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Gordon Brown: Prime Minister
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on 19 July 2014
Read this book and weep.

I am not a close observer of modern mainstream politics and I only bought this book because I wanted to know more about Labour's U-turn on re-nationalising the railways when they got into power. Just one of a host of betrayals, but it was a way in...

What I found however was probably the most horrifying and depressing reading experience of my life - even more than reading about John Major destroying British Rail. That's not to criticise Tom Bower - I took one star off for occasional repetition, but his view would probably be that some people are so extraordinarily disloyal, violently rude, incompetent and cowardly that it needs repeating otherwise we might think it was all a joke. Well, it was not.

Here's my personal bottom line from this book: the greatest insult you can levy against our system of electing our top politicians is that the talents required to succeed in getting to the top have absolutely nothing to do with the talents you need to be able to do something worthwhile when you get there. How mad is that?

Blair and Brown both rose to the top and remained there for over ten years, yet they hated each other, plotted with their cronies against each other or any anyone else who threatened their positions, dismissed expert civil servants for trying to advise them when something proposed was stupid (which is their job), commissioned endless enquiries to defuse criticisms in the House and then ignored all the enquiries' recommendations, shouted and screamed at their staff, encouraged back-door corruption and sleaze - and so on. What they did NOT do was reduce debt, improve inequality, support education or the NHS or industry - and so on. Even setting aside the financial waste which was astronomical, the sheer waste of human personal resources involved in this appalling shambles of governments is terrifying. And I'm not a Tory or Lib Dem. And no-one went to prison. The world truly is upside down.

I used to wonder why it was when I glimpsed Blair and Brown on TV that they gave me an uneasy feeling. Now I know - and I wish I could forget. And that sound of Gordon Brown saying "prrudent"....
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on 14 June 2016
There can be no less suitable person than the self absorbed womanising partying 9and I don't mean just in his youth (as the book mentions trips at Geoffrey Robinsons expense to watch football matches abroad when he is well established in the Labour party) person to be involved in the "new" Labour project.
Constant battles with almost everyone who doesn't see things his way and not being able to see that he was about as suitable a person to lead Labour (he never liked the NEW bit) to win a three legged race never mind an election..Heard over the radio,I'm sure he would sound convincing when faced with a sharply booted,and suited Tory MP..(Much as Nixon did when facing Kennedy..Radio listeners thought he had won..TV viewers did not) but this renowned scruffbag of an MP did not fit in in the Pop Idol Politics of the 1990's..and boy did he hate Blair for being able to fit in..even if Blairs knowledge of ,the Labour party,politics in general..well anything..meant Brown saw this man as a clown ,but a clown he could latch on to.....A Wizrd of Oz to Blairs tin man.
Brown in general comes across as a sad sad person..in this well researched biography..Never officially voted in by the public as Prime Minister,and as such he lacked the muscle to push his LABOUR ideas through..Still it could have been worse,he protected us from John Prescott being Prime Minister.
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on 6 December 2010
The book starts off a little on the slow side detailed Brown's early years and given Brown himself was a dull bore it is unsurprising. But once Brown becomes chancellor then the fun begins. Basically all we suspected and more is laid out in detail. Of course not many people wish to be credited with saying something negative about another esp if that person is the PM of the day. I am glad though as this book confirms what I stated in a letter to the now defunct The Business newspaper some years ago, namely, Brown was nothing more than a smoke and mirrors man and it would not be long before the chickens came home to roost and all those so called financial journalists who could not gush enough about his financial prudence and prowess would crawl out of the woodwork to rubbish him once it all became apparent we were living on borrowed time and credit...and so it came to pass!!!!

At the time I forecast too that Blair would hang on till the most opportune time for him to leave the country, again namely just as it descended into financial melt down....and so it came to pass!! thank you new labour for imposing the most incompetent chancellor and prime minister in living memory on us. now its Ed Milliband?? go for it!!! no stopping you now is there!!
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on 18 June 2012
Having just read this book I have to say its possibly one of the scariest books I have ever read. To think that if one tenth of what Tow Bower has written is true (and I'm sure most of it is as I recall no Libel suites being issued) then 13 years of New Labour was 13 years of vindictive cowardice, dirty tricks, character assassination and fiscal terminological inexactitude.

In all honesty the book does not reveal much that I did not already suspect that Browns relationship with the truth was lazy at best. All in all a good read and perhaps after reading this the UK public will look past the "spin" put out by the likes of Charlie Whelan and one day elect a politician of substance. Looking at the current encumbrances it will be a long time coming.

Worth a read in my opinion.
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on 1 June 2015
\\excellent I found I couldn't put it down for at least 5 chapters.
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on 16 May 2016
Initially a good read but two thirds of the way through you feel that the author is just churning out the required number of words for the book contract.

Quite shocking to learn of the lack of strategic delivery in politics and the extent of the infighting and the ego struggles.
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on 17 June 2013
I have admired Tom Bower for his books on Maxwell and Branson. However, this book seems to me a bit of a hatchet job, not so much in the main facts, but in the occasional snide remark (the fact Brown would occasionally spend £75 on a haircut is juxtaposed with a remark that suggests his choice debars him from an opinion elsewhere. Bower offers what appear to be psychological insights with no evidence. An example of bias is in chapter 9 where he says, " Like all good socialists, he [Brown] believed mankind could be influenced to change its habits". This is a slight that backfires since the same is true of Christians and indeed most moralists. Bower is inconsistent. At one point he ridicules Geoffrey Robinson for his management style and then later says Robinson had good management skills. The closing page of the book is in contrast to the damning evidence of earlier chapters. It praises Brown for his achievements and his part in controlling spending ministries. And yet the bulk of the detailed evidence shows spending increasing unsustainably in a prescient analysis of the 2007 crash.

The book has no bibliography and not that many source notes; most were not prepared to go on the record. However, given the fact the book has been published and there are libel laws, one must assume that in many areas the book is factually correct. And what a set of facts! Waste on a huge scale born out of arrogance and a refusal to take advice. Worse, Brown then refused to allow his officials to attend Parliamentary Select Committees to explain to MPs what had happened. Policy made up. Stories told that were at odds with the known facts and told deliberately to confuse.

The book is easy to read but sometimes infuriating because of Bower's evident bias. And I think some of his facts are just wrong. Tory spending was not 30% of GDP but more like 40% (it grew under Thatcher)so the comparison with Labour's figure is not so great, although it did undoubtedly grow.
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on 10 February 2017
sensationalist rubbish and yellow journalism at it's worst.
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on 1 September 2013
This book was written in 2004, before the "banking" crisis and all that jazz. Which makes Bower's book all the more perceptive. Putting aside the the man's unpleasantness (the bullying, the moods, the endless plotting against those who crossed him) which Bower documents in depth, what comes across is Brown's staggering ineptitude.

Bower lists disaster after disaster, the cumulative effect of which only came to light after the credit crunch (and the publication of this book). By then there was no money in the Government coffers: nothing had been put aside in the "good years". Brown is a die-hard tax and spend socialist, someone who really believes it's possible to tinker around the edges of the economy with endless tax credits, tax reliefs, vanity projects (Individual Learning Accounts anyone?) and make a difference.

Immediately in office Brown destroyed the regulatory regime, setting the scene for a lending boom on which he depended, as people swapped equity from their properties for lifestyle and were thus - for a while - insulated from the various tax hikes the man introduced. HMRC has never recovered from having to introduce and administer various tax-credit schemes, some seemingly pulled as soon as they were introduced. Treasury officials, with years of experience, were ignored or shunted aside. The NHS received unbelievable sums of our money (taxes) and showed a criminal return on the "investment", thanks to Brown's belief in centralised planning.

Bower keeps the reader engaged through this catalogue of disasters. If at times it's a hard slog it's because the subject matter is so relentlessly depressing; at times one has to wonder how Brown and Blair had time to "run" the country, so involved are they both in hatchet jobs and briefing against one another. The more financially intricate of Brown's disasters (Network Rail re-nationalisation, PFI etc) are written about with as much clarity as is possible for the layman (me).

A disastrous little man. It's hard to find anything redeeming about Gordon Brown. This book nailed him in 2004; a near decade on and his legacy haunts us all.
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on 18 June 2014
This is an absolutely damming biography. If even only some of it is true then Gordon Brown must have been a very difficult man to work with! My only doubt is whether the authors hostility to him has led to an overly negative picture. Can it really be true that Brown refused to share a plane with Robin Cook because he hated him do much? The picture is of a man ruthlessly pursuing power, obsessive, vindictive, holding grudges and prone to violent temper outbursts. Is this too one sided? He, unlike Tony Blair, has not enriched himself since leaving politics. I can't help feeling that the better side of Gordon Brown has been missed here. A good read.
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