Cover 9781785905728

Aged fifteen and armed with a credit card stolen from his father, Jonny Oates ran away from home and boarded a plane to Addis Ababa. His plan? To single-handedly save the Ethiopian people from the devastating 1985 famine. Discovering on arrival that the demand for the assistance of unskilled fifteen-year-old English boys was limited, he learned the hard lesson that you can’t just change the world by pure force of will.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden traces Oates’s journey through geographies, emotions and politics as he learns that lasting and sustainable change comes from working together rather than standing alone. It leads him to Zimbabwe, where, aged eighteen, he becomes deputy headteacher of a rural secondary school; to South Africa in the final year of Nelson Mandela’s presidency, where he works in the first post-apartheid parliament as the country seeks to shape a future from its bitterly divided past; and ultimately to the roller-coaster ride of Britain’s first post-war coalition government, where, as Nick Clegg’s chief of staff, he helps shape the future of his own country and learns important lessons about the difference between power and duty.


“Unusually for a political figure, Jonny Oates has written about love: how it tormented him and how it healed him. Few in political life are as candid about the underpinning of what drives them. A gripping tale of escape and rescue, this is the story of the making of a liberal soul.”


Gary Gibbon, political editor, Channel 4 News

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  • Hardback, 320 pages
  • ISBN: 9781785905728
  • 1 October 2020
    Available to pre-order
  • £20.00

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  • ISBN: 9781785905889
  • 1 October 2020
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