Cover 9781785907609

Aged fifteen, 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 save the Ethiopian people from the devastating 1985 famine. Discovering that demand for the assistance of unskilled fifteen-year-old English boys was limited, he swiftly learned that you can’t change the world by pure force of will – a lesson that would prove invaluable in politics.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden charts Oates’s journey from his darkest moments alone in Ethiopia, struggling with his sexuality and mental health, to the heart of Westminster, where, as Nick Clegg’s chief of staff, he grapples with the compromises and concessions of coalition.

Shot through with a captivating warmth and humour, this heart-stoppingly candid memoir reflects on the challenges of balancing idealism and pragmatism, illustrating how lasting change comes from working together rather than standing alone.


“The best book I have read all year. Simply brilliant.”

Iain Dale

“Oates takes you on an extraordinary journey from teenage rebellion, through the fight for African rights, to the top ranks of the British government. It’s all the more extraordinary because the story is true – his is a life lesson that serendipity and courage can change things for good.” 

Laura Kuenssberg, former BBC political editor

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden charts the unusual emotional and political journey of Jonny Oates. By turns tender, moving and funny, it is an unflinchingly candid story of teenage rebellion, of love and – above all – of heartfelt compassion. If anyone doubts that there is still a place in politics for exceptional, decent people, this is a book for you.” 

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister 2010–15

“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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  • Paperback, 384 pages
  • ISBN: 9781785907609
  • 30 August 2022
  • £12.99
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  • ISBN: 9781785905728
  • 21 October 2020
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