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Nobody Does It Better!,
This review is from: Who Runs This Place?: The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century (Hardcover)Anthony Sampson has been writing about 'The Establishment' - or the 'Anti-Establishment' Establishment as he might now call it - for over 40 years.
Not only is he unbelievably well-informed - that one person is able to write in such depth about no less than 24 tentacles to the governance of Britain is in itself worthy of five stars - but he is also able to make very informative comparisons going back to 1962, to demonstrate both the changes that have occurred, and the costs to democracy that have been involved.
Having first voted in the 1959 election, which returned SuperMac with a majority of over 100, it is possible to share Sampson's dismay at the decline that has taken place.
During the course of that campaign I attended meetings in Birmingham addressed by both Harold Macmillan, and a few days later, Hugh Gaitskell.
Looking back, the then lack of security now beggars belief, coupled to the fact that, today, only loyal acolytes would get into the hall.
That election was, I believe, the first in which TV played a part. As Sampson now shows, the role of TV is now all-embracing, and offers party leaders much more control of the presentation of the message.
Of particular interest is the Venn diagram - inside the front and back covers - in which Sampson shows how the various components of the Establishment relate to each other. At either end are two huge circles, on the left Media, and on the right The Rich.
The Prime Minister looms large, Parliament and Cabinet have to be searched for, and Political Parties are of even smaller significance.
All this is fleshed-out in great detail in the book's 24 chapters, and Chapter 25 - Who Runs This Place - is a detailed and perceptive summary.
Finally, and this is the cherry on the icing on the cake, the book is bang up-to-date, including much on the subject of Hutton, the implications of Blair's adventure in Iraq, and the fact that Parliamentary Committees are such poor instruments in terms of the scrutiny and accountability of the Executive.
Sampson shows that the 'separation of powers', first mooted by John Locke at the end of the 17th Century, is still not effectively built into the British Constitution.
If you read one book this year on where we are up to in 2004, go for this one.