Who Runs This Place? by Anthony Sampson

This text is a thorough investigation into the nature of political and economic power in the modern UK. Composed by a gifted journalist, it takes an empirical approach to understanding state and society. It is illuminating because it benefits from the adoption of a historical perspective.

In practice, the book builds on the insights the author apparently displayed in Anatomy of Britain. This means that the text explores the impact of neoliberalism on British institutions. Nevertheless, the argument basically eschews political or economic theorising. The emphasis is placed on the concrete and abstraction is neglected. Despite this choice, dismay at the excesses of the Third Way is evident.

The fact that things could have turned out differently haunts the pages. A disappointment with the rule of Tony Blair is repeatedly underlined. A quote from Aneurin Bevan serves as a poignant reminder of the calibre of politicians that the Labour Party could once draw upon:

“The ordinary man in Great Britain has been spending his life for the last couple of generations in this will-o’-the-wisp pursuit of power, trying to get his hands on the levers of big policy, and trying to find out where it is, and how it was that his life was shaped for him by somebody else.”


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