Monday, September 22, 2008

The Rebels: How Blair Mislaid His Majority

As Gordon Brown struggles his way through the premiership, we forget that Tony Blair suffered serious set-backs in his final years as prime minister. Despite having a huge Commons majority, he lost four key votes, and camce close to losing several others. Philip Cowley is a political academic whose snappy, readable analysis of this extraordinary turnaround challenges the often held view that the modern House of Commons is simply lobby-fodder for the party leaders.

The Political Animal: An Anatomy by Jeremy Paxman

Jeremy Paxman is of course a noted, and caustic, political interviewer, regularly terrorizing politicians on Newsnight and offering up great political theatre for the viewer. His book is characteristically full of strongly held opinions, and while he finds politicians an odd species, he doesn't dislike them. Indeed, he is at times very positive about them, although he raises plenty of questions about the nature of the British political system that breeds them. This is an excellent general read, even if some political academics (Philip Cowley for instance) hate it. As the journalist-interviewer, after all, Paxman almost operates as a sort of unelected tribune of the people in his quest to get answers from our representatives.

The Prime Minister by Peter Hennessy

Probably the best single volume available on the UK's premier political office. Peter Hennessy is a veteran chronicler of Whitehall politics, highly regarded both in academia and the politically active world, and his substantial book really gets under the skin of the position of prime minister. The first half is a detailed assesment of the office, the second is a series of chapter length profiles of the holders of the office since 1945.