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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
38
Free Radical: A Memoir
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:£19.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


on 3 May 2015
A fascinating insight into the world of politics
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on 23 June 2013
If you are interested in politics this is a good read. Getting an insight into where Vince comes from and what he has done during his life helps you understand how he makes decisions.
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on 9 December 2014
An excellent writer, very easy to read & very intersetinh
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on 6 April 2015
Brilliant
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on 11 April 2011
I'm not too sure what I expected from this book. I knew it was an autobiography, but before I read it I think I was expecting a different balance between the formative and active (?) parts of this book.

For the uninitiated, Vince Cable was the British politician who can most claim to being one of the first (if not the first) politician to see the banking and housing collapse coming. This probably come from the fact that, unlike many of his colleagues, he didn't enter Parliamnet fresh out of University, but had to work as an economist before finally gaining a seat.

The book is interesting, but as I said I'm not too sure about it. It's short and he doesn't miss anything out, but he's a member of a party that hasn't achieved a great deal till recently (and their most recent successes aren't covered here), so what's he really go to talk about?

His life is interesting in that he's got such a wide variety of interests (gained for broad travels overseas for the UN and Shell), but those of you who want more of an idea of the machinations of party politics should probably look elsewhere. Cable was once described to me as the "best Chancellor we'll never have" by a fellow Lib Dem, but he isn't the sort to give us the low down on salacious backroom deals.
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on 20 April 2013
this book would have been greatly improved if it had the benefit of strong editing skills. The early history of life in York is intimate and beautifully written with lots of insights as to what made the man he is today.

much of the rest is a very mixed bag. University life could have done with being expanded upon. His early years working, and getting into local politicsin Scotland are also well described and retain the interest.

but there is far too much impersonal detail in much of the rest. In short, not nearly enough of the personal ( with two wives and children the material is there but is never really adequately explored.

instead there is acres of arcane memories of his time at Shell and a very brief glossing over of current day lib dem politics and views on the coalition members (best bit is his view (I paraphrse!) that Osborne is an economic illiterate.

There is a brilliant book trying to get ot but, unfortunatley, doesn't quite make it.
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on 19 April 2015
A fascinating insight into what has shaped the person Vince Cable is today. Honest and witty, I find myself liking the man who had previously been a rather unfathomable character.
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on 22 March 2013
I bought this on a 99p offer, and only because it was on promotion. I quite like Vince Cable - as much as one can like a politician. I quite like the fact that it's sitting there on my Kindle, waiting to be read. It might be quite interesting, but, on the other hand, it might not be. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will wait and wait and wait ... until one day, I will have forgotten who Vince Cable was and will delete the book unread. Does that make me a bad person?

I think the book is aimed at well-meaning, mildly interested people, like me, who will always find something else, apparently more interesting, to read in preference.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 April 2012
Vince Cable's memoirs do much to explain both the praise and the criticism he has received. At one point he writes how "I am often asked why I am not party leader...". Conceit or modesty? You can read that comment either way and it is easy to see why he produces such different views.

Views differ too over quite where on the political spectrum Vince Cable should be placed. As left-wing former Labour councillor with a line in anti-City rhetoric? Or a keen believer in free markets who wanted to abolish the Department of Trade and Industry? Cable himself admits the contradiction, pointing out how during his time working at Glasgow University and serving as a Labour councillor in the city he was arguing for socialism in the council chamber whilst teaching the virtues of free markets in the lecture hall.

The ambiguity of his political positioning is nothing new, and the book traces its origins to his time as an economist working on development issues in Africa. Cable eloquently recounts how that left him with a passion for improving society mixed with a distaste of the corruption and waste that can flow from centralised government planning and diktat. Crony capitalism as much as communism attracts his scorn.

What also come through clearly in the book is Vince Cable's individualistic instincts. He is a sociable and popular figure, frequently charming, but as his account shows is more comfortable in solitary roles that put him against the majority; he is a natural outsider rather than an insider. It is tempting to draw a parallel with his personal life. His marriage to Olympia was disapproved of by many relatives, casting them off in married life mainly on their own. Later her tragic struggle with cancer and her insistence that other people not be told of it against meant it was often a case of the two of them, and not many others, against the world.

So too in politics, where it has been the roles of `one person against the world' in which Vince Cable has prospered, both in his warnings about the state of the British financial system and economy ahead of the crash and in his highly successful stint as interim party leader. As the rest of the party was struggling through a leadership contest, he was off on his own being leader and holding things together in the face of a wave of challenges.

Not quite fully on his own, and to his credit Vince Cable frequently names and praises those backroom helpers and advisers who are so crucial to a politician's success. People such as Puja Darbari, Malinda McLean and Andrew Reeves get their much deserved mentions and accolades. Also featured is the subject of the late Andrew Reeves's favourite casework anecdote - the man who said he had invented an invisible battleship which was stolen from him by the Ministry of Defence and moored in the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament. Alas, Andrew never did get the chance to offer to meet him on site to inspect the battleship.

Cable's character traits were present early in his life, as when he field tested many different churches in search of God. He says that he found which had the best buildings and the prettiest girls but God proved elusive. That sense of intellectual curiosity, investigating options rather than accepting traditions, emphasising individuality and being an outsider to other people's cosy clubs has run all through his political career.
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on 2 April 2015
The first part of his autobiography is fascinating; the last contains too much detail of his years in Governemnt
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