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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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The Prince of prime ministers

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Friday, 17 April 2009 at 04:45 pm
Another gem from the New Statesman's Q and A with Jonathan Powell, Blair's former chief of staff. He is working on a new book:

I am writing a modern version of Machiavelli's The Prince based on examples from the Blair, Bush and Clinton administrations rather than 15th Century Florence, which tries to illustrate where power really lies in Britain rather than where constitutional theorists suggest it should lie theoretically - a justification of sofa government!

Not brilliant timing for the announcement, what with Damian McBride giving this sort of thing a bad name, but this is undoubtedly a treat to which we look forward. Powell's Great Hatred, Little Room was well and wittily written. One of the big points about Blair that I always thought people missed was that he loved The Game. He was sincere and wanted to make the world a better place and all that but he loved The Game. And he could play it like no one else, blue-eyed innocence concealing an unusual ability to read others' weaknesses and exploit them.

I hope Powell gives us examples of when Blair "killed his enemies with cream" - a "Blair maxim" to which Peter Mandelson once referred. Or when Blair acted on the advice that he once gave to David Miliband, according to Chris Mullin's diaries: “Go round smiling at everyone and get other people to shoot them.”