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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprise read
This book is a surprising page turner - couldn't put it down.
Fascinating how apropos Macheiveli's observations were regarding the wielding of power, but how Powell, after making such interesting comparisons indicating that flakey Blair and the pathetic nightmare that was Brown, ignored most of Machiaveli's advise, that he still considers Blair will go down in...
Published on 24 Nov. 2010 by Nesbo

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, and insider's view of the Blair years
This is a good read, and for those interested in the Blair years, one of the best books from the pro-Blair camp. Powell was the ultimate insider, always at Blair's side. He is searing in his judgement on Gordon Brown, and backs this up with chapter and verse on exactly how Brown was so toxic. I read this soon after reading DC Confidental, Sir Christopher Meyer's book,...
Published on 4 Mar. 2011 by David Weston


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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read, and insider's view of the Blair years, 4 Mar. 2011
This is a good read, and for those interested in the Blair years, one of the best books from the pro-Blair camp. Powell was the ultimate insider, always at Blair's side. He is searing in his judgement on Gordon Brown, and backs this up with chapter and verse on exactly how Brown was so toxic. I read this soon after reading DC Confidental, Sir Christopher Meyer's book, and it covers much of the same ground (9/11, Iraq etc.). Both are worth reading.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprise read, 24 Nov. 2010
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This book is a surprising page turner - couldn't put it down.
Fascinating how apropos Macheiveli's observations were regarding the wielding of power, but how Powell, after making such interesting comparisons indicating that flakey Blair and the pathetic nightmare that was Brown, ignored most of Machiaveli's advise, that he still considers Blair will go down in history as one of the best Prime Ministers of all time made me laugh out loud.
That the chaos, incompetence, the downright melicious and mendatious game playing that went on behind the scenes of New Labour, was allowed to carry on for such a long time, thus bringing the general publics attitudue to politics and politicians into the gutter, is truly shocking.
An excellent read but a shaming lesson on how not to behave.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good,but not the whole truth., 18 April 2011
By 
Mr. John Hunter "John Hunter" (Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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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.
John Hunter.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and Selective, 29 April 2011
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Having read Great Hatred Little Room I looked forward to reading this book. I was greatly disappointed. The references to Machiavelli are a cover for a selective memoir whose aim seems to be to backstab Gordon Brown, eulogise Tony Blair and settle old scores. He is highly selective and offers no evidence for what is really prejudice an example being "General Dannatt was not up to his job" an assertion made without any facts. In fact most commentators think Dannatt did an excellent job as head of the Army he just didn't agree with the lousy strategic judgements Blair made. He makes startling assertions such as the Coalition Government being a continuation of Blair's policies on schools etc - it could be equally be argued that the later Blair governments merely resurrected Major's policies on schools (city technology colleges as a predecessor of academies) and the internal market in Health. For me the central flaw of the of the book was best exemplified in the last paragraph when he argues that Blair will be seen by history as one of the best Prime Ministers of the last 400 years. After the massive misjudgements and lies surrounding Iraq, the corruption of cash for honours, the personal sleaze of the celebrity holidays etc that claim is simply laughable as sadly is so much of this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The conflict, the bias & the liar, 1 Oct. 2012
This review is from: The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World (Paperback)
In Phillip Powell's The New Machiavellian, he does what he vowed he was not going to do; he has attempted to firstly write, and then to rewrite history. This is not a criticism, simply an observation.

His account of his time at the heart of power and the machinery of government is enchanting. The book is replete with historical information and sprinkled with an awareness of the sensitivities of individuals, personalities, departments and competing entities. Powell shows that timing is as important as the need to be strategic and purposeful. He provides the casual observer of politics with great insight into the working of the labour administration, its juxtaposition with events and explores the internecine conflicts - which had its genesis then and - which are again raising its head in the current opposition.

Great ideas and observations include;
* The importance of history which has parallel to Plato's edict of what a ruler needs,
* The reluctance of officials to adjust theory to reality,
* The need to remove the requirement that ministers be drawn from the ranks of MP's,
* The short sighted rush to deliver the first 100 day plan which leaves government bereft of what to do after the first hundred-days:

As a business man, I take comfort from the advice given to Tony Blair by Bill Clinton; "When things look grim... just turn up for work every morning expecting something good to happen".

The most surprising part of this book is where Powell essentially accuses Tony Blair of being a pathological liar. Whilst Powell subsequently attempts to dampen this accusation, he is unsuccessful; the damage is done.

I really didn't know what to expect from this book but what I got, I didn't expect

Whilst there are criticisms of Tony Blair, the book is essentially a hero worship to Mr Blair. The way Powell treats Gordon Brown has the effect, that criticism of Tony Blair seems to be thrown in for good measure rather than being truly critical i.e. Powell's criticism of Blair for not going further, is more of an endorsement, a pat on the back and a little nudge rather than a criticism. In contrast, Powell's criticisms of Gordon Brown are scathing and a full blown character assassination.

The failings and flaws of Gordon are clear for all to see, but if the New Machiavelli does nothing else, it leaves the reader feeling that there really is another - untold - side to the conflicts between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. There are facts and there's fiction, there are also interpretations of what constitutes fact and what constitutes fiction; on this issue, Powell attempts to be too authoritative and certain that his facts are the only facts. His intense dislike of Gordon Brown leaves him unable to dissect and provide a truly neutral account of the flaws inherent in Gordon and Tony.

The lingering view that I have of this book is that it is itself Machiavellian. The lingering impression is that despite his wealth, his illustrious career and his proximity to power - at the time of writing - the author appears lost and still looking for an opportunity to serve at the feet of his great leader again (don't rule out his wish to also serve the current prime minister).

Powell has undoubtedly produced an informed work which clarifies what Machiavelli really espoused: however, for those who refuse or are unable to make the leap from the commonly held perception of Machiavelli - as a self-centred, self-obsessed power hungry person - to someone who merely described how to acquire, wield and hold on to power, the association of Mr Blair with Machiavelli is unfortunate as it implies something quite and dark about the personality of one of Britain's greatest Prime Ministers.

Dr Floyd Millen
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read that illuminates the problems of 21st Century Government., 13 Oct. 2014
By 
HughB (Flintshire, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World (Paperback)
I didn't agree with all the views (but that's okay) but I did enjoy this book. It gives an insiders view of what goes on in government and is rather more frank about the personalities than one might have expected of someone with a political background. I liked the link with Machiavelli although, while at the beginning of the book I felt that the events of the Blair years were, in a sense, being used to reinforce Machiavelli's views, by the end of the book it seemed that Machiavelli was being used to support Jonathan Powell's understanding of events.

One key issue which comes across very strongly throughout the book is how little power to change things the Prime Minister actually has. This, and the way that different Government departments appear to work against each other was rather disturbing. However, the issue I found most illuminating was the impact of the press and the almost complete lack of responsibility that they seem to take. Whilst I entirely support the notion of press freedom, the ability of the press to scupper perfectly sensible debate within Government by speculation and alarmist reporting strikes me as not being healthy for the country in the long run. Press freedom has to be coupled with greater responsibility. Powell's insights in this area were fascinating.

Whatever your politics, I recommend this book as an interesting insight into the way that Britain is governed and into where power really resides.
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48 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 16 Oct. 2010
Having read the first couple of chapters, I'm finding this book enjoyable and illuminating. Jonathan Powell applies his experiences, working in the upper echelons of the civil service and then as chief of staff to Tony Blair for ten years, to illustrate the principles set out by Niccolo Machiavelli in the classics 'The Prince' and the Discourses which are still widely read by students of politics today. He makes it clear in the preface that "[This book] is confined to looking at the art of government and at the mechanics of power, not why a leader might want to get hold of power or what they would want to do with it once they get hold of it.. it is important that idealistic and optimistic people who come to office understand the reality of how power can be wielded effectively so they can make the country a better place". But I think it's a worthwhile read for *anyone* who wants to be in a better position to participate in our democracy, since it will allow them to understand better the different factors that influence our political leaders in their decisionmaking. And it has funny bits too - Powell can be quite witty.

The chapters are as follows:

Introduction: In Defence of Machiavelli
1. 'Of New Princedoms Which a Prince Acquires With His Own Arms and by Merit': Coming to Power
2. 'The Prince': Leadership
3. Cabinet, the Civil Service and Making Things Happen
4. The Court
5. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor
6. 'Whether it is better to be loved or feared': Politics and Parliament
7. The Importance of Being Strategic
8. Spin Doctors and Media Moguls
9. Scandals, Inquiries and the Police
10. Europe
11. War and Peace
12. Hubris and Leaving Office
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Buy Rawnsley's 'The End of the Party' instead, 27 Jan. 2011
By 
T. J. Noys "Terry Noys" (London) - See all my reviews
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In the preface to the book Powell claims its purpose is to provide a guide to future ministers / advisors on how to govern and uses the device of comparing modern day government with the works of Machiavelli.
This device is clumsy and it fails badly.
The regular references to Machiavelli feel false and interrupt the flow of the underlying narrative.
He would have been much better off simply producing a straight forward memoir, although Powell's book tells us nothing we don't already know from other books such as those by, amongst others, Blair and Campbell.
This book certainly provides no new insights to either Machiavelli nor how modern government really works, although it does really bring home just how weak Blair was in dealing with Brown
If you want to really understand the New Labour years avoid this and, instead, buy Andrew Rawnsley's "The end of the Party".
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not so much Machiavelli, but interesting nonetheless..., 3 Jan. 2011
By 
Dr. G. SPORTON "groggery1" (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
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This is Powell's not very convincing attempt to avoid another memoir of the Blair Government by interposing Machiavelli between the political action and his analysis. It is readable regardless of the asides to M's thinking because no one (surely) believes modern politics can be conducted in some gormlessly pure fashion that lays out all the intentions of government as well as providing vision and controlling expectations. The two villians here are the distorting British Media and Gordon Brown, both of which emerge as positively dangerous and uncontrolled characters, lumbering about the polity simply looking to make trouble. For Powell, Gordon got what he deserved after years of deceit and disloyalty, whilst, as ever, the media was let off scot-free. But the main lesson is to know why you want the reins of power, and remain as focussed on that as it is possible to be amidst the maelstrom of government. That, and sack the Chancellor early on. Blair's government may not have been perfect, but according to this account it might have achieved far more without Brown and toxic allies.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Newspeak, 22 Nov. 2012
By 
Ben J. Johnson "Jokei" (On the sofa) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World (Paperback)
Poor old McAlpine, we can't help but feel that his days as the subject of internet forum rumours are not over, despite his libel cases against BBC, ITV, Twitterers.

This passage is from a politics book published in 2000, called The New Machiavelli. In it, the author gives advice on how to trick the media and use it to your advantage:
"Another useful plot is the false accusation. First, create a situation where you are falsely accused. Then, at a convenient moment, arrange for the false accusation to be shown to be false beyond all doubt... Further accusations will then be treated with great suspicion."
pg 176, The New Machiavelli (2000)
Author: Alistair McAlpine
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The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World
The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World by Jonathan Powell (Paperback - 28 July 2011)
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