcasm that we see from Jeremy Paxman on television. Read more
Published on 23 April 2012 by David J.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fave book
Bought this for my son who loves politics in any shape or form. Must say this is his favourite book of all time and he has read many.
Published on 29 Nov 2011 by Mrs S
4.0 out of 5 stars Paxman at Home
Having read most of his books, I looked forward to his volume - no Victorian paintings, royalty, quintessentially English people, fly-fishing - just Paxman at home with... Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2011 by RR Waller
4.0 out of 5 stars A real eye opener
We all know that Jeremy Paxman is disdainful of politicians, or at the very least, sceptical. In his book, The Political Animal, he tells us why. Read more
Published on 5 Dec 2010 by A. J. Wentworth
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative
This is an entertaining look at not just the political individual but also the greater British political machine. Read more
Published on 21 Oct 2010 by HGT
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Intelligently Observed
I once wanted to be a politician (we're talking 25 years ago now). A good friend, who knew both politics and me, said I had no chance: "you're not the type", he told me,... Read more
Published on 10 April 2010 by Andy
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