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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jeremy Paxman updates the 'State of the Nation' study, 21 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
Continuing the fine tradition of of socio-political analysis typified by Anthony Sampson's books on "The Anatomy of Britain" Jeremy Paxman presents an excellent, well-researched and enjoyably written study of the ruling elite on Britain in the 1990s.
Drawing on his own experience as a journalist and broadcaster for the BBC (itself, he argues, a pillar of the old boy network) Mr Paxman draws our attention to the fact that in the supposedly meritocratic Britain of Major and Blair the 'Establishment' is alive and well and as powerful as ever.
Fascinating, sobering reading.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dating, but not that fast - still an essential primer, 3 May 2005
This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
A handy chapter-by-chapter guide to the main groupings - politicians, civil servants, academics, the great and the good and so on - who formed the ruling elite at the time.
While the Blair years have made an awful lot of changes to that traditional old-boy-network cast of British public life, this 1990 study is still well worth reading - the changes are more obvious when one knows where we were fifteen years ago.
Very rare of its type: one of the secrets of the system is that if you're on the inside you're expected to know how it works. If you're on the outside, you won't know (and vice versa). As such, much credit to Paxman for lifting the lid. And the fact that it's still in print after so long is a testament to its worth.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable insight, 14 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
A very detailed and enlightening piece of work that opens the doors to who really (or is most likely) to run the country. Definately worth reading. I suspect however that circumstances have changed somewhat in the ten years that have passed since the book was written. Perhaps not as much as we might hope though.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well researched, 13 Jun 2008
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J. Alan "JohnA" (Greater London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
Difficult subject to tackle without resorting to speculation and fancy conspiracy theories.

Paxman has done a very good job, with both feet on the ground.
Well done!
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HUNTING THE SNARK, 18 Nov 2005
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
The Fristindula of Biccle and the Clintistorit of Wintistering seem to have been inventions of the late Peter Cook, but there really is, in the third millennium after Christ, a British functionary known as the Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary; and as recently as the 1960's Major-General Lord Michael Fitzalan Howard found the idea that a black man could be admitted to a Guards fighting unit simply incomprehensible.
When Jeremy Paxman of the BBC's Newsnight set about writing a book that tried to define the British 'establishment' his task was described to him by Enoch Powell as 'hunting the snark'. For my part, I'd say he has made a very good fist of it. He is not naïve and he doesn't underestimate the complexity of the issues involved. He is not arguing from any particular political standpoint, which in my view would have invalidated his arguments a priori. Above all, his great strength is that nobody impresses him and he is not prone to 'showing respect'. The test of any 'establishment', I suppose, is what happens when it is exposed to the glare of daylight. Traditions of any kind thrive not so much through avoiding or rebuffing attack as through avoiding scrutiny. The British way of appointing judges and bishops goes on much as before mainly because nobody is much bothered how it is done, and reformers tend to be preaching to the apathetic. There is no public demand for change to the antiquated style of the Bank of England either, and such innovations as have occurred within royalty itself really seem to me only fine-tuning, a skilful response to TV arc-lights. These are cases where the establishment has come through exposure unscathed or nearly. In other instances, such as the unspeakable clubs at which the great and good come together to reinforce their sense of greatness and goodness, careful vetting of membership ensures discreet continuity, the public in general having better things to worry about.
In the long history of Britain certain families dominated the scene. They owned the land and the wealth, they provided the employment and it was their job to lead armies and the church. Come industrialisation new wealth was generated by a different kind of person, and the old establishment naturally closed ranks, but the new money could afford the best education, and gradually the older attitudes and manners were imbued into the families of the arrivistes. The 20th century saw the Labour party form governments under five prime ministers, but there was no serious attack by these on the establishment. That came from Margaret Thatcher, whose dislike of the entrenched class was as vehement as her sense of her own rightness. She was a Samuel Smiles in skirts, all self-help and 'merit', but even her onslaught on the tradition of civil service mandarins had only limited effect. The truth, I believe, is that the various pillars of the establishment genuinely did and do possess merit. This is not to say that modernisation and opening out to the community as a whole were not needed, and Paxman's account leads me to think that it is precisely in the armed forces that the more ridiculous forms of conservatism have been the most tenacious. Where Thatcher's ideas of modernisation did the established families a real favour was in cutting the heavy taxation they had been subjected to under Attlee. This was an incidental benefit - Thatcher's target beneficiaries were her own new breed of entrepreneurs, but in the meantime the grandees had been learning to adapt for themselves, and those stately homes of England that had not fallen down or been converted into barracks, nursing-homes, hotels or conference centres to pay their taxes now often function cheerfully as theme-parks and wildlife reserves accessible to the multitudes at reasonable commercial rates.
Thatcher's Britain, however necessary her economic reforms may have been, was a ghastly place. The inherent snobbishness of the British people, plus its voyeuristic interest in the nobility, has actually given the latter a new lease of life. Self-help and merit had gone far enough, and the selfishness, tattiness and vulgarity had gone too far. Where the establishment was not a matter of either lineage or professional ability but of money, the matter has been gradually passing out of Britain's hands as the world economy has become globalised (a word that I don't recall Paxman using: his book dates from 1991 and the expression may be more recent). In general I find his conclusion persuasive that the establishment is real and many-headed, that it has shown considerable powers of adaptation and survival, but that it is static and not consolidating itself as the steady encroachment of more democratic attitudes takes its toll. It will not be wiped out in any revolution simply because it is in many ways too valuable, and the sides of it that are at best of historical value, occasionally just ornamental and sometimes downright parasitic will be tolerated because there is no political will not to tolerate them.
Fourteen or fifteen years on this book still reads well. Paxman writes in much the way he talks, always with a slight tendency to discursiveness but always with a good clear focus too and of course his well-known intolerance of pretence. I suppose the best tribute to his analysis is the conclusion that by investigating a seemingly important subject he has left that subject rather less important than he found it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for all British subjects, 27 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
Exposes for a myth the much purveyed idea that the Britain of the 1990s is a meritocracy. Paxman leaves us with no doubts that gender, race and the "old school tie" still dominate political life in Britain. It would be brilliant if it wasn't so depressing!
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4.0 out of 5 stars REVIEW, 23 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
A well written book that exposes the hidden power elite in this country. Although it was written some time ago the comments nevertheless have a resonance in history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My Second Copy, 13 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
I was bought this as a Christmas present in 1990 and have only just finished it; although it is my second copy.

There are problems with the book. Paxman quotes people saying "education officers aren't worth their salt" - when in reality getting any sort of job in the arts in the 21st Century is a bit of a feat and you'd be lucky to get an education officer job at all. It's particularly good on industrialists' role in politics and the dreadful social costs involved in business - for my money, businessmen should be forced to kill their own children.
,

Paxman moves the goalposts a lot - the arguments come thick and fast - but so do the answers, such as Lord Chilvers advocating student loans
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4.0 out of 5 stars Paxman - at home again, 13 Sep 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
One of his early books, it places Paxman in the centre of his world - politics, how decision are reached and who really makes them. Well-written and researched carefully, it is organised to deal with the main groupings - politicians, civil servants, academics, the great and the good and anyone expected to be in "high paces".

Every generation of people and politicians seems to bring in new changes and, with the developing effects of the new media, e.g. Internet in all its manifestations, this continues apace. Paxman charts these changes up to the time of writing and, as one would expect from an investigative journalist, he peels away some layers to show the workings beneath and how fast these changes are occurring.

An interesting, informative and enjoyable book which has dated but is, nevertheless, worth the investment in time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but uninspired, 24 April 2011
This review is from: Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] (Paperback)
I'm a big Paxo fan so relished reading this book but have to say I was a bit disappointed: the writing is laboured in places and the info is not that startling. Just about every group/category of people are mentioned including the WI but not the Freemasons which I thought was a very odd omission.
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Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ]
Friends in High Places: Who Runs Britain? [ Peguin Paperback ] by Jeremy Paxman (Paperback - 28 Nov 1991)
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