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on 2 November 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 9 February 2014
This is an exceptionally interesting book written by the BBC’s Political Editor. It is packed with expert political analysis, peppered with some delicious insider gossip. In the book, Robinson vividly conveys what it feels like to be required to offer instant political commentary to a mass audience on the great events of the day. He describes himself as ‘an adrenalin junkie, addicted to those moments when your pulse races, your throat goes dry and you have to take a deep breath and try to convey the drama while retaining your judgement.’

Robinson examines at length ‘the long and rocky forced marriage between politicians and broadcasters’. The strains in that relationship are seen in particularly sharp focus when the nation’s future is at stake when accurate and truthful reporting is likely to collide with what the politicians see as the national interest. There is what Robinson calls a ‘gulf in perspectives’, and many prime ministers have resented what they have seen as disloyalty, even treachery, when broadcasters (especially BBC broadcasters) have refused to take the government’s side.

I thought that the most interesting parts of the book dealt with the efforts made by politicians in the past 50 years to turn radio and television to their advantage. For those who are at ease in front of a camera or a microphone and who can cultivate an appealing political image – and Robinson cites Maggie Thatcher as being ‘prepared to be repackaged, rebranded and sold like a soap powder’ – the rewards of course are immense. But with the passing of the ‘age of deference’, the game has changed: political interviewing has evolved from ‘tame inquiry to fearsome interrogation’ and even the cosiest relations can quickly turn sour. The bitter ending of the love affairs between the media and both Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair dramatically illustrate this point. Blair came in the end to see the media as ‘like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits’.

‘Every prime minister’, Robinson sagely notes, ‘has had cause to despair of the media’.
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on 18 August 2013
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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on 3 January 2013
Nick Robinson's book is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the history of the relationship between politicians and the media, from the very beginnings of Parliament to the present day. It's part historical and part autobiographical, with the latter part in particular including lots of amusing anecdotes about Robinson's time as a political journalist. Some of these genuinely made me laugh out loud. It also has a lengthy "last word", in which Robinson muses on the future of political journalism, and the opportunities and threats offered by introducing to the UK biased broadcasting in the mould of Fox News.

He has an easy writing style making this an easy relaxed read. He sometimes has a slightly peculiar reliance on turns of phrase which fail to accurately communicate what he means to say: for example, there's a passage where he introduces Gordon Brown's disastrous flirtations with YouTube by saying that politicians have always been keen to embrace technology to communicate their message - something which he's spent most of the first two-thirds of the book disproving.

He gives a very eloquent account of the effect of the plurality of media in the broadest sense meaning that people surround themselves with messages that support their world viewpoint, and the effect this in turn has on perceptions of bias at the BBC. This is something I've been banging on about on Twitter for ages, in a far less coherent manner, and it was interesting to see that the same thoughts have occurred to that organisation's Political Editor. He also gives an interesting discussion of the nature of bias and impartiality, which I very much enjoyed.

There isn't an awful lot of new stuff in this book. I think many people who follow politics in detail are probably aware of the history of the BBC and the historic developments in the relationship between journalists and the press. But Robinson presents all of this with such a clear narrative and in such a clear way that I still found myself very engaged with the content even when he was describing events I knew well.

The lengthy discussion of recent events and media figures - phone hacking being perhaps the most notable example - will probably make this book date quite quickly. Indeed, the mentions of Leveson "whose report has not been published at the time of writing" already make it feel a little behind the times, particularly since Leveson's report covers much of the same ground discussed by Robinson.

Either way, this is well worth a read, and comes highly recommended.
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on 29 October 2012
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 December 2012
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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on 13 April 2014
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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on 26 November 2015
This is not a memoir. Nick Robinson, a fine journalist and one of the few truly insightful political commentators, has written a wonderful history of British current affairs broadcasting. Since the early days of radio there has always been a struggle between politicians and the broadcasters (the book is mainly about the BBC); a struggle for truth, control, power and influence. Some politicians understood it better than others and tried to manipulate the media for their own ends. Others remained confused, suspicious and distant.
This is an entertaining social history that conveys the impact of the press on public opinion and policy makers. Some lovely snapshots of a byegone era (Stanley Baldwin pausing to light his pipe during a live radio broadcast, while Mrs Baldwin sat next to him, quietly knitting), the wonders of the World Service, and the dramatic doom laden periods of war, disaster, or turmoil. Raises interesting questions for the future and is an entertaining, humorous read. Interesting story told with style.
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on 3 December 2012
Nick Robinson should have been called Jack Russell because of his terrier like manner of shouting cheeky questions at people who regard themselves as important. Some, like George Bush, can answer back, but few are able to ignore him completely

But this book is more than Nick's story. It's an important and well researched history of news reporting during the broadcasting age, from the early days of the BBC through to the 24/7 frenzy of today, when one is tempted to wonder how politicians get any work done after Nick and those like him have finished demanding answers

It's an easy and worthwhile read. with moments that many will remember, coloured in by what was happening behind the scenes at the time. How it went right, and how it went wrong for each of the Prime Ministers of the broadcasting age. And the dilemma of the journalist trying always to achieve fairness, balance and truthful reporting while maintaining working relationships and even friendships

Well worth reading
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on 13 December 2012
As the title says, it's an entertaining book with lots of political facts and trivia.
I was slightly disappointed in the flow of it, Knowing what a good speaker Nick is, I expected the reading to flow better and be lighter but I found one or two passages which were a little on the dull side.
But it's good overall.
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