Thursday, November 18, 2010


Tony Blair's Journey

I have just finished a review of Blair's 700 page tome, a full version of which can be read here. I'm sorry to be relatively late with my review but it is such a long book and I still haven't quite finished the final sections! I have to confess- like so many Labour supporters- to much and bitter disillusion with Blair but also that I cannot quite extinguish a sneaking liking for this fluent and personable politician. I clearly newed counselling. My full review is quite long so this post has to be highly selective.

Iraq This was the issue which sunk him and reinforced all those accusations regarding trust and veracity which many felt the invasion prompted. It's clear from the memoir that Blair was buoyed up by his successes in Kosovo- where scores of children are now named after him- and Sierra Leone. In both cases bad men were brought to trial as a result: Milosevic and Charles Taylor. 9-11 arrived just after this success and it was 'natural' I suppose, that Blair should think his liberal intervention strategy was equally applicable. He does not mention God at all in his book (so not even a reference in the index!), but Blair did suffer from a species of messiah complex whereby he saw himself as someone who might refashion the world for the better. A reviewer of Bush's recent memoir in the Observer makes this shrewd observation:

Both men have an evangelical sense of grace within that makes their choices immune from criticism because, whatever the outcome, the intention was honest. It is a brilliantly circular and impregnable defence – the test of a policy is not whether it works, but whether it is morally authentic, and the arbiter of authenticity happens also to be the author of the policy.”

TB-GB Blair's relations with Brown will dominate any history of the domestic agenda of New Labour and Blair does not shrink from expressing how "maddening" he could be or how "zero" his emotional intelligence. But he also acknowledges the huge debt Labour owed to his Chancellor and recalls the days when they behaved almost like "lovers" in pushing out visitors to their room so thay could carry on their conversations. He admits he promised to go at the end of the second session but only if Gordon promised to support his domestic agenda; when he signally failed to do so, Blair resolved to stand again in 2005. This kind of stands up but I am agog to read what Gordon will say on these disputed issues. It seems clear Blair did not think Brown had to stuff of a good prime minister and I fear he is right, though why then, did he not do more to encourage a protegee to stand against him and allow Brown the 'coronatioon' he craved?

Style of book
Much has been written of Blair's risible 'cliche ridden' style. I would agree with some of this; the manuscript would have benefitted greatly from the attentions of a good editor. It is rather written in the style of a 'celebrity' autobiography but it is accessible and it is authentically his voice. It is also very honest in parts-his frozen fear when realising he was prime minister and his terror of PMQs- and the whole book is studded with, for this reader, hugely revealing apercus about the business of politics. On balance it's a great read as long as you follow this cynical but necessary precept: don't believe everything he says.

You've read the whole book ?

I prescribe a large dose of mind bleach (single malt, if you must) to get past this very distressing period in your life.

& BTW,

I'll address the typo in your last sentence. What it should have said (& what you obviously wanted it to say) was

"don't believe ANYTHING he says".

Kind regards
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