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4.2 out of 5 stars
Brown at 10
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2010
Brown's short but significant reign as Prime Minister is given a critical, fair and ultimately sympathetic analysis in Brown at 10. Having read The End of the Party, Andrew Rawnsley's entertaining account of Labour 2001-10, I was looking for a account of Brown's time in No. 10 that was more objective, less gossip-laden and more academic.

A quick a glance at the bibliography and and endnotes show that the book has been meticulously researched and referenced (although frustratingly private interview appears many times). Although i have not completed the book, it comes in at 450 pages of small print, i have found the authors approach satisfyingly honest, informative and clearly written. Particularly insightful sections include an account of Brown's response to the financial crisis of 2008/9, the numerous coup attempts and Brown's time in the world's spotlight, the London G20. It is often suggested in the book that Brown was at his most comfortable and successful on the international stage and struggled with domestic issues.

Whilst the book's lack of headline grabbing revelations is refreshing (there must have been some!) and the academic approach commendable the style is often clunking (like GB's fist) and it doesn't have the readability of the afformentioned Rawnsley book!

Brown at 10 is must for anyone interested in understanding what the role of the PM in the 21st century and how Brown succeeded and failed to adapt to the job description. The book isn't for the fair-weather reader of political diaries, it is a serious take on an often overly serious man, a flawed but engrossing insight into a flawed but engrossing PM.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 March 2011
"Brown at 10" is an excellent walk through the Premiership of Gordon Brown. It charts the political highs - from the financial crisis and performing well on the world stage - to the bad times - the expenses crisis and "Bigotgate", and is at all times detailed and completely readable.

The authors have clearly had excellent access to those who were at the very core of the Brown administration and are able to paint a believable picture of a committed and brilliant but ultimately flawed man.

This book explores the complete paradox that is Gordon Brown better than any other. Highly recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 April 2011
Was given as Xmas gift to a cousin in the civil service and he loved it. Apparently a fairly accurate portrayal of what happened and they enjoyed reading about people they have worked with over the years!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 November 2011
When it first came out Brown at 10 by Anthony Seldon and Guy Lodge was extremely well received for its authoritative detail and the revised paperback edition maintains that standard well. With Seldon being one of the founders of the modern school of contemporary history, it is no surprise that the book follows the thorough, heavily documented approach contemporary historians strive for - with over 1 million words of interviews recorded for posterity (even if many are, for the next 30 years, withheld from public view) and extensive access to private diaries.

The huge depth of research is accompanied by a fairly narrow focus - this is politics as seen through the eyes of Whitehall insiders, both in the civil service and in the Labour Party. That strength is only occasionally a weakness - most notably in the account of the May 2010 hung Parliament negotiations, which is remarkably favourable to a small number of Labour figures and glosses over Labour's failure to prepare for a hung Parliament despite for many months that being widely seen internally as not only the party's best but also only hope.

Indeed, this account is bookended by two unanswered questions: why are we now drowning in Labour figures who are revealed as having been critics of Gordon Brown all along yet did not back a contested leadership election, and why was Labour so unprepared for hung Parliament talks that the preparations of its negotiation team added up to little more than a quick cup of tea between Ed Balls and Peter Mandelson before walking into the negotiating room? Those two big acts of omission frame Brown's rise and fall and are largely absent from the book, though it does provide hints of partial answers.

Their absence from the book is deliberate for neither question features in the list of ten questions provided at the start of the book as forming its structure and purpose. In filling the gap between these two questions with their own ten questions, the authors do an excellent job, telling the story of a Gordon Brown who, having been consumed with plotting and addicted to spending money to win internal Labour support from 2003, was a dreadful Prime Minister until the financial crisis forced the best out of him. "Brown will go down in history as the creator and destroyer of New Labour, and then, at the last minute, its guilty and ineffective reviver," they conclude.

Despite those stringent criticism of Brown, in many ways the person who comes out of the book worst is Ed Balls - the uber plotter even pursing plots in secret from Brown when he feared Brown would not have the bottle for them, "the most unpleasant bully I have come across" in the words a colleague and the liar denying in public what he did in private.

Coming a close second to Balls are Harriet Harman (also fingered as a plotter against Brown, trying to marshal Cabinet members into ousting him) and British political journalists, a handful of whom are frequently pictured as being the far too uncritical recipients of misleading leaks and personal smears, published under their bylines and reduced to being mouthpieces for Labour infighting rather than independent seekers of truth.

The book's narrative structure shows just how much of a Prime Minister's time is taken up with security and foreign affairs matters - a pattern which David Cameron has been reported as being surprised by too after he took office.

With a number of other detailed accounts also published, there is little that is strikingly new in Brown at 10, though some details are wonderfully evocative - as when an aide hustled Gordon Brown into a building and behind a curtain so that he would avoid having to meet Robert Mugabe outside the UN or the story of how Ed Miliband helped craft the "this is no time for a novice" put down aimed at his brother David. News such as Gordon Brown breaking a mobile phone by throwing it away in anger is, however, no longer news even if it is reassuring to know that detailed research backs up such stories.

For a one volume account of the Brown years as Prime Minister, this book is hard to beat. If, however, you have already been a voracious consumer of memoirs and political news and have a good memory, there will be little new to be found in it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2013
"Like" is probably not the right word - "horribly fascinating" seems more appropriate. Fair to say the authors are themselves left-leaning, but struggle to contain their concern that this deeply flawed man became PM with the support of many Labour politicians who were aware of his failings. Allied with the two Andrew Rawnsley books on the Blair/Brown years & the self-pitying ramblings of Campbell with Mandelson's lordly superiority one has to think it is surprising the country survived at all. And now we have the Coalition!

Everytime I dip into Rawnsley or Seldon I find another nugget of nastiness about New Labour which I can hardly credit - where were the Press when we needed them, & what will be revealed when they turn to the Cameron/Clegg years? In truth, we need books like "Brown at 10" to provide a decent perspective on our short-term view of politics in the age of instant news & analysis
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2014
An insight into the brown period which perhaps you would not consider, and an insight into the person which gives a new dimension to that which would probably be assumed. Worth the time to read, if you have an interest in politics.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2011
I take the point made by others that this is not a detailed and rigorous academic tone but it is convincing and fascinating for someone, like myself, who took an interest in politics during GB's premiership. It reads easily and yet annotation is extensive enough to give opportunity to dig deeper if required. The structure of the book is basically to give a changing picture of the people and dynamics around GB and then to relate their role to significant events that unfolded in chronological order. Anyone that has asked themself the question, "why did he do that"? Or, "what was behind those events"? Will find it a treasure-trove of information.

On the one hand it shows GB as a human and intelligent figure who undoubtedly was in the right place during the 2008 economic crisis. But his lack of leadership and organisation skills throughout his Premiership are quite frightening.

Strongly recommended as a revealing and easy read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2013
Great book, shocking content. Everyone should read this to see how dysfunctional Gordon Browns government was. Read it without any party bias - its a shocker however you look at it. The book is well written, as are all of Seldons work.
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on 11 April 2015
This is a very serious and detailed book which gives you a clear understanding regarding the Brown premiership. The writers have clearly got the inside information as to what actually happened. Some of the stories behind, Afghanistan, Iraqi, the various Labour coups against Brown, managing the Cabinet and the election which led to the 2010 coalition is really very interesting. It is also very interesting to read about the various characters such as Mandelson, Darling, Cameron, Harman is fascinating. f you are interested in serious politics and government - UK wise - then this is a very good read.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2011
This is the fourth of Seldon's books about British Prime Ministers of the past 20 years. The others read well, notably the biography of John Major and the second about Blair, "Blair Unbound".

This one was less rewarding. It is about of the length of a full biography, but covers only the period of Brown's premiership. It is immensely detailed and by no means uninteresting, but, despite (or perhaps because of) being less gossipy than Andrew Rawnsley's "The End of the Party" (which covers 2001-10), it lacks the panache and flow of the latter. In truth it gives the impression of being assembled in too much of hurry. At the very outset, the various introductions and prefaces are off-putting, lapsing from the first person singular (presumably Seldon), to the second plural (Seldon and Lodge?) and even to the third singluar (either/or). Certain sentences are repeated in quick succession; and the narrative itself, presumably to give contemporary appeal, begins and ends gratingly in the present tense (though not in fact consistently).

The general thesis seems to be that Brown was too dysfunctional - and some of his acolytes too bruising - to be a truly effective Prime Minister, but that, facing financial meltdown, he did a remarkable job in the circumstances. This is a reasonable enough conclusion, but, my golly, it takes a lot of pages to tell the story.

I very much hope that Tom Bower will update his biography of Brown that ended in 2007 as I think someone could do much better and help to present this perplexing subject in the round. In fact, Rawnsley, to an extent, has already done so; and several writers, Mandelson, Rob Wilson and David Laws included, have offered much more illuminating accounts of the very final days in and beyond the bunker.
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