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Prime Minister Box Set: Asquith (20th Century PM) Paperback – 15 Sep 2006
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About the Author
Stephen Bates is a senior correspondent for The Guardian where he now writes about religion and royalty and was formerly a political correspondent and the paper's European Affairs Editor. He has also been a journalist with the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.
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In his portrayal of Asquith's personal life, Bates is also impressively even-handed, and provides some good evidence of Asquith's private character, through extracts from sentimental letters he would often write to female friends, especially those he found attractive; though these letters are purely platonic, and expose his kind persona well. This however, is balanced with good accounts of Asquith's drinking, an issue well-quoted from, using sources from his political and private life, and an issue Bates deals with fairly. In his portrayals of certain individuals though, Bates' work falls down a bit. Though the Conservative government and the House of Lords, of the early 1900s were both difficult and often obstinate, he too often polemically criticises them, and similarly his account of Liberal leader, and later PM Lloyd-George could not be more blatantly partisan and critical; which takes away from the book's general informative and neutral nature; with quotes on Lloyd-George, the Tories and the House of Lords being obviously selected to make a one-sided, negative portrayal of them. Still, for those looking for a good, readable, and enjoyable introduction to one of the lesser known, but very important Prime Ministers of the 20th century, I would definitely recommend Stephen Bates `Asquith'.
To chart both sides of Asquith's character - whilst remaining in the main, sympathetic to his subject - and to distil the turbulent, ever-changing era of the early 20th century into a book you can read in one (long) sitting is an impressive achievement - a reader will come away from this book with a good understanding of a flawed but perhaps underrated prime minister. Recommended.