Review of Gimson’s Prime Ministers

My rating: 5 Stars (easily)
Genre: Non-Fiction – British Politics – History

📖 I am going against my own rules writing this review. Normally, I like to wait until after I finish a book, sometimes even a few weeks after to see how the book stays with me. I don’t like to recommend something that is instantly forgettable. However, with this book I am on page 260 of 310 (excluding the afterword) and decided to go ahead and write the review as I have found this book that interesting, I know I don’t have to wait until the end to recommend it. In fact, my OH is probably sick of me saying “Oh, I read about such and such last night did you know….”.

✍️ Firstly, I fully understand politics isn’t for everyone. Yet, I think understanding a little about politics does us in good stead as it impacts almost every aspect of our daily lives (knowingly or unknowingly). It’s always handy to have a bit of history behind a subject too. This book does all this and more easily.

👫 The book, as mentioned, is only 310 pages long but captures a little about every prime minister from Sir Robert Walpole through to Boris Johnson. It often tells you a little about what led up to them becoming prime minister, what others thought of them (often party and public opinion would differ in that respect), what big events happened during their time in office (often the handling of this would decide their legacy), and finally what happened to them causing them to leave office/after leaving office.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

The prime minister requires, in fact, a bizarre combination of qualities. He or she must be at once ordinary and extraordinary, conventional and innovative, safe and audacious, banal and brilliant, a follower and a leader, sensitive to every change in the political weather but tough enough to endure terrible disasters, on the side of the people but able to build a cabinet from members of the elite.

👓 This book has so many interesting facts, I want to share so many snippets but here are a few of the more interesting ones:
• Earl Grey was a British Prime Minister (not just a type of tea) and brought about one of the most spectacular parliamentary legislative triumphs despite not becoming Prime Minister until the ripe old age of 66. He also had a secret affair with a duchess, when her husband found out Grey’s mother stepped in to raise the baby.
• The first time the term “Prime Minister” was used was in 1905 when the king asked Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (CB) to form a government.
• The term ‘squiffy’ is likely coined after Herbert Henry Asquith (PM 1908-1916) who was known to drink more than he could handle and was noticed to be worse for wear in the Dispatch Box.
• Winston Churchill has to take the entrance exam to join the army three times before passing.

🗺 Also enjoyable are the doodles of each PM which start each chapter.

💭 Overall View: A really interesting book with brilliant snippets that help capture the essence of each Prime Minister’s story. Well researched and easy to digest.

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