Blair adviser poses Machiavellian question

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From the earliest days of the new Labour Government, commentators have called its principals “Machiavellian” to suggest a manipulative administration hooked on power rather than one driven by idealism.

Now that charge is to be tested by one of the men who was closest to the heart of power during the Tony Blair years — his former chief of staff Jonathan Powell. Mr Powell has signed up to write The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in Modern Britain for The Bodley Head, an imprint of Random House, the book group that also published Alastair Campbell’s diaries.

For 12 years after he joined Mr Blair as an adviser in 1995 the former diplomat had a ringside seat at the hub of British politics. He was witness to three election triumphs, the Northern Ireland peace process, the slide into war in Iraq, the Blair-Brown feud and the various sackings of Peter Mandelson before he stepped aside after Mr Blair’s resignation in 2007. His book will be part analysis, part insider’s account, using his own experience of the workings of government in Britain and the United States to explore where power lies and how it is deployed.

It is “basically a take-off of The Prince”, he told The Times last night. Cynics and opponents of the Blair government will rejoice. The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli’s best-known work, is perhaps the most notorious book of political philosophy ever published, as well as the most influential. Written for Lorenzo de’ Medici, the ruler of Florence, in 1513, it became a favourite text of Napoleon, Bismarck and Stalin, among others. Banned at the time by the Roman Catholic Church, it is a strikingly unsentimental manual for maintaining autocratic rule.

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