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A bright boy from North London, the narrator, goes up to an ancient university. He is taken into a glamorous world which will inspire, consume and ultimately reject him. He is dazzled by a brilliant but flawed friend. His ham-fisted actions cost him the women he loves, but he gains self-knowledge and maturity. The story ends on a note of redemption which contrasts with, but follows from, the tone which precedes.

Easy to dismiss Power Trip as meant only for newspaper serialisation to generate headlines. If you follow British politics, you already know the juicy anecdotes which Damian McBride relates about Gordon, Ed, Douglas, Ed, John, David, Charles, Alistair, Ivan, etc, and the uproar they have caused. If you have no idea who these people are, I shan't spoil your day by explaining.

McBride worked at the Treasury under Gordon Brown, first as civil servant and then as political adviser dealing with the media; transferred to No 10 when Brown became Prime Minister; and had to resign when he was implicated in an attempted smear campaign. This book explains how that came about. McBride details all his distasteful acts, successful or otherwise, to manipulate the public image of his boss and lower the standing of rivals. We are meant to be shocked.

Being upfront about poisonous practices, McBride pitches his book in direct contrast to the conventional political memoir, whose ghost-writer praises his subject's achievements and ignores all but a few token errors. This is a personal account of how an aggressively competitive person lost, to coin a phrase, his moral compass. By the end he was being vicious for the sake of it, so he had to go.

McBride wants us to know just how wrong he was and what he has done to straighten himself out. The contrition he has adopted in interviews, together with working at a Catholic school and then a Catholic aid agency, and passing references to making confession, have led some to see this book as an act of penance.

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