Cover labour takes power

With the strong possibility of Labour forming our next government, it is fascinating to consider the last time the party stood on the verge of power, back in 1997. At that time, future Europe Minister Denis MacShane had a ringside seat that he would occupy for the next decade or so, living through Cool Britannia, the Good Friday Agreement, Peter Mandelson’s multiple resignations, Princess Diana’s death and Tony Blair’s seeming invincibility.

New Labour may be remembered as an unstoppable force, but MacShane’s diaries reveal that while, outwardly, all seemed to be going well, the personal rivalries, slights and petty jealousies between the party’s big beasts meant that it was never far from disaster.

MacShane was a regular in Downing Street from the moment of Labour’s election victory, and his candid, intimate diaries show figures such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, Peter Mandelson, Clare Short and Alastair Campbell in a light in which they’ve never been seen before, detailing the personalities as much as the politics of Labour’s most successful stint in government.


“The adventure and challenge of taking over government after decades in opposition is revealed in Denis MacShane’s diaries. He vividly captures the inside details of the tensions and words uttered as Labour set about rebuilding Britain. Labour Takes Power is an important guide for the new Labour generation in the Commons preparing for power under even more challenging circumstances.”

David Blunkett, former Home Secretary

“Denis MacShane’s inside story of the first Blair government reveals deep tensions over policy and progressive politics. As Labour looks to once again form a government, this book is essential reading on what entering power meant for Labour MPs in 1997.”

Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and former BBC social affairs editor

“The 1997 Labour government brought in many significant reforms – more than some of our young people realise. Denis MacShane was an active backbencher and commentator during this time and his diaries reveal details, anger and passions which bring to life those early Blair years in a way which history books often fail to manage.”

Baroness Helena Kennedy of the Shaws KC

“A compulsively readable chronicle of the first New Labour government. There’s high drama, low gossip and parliamentary mischief, but what also emerges is a serious politician who spoke up passionately for Europe at a time when many of his colleagues hoped the issue would simply go away if they ignored it.”

Francis Wheen, former deputy editor of Private Eye

“A fresh perspective on a period that Labour’s potential return to government has arguably made more relevant than ever.”

Tim Bale, professor of politics, Queen Mary University of London

Labour Takes Power is an essential reminder of just how difficult governing is, even after a landslide.”

Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian

“Denis MacShane was a journalist before he was a politician, and it shows. This book is what happens when you let a top-class journalist inside the corridors of power. It’s funny, gossipy and full of interesting and entertaining insights. Anyone with any interest in politics will enjoy it and learn from it.”

Francis Beckett
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  • Hardback, 448 pages
  • ISBN: 9781785908392
  • 12 December 2023
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