In The Prime Minister: the Office and its Holders since 1945, Peter Hennessy explores the formal powers of the Prime Minister and how each incumbent has made the job his or her own. Drawing on unparalleled access to many of the leading figures, as well as the key civil servants and journalists of each period, he has built up a picture of the hidden nexus of influence and patronage surrounding the office. From recently declassified archival material he reconstructs, often for the first time, precise prime ministerial attitudes towards the key issues of peace and war. He concludes with a controversial assessment of the relative performance of each Prime Minister since 1945, from Clement Atlee and Winston Churchhill to Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and proposes a new specification for the premiership as it enters its fourth century. 'I really can't praise it too highly: a tremendous achievement ... an instant classic'
Antony Jay, author of Yes, Prime Minister 'Supersedes everything else written on the subject. If I were Tony Blair, I'd keep a copy by my bedside'
Adam Sisman, Observer 'A must ... far and away the best account of the office of the First Lord of the Treasury, its history, powers and practice, and an independent assessment of the occupants of Downing Street since the Second World War'
Tony Benn, Spectator 'Important and extremely readable ... Hennessy's portrait of the Blair premiership is fascinating ... a major contribution to our understanding of how we are governed'
Peter Oborne, Sunday Express Peter Hennessy is Attlee Professor of History at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. Among many other books, he is the author of The Secret State, Whitehall and Never Again: Britain 1945-1951, which in 1993 won the NCR Award for Non-Fiction and the Duff Cooper Prize.
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Peter Hennessy, one of Britain's best-known historians, is Attlee Professor of History at Queen Mary, Univeristy of London. He is the author of Never Again: Britain 1945-51 (winner of the NCR and Duff Cooper Prizes), the bestselling The Prime Minister and The Secret State: Preparing For The Worst 1945-2010. He was made an independent crossbench life peer in 2010.From Publishers Weekly:
Written by a leading expert on British government (the author of Whitehall and other books), this should become the authoritative administrative history of the postwar British premiership. Hennessy examines the 11 postwar prime ministers, from Clement Attlee to Tony Blair, to illuminate the shifting power structures within the British government. Britain has no written constitution: thus, in H.H. Asquith's famous phrase, the job of prime minister "is what its holder chooses and is able to make of it." Hennessy is especially interested in the crucial relationship between the prime minister and the cabinet. Prime ministers have historically taken either a collaborative, consultative approach with their cabinets or a noncollaborative, "presidential" approach. In relation to issues of national security, the leaders have traditionally favored a less inclusive approach. This can be dangerous, as evidenced by Anthony Eden's handling of the 1956 Suez crisis. He entered into a secret agreement with France and Israel to retake the newly nationalized canal by force, but informed neither his cabinet nor his U.S. allies about his plans. Eden's secrecy led to Britain's worst humiliation of the postwar era: Eisenhower ordered him to turn back his troops, and Eden had no choice but to comply. So strong were the lessons of Suez that even the least collaborative postwar prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, learned them well. She constantly consulted her cabinet and the U.S. during the 1982 Falklands War. Tony Blair, Hennessy asserts, has increasingly used his cabinet for purposes of media "spin control" rather than policy deliberation. For those interested in the modern British government, this is must reading. Illus.
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