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May at 10 Reviews

May at 10 by Anthony Seldon

May at 10

Anthony Seldon

3.54 out of 5

5 reviews

Imprint: Biteback Publishing
Publisher: Biteback Publishing
Publication date: 10 Sep 2019
ISBN: 9781785905179

The book will lift the lid on this most enigmatic and secretive of Prime Ministers during the most tumultuous period in modern British political history.

  • The ObserverBook of the Week
4 stars out of 5
Andrew Rawnsley
10 Nov 2019

"The historian’s insightful, revelatory account of Theresa May’s premiership reveals how ill-equipped she was for the role"

Authoritative and insightful, this work adds to the already formidable canon of the prolific Seldon, author of more than 40 books. He and his battalion of researchers had just six months to produce this account of a complex premiership and yet the clear prose never reads as if written in a slapdash hurry. Though there doesn’t seem to have been much, if any, cooperation from May herself, the book draws on interviews with many of the key players. It also exploits to excellent effect Seldon’s contacts within the civil service and his capacity to get senior officials to talk frankly. If you want to know who did what when and why, this book will tell you. Seldon excels at piecing together how critical decisions came to be made before coming to well-reasoned judgments about their wisdom and impact.


3 stars out of 5
14 Nov 2019
3 stars out of 5
Stephen Bush
10 Nov 2019

"a marvellous book if you want to know what the people at the heart of May’s government were like"

The great value of his book, however, is that it provides the layman and the historian with a treasure trove of interviews, and of insights from the heart of government — whether it is the revelation of just how great a role Jeremy Heywood, Britain’s top civil servant, played in the formation of May’s government (May herself stepped back from appointing junior ministers and left it to her chief whip, Gavin Williamson, and to Heywood), or that Gavin Barwell knew that the best way to win over May was to tell her that his preferred route was “best for the country”.

3 stars out of 5
David Runciman
7 Nov 2019

"(an) exhaustive inside account of May’s tenure in Downing Street "

Anthony Seldon’s exhaustive inside account of May’s tenure in Downing Street offers little ammunition for anyone hoping to mount a defence of her premiership. Based on extensive interviews with all the key players (except the PM herself), his book portrays May as a brittle and shallow politician, incurious, inflexible and ultimately out of her depth... Yet this book is not quite as devastating as it appears, because Seldon’s approach is flawed. By relying so heavily on personal testimony from the people involved, he is essentially trading in post-hoc rationalisations. May at 10 is not so different from Tim Shipman’s All Out War and Fall Out, which cover much of the same ground in even more breathless detail (Seldon occasionally relies on Shipman’s account to fill in gaps in his own). But while Shipman – a journalist – never pretends to be offering anything more than a gossipy tale of back-stabbing and score-settling, Seldon – a historian – wants to be doing something more. So he interposes his own magisterial verdicts on the events he describes. The problem is that it’s not clear where these verdicts come from.

  • The TimesBook of the Year
4 stars out of 5
3 Nov 2019

"This extraordinary account of Theresa May’s time in office shows a woman paralysed by self-doubt"

There are some peachy disclosures. Boris Johnson went misty-eyed when he was made foreign secretary. Davis was offered foreign secretary and leader of the Commons before he quit the cabinet. When he still insisted on going, May simply intoned, twice: “I am very disappointed.” Aides smuggled chocolate to the diabetic May to keep her going during a long stint at the Commons dispatch box. When Gove was appointed Defra secretary his vetting from Sue Gray, Whitehall’s compliance supremo, included the question: “Are you a vegetarian?”