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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2011
Although I'm not a socialist myself, I do find that the best type of old politician you can meet is an old socialist. Somehow age seems to mellow any militancy of their youth (especially in the case of Hitchens) and what remains has usually aged like fine wine.

And I found one of the enduring memories I had after I read this book is of the Comradely warmth expressed by Christopher Hitchens towards Blair towards the end of the debate (pages 49-52) and the reciprocation of this. How refreshing this is when compared to Hitchens' bitter debate with Galloway or Blair's fractious relations with Gordon Brown!

This aside I found this a fascinating debate and can honestly say that I rarely enjoyed a polemical text more. Certainly as a debate it outclasses anything Hansard or C-SPAN has to offer shows two highly skilled orators skillfully marshall their arguments.

Of course there is always going to be a winner and, although I shan't plot-spoil, Hitchens is the better man in this field but only just. Tony Blair may not be as used to debating religion, but he still makes good use of language in conveying his argument (e.g. in saying "my point is very simple...").
Rather surprisingly Blair does also have some convincing arguments in favour of religion being a force for good. For instance he compares it to politics and journalism and how there is always bad eggs in all fields and even Nicky Gumbel's work Searching Issues (Alpha) is not quite as crisp as Blair's arguments.

Sadly the old Hitler/ Stalin/ Mao arguments do rear their ugly heads, but only briefly and there is no long boring diversions into other fields.

Overall, I was highly impressed and thought it was well worth pre-ordering and waiting the 2 weeks for it to come to the UK. If you've read Hitchens and are at all worried that he is losing it then don't worry - he still knows his beans.
And if you haven't read Blair's Memoirs or are worried that he'll just bang on about Iraq then don't worry - it doesn't and it this debate provides a good taster of what the memoirs are like.
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I couldn't help bringing this home after a customer returned it at the library.

A short read, it's the transcript of a debate between former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and writer/journalist Christopher Hitchens, who at the time had already been diagnosed with cancer.

Both are skilled speakers in their own rights, though Hitchens easily outclasses Blair on every point without (unfortunately in my opinion) going for the jugular as he does in many interviews. He made me smile several times, I also found myself in awe at the beautiful phrasing he came out with, and the construction of some of his arguments. And yet I've seen him better.

Blair is certainly adequate but has no argument that convinces, repeating to the end that though yes, religion has done harm, so have other organisations, but yes it has also done some good. His examples of Rwanda and Northern Ireland also backfired on him.

I would have liked commentary on the debate at the end, for context and further thought. And there are two further interviews with the participants, each talking to an interviewer about religion more generally.

The end of the transcript made me smile - seeing the result with no comment as to the audience poll of how many were persuaded by each debater. No further comment needed.

Every time I'm reminded of Hitchens I'm saddened that such an eloquent man shortened his own life and deprived the world of such sense. His arguments here on the empowerment of women being the best chance we have for change makes perfect sense. His phrase on the essence of religion will also stick with me: "created sick and then ordered to be well."

A very useful little volume.
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Almost anything Hitchens writes is worth reading, although this is the transcription of a debate the two had therefore not truly a Hitchens BOOK at a time when Hitchens was already mortally ill. Not that it affected his oratory, which has been as impressive as his essays; his forte is the short form. It is a lively debate even if Blair is hardly Hitchens' equal as a speaker. There are some good points made about politics and power, but post Iraq as 'Envoy' for The Quartet to the Middle East and with his friend Michael Levy in ambassadorial role, undoubtedly Blair is a compromised figure and one does not have to think him a liar to find him an uncomfortable speaker for Faith. He makes few surprising or original points about his belief, nor did I really expect him to. Hitchens is as adept in debate as in the essay; the form suits his quick wit, elegance of phrase and his brilliant rhetoric. Having said this I find him both excellent and unsatisfactory here, as his fluency strays near to the facile occasionally. I think he was insufficiently able - I am one of the few to use this word properly I'll have you know - to empathize with religion to make him a great writer on the subject and, while brilliantly effective his religious debates not his finest work. Still him on 4 cylinders is better than almost anyone else on 6! Not your essential Hitch purchase, make sure you get them first: "For The Sake of Argument' and 'Prepared for the Worst' are the finest collections of essays by anyone in our time; he is a quite brilliant successor to the Orwell he so cherishes, rightly..
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VINE VOICEon 28 December 2011
Although I'm not a socialist myself, I do find that the best type of old politician you can meet is an old socialist. Somehow age seems to mellow any militancy of their youth (especially in the case of Hitchens) and what remains has usually aged like fine wine.

And I found one of the enduring memories I had after I read this book is of the Comradely warmth expressed by Christopher Hitchens towards Blair towards the end of the debate (pages 49-52) and the reciprocation of this. How refreshing this is when compared to Hitchens' bitter debate with Galloway or Blair's fractious relations with Gordon Brown!

This aside I found this a fascinating debate and can honestly say that I rarely enjoyed a polemical text more. Certainly as a debate it outclasses anything Hansard or C-SPAN has to offer shows two highly skilled orators skillfully marshall their arguments.

Of course there is always going to be a winner and, although I shan't plot-spoil, Hitchens is the better man in this field but only just. Tony Blair may not be as used to debating religion, but he still makes good use of language in conveying his argument (e.g. in saying "my point is very simple...").
Rather surprisingly Blair does also have some convincing arguments in favour of religion being a force for good. For instance he compares it to politics and journalism and how there is always bad eggs in all fields and even Nicky Gumbel's work Searching Issues (Alpha) is not quite as crisp as Blair's arguments.

Sadly the old Hitler/ Stalin/ Mao arguments do rear their ugly heads, but only briefly and there is no long boring diversions into other fields.

Overall, I was highly impressed and thought it was well worth pre-ordering and waiting the 2 weeks for it to come to the UK. If you've read Hitchens and are at all worried that he is losing it then don't worry - he still knows his beans.
And if you haven't read Blair's Memoirs or are worried that he'll just bang on about Iraq then don't worry - it doesn't and it this debate provides a good taster of what the memoirs are like.
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on 24 January 2015
An interesting debate for and against religion, but I don't remember it being as powerful as it could have been.

Also in a sense, it doesn't really solve any problems as no-one is ever convinced to change their mind in this sort of debate, they just support one side or another and stick with it.
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on 28 July 2014
An excellent debate which Hitchens won by a mile. Felt that many of Blair's comments and arguments were hypocritical and self serving. He is not a man to be trusted.
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on 26 December 2013
Blair could not match Hitchens as expected, having to resort to stupid religious logic. Religion + power is dangerous.
Hitchens has courage Blair doesn't.
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on 15 January 2014
Hitchens distroys Blair. But is too much the gentleman to put the boot in. I enjoyed the book, but wished Hitchens had shown no mercy.
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on 23 September 2014
I watched their debate on CSPAN and bought this booklet, too. Really enjoyed it!
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on 25 July 2012
I thought this would be really good. For some reason Hitch seemed to be very gentle with phoney Tony. It never really got going for me. Hitch (where ever you are) I wish you had gone for his throat!!!!
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