In his fascinating book on his 8 years in a prime seat at the epicentre of international affairs, former Commonwealth Secretary General and New Zealand foreign Minister Don McKinnon recounts the ultimate tale of world leaders and their relationship with power – with an intoxicating mix of ambition, plots, coups, altruism, crises and betrayal set in a series of impossibly exotic locations. Never were Mark Twain’s words more apposite; ‘In the Ring’ clearly underlines that Truth is stranger than fiction. Some of the plots and machinations Don McKinnon refers to during his term as Commonwealth Secretary General 2000 -2008 are unimaginably complex with dramatic twists and turns culminating in unforeseen endings that stun the reader. For someone who professes to find writing professionally a challenge, the book’s verisimilitude is remarkable. The reader positively senses Don McKinnon squaring up robustly to deal with challenging situations like Zimbabwe and Pakistan, both of which had their membership of the Commonwealth suspended during his term and his sense of frustration that matters could not be resolved. Don McKinnon’s first hand insights into the complex series of events that led to the Commonwealth taking resolute action against Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Fiji are unusually frank accounts that will provide plenty of material for historians to mull over. It is a remarkable achievement that Don McKinnon succeeds, apparently effortlessly, to capture the essence of the moment from the evident warmth of audiences with the Queen to revealing exchanges with British Prime Ministers and challenging meetings with Robert Mugabe and Pervez Musharaff; this is one of the key reasons why the book makes such compelling reading.

In the Ring is permeated with a sense of integrity and principle that is unusual in the world of high politics and international affairs. There is an overwhelming sense of Don McKinnon embracing the Secretary General’s role as the custodian of the collective values and principles for which the Commonwealth stands whilst having to deal with the inevitable tensions and rifts that arise between 54 member states, large and small, rich and poor. As a BBC news anchor I was a privileged observer of the global events that form the backdrop to this book interviewing and meeting many of the protagonists. Accustomed to the many political autobiographies that fail to pack the punch they promise, I became engrossed in the details of the private conversations that constitute the missing pieces of the international affairs puzzle. This book is an absolute must read – not only for commonwealth leaders and diplomats but for all those remotely interested in geo-politics.

Keshini Navaratnam London 2013


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Strategic communications, international, British, media
and security expertise, global insights
Sir Donald Charles ‘Don’ McKinnon ONZ GCVO is former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating a settlement to the conflict in Bougainville, he was Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations between 2000 and 2008.

He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in the Commonwealth. He is currently involved in a wide range of pro-bono activities both in and outside New Zealand.

‘In the Ring: A Commonwealth Memoir’ by Don McKinnon is published by Elliot and Thompson
ISBN: 978-1-908739-26-1

‘In The Ring: A Commonwealth Memoir’ by Don McKinnon
a mesmerising tale of geo-politics, world leaders and power
With Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon