Abjorensen, Norman: The art of being prime minister (review of Strangio, ’t Hart & Walter)

Norman Abjorensen

The art of being prime minister‘, Inside Story, 29 September 2017

Long review of Paul Strangio, Paul ’t Hart and James Walter, The Pivot of Power: Australian Prime Ministers and Political Leadership, 1949–2016, which is the second volume in a study of Australian prime ministers and their work. (The first volume was Settling the Office, also reviewed by Abjorensen.)

The prime minister [says Abjorensen] has increasingly become the focus of government. But, as the authors remind us, prime ministerial leadership  … is about relationships formed at the centre of power — those webs of influence, both formal and informal, that radiate from the prime minister’s desk.

The challenges are daunting: promises have to be kept as well as broken; an electorate has to be carried along; a party’s confidence needs to be maintained; ambitious or hostile colleagues must be managed; parliament needs to be handled, and if possible, dominated; an opposition must be bested — and all these things before actually running a country …

The paradox identified by the authors is that the increased power and influence prime ministers have been able to accumulate has made them even more vulnerable, reinforcing their centrality and boosting public expectations … It has become, in some ways, an impossible job.

More about the book, including extracts. More extracts. Abjorensen says the book is ‘a most valuable addition to our national story’.

Abjorensen’s The Manner of Their Going: Prime Ministerial Exits from Lyne to Abbott, including review by Michael Piggott. For other articles by Abjorensen, use our Search engine.

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