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Maxwell Stone (United Kingdom)

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Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection
Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection
by Peter Snowdon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.99

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Looking forward to the sequel, 18 Jun 2010
I suspect that most people lost interest in the Conservative Party during the mid 1990s and this never recovered after Labour's 1997 landslide. Consequently few people know a great deal, or probably care, about what the Tories got up to during their wilderness years. This book brings back some of those times with a cringeing jolt, remember Hague's answer to Labour's Cool Britannia? His naff baseball cap wearing exploits at a theme park still grate today - albeit he has matured into an outstanding politician.

Snowdon reminds us what a bunch of clowns many of the Conservatives were by ruining Major's premiership with internecine battles which they carried on post '97. They then deluded themselves that Labour would simply implode and the electorate would return to them when the reality was the reverse. Wading through the chapters on Duncan-Smith was marginally less painful than watching the poor man trying to rally the troops at their party conference. Who can forget the awfulness of the 'quiet man turning up the volume?' But this is where Snowdon scores because much of the modern Conservative Party is based on the thoughtful and socially conscious policies that Duncan-Smith espoused but could not push through because he wasn't the right man for the job and the party wasn't ready.

Michael Howard is described as steadying the ship and saving it from disaster in 2005. Indeed it was his help to Cameron which subsequently allowed the Cameroons to take over the party. But, even then the party was, and still is, not entirely comfortable with its leader. Although Cameron was thought by some, and characterised by Labour, as just a 'Tory Toff', the truth is that Cameron was a Liberal Conservative long before the election result. Thus, hooking up with Clegg and co. was not really a big ideological leap whereas for many in his party it undoubtedly was (and still is).

This book isn't exciting and doesn't reveal any massive secrets. But it is an interesting account of the party which domninated 20th Century politics and almost disppeared owing to its own suicidal tendencies. It signposts their return from the brink and potential governmental style. Due to their shared liberal values Cameron and Clegg could probably work together for many years. However, it is frequently events rather than ideology that makes or breaks governments and this book's sequel should be an equally absorbing account.


The Outsider: The Autobiography of One of Britain's Most Controversial Policemen
The Outsider: The Autobiography of One of Britain's Most Controversial Policemen
by Keith Hellawell
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly candid, 2 Jun 2010
Hellawell has written an apparently candid account of his policing career. The highlights are his role as the government's 'Drugs Czar' which was wholly dysfunctional due to the poor control by political and civil servant leaders. He was honest in his self analysis of what rising to the top cost in terms of his personal life - eg. he wasn't there while his children were growing up. However, he seemed slightly less reflective in his professional role, albeit there were glimpses of vanity, not uncommon for a high achiever. Overall a good book, lacking in action granted but compensated for in terms of the nexus between politics and policing.


DC Confidential
DC Confidential
by Sir Christopher Meyer
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More DC Curious than Confidential, 8 May 2010
This review is from: DC Confidential (Hardcover)
An interesting but not explosive book which, having read it a few years after publication, has stood the test of time reasonably well. Meyer has presented it in a tabloid style that makes an easy read. Less appealing is that it jumps around quite a bit and so personalities appear and are then returned to with anecdotes that preceeded their original introduction.
Aside from the Germans, who do not fare well, Meyer is more critical of his British masters than his American contacts, in terms of personality at least. Perhaps this is a reflection of the subtle difference in his relationship with the UK government. In other words he was always HMG's employee whereas to the Americans he was an Ambassador - thus a difference in status and role. I thought he gave an honest account of the lead up the 2003 war which should be given credence for reflecting the political challenges faced on both sides of the Atlantic.
His wife's rise to power was curious. When they first met Meyer's staff advised him to avoid her yet within a few chapters world leaders are championing her very distressing but nevertheless personal cause. Thus this is an intersting insight into the manipulation of contacts for personal gain as one doubts if he'd have acted so industriously for anyone else. Amazingly he expressed dissatisfaction with the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, for failing to pursue her cause as vigorously as he thought it deserved. As the title implies, curious....


Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-45
Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-45
by Max Hastings
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book - three in one!, 16 April 2010
This is a great book which is actually three narratives weaved into one. The first is the Churchill story which many readers will be familiar with, particularly if you've read another account such as Roy Jenkins' biography. However, the difference here is that it centres solely on the Second World War which is undoubtedly the most compelling part of Churchill's life.
The second concerns the story of Britain's home front - from the machinations of other politicians to the lives of ordinary Britons. This is fascinating because it describes aspects of our history which many writers overlook. Numerous aspects of those times resonate with today's society - spin, political plots, public cynicism and economic unrest.
The third narrative, which for me was the most interesting, concerns Britain's relationship with its principal allies. Whilst we may be familar with the frosty Anglo-Soviet diplomacy of that era Hastings provides an illuminating account of Britain's relationship with America. This shows that the so called 'special relationship' was always a British aspiration rather than a political reality. The truth is that the Americans pursued policies which suited their national interests and Britain benefited when our interests converged.
I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the areas I've touched on and reiterate the point that the politics of that era cast a shadow into the affairs of the 21st Century.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 25, 2011 4:36 PM GMT


Anyone Can Do It: My Story
Anyone Can Do It: My Story
by Duncan Bannatyne
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Schools should teach this stuff... well, some of it!, 9 Mar 2010
A great inspirational story. Bannatyne has an incredible work ethic and a drive for success which has propelled him into the leagues of the super rich.

From modest origins he joined the Royal Navy and could have had a promising career but for his aversion to authority. After bumming around he settled and realised that he had become the oldest party animal in town. This realisation caused him to re-think his priorities and focus on becoming millionaire.

I'm not sure he was always entirely candid. Did his early business exploits always avoid a violent edge given some of the enterprises he was engaged in combined with his temper and boxing prowess? Mmm I'm not sure. Anyway, it's a good read with plenty of tips for the budding business tycoon.


Line of Fire
Line of Fire
by Brian Paddick
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A career based on self publicity, 9 Mar 2010
This review is from: Line of Fire (Hardcover)
Okay, so what do we know about Brian Paddick? He was a senior cop. He left the Met to become a serious politican and when his bid to become London's Mayor failed he did what every other celebrity wannabe does and popped up on a reality TV show.

When I read this book I was left wondering what he had actually achieved in his policing career. How many crimes did he solve or criminals did he put behind bars? Not many judging by this account. But, you may say that as a senior cop his role was to make communities safer and manage the cops who did solve crimes. Wrong again - aside from an ill-fated one man campaign to liberalise cannabis he achieved very little. Instead his biography is all about his efforts to climb the greasy pole. Towards the end of his book he laments that he never sat at the "top table" of the Met and thus was never able to generate real change. How can that be true? He was a Deputy Assistant Commissioner! If he can't make a difference who can?

The real tragey of his career is that he was obviously bright and had a different world view, which in the conformist police world is no bad thing. Unfortunately his vanity and lust for senior rank obscured his judgement and ultimately he was a victim of his own hubris.


D-Day: The Battle for Normandy
D-Day: The Battle for Normandy
by Antony Beevor
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Puts you squarely into the bocage, 9 Mar 2010
Antony Beevor has done it again with a cracking account of the D-Day landings and the battle across France. What makes this such a good read is the way he mixes detailed strategic accounts with personal anecdotes. This helps to bring the subject alive in an extremely effective manner.
My only slight reservation is the extent of the criticism levelled at Montgomery. Now, I accept that he had his faults but I think Beevor's account is a little one sided. He bases many of his opinions on Carlo D'Este's writings which is fine if he provides a balance - which he does not do. For an alternative view try The Lonely Leader by Alistair Horne.


It's in the Blood: My Life
It's in the Blood: My Life
by Lawrence Dallaglio
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.02

5.0 out of 5 stars A great player and a great man, 26 Feb 2010
Okay, you've probably guessed by the title of my review that I'm a big fan of Dallaglio. But, my admiration for him as a player did not influence my assessment of this book (I also have huge respect for Martin Johnson but, sadly, found his book somewhat dull).
What I liked about this book was that it portrayed Dallaglio warts and all. He clearly set out his childhood and how his parents, particularly his mother, drove him for success. As a youth he could have gone off the rails but, somehow, he recognised the need to strive and by attending good schools he managed to start on the path that took him to the pinnacle of international rugby. The tabloid ensarement is covered but what is more compelling and moving is how he describes the way he almost ruined his personal life. He doesn't try and present himself as some kind of superstar - thankfully he recognised that the fame and fortune (of a sort!) was going to his head and he changed his ways. Lawrence is a big man in every sense and he has displayed great humility in his writing.
I'd recommend this book to any fan of the game and particularly youngsters because it's a cracking story. My son read it after me and he found it inspirational.


My Word is My Bond: The Autobiography
My Word is My Bond: The Autobiography
by Roger Moore
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly great English gentleman, 19 Feb 2010
It is a fact of modern life that many people publish biographies when, in truth, they have achieved little or are at the start of their careers. Of course who can blame them? Usually they are being packaged by a marketing team keen to exploit their brief flicker of celebrity in order to maximise their earnings while they can - I guess that many of us, if in a similar position would do the same. Anyway, this book, as you will be aware, is nothing like that.
I grew up in the 1970s and always saw Roger Moore as the archetypal English gent, whether he was fooling around with Tony Curtis in The Persuaders or saving the world as Bond whilst bedding a string of beauties along the way. His performances were always so effortless (and similar!) that it is easy to believe that this was who he was in real life. However, the reality was that Roger Moore hails from humble origins in south London and he grew up not too far from Michael Caine. He describes his background, drive for success and his career with considerable modesty. A considerable strength of the book and, I suggest, of his character, is that he refrains from dishing dirt on people he has worked with along the way. If that's what you're after the internet supplies plenty of suitable websites. Granted there are times when one can read between the lines but even then he is extremely gracious in how he describes the characteristics of some of the more highly strung people in his trade.
Roger Moore will never be regarded as a 'Laurence Olivier' style of actor and nor does he claim to be. In this book you get a real sense of the man, his work and what drives him, in particular the amazing work he has achieved for Unicef. Yes, there's the trappings of wealth and glamour plus the occasional grimmace (usually with a good dollop of humour) but this is due to his honesty rather than a desire to produce a work that is only favourable to his own conceit. What emerges is an actor and a man with a longevity of career and breadth of work that deserves more credit than has being generated by the infamous 'moving eyebrow' Spitting Image puppet that many of us will remember.


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