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Boy on a Bicycle: a Mandarin's Memoir

Product Details
Hardback (BB)
Marble Hill Publishers
256 pages -
8 pages of illustrations
Boy on a Bicycle
Hardback (BB)
Not yet available
RRP: £25.00
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Product Description

Boy on a Bicycle

Our image of the civil servant has been implanted indelibly in our minds by Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister. But this fascinating and important memoir tells us that the real life of the mandarin is very different. With disarming candour, delightful humour and impressive memory, Hayden Phillips describes the career of a man who was connected to so many significant political events in the second half of the 20th century.

This varied, exciting and dramatic life is filled with pen portraits of politicians and others with whom he worked on a daily basis that show us, from the inside, how decisions are taken and their influence on all our lives. It is also the picture of a talented, charming, dedicated and fortunate man who has contributed so much to our national life.

  • Hayden Phillips was at the heart of so many important events: working for Roy Jenkins when he was Home Secretary and later in Brussels; IRA bombings; the Iranian Embassy siege; the creation of the National Lottery; the Windsor Castle fire; Princess Diana’s funeral; being Chairman of the National Theatre - and playing a role in a James Bond film!
  • This memoir is a treasure trove of raw material for historians of the future.
  • A must-read for anyone interested in politics and the exercise of power.

The Story Behind...

Boy on a Bicycle

One of the excitements of being a publisher is that you never know what kind of manuscript will turn up next. One morning some months ago I received an email from Sir Hayden Phillips, a man I must confess I had never heard of. He had used the Covid lockdown, he told me, to write his memoir. Would I consider it for publication?

Within a few pages I was astonished by the connections between us. We were both brought up in Cambridge. As children, we went to the same doctor! Phillips read History at Cambridge, and was taught by my own father. We both began our careers in the same year.   And that was just the start.

But connections of that kind are not a compelling argument to publish a book. So what convinced me? Throughout my career I have always avoided “political memoirs.” Why? Because they tend to be self-serving and tell less than I think the reader deserves to find in a memoir. What struck me immediately about Boy on a Bicycle was the disarming candour of Phillips’ account of his life as a mandarin and his involvement in so many events that have had a lasting impact on our national life.

But perhaps most of all I was struck by the power of his memory - a power that brings the past to life so vividly. This is history - but history from the point of view of a major protagonist who is happy to tell the truth.  That was the deciding factor in my decision to publish.  This memoir is a rare document indeed, an insider’s story of thirty-five years or more of public service at the heart of government told with a compelling honesty. I have no doubts that it will become an important source for historians of the future.

When I went to tell Hayden Phillips that I wanted very much to publish his book, I found a man who fitted the image his memoir had given, a man of great integrity, scrupulously honest about himself and others, a dedicated servant of the state and a wonderful and amusing companion. That is the man readers will meet in the pages of this important book. They will not be disappointed by the stories he tells.

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