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The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diaries [Paperback]

Alastair Campbell
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2008

The Blair Years is the most compelling and revealing account of contemporary politics you will ever read. Taken from Alastair Campbell's daily diaries, it charts the rise of New Labour and the tumultuous years of Tony Blair's leadership, providing the first important record of a remarkable decade in our national life.

Here are the defining events of our time, from Labour's new dawn to the war on terror, from the death of Diana to negotiations for peace in Northern Ireland, from Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, through to the Hutton Inquiry of 2003, the year Campbell resigned his position at No 10. But above all here is Tony Blair up close and personal, taking the decisions that affected the lives of millions, under relentless and often hostile pressure.

Often described as the second most powerful figure in Britain, Alastair Campbell is no stranger to controversy. Feared and admired in equal measure, hated by some, he was pivotal to the founding of New Labour and the sensational election victory of 1997. As Blair's press secretary, strategist and trusted confidant, Campbell spent more waking hours alongside the Prime Minister than anyone. His diaires - at times brutally frank, often funny, always compelling - take the reader right to the heart of government.

The Blair Years is a story of politics in the raw, of progress and setback, of reputations made and destroyed, under the relentless scrutiny of a 24-hour media. Unflinchingly told, it covers the crises and scandals, the rows and resignations, the ups and downs of Britain's hothouse politics. But amid the big events are insights and observations that make this a remarkably human portrayal of some of the most powerful people in the world.

There has never been so riveting a book about life at the very top, nor a more human book about politics, told by a man who saw it all.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; First Thus edition (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099514753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099514756
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alastair Campbell was born in Keighley, Yorkshire in 1957, the son of a vet. Having graduated from Cambridge University in modern languages, he went into journalism, principally with the Mirror Group. When Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party, Campbell worked for him first as press secretary, then as official spokesman and director of communications and strategy from 1994 to 2003. He continued to act as an advisor to Mr Blair and the Labour Party, including during the 2005 election campaign. Since then, he has been engaged mainly in writing, public speaking and working for Leukaemia Research, where he is chairman of fundraising.

Product Description


"This is a gripping, compelling and genuinely revelatory read" (Rod Liddle, Sunday Times)

"A brilliant, absorbing account ... will be gasped at, and relied upon, for decades to come. Buy them: they will suck you in." (Matthew Parris, The Times)

"This compelling read is full of revelations, humour and honesty and gives a revealing insight into the man behind the political figure" (Sun)

"Vivid, humorous and revelatory ... There is enough in these diaries to convince me they will become one of the classic records of our time." (Steve Richards, Independent)

Book Description

The Blair Years is the most compelling and revealing account of contemporary politics you will ever read. Taken from Alastair Campbell's daily diaries, it charts the rise of New Labour and the tumultuous years of Tony Blair's leadership, providing the first important record of a remarkable decade in our national life.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Banal Years 28 Dec 2012
In a true personal diary, the author tells us what he is thinking and feeling in relation to the events around him; he shares intimately his own life, plans, hopes, dreams and activities. The published diaries of that other AC of politics, Alan Clark, represent perhaps the closest contemporary example of diaries written and published for that truer purpose, sparing little in their vivid account of Clark and some of his colleagues.

'The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diaries' consists of choice entries from Alastair Campbell's (then-unpublished) full diaries. To be fair, these Extracts do have some of the 'Clark' quality, though unfortunately I did come away dissatisfied. Campbell does not open up to us here. Perhaps the explanation for his caution can be surmised from a passage in the excellent introduction. Campbell explains how he was ordered by the Hutton Inquiry of 2003 to hand-over such of his diaries as might be relevant to "the events being examined" by Lord Hutton. Campbell sat down with the eminent QC, Jonathan Sumption - who is also a medieval historian - and went through the relevant periods from the diary "line by line", a process that was "draining, emotional" and which "on one occasion reduced me [Campbell] to tears." Campbell certainly gave of his all to Blair and to "New" Labour, but he was doing the Devil's work.

These diaries are really an account of a media professional who caused considerable damage to our democracy and civic culture. There is something ineluctably banal about Alistair Campbell, and the "New" Labour Opposition, then Government, that he represented for all those years, and I think that truth is conveyed in these Extracts. It is quite disturbing to read Campbell's clinical reaction to sad, tragic or desperate events.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Blair Years - but where was Brown? 24 Jun 2008
It is probably inevitable that Alastair Campbell, as a New Labour supporter, would be reluctant to rock the boat while there was still a chance that the party could retain power at the next election. However, a book about the Blair years that barely touches on the relationship between Blair and Brown, and especially the oft-reported animosity between them, cannot be said to offer a balanced view.

This book was sold as an excerpt from the diaries, so perhaps the next volume, which will presumably be published either after the Tories have defeated New Labour, or after Gordon Brown has done so much damage to the party that nothing Campbell said could make things worse, will be more illuminating.

That being said, this volume provides an insight into Tony Blair's premiership, and his relationship with others in his cabinet, and with other world leaders.

As a journalist, Alastair Campbell knows how to write well, and to hold the reader's interest. I look forward to his next volume, because it might explain why the office of Prime Minister was apparently handed on a plate to somebody who proved to be incapable of handling it. Were there no signs during the previous ten years that Brown has reached the limit of his abilities, and was not fitted for the highest office? I think we should be told - and I hope that Alastair Campbell will oblige!
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One View of the Blair Years 22 Aug 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Alastair Campbell spent the period 1994-2003 as the chief `spin-doctor' of Tony Blair, with job of putting him, and later the New Labour government, in the best possible light. This volume contains edited extracts from the diaries he kept during the period. Like all political documents written specifically for future publication they should be approached critically, so it is useful to know where Campbell stands at present. Helpfully he lists in the Introduction what he believes are the achievements during this period. Some are substantial and undeniable, such as peace in Northern Ireland and the intervention in the Balkans. Others are much more controversial, such as a `reformed educational system' and an `improved health service'. About Iraq, which, rightly or wrongly, will be remembered as the Blair `legacy', he simply says that he hopes the book will add to the discussion that `will run for years, if not decades'.

The diaries themselves are fascinating and give a unique insight to the frenetic world of politics at the highest level, with its endless round of meetings and conferences, and crises, great and small, demanding solutions. The brief sketches of the personalities involved, both national and international, and their interactions, are some of the most interesting parts of the diaries. We learn of the extraordinary way Blair used his closest advisors to deliberately work himself up into a kind of panic before delivering important speeches, and how the endless friction between Blair, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson frequently poisoned the atmosphere. Above all there is the obsession with the media and the image of New Labour.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 4 May 2011
By Parkus
Format:Audio CD
After doing a Marketing degree I really admired Alistair Campbell and his work for Labour - despite the morals and some decisions of TB. Listening to him recall his time working for Blair was really interesting. I know all diaries contain some 'pinch of salt' moments, this was absolutely fascinating.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars He's no Alan Clark
Reading, what we're supposed to believe are Campbell's diaries, just left me imagining him with pencil in his mouth scratching his head wondering how best to spin what he wanted to... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. T
4.0 out of 5 stars Secondhand book
Arrived quickly, good nick! Interesting insight into a self confessed nutter! Why do I need so many words for this review
Published 6 months ago by Cider Sam
5.0 out of 5 stars inside information
things you never knew about Tony Blair ,intrigue,explanations , makes interesting reading and gives insight into what makes him tick?
Published 6 months ago by janet cordwell
3.0 out of 5 stars It is OK
Put together from Campbell's diaries, the diary genre is evident, at times making reading a rather tiring process. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Tatiana Tambouratzis
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spin Doctor!
Alistair Campbell was one of the most crucial figures in the Blair government. He helped to plan and organise the Blair machine and it provides a useful analysis into what was... Read more
Published 7 months ago by mfsx7mh3
5.0 out of 5 stars super
this is a lovely book. I didn't want to finish it as i enjoyed listening to Alastair so much. he has a really chatty style of writing and is very honest about mistakes and his... Read more
Published 12 months ago by nicki
4.0 out of 5 stars Best book about the blair years
Having read a few political books from the Blair era this was the most enjoyable. I like the style of writing and his honest (well maybe not) overview of working for Blair and... Read more
Published 14 months ago by riley36
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Baldaccai
If you want to have an insight in the fascinating world of politics, policy making and public affairs read this book!! Read more
Published 16 months ago by angela
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent present
My dad really loved this book. A Campbell writes with wit, his style is an easy but informative read, recommended if you want a 'not too heavy' summary of Tony Blair's times.
Published 17 months ago by HEH
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Fascinating read in a crucial period of British political history. Great insight from a key player of the time given.
Published 17 months ago by matty_1642
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