Aged fifteen and armed with a credit card stolen from his father, Jonny Oates ran away from home and boarded a plane to Addis Ababa. His plan? To single-handedly save the Ethiopian people from the devastating 1985 famine. Discovering on arrival that the demand for the assistance of unskilled fifteen-year-old English boys was limited, he learned the hard lesson that you can't change the world just by pure force of will.
A rare political memoir from a figure whose life before politics is every bit as gripping as their time in the corridors of power, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden charts Oates's darkest moments as an idealistic but troubled schoolboy alone in Ethiopia, struggling with his sexuality and mental health; it traces his journey onwards - to Zimbabwe, where, aged eighteen, he becomes deputy headteacher of a rural secondary school; to South Africa in the final year of Nelson Mandela's presidency, where he works in the first post-apartheid parliament as the country seeks to shape a future from its bitterly divided past; and, ultimately, to the roller-coaster ride of Britain's first post-war coalition government, where, as Nick Clegg's chief of staff, he plays a key role in the struggle for his own country's future and learns important lessons about the difference between power and duty. Shot through with a captivating warmth and humour, this heart-stoppingly candid memoir reflects on the challenges of balancing idealism and pragmatism, reminding us that lasting change comes from working together rather than standing alone.
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