The Blunders of Our Governments Paperback – 4 Sep 2014
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‘If Britain’s politicians are among the world’s most honest, hardworking and well-meaning, why do they mess up so badly and so often? A trenchant book that will make you see red, even as you laugh.’(The Economist, Best Books of 2013)
‘This book will make you gasp in disbelief and stamp your feet in rage, and quite frequently reduce you to helpless laughter...it is hard to overpraise.’(Peter Wilby, Guardian)
‘An entertaining journey through the cock-ups of governments.’(Independent)
‘Perceptive and entertaining… chilling.’(THES)
‘Must be read by every incumbent and wannabe representative of the people.’(Herald, Best Books of 2013)
‘A notable indictment of modern British politics and administration… a splendid dipping-into volume to feed fashionable public disdain for the fragile art of politics.’(Guardian, Best Politics Books of 2013)
‘In a refreshing break from the customary finger-pointing tribalism of British politics, Anthony King and Ivor Crewe lay bare the ways in which governments of all hues have wasted mountains of cash on titanically misconceived projects in the past few decades… astonishing.’(Metro)
‘Fascinating and zeitgeisty.’(David Aaronovitch, The Times)
‘Compelling…David Cameron is said to have read about Winston Churchill’s early warmongering during his summer holidays. It would have been much better for all of us if he had read this.’(Independent on Sunday)
‘Grimly entertaining… This book should be a compulsory text for every would-be minister and permanent secretary.’(Financial Times)
About the Author
Anthony King was Millennium Professor of British Government at the University of Essex. He broadcasted frequently on politics and elections for the BBC and wrote on the same subjects for the Financial Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Observer.
Sir Ivor Crewe is the Master of University College, Oxford. He was formerly Professor of Government and Vice Chancellor at the University of Essex.
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If you are familiar with the topic then you are likely to find relatively little here that is particularly new or surprising. Familiarity with the topic would include reading the odd issue of The Economist or Private Eye. Despite an incredible breadth of research and interviews, this often reads like a quick collation of various news stories from the past few decades. Relatively little use seems to have been made of the direct interviews, though the very extensive research and engagement does at least mean that the book is free of the sort of glaring misunderstandings that can pepper such books.
For my money, the book could easily have been shorter on recommendations, and longer on the case studies. I think that a more polemical book written by one author (and fewer researchers) might have given more punch to the topic. While this is not up to the standard of Whitehall by Peter Hennessy, it is a reasonably astute analysis of the state of British government.
For a completely different perspective, try The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber.
This book attempts to answer the question, and the authors' analysis is fascinating. I worked in government at the time some of these were happening, so recall them well. We knew that the policies we were implementing would not work., but nobody listened. In some cases, nobody spoke up.
Recommended for anyone with an interest in politics. Should be essential reading for anyone taking up ministerial office
The second section is more general, detailing the reasons why things can go so badly wrong. Again, it is very clear, but it seemed repetitive at times. It would have been a more interesting book to me if they had incorporated these insights into the chapters about the blunders.
it is extremely useful, well written and informative.
because it records in detail successive and half forgotten details
of previous governments'(all parties) failures and errors.
The authors try to find out what the basic fault lines are
that result in repeated failures of our internal (and in too small a part foreign) policies.
Their approach is both precise and broad-based with an unusually clear awareness
of the London bubble think tank culture which is driving Westminster towards remoteness from England and Scotland.
The question itself is the key. The answers are vital for the UK's , or England's(?) future.
One could wish for more analysis on European policies - which appear to be disastrous and to have been on an aggressive losing track for decades resulting in the potentially Pyrrhic victories of the turbo- capitalist based UKIP.
One hopes the current UK front benches might find time to read it and hope they might understand it.