Chief of Staff
Notes from Downing Street
by Gavin Barwell
Narrated by Gavin Barwell
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Pub Date 16 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 28 Oct 2021
Once a more sedate affair, since 2016, British politics has witnessed a barrage of crises, resignations and general elections. As Brexit became logjammed, Theresa May's premiership was the most turbulent of all. In her darkest hour, following the disastrous 2017 election, she turned to Gavin Barwell to restore her battered authority. He would become her Chief of Staff for the next two years - a period punctuated by strained negotiations, domestic tragedy, and intense political drama.
In this gripping insider memoir, Barwell reveals what really went on in the corridors of power - and sheds a vital light on May, the most inscrutable of modern prime ministers. He was by her side when she negotiated her Brexit deal, met Donald Trump, heard about the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury, responded to the Grenfell Tower fire, met Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer to broker a cross-party Brexit agreement - and ultimately made the decision to stand down as Prime Minister. Revealing how government operates during times of crisis, this will become the definitive record of a momentous episode in Britain's recent political history.
A Note From the Publisher
Prior to his appointment as Chief of Staff, he was the Member of Parliament for Croydon Central from May 2010 until June 2017 and a Government Minister from October 2013 (initially a Government Whip and then Minister of State for Housing & Planning and Minister for London).
Prior to his election to Parliament, he was the Chief Operating Officer of the Conservative Party and served as a local councillor in his home town of Croydon. In October 2019, he was appointed to the House of Lords.
Taken together, these roles have given him an unparalleled insight into British politics from grassroots campaigning in a marginal seat through party headquarters, local government, Parliament, Ministerial office to 10 Downing Street.
He now runs his own business providing advice to clients including PwC, Barratt, Arcadis and Avonhurst on public policy and geopolitical trends. He is also a non-executive director of Clarion Housing Group, the largest housing association in the country, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Work Foundation.
|DURATION||14 Hours, 3 Minutes|
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 3 members
Modern politics is a maelstrom. I voted not to join the EC in the early 1970s. I’ve experienced the way Britain has been influenced and changed by Europe and the recent years of wrangling over Brexit have been both fascinating and frustrating.
I’ve enjoyed Anthony Seldon’s inside number 10 biographies; honest and fascinating. I thought Gavin Barwell’s experience as Chief of Staff during one of the most turbulent and perplexing periods in British politics might provide a unique insight. I confess, when I saw he was narrating, my heart sank a little as authors are not necessarily the best narrators. But he’s brilliant. Easy to listen to and I was immediately drawn in to his detailed and varied experiences.
I really like his approach. He takes themes, such as Brexit, Grenville Tower, Northern Ireland, security, Cabinet reshuffles etc and follows each through with precision and clarity.
It’s difficult to understand the machinations and workings of Westminster. His unique position allows the reader to see behind closed doors and fully understand how Government really works. His account is based on extensive contemporaneous notes and feels honest and accurate. There are numerous revelations about petty mindedness, deceit, manipulation and more, but they’re recounted without rancour or point scoring. I’ve gained huge insight into the background of many decisions which seemed bizarre and which caused the downfall of the May administration. She will be remembered as the PM who failed to deliver. That’s a disservice as Gavin reveals the plotting, backstabbing and worse that made her position untenable. The book confirms my view that, whatever her shortcomings, we lost a leader with integrity, commitment to the electorate and her party.
I’d urge anyone with an interest in politics, current events or social history to read Chief of Staff. It’s a book with heart and it’s a real fly on the wall revelation.
My thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.
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Edited by Richard Woods and Times Books