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  • The Prime Ministers

  • By: Iain Dale
  • Narrated by: Iain Dale
  • Length: 19 hrs and 52 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (161 ratings)

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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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    2 out of 5 stars

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.

19 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.

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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

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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

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  • nb
  • 20-06-22

not bad. not what expected.

you might as well wiki the PMs start with the 1st and follow the links. its largely all this book is.

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Significant bias yet nonetheless informative

There is a right wing slant to this novel and tendency to defend the British Establishment - occasionally favouring or ignoring some of Britain's dark past. Reading quality varies - some stuttering but mostly clear and relaxing. The book is accurate and Dale and all contributors have added a significant amount of detail to my historical knowledge.

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Flawed presentation of excellent concept

So the concept is great - potted histories of each of the UKs PM's, edited by one of our foremost political hacks - it's just it would've been great if he'd read them 1st before recording it. It just sounds like he's reading the text having just got it in the post a minute beforehand. Really offputting. Needs rerecording......

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Fantastic Read

Iain Dale does himself credit with a wonderfully edited, intelligent and purposeful piece of political analysis. I had the preconception that Dale was a liberal leftwinger closed to any form of understanding of why the UK left the EU. I was expecting criticism abound of Conservative Prime Ministers but in fairness to the author he metes out praise and criticism in equal measures regardless of the political party they represent. This is a fascinating book and definitely one of the best reads on audible. Thank you Sir.

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  • Thomas Considine III
  • 27-03-22

Great

Great book and great podcast. Highly recommend both for anyone interested in British politics or history!