Powell’s engaging memoir of his 13 years as Tony Blair’s chief of staff uses The Prince, Machiavelli’s classic political treatise, to analyse Blair’s leadership. Each chapter explores a different theme – “That flatterers should be shunned”, for example – testing Machiavelli’s principles through an appraisal of Blair’s performance.
In Powell’s opinion, Blair had those princely qualities, which he explores without undue flattery. He nails his own Blairite colours to the mast clearly in the chapter discussing the PM’s vexed relationship with his chancellor – baldly concluding that Gordon Brown was poor prince material and squandered the New Labour legacy.
Powell is surprisingly indiscreet with his anecdotes and asides, which give intriguing glimpses into ministerial chicanery. Absorbing and entertaining, his memoir also has the topical interest of showing scant period critique of Rupert Murdoch’s empire.
The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World, by Jonathan Powell, Vintage, RRP£8.99, 340 pages