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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just a hatchet job!
Tom Bower's book makes scary reading.

The scale of the personal ambition and the single-minded process of trying to attain it paints a vivid picture of a deeply flawed man in a deeply flawed government.

It is clear that Gordon Brown is a conviction politician. It is unfortunate that the conviction is that he is right and that everyone else is wrong...
Published on 19 Oct 2009 by M. J. Johnston

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very readable, but unfulfilling
Buy this book if, like me, you are interested in the career of this deep, intriguing man, especially his recent career. I have never been one to particularly enjoy reading in depth analyses of a subject's upbringing and childhood and wasn't disappointed that Bower has this done and dusted in the first chapter. If this is your bag then I would recommend The Rivals by James...
Published on 2 Nov 2004 by Amazon Customer


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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very readable, but unfulfilling, 2 Nov 2004
This review is from: Gordon Brown (Hardcover)
Buy this book if, like me, you are interested in the career of this deep, intriguing man, especially his recent career. I have never been one to particularly enjoy reading in depth analyses of a subject's upbringing and childhood and wasn't disappointed that Bower has this done and dusted in the first chapter. If this is your bag then I would recommend The Rivals by James Naughtie.
I enjoyed the book but found Bower's style somewhat unsatisfying. I found this also with Broken Dreams but put that down his not being a his audience with lots of supporting information but so bluntly and to such excess that I can't help (in both their cases) questioning the accuracy of what is presented. In this case the case put forward is damning, in fact it's too damning and one sided. With the personality flaws and career failures listed by Bower I wonder how Brown ever became the second most powerful man in the country (and in some cases the most powerful). I also found his conclusion unsatisfactory. Almost an afterthought with no arguments given in the preceding chapters to really support his assertion about Brown and the leadership.
In short, a good read but left me feeling unsatisfied. Probably worth waiting for the paperback.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just a hatchet job!, 19 Oct 2009
By 
M. J. Johnston "marburg" (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gordon Brown (Paperback)
Tom Bower's book makes scary reading.

The scale of the personal ambition and the single-minded process of trying to attain it paints a vivid picture of a deeply flawed man in a deeply flawed government.

It is clear that Gordon Brown is a conviction politician. It is unfortunate that the conviction is that he is right and that everyone else is wrong and must be punished for their impertinence if they disagree.

No-one comes out of this very well, although the civil servants are portrayed as merely being carried away by the Brown/Balls machine.

This book was published in 2004. Subsequent events demonstrate most of the points amply demonstrated by the text. Indecision, overconfidence, massive personal vanity, a willingness to make repetitive and inaccurate sound bites a substitute for truth, and a refusal to concede error have all been proved by recent events.

The writing style can be wearing but the content is both repellant and moreish.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brown - flawed and fortunate, 18 April 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Gordon Brown (Hardcover)
This was not a well-crafted book in terms of the writing style. It also seems irritatingly repetitive at regular intervals. On the other hand it paints a compelling portrait of a driven but flawed man. Disturbingly, it illustrates his persistent refusal to listen to unwelcome opinions, his obsessiveness with targets as a management tool, and his unwillingness and inability to carry colleagues with him rather than dictating to them.
The book does a good job of showing how fortunate Brown has been in being able to present himself as prudent whilst, at the same time, following an increasingly reckless approach to the public finances against a backdrop of falling underlying revenues - a contrast beautifully finessed by his management of the press in an environment made favourable by the Iraqi "misfortunes" of Blair and others.
Puzzlingly, the book fails to comment much on why it is that Brown has no apparent interest in other Cabinet roles - though his ability to control from the Treasury via budgets may be a factor.
Overall the picture is of a dictatorial control freak who would be a disaster as a Prime Minister. This book is a must-read for those contemplating the forthcoming election, as Brown appears sure that Blair will resign in late 2006 and leave him to take over.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Psychologically flawed, 17 Dec 2008
By 
S. Hemingway (Knebworth) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gordon Brown (Paperback)
I feel that the other reader reviews here are unfair. It is true that the book is somewhat repetitive, not a work of great literature and one-sided. However, for me, it helped me understand how he seems to come to the decisions he does come to in politics. The picture Bower paints is also completely consistent with the man I hear (very occasionally) being on The Today Programme. The book is more a polemic than a proper biography, but if you buy it in that light you will not be disappointed by its one-sidedness.

For me, Gordon Brown is a boy who has never come to terms with the fact that he is not the cleverest boy in the class, and cannot actually get everything he wants by throwing tantrums and bullying those around him. Many people grow up like this to a greater or lesser extent. Because they can never accept constructive criticism, or learn from their mistakes they make very bad leaders of companies and countries, even though their dominant behaviour often puts them in those very positions. Tony Blair may be laughing all the way to the bank that he has lumbered his old enemy with the fallout of ten years terrible policies, but he has done the rest of us a terrible mis-service.
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12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spoiled by overcooking, 6 Jan 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Gordon Brown (Hardcover)
As a Scottish Labour Party member of over 35 year standing, and no friend of Gordon Brown's approach to his personal ambitions, I found this book so imbalanced in its approach that its central message was lost. The zeal to denigrate Brown was such that all economic gains in the last years were ascribed to good luck or the good fortune in getting a Tory-inherited economy on the up, while all the downs were Brown's mistakes. In a world where Labour has rightly been accused of selective statistical readings, the statistics that peppered this book were straight from the Tory candidates' handbook.
And how on earth could Bower conclude, after 450 pages of this, that "probably, and deservedly, his bid [for the premiership] will be successful"? Anyone who accepted the accuracy of Bower's analysis could not possibly come to that conclusion, so how could the author?
"Gordon Brown" was full of interesting extracts from the disenchanted, some open, some anonymous, but was - because of its determination to skewer the subject - much less convincing an analysis of Brown's or Labour's failings than the contributions of Andrew Rawnsley in "Servants of the People" or James Naughtie's "The Rivals".
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BROWN STUDY, 22 Feb 2005
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gordon Brown (Hardcover)
It is nothing unusual for a modern British prime minister to be surrounded by jealous and manipulative rivals who are after his (or in the most striking instance her) job. The post is not, strictly speaking, a directly elected one like president of the United States or president of France. Following a general election, or occasionally the departure of the incumbent from office, the monarch summons the leader of the party with a majority in the Commons, or failing that the leader of another party that looks possibly able to form a government, and asks him or her to do so. Established practice in the matter is clear and always adhered to, but in the last resort it is a matter of convention not of statute.
So the trick is to become leader of the right party. Throughout the 20th century the dominant party was the Conservative party, which has a record of deposing its leaders worthy of imperial Rome. Since 1997 there now seems to be at least a serious possibility that it has lost its hegemony, and Labour has not had enough time in office through the mere 100 years of its existence for generalisations in this respect to be made with any confidence. The old Labour party was factious and fractious but never in the end did the deed. With Blair's electorally-dominant 'New' Labour I think we are waiting to see what happens this time. Blair effectively stole a march on Gordon Brown for the leadership, but there was apparently some sort of deal, or understanding at least, between them that he would, or might, or could possibly, hand over the premiership to Brown. What this deal amounted to depends on who you listen to. What is perfectly clear is that the current governance of Britain is characterised by intense partisan infighting between the two and their respective votaries. I'm quite sure it all loses nothing in the telling by the all-pervasive political commentators, but I'm just as sure that they are not inventing it. At a recent meeting of the parliamentary Labour party the mildest and most docile members lost patience and told the pair of them with scant respect or civility to stop the whole nonsense.
For this the upstarts deserve our thanks in more ways than one. In particular even those who routinely follow politics with some interest are suffering a severe overload of obsessional garrulity from the pundits, and I would personally attribute declining popular interest in political issues not least to that. This particular book is still warm off the presses and you can obtain it at remaindered prices already. I gather there are others on the same topic, and some are allegedly 'better', but for anyone whose tolerance stretches to one only this one will do not badly at the right price. The book sketches in Brown's background and makes a half-hearted attempt at explaining some facets of his personality on this basis. I imagine any reader's guess in that respect is as good as the author's. Here is a man with a compulsion to dominate but severely lacking in self-confidence, a man who wants the most public office in the land but who is secretive in a most peculiar way - attempts at finding anything embarrassing in sexual respects have come up with nothing and I would guess that the secretiveness is more a matter of hiding possible failures than anything of that sort. Where the book reads convincingly is in presenting a coherent picture of its subject. Whether the coherency has been purchased at some cost in over-simplification I couldn't say, but I should think almost certainly. The style is literate and easy to read despite some signs of haste, and the writer is clearly well informed. I would not expect him to give clues as to his sources in many cases, but he could have raised this book to another level entirely if he had marshalled his arguments more systematically. The book is replete with accounts of meetings that Mr Bower was not present at, and it regularly attributes thoughts, reactions and motivations to Brown that even his inmost coterie would have had to conjecture. What I would have liked Mr Bower to do would have been to show the basis and development of his own reasoning, how he weighs up this or that statement or piece of behaviour, and what differing degrees of confidence he has in coming to various conclusions. Presenting it all as fact detracts from the interest of the book as an analysis. Also the general picture begins to seem odd after a while. Throughout the book Blair is depicted almost entirely as giving way to Brown, and I would need some convincing of that. Another aspect that is partly welcome and partly unsatisfactory is the detail given of Brown's economic management. If there were quite as many gross errors as there seem to have been then he has been extremely lucky - by comparative standards, which are all we've got, this government has contrived to seem more competent than most in that respect.
The picture I ended with is of a man I wouldn't want as prime minister in his current frame of mind, seething with frustrations, harbouring obsessive grudges and full of unresolved contradictions. Whether achieving his final goal would exorcise some of these phantoms I can't tell, but my guess is that Blair has decided to block him if he can, as 50 years ago Attlee made sure he blocked Morrison.
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14 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly-written, agenda-driven, middle-brow, odd, 14 Jan 2005
This review is from: Gordon Brown (Hardcover)
Reading this book is like sitting in a pub beside a bore with bad breath who has something he wants to tell you and just won't let go.
Bower has started with an agenda: that Brown isn't as great as many people think he is. He then fancifully constructs this odd and often laughable caricature of 'brooding' (how often does *that* word come up?!) Scotsman from 'dismal' Kirkcaldy, who dominates most of the UK government and civil service using aggression and dishonesty, who doesn't really understand economics, and who is basically harmful to our interests because his main aim is getting to no. 10 at whatever cost.
I'm not in a position to check Bower's facts. But I can say that the writing is astonishingly bad, eg. "... a hopeless cul-de-sac."
Much more serious is the fictions and illogicities that appaer on almost every page, eg. "Despite his self-declared passion for enterprise, he did not understand the arithmetic that high fuel taxes had deprived road hauliers of any profits." Man, it's excruciating at times.
I would not recommend this book, not because I am particularly sympathetic to Brown (though I am impressed by his unfashionable yet persistent interest in alleviating poverty), but because it's basically a low-quality piece of work. I started out hoping to be educated by a biographer of some repute, but soon found myself flinching at the low intellectual calibre.
Don't bother.
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One-sided, 5 Dec 2005
This review is from: Gordon Brown (Paperback)
This is a hatchet-job, albeit a quite readable one. The portrait of the brooding 'son of the Manse' is overdrawn and statistics are deployed in their hundreds to skewer the "intense, brooding" Brown.
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Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown by Tom Bower (Paperback - 7 Mar 2005)
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