Jonathan Powell is the latest advocate of Machiavelli’s doctrines

 

Jonathan Powell created the new role of Chief of Staff for Tony Blair’s administration and was then appointed to the post. He gave a BBC interview to plug his book, The New Machiavelli

Powell was interviewed on BBC five live [by Phil Williams, October 20th, 2010]. He claimed that a Chief of Staff  ‘joining-up’ role can be found in most parliamentary democracies. He sees the role as very much that of serving as a leader’s utterly devoted and trusted creature.  In the interview he revealed that Alistair Campbell called Powell Blair’s Butler, a fine echo of the concept of a valet for whom no great man is a hero.

Machiavelli and the Milibands

Following the wisdom of Machiavelli, that first management consultant, Powell believes that Blair should have sacked Brown early as an obvious potent threat to his power. Brown should have been obsequious until his time came to seize power. Later in the interview, he drew on Machiavelli to justify the departure of David Miliband (his own preferred leader of the Labour party) by his brother Ed as a good political outcome. He cited two other early decisive actions of EM of which Machiavelli would have approved. Powell is a true believer of the big Mach.

Powell’s formidable intellect and self-confidence shines though both his delivery and the coherence of its content. Blair introduces him in his memoirs as ‘brilliant …with a lightening ability to absorb information.’

The New Mach rules?

So there is little doubt that Jonathan Powell has a powerful intellect and is someone who has embraced Machiavelli’s ideas as loyally as he embraced the New Leadership agenda.  I re-read The Prince from time to time.  It is a gripping document which brings to life some of the bloodthirsty culture of 15th Century Florence.  [Machiavelli served as ambassador for Florence to Cesare Borgia, and used Borgia as a case example of leadership of his time.]

On the other hand, serious commentators still debate whether the work was intended as a satire on the implications of undiluted pragmatism applied to the pursuit and retention of power.

 

The New Machiavelli

Tom Clark reviews The New Machiavelli in The Guardian

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