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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 7 March 2008
If only 10% of this book is true we are dealing with a VERY dangerous Prime Minister who after 10 years of waiting hasn't a clue what to do and is so indicisive he can't even buy his own clothes.

The indications are that he will be a poor PM but we will see.

A book worth reading if you want to be shocked about the billions wasted in the last 10 years ... I was.

Update March 2009 ... this book is essentially correct e.g. dithering over the election in autumn 2008 and the collapse of our financial system run by the Brown inspired FSA.

Update April 2009 McBridegate ... so much of what is in this book makes the McBride/Draper emails so understandable and so easy to believe that Brown knew and condoned what was happening, even if not in precise detail.
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on 6 January 2013
Tom Bower has written a hatchet-job par excellence here that shows us almost completely the negative side of Gordon Brown. Brown was a pivotal figure in what was, in effect, a co-premiership. To give Bower due credit, it is important we know about the frailties and faults of our 'betters' and to be fair, Bower does present 'probable cause' that Brown was more than just a ferment cave of boiling magma, but in fact temperamentally unfit for public office. I am not a fan of bullies and this book tells us that Brown basically was/is a childish, selfish, Messianic, hubristic, egotistical, power-hungry bully. But then, is there any other type of person likely to climb the rungs of a competitive hierarchy? No-one has ever suggested that we need nice men running the country, or even that we should be better-off if they would do so.

It's interesting to read in this book about Brown's past and something about how he got into politics as this is not a part of his life most of us will know about. It's covered here over several chapters, though inevitably the focus is on Brown's parliamentary career. To be brutally honest, I don't like this book or the author. I think Bower has set out just to paint Gordon Brown in an unflattering light as part of a general Zeitgeist frenzy that existed at the time to destroy Brown politically. In 2007, even the Labour government's most staunch opponents would have to admit that Blair/Brown had notched up a record of social and economic accomplishment (whatever one may think about these various 'achievements'), and consequently Brown was the heir apparent to the top job. In those circumstances, the only way Brown's critics could attack him was on the personal issues and so the whole political arena took on a nasty tone. Bower's unauthorised biography of Brown was part of that poisonous firmament. Thus, while this book is certainly entertaining and well put together (hence the high rating), I also can't help but feel a little sickened and manipulated by a transparent and cynical exercise in character assassination.
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on 24 January 2008
Magnificently well researched, authoritative, indexed and referenced. Bower is well known for independent, 'no holds barred' biographies which others call vindictiveness. But it is not his job to be the subjects PR man and you can rely on the fact that he isn't printing spin from the subject. The book is relentlessly negative about Brown because that is what the facts suggest. It is the facts of Brown's failure and manoeuvring over the last ten years that are negative not the writing.

In classic Brown style he "intimated" to be interviewed but never responded to attempts to arrange an interview. This book has the quality of not being a spin exercise and an Orwellian opportunity for Brown to re-write history as with Routledge's effort.

So-called mistakes are nothing of the sort for example George Galloway was born a Catholic (easily searched). But no book is published without small mistakes, Tony Wright was mistakenly called a councillor when he was an MP from 1992.

It is written in a refreshingly anti-political way which means no spin, no couching, no obfuscating and is especially revealing in the use of economic and financial figures.

There are not that many revelations to someone who follows politics closely but for the average voter this book will be dynamite. And to most readers the relentless catalogue of failures and political manoeuvring is mind-boggling and horrific. The last ten years will make sense after reading this book. This book is a must to read before the next election.
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on 14 May 2009
I'm into politics in a big way anyway - but sometimes its hard to find a compelling, impartial read. Well . . . this is it! This book is rivetting from start to finish and gives a spellbinding account of the man who currently governs our country. After reading this, a lot of things suddenly make sense!
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on 28 April 2009
Having just finished reading 'Gordon Brown Prime Minister' all I can say is that I am glad I didn't read it earlier or I would have been scared for longer. The book is excellent and shows just how much of a bully and control freak Brown is, and how much of OUR money he is prepared to waste to feed his ego. In some ways the book reminded me of the biography of Mao, not because Brown is a mass murderer but because the book is a list of ever more depressing facts.
Don't read the book if you are prone to stress or you will just end up screaming out loud at the horrors that Brown has inflicted on our country as Chancellor and now a Prime Minister. The most depressing aspect is that if instead of squandering vast billions of our money Brown had actually looked at what was best for the country instead of his ego we would have amazingly good public services and a decent pension system.
As I say an interesting book but not a fun read.
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on 29 October 2007
This book isn't brilliantly written, but it's racy, readable and utterly horrifying. Reading this as events continue to unfold, you'll find you'll rarely be surprised by Brown's decisions and indecisions. You'll feel you'll be able to second guess his machinations and those of and his cronies. And when this is all over, you'll look back and you'll know how the British people were misled into tolerating this man for so long.
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on 30 May 2009
What I find very interesting about this book is that the author does not explicitly forecast the kind of Prime Minister Gordon Brown will turn out to be. It was updated just as Brown succeeded Tony Blair.

But as you read the book you are more than able to forecast for yourself.

We learn of Brown, the man of deep hates, the man who will not listen to others unless they are agreeing with him, the man who is insufferably rude to underlings and colleagues. We read, blow by blow, how he backstabs and bad-mouths any potential rival, almost always using his spin-doctors and cronies. Of course Macaverty's never there. Not for nothing did Alastair Campbell call Brown "psychologically flawed".

We learn of Brown's financial profligacy and of our own gullibility in believing in his dream-world of Prudence, social justice and economic stability. What we got were wrecked pension schemes and an ever-growing group of people living a degraded half-life on welfare benefits. We got massive over-borrowing, over-spending and credit-creation that have led us to financial disaster.

While India, China and Brazil had real growth that created new markets and America and ourselves had bubble growth that kept asset prices rising and enabled us to borrow more, all seemed well.

On the strength of the rosy glow, Brown saw the chance rapidly to increase taxation and government spending. But the author shows us how Brown and his colleagues were such poor managers that the extra spending brought hardly any improvements at all in education and disappointingly small gains (compared with the doubling of expenditure) on health.

Some people did gain - particularly management consultants and companies who took billions to run failed computer and other schemes (and donated directly or indirectly to the Labour Party.) Much of the new money went on higher public sector salaries and half a million new government and local authority jobs, ensuring that Brown kept faith with his client groups - and their votes.

But how many of them will be waving him goodbye at the next election? We should all have read the first edition of this book, let alone the second.
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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 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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