The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World, by Jonathan Powell, Bodley Head RRP£20, 352 pages
As Tony Blair’s chief of staff from 1994-2007, Jonathan Powell was at the heart of New Labour. Yet where many in public life write straightforward autobiographies or simply reprint their diaries and letters – Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson among them – Powell has chosen a rather different route. This book, he writes, “is not another memoir of the Blair years”.
Powell’s intriguing and engaging book takes as its foundation The Prince, Machiavelli’s infamous 16th-century treatise on power. Through the prism of Machiavelli, Powell explores the heady world of 21st-century political leadership, policymaking and war alongside the “constructive tension” between Blair and Brown.
Although this approach could have been forced and rather academic, it sets up fascinating parallels that prove there really is nothing new in politics.