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The Political Animal: An Anatomy Paperback – 4 Sep 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (4 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140288473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140288476
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.4 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,598,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product description


What does it take to become a truly 'political animal' - and why would anyone strive to become one, given the low opinion which we have, sooner or later, of almost all politicians? Paxman is not known for lacking cynicism concerning the ways and motives of the contemporary breed - but in this overview he presents what is billed as a 'witty, unsparing, but essentially sympathetic portrait of modern politicians and the strange world they inhabit'. The text is under wraps because of serialisation - but this promises to be a highly readable and lively take on those currently and recently purveying our brand of democracy, or the 'least bad form of government'. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jeremy Paxman is a journalist, best known for his work presenting Newsnight and University Challenge. His books include Friends In High Places and The English. He lives in Oxfordshire.

Customer Reviews

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By I. R. Kerr TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
Two questions stand out in Jeremy Paxman's book. Why do people want to be politicians?; and why do the public mistrust politicians?

Why do people want to be politicians, there is one major reason given by the MP's themselves, to serve the public but as Paxman points out the aphrodisiac of "Power" and control is always there not very far beneath the surface.

Using examples both historic and modern he shows how Politicians climb their way up the ladder of power,only a few reaching the heights of cabinet posts. Some are shown to be very active in their constituency, others less so. Some have a history of voting with their conscience, most though have at least one eye on the main chance.

The second question is answered indirectly so many times in this book. We do not like Politicians because.

Loyalty to party is valued over personal integrity.

Party conferences are no longer anything but commercial side-shows.

The whips, especially New Labour ones, come across almost as Gauleiters, semi house-trained thugs there to oversee that no member considers voting with their conscience rather than what the Leader requires.

They blatantly lie.

The sycophantic questions at PMQ's.

They are backstabbers par-excellence, look at how Mo Mowlem was punished when party members dared to give her a standing ovation during Tony Blair's party conference speech.

They vote themselves inflation busting pay rises and protected pensions whilst dragging their feet over workers who have been sold out by their employers.

Party membership is in decline as people of all political hues despair of the self-serving chancers currently at Westminster.
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By A Customer on 28 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
Why do we have such high expectations of politicians as a class yet such low expectations of the individuals? We enjoy the small change of political scandal – the revelations of unorthodox private lives or unsavoury business practice, while at the same time tuttutting that politicians are just as stupid, venal and corrupt as any of us. Paxman’s book makes an important contribution to a debate that’s just gaining currency – how can we re-engage people with politics when the so-called Westminster Village – parliament and the media circus that surrounds it – seems so self obsessed and distant from everyday life. His thesis is that this is essential, if civil society is to be maintained, and argues that our double standards do ourselves a disservice – politicians in the UK at least are less corrupt and sleazy than we might think, and certainly less so than in many other European democracies. But his main point is that politicians won’t exactly make this easy – for they’re a decidedly odd lot, an extension I suppose of the old adage that anyone who wants the job probably is unsuited to it by that very desire. In an episodic look at the politician’s life – the early years as a hack, candidacy, and the new MP through to the close of political life whether by election defeat, resignation or retirement – he aims to uncover just what it is that makes them tick. Paxman’s approach will be familiar to Newsnight viewers and here, he’s on home turf – feline, deceptively humorous yet with a menacing undercurrent. If you like his style you’ll find parts of The Political Animal laugh out loud funny, the odd irritating factual error notwithstanding - and not only for his Jeffrey Archer gags.
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Format: Paperback
We all know that Jeremy Paxman is disdainful of politicians, or at the very least, sceptical. In his book, The Political Animal, he tells us why.

The book is structured in chronological order with our political animal first jostling for speaking time at the students union, then desperately clawing for a no-hope parliamentary seat, then eventually winning the seat, then working hard at the art of making it look like he/she is hard at work in the constituency, then finally getting some real power (so he/she thinks) as a minister, then retiring amid the maelstrom of a scandal and/or career disappointment. It's a tough journey we are told, a journey that only the insecure careerist desperate for affirmation will pack their bag for. The question Paxman asks the reader is: is it worth it?

Each chapter (presented as a rung on the political career ladder) is peppered with amusing anecdotes/qualifiers from the mouths of both political greats and political minnows (from Nye Bevan to Michael Fabricant) - from the apparently high business of parliamentary legislation to the pointless absurdity of constituency work (MPs can't really help their constituents we are told, which is why they spend most of their time getting their photo taken for the local paper).

Ultimately, politicians are an odd, somewhat desperate breed, and this book will tell you why. In the process, you will be given a crash course in UK parliamentary history and party politics.
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By A Customer on 19 Dec. 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a rare tome - a book about politics that will entertain and instruct both political junkies and the common reader.
That means, of course, that it's not a work of academic political science. Rather it's a work of inspired journalism by a master feature-writer.
Feature writers commonly weave together three things - facts, quotes and anecdotes - and they hang them on a theme. Usually they provide plenty of facts and quotes but good anecdotes are normally in short supply (or badly written) even though they are the ingredients that build readability.
Jeremy Paxman not only provides plenty of facts and striking quotes in his analysis of British politicians and their wayward habits but also gives us a text fairly bristling with pertinent anecdotes drawn from the politics of the past century or so.
It's important to make this point because the questions he sets out to answer may seem dull to the common reader: "Where do politicians come from? Why do they do it? Why do we seem so disenchanted with them? And why does the experience of politics nearly always end in disillusion?"
With admirable impartiality and in a sparkling prose style, Paxman hangs his diverting collection of facts, quotes and anecdotes on the theme that politicians are generally untrustworthy, power-hungry, hypocritical, naive or disillusioned. Certainly almost all of them end with their ideals or illusions badly battered by the experience of an adversary system which is corrupted by competition, connivance, secrecy and rivalry. Privately few of them ever have a good word to say about a colleague or competitor.
Almost all of them end disillusioned and the most disillusioned of all are those who climb highest. If these high-flyers don't end in defeat or disgrace, they fade (thank goodness!
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