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Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor Paperback – Unabridged, 23 May 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Main Market Ed. edition (23 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447222768
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447222767
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 305,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"This book succeeds on three levels. First as the memoir of a man who rose from modest origins to occupy three of the highest offices in the land. Second as an inside account of the rise and fall of new Labour and, finally, as a masterclass in the art of government by one of its foremost practitioners. It is lucid, engaging, humorous, occasionally self-deprecating and generally frank." --Chris Mullin, Times

"One of the least self-pitying memoirs I have read: a blessed relief ... this well-told, humane and entertaining tale of high office shows that Labour has been jolly lucky to have Rubber Jack around for so long" -- Anne McElvoy, Sunday Times

"Unexpectedly interesting ... His put-downs are few and far between, but all the more devastating for being so measured and euphemistic." --4 **** Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

"There is none of the puffed-up grandness that many politicians acquire. On the contrary, Straw seems to remain decent, his mistakes freely admitted and his feet firmly rooted on the ground" --Douglas Carswell, Sunday Express

"These memoirs are better written than most. There is ample gossip and genuinely funny stories ... As well as waspish observations about personalities Charles Clarke is "a quixotic contrarian" there are revealing anecdotes."
--Peter Wilby, Guardian

"A fascinating insight into life at the heart of New Labour ... crafted with literary elegance erudite, forensic and fascinating ... This book will stand the test of time. Straw's account of Labour's journeys in and out of power over nearly five decades is a must for serious students of governments and politics" --Peter Hain, Observer

"This book is no dull ministerial CV. One of Straw's virtues as a politician was that he was one of the few interviewees who would, at 8.10am on the Today programme, answer the questions and engage in the argument. No surprise, then, that he is a good writer, with a nice line in understated wit ... I had no idea that Straw's early life was so difficult, and he tells the story well ... You might think, after all the memoirs of the New Labour years, that it would be hard to add much that is new. Yet each different voice adds a different perspective, and this is one of the best and most distinctive." --John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday

"After a few years in government, Tony Blair used to joke that every successive week was his worst ever. Jack Straw's recent memoir Last Man Standing is a reminder that, in an age of ceaseless scrutiny, a government can easily appear beset by troubles...But one of the themes that emerges from Mr Straw's memoirs is that political crises end up at the centre of government even if they do not originate there..." --Times

"'Last Man Standing' is one of the better memoirs by a leading light of the New Labour years. Straw's prose is like the man himself: cautious, measured, dependable."
--Private Eye --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The autobiography of Jack Straw - an MP for thirty-three years and at the heart of government throughout the longest-serving Labour administration in history

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By EG on 12 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have read some biographies before but I am not a big biography geek. Nevertheless, I decided to give this one a try and I have to say overall I truly enjoyed it. It's a big book and I was worried at first it would take me a long time to finish, but once I got to the chapters on Jack Straw's ministerial adventures, I was captivated and without realising it, I was reading page after page. The first four chapters start with the author's childhood and the years he spent in NUS, ILEA and working as a researcher. They describe how he slowly started getting involved in politics from an early age and how his family drama and his troubles at school formed some of the opinions that shaped the rest of his life. These first chapters give a more human portrayal of his persona; as the reader, you no longer just view him as a minister in the cabinet who made important decisions, but also as an individual with an interesting story, a man who had a strange relationship with his father, ran away from school various times and went through the terrible experience of losing a baby. All these anecdotes eventually lead to the time when Jack became an MP and from that point onwards, his image reverts back to the what most of us will be familiar with.

His time as the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary is also fascinating. As the story progresses, at times describing the passage of a bill and at other times indulging in some Labour party intrigue, I experienced mixed feelings, both of interest and frustration as I was getting drawn into the complexity and gravity of the events unfolding around him.

The story is set not so long ago and the events should still be fresh in people's minds, allowing them to rethink back to when they actually occurred.
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Format: Hardcover
I have followed Jack Straw's career more closely than others because we attended the same school. I remember feeling strangely proud when he was appointed Foreign Secretary and later Justice Secretary. This stemmed from the realisation that we had sat on the same pews during school chapel, eaten lunch at the same tables, and since he had gone on to a life in politics, so too, perhaps, could I.

It is difficult to dislike Jack Straw. `I love politics, Parliament, my Blackburn constituency,' is Straw's first sentence in Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor. He has always been a reassuring figure, if perhaps a little dull. It is this intrinsic likeability that helps explain why he has been a political survivor.

Straw says the first rule of politics is to survive. He remained in top Cabinet posts throughout Labour's 13 years in government, including spells as Home then Foreign Secretary, Commons Leader and finally Lord Chancellor. He earned the nickname Rubber Jack, the Politician who remained intact whatever was thrown at him.

The big philosophical ideas of politics are not Straw's primary concern. He prefers to follow a crowd with his head down. Ahead of the 1959 election, aged 13, he wrote `to each of the main parties to ask for details of what they were intending to do.' Though his love of politics is clear, what drives him is less apparent.

For example, Straw has always been a Eurosceptic. In 1975, he helped organise the `No' campaign in the referendum on the Common Market. But when he was Foreign Secretary, Straw not only opposed a referendum, he advocated a European Constitution and described the EU as a `noble institution'. Straw was simply putting survival before belief.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A confession: Jack Straw and I were at Leeds University at the same time and his influence on my early life was as a result quite considerable. I feared an exposé on student politics, but discovered a well argued and convincing version of what it must have been like to go well beyond student politics and enter the real world of local and national government. Truly a survivor, Jack Straw grew in stature and sat at the pinnacle of government while never forgetting his constituency (Blackburn) and all the people who gave his life both in and out of parliament such meaning. Well balanced, objective and above all readable. Highly recommended.
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I ordered this book from back in August, but, since it never seemed to arrive, I finally ordered it directly from It arrived promptly. Even with the extra foreign shipping costs, it was definitely worth the wait!

I read "Last Man Standing" because I am addicted to British politics (thanks to BBC Democracy Live and the UK Parliament website). I was especially interested in learning what a minister actually does during the course of his day. From Mr Straw's account of his thirteen years of juggling the ball of world events and, at the same time, managing his Blackburn constituency, I am impressed both with his energy and with his equanimity, particularly in navigating what I gather were sometimes treacherous political waters. I say 'gather', because Mr Straw is properly reticent on such matters. Those looking for sensational revelations about the Blair-Brown years will have to go elsewhere.

Mr Straw laces his memoir with frequent and often self-deprecating applications of keen wit. His compelling account of his childhood in Essex (one doesn't often read about an 'ordinary' child and future politician who has not attended public school) represents the perfect prelude for a career that eventually finds him wearing the knee breeches and heavy gold-braided robes of the Lord Chancellor (His choosing to do away with the "full bottom wig" seems especially apropos). Despite what must be the official restrictions on what he can tell us, Mr Straw gives his readers an intriguing glimpse of his career as both Home and Foreign Secretary as well as Leader of the House of Commons.

My overall impression gleaned from the narrative is that Jack Straw is an incredibly *nice* man. I enjoyed reading his political autobiography immensely.
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