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73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book For All
The face of Nick Robinson will be familiar to anyone who has watched a BBC News bulletin in recent years and heard those immortal words "Live from Downing Street". I have grown to like Mr Robinson's easy style of reporting political stories, most of which can be pretty heavy going. He has a pleasant easy going manner and explains without patronising the viewer. His book...
Published on 2 Nov 2012 by Martin Beecroft

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been an excellent book, if it knew what it was about!
What is "Live from Downing Street"? Is it a history of British political broadcasting, an examination of the evolving role of the Prime Minister through the creation of mass media, a consideration of the relationship between Parliament and the media, a look at the growing rift between the BBC and Government, a political thesis, or Nick Robinson's memoir...
Published 8 months ago by Michael Warren


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73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book For All, 2 Nov 2012
By 
Martin Beecroft "bittmaster" (North Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Live From Downing Street (Hardcover)
The face of Nick Robinson will be familiar to anyone who has watched a BBC News bulletin in recent years and heard those immortal words "Live from Downing Street". I have grown to like Mr Robinson's easy style of reporting political stories, most of which can be pretty heavy going. He has a pleasant easy going manner and explains without patronising the viewer. His book 'Live From Downing Street' follows on in his same easy style making it probably the most enjoyable book on British politics I have ever read.

Mr Robinson's knowledge and insight into the world of politics, and the broadcasting of it, is marvellous. I have found this book extremely interesting and entertaining and quite an eye opener. I can only recommend this book, not only as being highly educational on what at first sight would appear to be a rather dry subject, but, also as a highly entertaining and well researched read. If only more writers could follow Mr Robinson's example of how to write to inform and entertain.

Nick Robinson makes mention of his early years and his friend Will Redhead, sadly killed in a car accident that Nick himself was lucky to survive. Will was of course the son of that 'God' of political broadcasting Brian Redhead, mentor and guide to Mr Robinson in his formative years.

This book deserves to be successful, and I can only say to anyone reading this review, buy it, read it and enjoy it. You won't be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been an excellent book, if it knew what it was about!, 13 April 2014
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What is "Live from Downing Street"? Is it a history of British political broadcasting, an examination of the evolving role of the Prime Minister through the creation of mass media, a consideration of the relationship between Parliament and the media, a look at the growing rift between the BBC and Government, a political thesis, or Nick Robinson's memoir?

The problem is, it's all of these, and yet none. Sadly, the book proves the old adage about a jack-of-all-trades being master of none. The narrative makes several abrupt shifts, so that at the end you reading almost an entirely different book to when you started. For the most part, all of the individual sections in themselves are excellent. They just don't fit well together.

I was riveted by the historical discussion of the relationship between Parliament and the media - how the BBC was founded and almost immediately found itself clashing with the Government of the day; how first radio and then television found their way into the Houses of Parliament; how Prime Ministers adapted to the role of being in front of the camera, and used it to their advantage. Parliament itself seems to fade out of the story soon after the TV cameras arrive, and the Prime Minister becomes ever more central to the tale.

But, once Robinson becomes a protagonist in the story, it shifts away from this fascinating overview, and an anecdotal format begins to creep in. His personal views and opinions make their way into what was previously more of a neutral treatment of the political figures in question. How each Prime Minister deals with the press becomes "how each Prime Minister deals with Nick Robinson". Although Robinson, in his preface, specifically says "it is not a memoir", it starts to feel an awful lot like one, and it began to lose me at that point.

It almost seems like Robinson changed his mind about what the book was about part way through. As it steps away from history into almost real-time developments, the timeline gets stretched out, and we spend many more pages dealing with individual events, rather than looking at the whole context. Perhaps that is merely a consequence of lacking that historical viewpoint, but it feels unbalanced and overemphasised.

The final chapter, which I understand is new to the paperback edition (and, therefore, its Kindle equivalent), is a defence of the BBC and its impartiality, in the wake of the various scandals that have engulfed it in the last two years. Whilst Robinson's argument is well-written, wholehearted, and - in my view - convincing, it has almost no relevance to the history that goes before, and seems entirely out of place. It could perhaps have been better suited to another work.

In conclusion, it is a good read, with many fascinating things to take away from it, just something of a failure in execution. If you excuse the sudden shifts in tone and the gradual dilution of the original concept, there is much to learn in this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 18 Aug 2013
By 
Mr Bookman (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Live From Downing Street (Hardcover)
This is a gem of a book. I was sceptical at first because I wasn't sure if a journalist could pull off a historical account of the relationship between politicians and the media. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The book is essentially in two parts. The first is an - admittedly, at times, a little dry - overview of the development of lobby journalism. I found this section of the book became more interesting after the invention of the television and creation of the BBC, which Nick Robinson is clearly passionate about. However, the first part is still readable and is more than countered by the second part: a very engaging and gripping account of relations between New Labour and the media and the Leveson inquiry and contains some very illuminating anecdotes about several of the key players. I couldn't put the book down at this point and finished it within a matter of days. Robinson's concluding remarks draw the various strands of the book together with rare skill and leave the reader with some thought-provoking concepts about the future of broadcast news in the 21st century.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with the least amount of interest in the media or politics - you are guaranteed a page-turner.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Typical Nick Robinson - engaging if you can forgive the pomposity, 10 Sep 2014
Along with those who, like me, spend far too much time watching current affairs documentaries and the 24 hour rolling news channels, I followed Nick Robinson's progression after he emerged from programme research, editing and production to front of camera presentation. His enthusiastic, incisive, erudite, reporting style was engaging in a way that many presenters were not and no doubt endeared him to many. And this book, understandably, is imbued with that same, irrepressible enthusiasm Nick clearly has for his subject.

The main issue I had with the book was that the further I progressed the harder it became for me to shrug off a growing sense that Nick was ever mindful of the privileged position he holds as Political Editor at the BBC. In his attempt to maintain a neutral position in conveying historical fact and personal anecdote, the lack of any criticism of the Beeb within this text gives rise to a suspicion that he's hiding behind the instinctive 'impartiality' (something I'll touch on later) he professes to bring, as best he can, to his profession.

But, of course, Nick does have his allegiances and preferences, as we all do. I remember the excruciating comparison he made in one of his live reports during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012, between Her Majesty and (of all people) Alex Ferguson, which moved news anchorman, Chris Eakin, to chuckle afterwards 'That reference couldn't possibly have anything to do with you being an avid Manchester United fan, could it, Nick?' Which brought forth the most self-conscious of blushing, schoolboy grins from the clearly embarrassed chief political editor.

And I doubt I'm the only one who's noticed how Nick Robinson's advancement as head political honcho at the BBC has led to a barely concealed egotism which increasingly tends to spill over into melodrama, giving the impression of a man with frustrated, thespian tendencies, allied to an overblown perception of his own importance. However, I digress.

Nick's interest in politics and current affairs and his love of the BBC from a very young age is indisputable. And there's plenty of interesting stuff here about his youth, not least the detail of a dramatic car crash from which he was lucky to escape, whilst two of his friends did not. One of those was the son of the late Radio 4 presenter, Brian Redhead, who was co-presenter of Radio 4's 'Today' programme for almost 20 years. Nick's admiration of Mr Redhead is boundless and he holds him up as a kind of paragon of journalistic brilliance. However, I tend to feel his admiration is rooted in the personal, rather than the professional, as I don't recall Brian Redhead being anything special. And if we apply Nick's mantra of 'impartiality' as it relates to a broadcaster's professionalism, then Redhead most certainly wasn't among the most virtuous - as Nick's own implicit suggestion of Brian's 'lefty' credentials attests.

Understandably, much verbiage is given over to Tony Blair's time in the limelight. But why Nick decided to include a sordid and deeply unpleasant anecdote lifted from Blair's wife's memoirs, God only knows. This priceless snippet recalls a supposed meeting between Ms Blair and Princess Margaret. Describing the Queen's sister as 'a stuck up old slapper' (some might think of pots and kettles but I couldn't possibly comment), Ms Blair recalls introducing the Royal personage to 'a gay MP's partner'. "Partner for what?" the Princess is supposed to have asked. "Sex", replies the refined Ms Blair. Of course, like so many such dubious recollections, there's not a jot of qualification or proof that such a meeting ever happened, leaving a deep suspicion that it was nothing but a cowardly fabrication by a known anti-monarchist about a woman who is no longer around to counter the claim. But then, Blair's time as PM is littered with many such tactless, cringe inducing interventions by his wife.

In the latter part of the book Nick holds forth on his pet subject, 'impartiality', as it applies to both broadcasting and his role within it. This is one of those tedious discourses which attempts to examine an issue from all sides, only to get bogged down in the long grass leaving the reader none the wiser and more perplexed than he, or she, was before. Typical of the kind of pointless, hot air waffle we hear far too often from 'academics' who feel the need to give us the benefit of the battalions of fact and theory they've spent much of their lives amassing. No conclusion, just conjecture and pronouncement that ultimately leads us nowhere. And just to throw a spanner in the works - wouldn't you just know it - there's even a claim by some that impartiality, by its very nature, cannot be impartial! Make of that what you will, I threw the towel in with a snort and moved on.

A particularly disingenuous moment during this section on impartiality is when Nick refers to an edition of 'Question Time'. Helen Boaden claimed there was a 'deep liberal bias' at the BBC when she took over as head of news in 2004, whilst Director General, Mark Thomson, expressed his concern that 'a debate on immigration would play into the hands of extremists'. Subsequently, a 2006 review adjudged that 'impartiality in programme making is often achieved by bringing extra perspective to bear, rather than limiting horizons or censoring opinion.'

'That is why,' Nick tells us, 'controversially, and in the face of protests, the BBC invited Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party who had just been elected to the European Parliament onto 'Question Time''. However, what Nick fails to mention is that the programme rapidly descended into a kangaroo court packed with a hand picked rabble of red-mist, anti-BNP obsessives that was overwhelmingly weighted against Griffin, resulting in him being subjected to a relentless onslaught of abuse, the only thing missing being the rope and a convenient tree. Now, I'm certainly no apologist for Griffin and his ilk - but, an example of the BBC's attempt to bring a little 'extra perspective' into the proceedings, Nick? It was nothing of the sort and the BBC knew it.

Despite the reservations, I found the book engaging in a typically Nick Robinson way, Would it have been substantively different had it been written without a sense of his position as big cheese at the BBC? Probably not, if only because Nick is shrewd enough to know that in the cut throat world of political journalism it's best to keep as many of your peers as possible inside the tent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Where The Truth Lies, 21 Dec 2012
By 
Neutral "Phil" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Live From Downing Street (Hardcover)
Nick Robinson describes his job as reporting 'on what those in power are thinking and doing and on those who attempt to hold them to account in Parliament'. It's not an easy task as politicians appear to work on the principle that ignorance is bliss where the public is concerned. The televised verbal jousting at Prime Minster's Question time has become an integral part of news and it's a sad comment that Parliament took so long to accept the people had the right to see and hear what their representatives did. It had a long pedigree. In 1560 the procedures of the Commons stated, 'Every person of the Parliament ought to keep secret and not to disclose the secrets and things done and spoken in the Parliament house'. In 1642 an MP was expelled from Parliament for acting 'against the honour and privilege of this house' by publishing his Parliamentary speeches.

A century later William Hogarth provided a cartoon (which is reproduced in the book) depicting ' a huge naked bottom straddling the Treasury with people lining up to kiss it'. Everyone knew who was being lampooned. Walpole spent the equivalent of 2.5m pounds subsidizing newspapers supporting his policies. He regarded Parliamentary reporting as 'forgery of the worst kind'. He did not want the public to know what MP's were up to and, judging by the expenses scandal, it's an attitude still prevailing in some quarters. When William Pitt the Younger introduced censorship during the Napoleonic wars Speaker Abbott ordered the serjeant-at-arms 'to make special arrangements to ensure that never again would the words spoken in....an important debate..... fail to reach the public'. By 1829 Hansard had established itself as the leading reporter of Parliamentary matters. In 1889 Parliament decided to subsidize Hansard in 1909 took it over altogether, producing separate volumes for each House.

John Reith is often portrayed as a dour Scottish Presbyterian but he was committed to providing the public with first hand accounts of current affairs. In 1923 he wanted to broadcast the King's speech at the State Opening of Parliament but was not granted permission. In 1926 Stanley Baldwin, after consulting with other party leaders, announced there was a "greatly preponderating body of opinion against broadcasting the proceedings of the House". The BBC is required to "broadcast an impartial account day by day, prepared by professional reporters, of the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament". It did so as reported speech from 1945 to 1978 and thereafter by actual extracts. In 1988 a proposal to have 'a closed-circuit experiment in sound and vision' was defeated by a single vote. A subsequent trial period resulted in approval for the televising of Parliament under strict conditions. The resignation speeches of Geoffrey Howe in 1990 and Robin Cook in 2003 provided dramatic evidence of the value of broadcasting to the nation, something which would have been invaluable at the time of Suez in 1956 and the Profumo Affair in 1963.

Given licence politicians would control the media. During the 1926 general strike Reith resisted efforts to make the BBC the mouthpiece of the government and reported bulletins from both sides in the dispute. However, he acknowledged the BBC was not free to broadcast everything he would have wished. The conflict between the national interest and government policy has surfaced on many occasions since. Churchill's bitterness that the BBC would not broadcast his pre-war speeches against appeasement was one reason behind the decision to end the BBCs monopoly with the introduction of ITV. The result was the decline of deference towards politicians who needed the media to get their views across but were met with intellectually hostile interviewers. Robin Day, a long-time advocate for televising Parliament, asked Heath 'How low does you credibility have to go before you consider yourself a liability to the party you lead?'. His question to Wilson was 'In view of your past record of lies and broken promises do you really expect the electorate to replace any reliance on your word?'.

John Nott walked out of an interview with Day while Thatcher was given a hard time over the sinking of the Belgrano. In retrospect Thatcher was correct in stating the release of government papers under the thirty year rule would vindicate her decision. In seeking to justify the Iraq war, Blair complained to the BBC's director general Greg Dyke, 'I believe and I am not alone in believing, that you have not got the balance right between support and dissent; between news and comment; between the voices of the Iraqi regime and the voices of Iraq dissidents; or between the diplomatic support we have and diplomatic opposition'. History shows Blair got the balance wrong.

The Iraq war was based on inaccurate information posing as reliable intelligence. In the fall-out Blair used his sophistry to avoid admitting responsibility for the naming of David Kelly. When asked if he or anyone else in Downing Street or the Ministry of Defence (MOD) authorized the leaking of Kelly's name Blair said, 'Emphatically not. I did not authorize the leaking of the name David Kelly'. In fact, Blair had authorized confirmation of the name which was made easier by hints from the MOD. The Hutton enquiry determined that while responsibility for the 'dodgy dossier' lay with Scarlett it was written to support Blair. Robinson confirms Brown's decision not to hold an election in 2008 and provides details of the planned coup to oust Brown in 2009. Politicians blame the media for their negative image but, as Robinson states, 'journalists abhor secrecy and relish finding ways to get round it' noting that 'the fearless pursuit of truth is a fine journalistic tradition'. He admits, 'there is another, less honourable one: what you don't know, make up.' It applies to both sides. After all 'good old Mr Wilson' and Dennis the Menace were part of the same show. Five stars. A pleasure to read.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining politics - who'd have thought it!, 29 Oct 2012
By 
Mr. C. J. Nicholls (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Live From Downing Street (Hardcover)
At the age of 66 I try to avoid most of the news, especially political stuff, but I found this romp through our politicians' attitudes to radio and television both informative and entertaining. There are amusing anecdotes and small asides which make it an interesting read, even if you, like me, are fed up with our ruling class and the media's obsession with 'Whitehall Village' gossip.
Politicians' diaries are usually boring and full of self-serving lies (those of Chris Mullin being a very entertaining exception) - I did once try to read one volume of Tony Benn's loony left ramblings - torture! It's great to get the other side of the story, revealing some of their faults and prejudices. I'll listen with more sympathy to Mr Robinson's TV reports as he battles to remain neutral in the face of criticism from the politicians - each of whom always assumes that his or her opinion is the correct one, and the only one we should hear.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lIVE fROM dOWNING sTREET, 26 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Live From Downing Street (Hardcover)
I thought the book well written and wouldnt have expected anythjing else. The end chapters I found more interesting than the early ones but all in all a g00d read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spinners Spun, 7 Dec 2012
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Live From Downing Street (Hardcover)
My admiration for Nick Robinson's great sense of humour, impressive intelligence and public speaking skills as displayed in a promotional talk led me to purchase this book. It provides an interesting explanation of the influences which moulded him and how he trained for his profession, set in the context of broadcasting in general, with a timely reminder of the BBC's contribution to free speech.

Although careful not to spill too many beans on members of the current government, he provides a store of anedotes on former key figures - a paranoid Wilson, on-a-mission Thatcher and not-as-stupid as people think Bush.

If you have followed the news closely since long before Robinson became a journalist in the 80s, you may be a little disappointed to find this is a rehashing of what you already know. The casual reference to names of current media figures may tend to make the book date fairly rapidly.

However, if you enjoy an entertaining if fairly superficial read, or have come to "the news" recently and would like to learn more of "the background", I recommend "Live from Downing Street".
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational, Informative, Entertaining, 12 Nov 2012
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Nick Robinson proves that there is far more to being a political journalist than simply asking questions and reporting the responses. His insight into how senior politicians saw the role of television was fascinating.
A great book which I know will be read again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and thought-provoking, 20 May 2013
This review is from: Live From Downing Street (Hardcover)
Enormous fun! Great anecdotes and a surprisingly humble tone gives this book more charm than you would probably expect. It also benefits from having a clear argument and narrative thrust which saves it from being another me-to journalistic biography.
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