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Summary

A landmark history of the men and women who have defined the UK's role in the modern world - and what makes them special - by a seasoned political journalist. 

At a time of unprecedented political upheaval, this magisterial history explains who leads us and why. From Harold Wilson to Theresa May, it brilliantly brings to life all nine inhabitants of 10 Downing Street over the past 50 years, vividly outlining their successes and failures - and what made each of them special. Based on unprecedented access and in-depth interviews, and inspired by the author's BBC Radio 4 and television series, Steve Richards expertly examines the men and women who have defined the UK's role in the modern world and sheds new light on the demands of the highest public office in the land.

©2019 Steve Richards (P)2019 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about The Prime Ministers

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent if a little "written from the left".

This is a fascinating listen. The book is from the left but don't let that put you off. The analysis is sharp and well delivered and gives a by and large fair assessment of the leaders. I fundamentally disagree with only one assessment (Heath) but disagreeing does not mean that it's a bad listen.
If you have even a passing interest in British PM's or leadership in general, this is an invaluable starting point.
I would only have two criticisms. Mr Richards insistence on "doing the voices" gets very tedious very quickly and not every downfall of incident is "Shakespearean.
But these are minor points in a fascinating book.

9 people found this helpful

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A competent and useful guide to leading the UK

I have always been interested in the nuance of political leadership, and the motivation behind any Prime Minister's rise to the top job.

In this overview of UK prime ministers from Wilson to May, you are taken on a journey through modern British political history. The author does a good job of challenging our assumptions about each Prime Minister and breaks away from the characatures that they are often remembered as long, after their time office. of particular interest was the depiction of Harold Wilson, Gordon brown and Margaret Thatcher who all are remembered very specifically by many.

the book does however read as something as a chronological description, whereas being able to introduce themes of leadership and politics as opposed to individual prime ministers one by one would perhaps have made a more complete and comparative analysis. in addition, one cannot help but feel that the author is more Blairite in their world view and it appears as though more doting is placed at Tony Blair than any other leader.

perhaps unfairly the book would have been even more complete had it's been able to take into account the leadership Boris Johnson. as a prime minister he appears to buck the trend of many of the arguments that are proposed in the book, and were the author to follow up in 5 to 10 years time I'm sure very different conclusions and reflections would have been reached.

it is however a very interesting overview and is much recommended to any person with an interest in modern British political history

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

All political careers end in failure ...

Enoch Powell is said to have said that all political careers end in failure and it was holding this thought in mind which made this a rather sad book by the time I'd reached the end.

By that, I mean the reader is left on an emotional low with the thought of all these earnest Prime Ministers taking such an emotional and psychological hammering in this brutal trade.

The book is superbly written by Steve Richards who clearly knows his stuff when it comes to analysis of life in the Westminster bubble.

As well as that, he clearly has an instinctive understanding of the frailties of the human beings whose scramble to the very pinnacle of a very greasy pole fascinates so many of us. And this deep understanding shines out in his prose.

In light of all this praise it seems slightly churlish to comment on the very long sentences and lack of pauses between them.

Even by the time I'd got to the end of the book I still hadn't tuned my ear in to the best place to stop.

All that said, it's a great book and a must read for any student of politics - it'll be well worth your time.

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent Shakespearean appraisal of modern PMs

A very good assessment of each PM from Wilson to May, written and narrated by a man who knows his onions. Very enjoyable and informative, without slipping into tired or clichéd judgements that too many commentators fall foul of. Recommended.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting take. Very odd issue with recording.

This is a good book delivered in a non-partisan way.

There was a really odd issue with the sound mixing that caused the reader’s voice to go up in pitch for a few chapters in the middle which was quite off-putting. Not sure if that was just me. But otherwise OK

2 people found this helpful

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outstanding

one of the beat contemporary histories I've come across.
Sometimes funny, sometimes dark but always fascinating. I've always been interested in the history of the office of British Prime minister, and in many ways I find curiously unexplored as an office.
this book is very much what we needed refreshing non partisan but still packed with a biting criticism when needed. similarly he is so willing to challenge lazy assumptions of both the right and the left.
I loved this, if you're interested in British politics give this a go you wont regret it.

2 people found this helpful

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Intriguing analysis - worth a listen

For anyone interested in leadership or British politics this book provides many intriguing insights and some fascinating analysis.

It may lack a sufficient line of judgment and is not a guide on how to be a PM, but it is a superb analysis on the last few PMs strengths and weaknesses

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Insightful book

Steve Richards has given a good overview of PMs from the 60s through till the modern day. It’s well written and not too specific. I also think he’s fair in judgements, not just doing a political savaging.

1 person found this helpful

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Concise & thoughtful

Richards gives interesting and personal insight whilst keeping to his subjects. Good thumbnail sketches. Only slight criticism is use of same metaphors on some occasions, but so what?

1 person found this helpful

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Great review of Modern Prime Ministers

Very easy listen, good factual story of the UK Prime Ministers and all linked in very well.

1 person found this helpful