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Summary

It has almost been 300 years since Sir Robert Walpole arguably became the first holder of the office of prime minister in 1721 - an office which today is under scrutiny like never before. 

The Prime Ministers, edited by leading political commentator Iain Dale, brings to life all 55 of Britain's 'First Among Equals' with an essay for each office holder, written by key figures in British politics. From the obscure 18th-century figures like the earl of Shelburne to 20th-century titans like Churchill and Thatcher, this audiobook provides a much-needed reminder about their motivations, failures and achievements.

©2020 Iain Dale (P)2020 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

What listeners say about The Prime Ministers

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Mixed bag of essays could do with decent editor

This book consists of essays from 55 different contributors consisting of historians, academic, journalists, private secretaries, speech writers and other politicians. And what a mixed bag it is. Other than the boiler plate opening stating facts including dates, spouses, children and famous quotes, there is little consistency and it is like looking at a painting that has been painted by different artists who have not seen what the other ones have done.
Any school teacher will tell you that when they have a pile of essays to mark, they range from the excellent to the very poor indeed. And this is no exception. Edward Young is Disraeli's biographer and this is the best of the 19th century as most in this book from this era are dry, scholarly and academic and have little more information than a Wikipedia article. Thereafter, established author Jack Brown does a good job on Balfour, John Barnes summaries Baldwin nicely and Robert Walker does a great job with Ramsay McDonald.
The style changes completely when we reach modern times and we hear sycophantic essays from MP Andrew Adonis on Tony Blair (matinee idol good looks), from former MP David Laws on his hero Asquith and bizarre ramblings from former MEP David Campbell Bannerman on his near namesake and tenuous relation Henry Campbell-Bannerman.
Of the moderns, the best of the lot are MP Rachel Reeves short biography of Harold Wilson and a touching portrayal of Edward Heath from his former Private Secretary Wilf Weeks.
The book ends with a tabloid style assessment of Boris Johnson from the compiler of this book Iain Dale. I cannot help thinking that this could have been so much better if the contributors had been given more specific direction as to what was expected.

18 people found this helpful

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Wrong person narrating this

The content was amazing learnt a lot but Ian is not the person to narrate this book in my opinion in some places he was too hurried etc - needs more dramatic voices

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent way to learn about the Prime Ministers

I really enjoyed this collection of essays covering every single one of the the fifty five holders of the office of Prime Minister. Beginning with Walpole and continuing thru to Boris Johnson I really enjoyed the essays covering the lesser known PM's such as Addington and Canning etc. Each Author gives their opinion on the person they have written about and this makes the essays enjoyable and avoids it becoming a recitation of dates and names so you learn about the subject and some made me rethink me views on certain prime ministers. Was well narrated by Iain Dale and overall I would highly recommend this audiobook to anyone with an interest in British Political history

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting

I thought this was a pretty decent overall biography of the Prime Ministers of the UK. There was a short biography of each Prime Minister, giving an overview of each one in turn.

As each chapter was written by a different author (with a note given to say even if the chapters are written by relatives, it by no means lessens the contribution. After being told that, I found myself wanting to know how many of the authors were actually related to their topics, but the one that I recognised the most was that the author who wrote the chapter on Spencer Perceval was related to the man who assassinated him) the quality was not as consistent as I’d have liked. For instance, the author of Gladstone’s chapter clearly detested Queen Victoria, and continually called her stupid and beneath Gladstone’s level whereas she was not as hated by the author of Disraeli’s chapter.

I did really appreciate the length of the chapters, as it allowed for the perfect walk length for my dog.

2 people found this helpful

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needs to be proof read

an interesting book providing insight into memorable and less memorable leaders of the country. Some of the latter essays are writing with bias which is clearly there which devalue the essay of their subject, and the lack of proof reading or poor performance with incorrect dates are a distraction

1 person found this helpful

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Informative but lacks Unity

This book has wonderful chapters explaining how the office of Prime Minister came to be.

Subsequent chapters on all of the men and women to have been first lords of the treasury.

Very much enjoyed chapters on the lesser known prime Ministers such as the Earl of Derby and Archibald Primrose.

The only problem I have with this book is that it’s a collection of essays on each Prime Minister from many different writers, academics, politicians etc etc. Because of this the book lacks a familiar voice across the chapters - each hand portraying the prime ministers in their own style.

With some structure around brith place, party affiliation and burial which is good.

The audiobooks chapters are misalign also - so when you start the chapter on Pitt the Younger you get audio from the last. I hope that can be fixed

1 person found this helpful

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Very badly read indeed

This is by far the worst reading I have heard on Audible. There is constant distracting hesitation and instances of the emphasis being placed on the wrong word.

It needs a full round of retakes.

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Very interesting and well put together

An excellent collection of essays on all Britain’s PMs and some interesting insight into little know figures.

The only downside is the narration. There are too many stumbles, mispronunciations and points where Iain Dale almost grinds to a halt. How this was not better edited I do not know.

Whilst frustrating it doesn’t spoil it and I will be moving on to the Presidents by Iain Dale also.

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Insightful & Eclectic - An Essential Overview

This is a very difficult book to review, as it is effectively fifty-five books in one (fifty-six, including the introductory chapter, providing an overview of the office.) Each prime minister in Britain's history receives a unique assessment from a different author. On top of this, each author is unique, presenting commentary enhanced by their own experiences - as politicians, historians, journalists etc. The unfortunate reality is that this inherently ensures some chapters are vastly superior to others, Additionally, the literary styles and objectives can differ greatly from chapter to chapter, which can sometimes make the book seem disjointed. Luckily, the decision to have Iain Dale narrate the entirety of the audiobook adds enough continuity and cohesion to provide an overall coherent experience.

Even seasoned readers of British political history will find much to enjoy here, as most chapters prioritise understanding their subject's character rather than dwelling on their successes and failures; moreover, most chapters provide a well-rounded view of their subject's life - for instance, in the chapter on Tony Blair the author spends as much time exploring his earlier life as he does his lengthy premiership, which adds some fascinating context to a very controversial leader. At the same time, an individual who knows nothing about British political history could still enjoy these essays - although it is regularly assumed that the reader has a basic level of knowledge, certainly for the PMs post-1945. Although some may criticise the fact that the majority of the authors are very sympathetic to their subjects, there are very few instances of this getting in the way of rounded, objective judgements.

There are some problems with the audiobook itself, although they are minor. There are several instances where words are pronounced incorrectly, the narrator stumbles over his words on occasion, and there are some blatant typos which should not have survived proof-reading, let alone an audiobook narration. That being said, do not let this put you off the audiobook, as you will be able to spot these when they occur - there is no risk of you mistakenly taking in the wrong information.

Overall, this is a book that will satisfy any and all: the general reader, as well as politicos and history-buffs alike.

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A Good insight

A very good insight to all of our Prime Ministers through history and who they are