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74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The End of the Party - The Blair Brown Feud dissected and unmasked
Andrew Rawnsley has toured the TV studios for weeks making numerous robust defences of his latest book not least of the thesis underpinning the "Gordon is a bully" scandal. He has in turn been subject to the full wrath of the current government spin meisters and elected politicians such as John Prescott(oh the irony) who could barely contain his anger on a recent...
Published on 14 Mar 2010 by Red on Black

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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is unfinished - wait for the paperback!
This is a decent, enjoyable read. Rawnsley writes very well and as a politics student I actually got a fair amount out of his account of the New Labour years.

However my big criticism of this book is that it is incomplete. The story ends abruptly in the months leading up to the 2010 general election, and this is no place to finish. I can only assume that this...
Published on 24 Aug 2010 by Amazon Customer


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74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The End of the Party - The Blair Brown Feud dissected and unmasked, 14 Mar 2010
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Red on Black - See all my reviews
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Andrew Rawnsley has toured the TV studios for weeks making numerous robust defences of his latest book not least of the thesis underpinning the "Gordon is a bully" scandal. He has in turn been subject to the full wrath of the current government spin meisters and elected politicians such as John Prescott(oh the irony) who could barely contain his anger on a recent Newsnight. But what of the book itself?

Tom Paine had a wonderful phrase addressed to Edmund Burke that "he pities the plumage and forgets the dying bird". The same could apply to the media's reaction to this since despite the heat and noise of the "bullygate" scandal no one at all disputes the mind boggling levels of dysfunction, the sheer levels of poisonous acrimony and full force backstabbing of the Blair/Brown relationship which dominated the "heart" of British politics for so long and in one sense is still being played out.

Of course politics is a Machiavellian business and not for the faint hearted but Rawnsley's chronicle is not so much a story of a new Labour permanent revolution as a permanent row. It is a world turned upside down where Peter Mandelson can go from stating that Gordon Brown "wants to kill me before I destroy him" to one where the Prime Ministers survival depends on his former arch enemy. Clearly Armando Iannucci's brilliant "The thick of it" is actually rather tame and I must admit I laughed out loud at Margaret Beckett's guttural reaction to being made foreign secretary.

This is a very long book but to be fair to Rawnsley it is also a story very well told with real pace. It does suffer a fair quota of political clichés and the Westminster "bubble" is portrayed as the totality of British politics bar nothing else. But I like Jeremy Vine's comment that "it reads like a thriller" and like it or not Rawnsley is a key insider in this world and if only 50% of the facts are right (and it appears in some instances they go both ways) then this is fascinating if damming indictment of the current state of our politics and government.

You suspect Rawnsley is more Blairite than Brownite and his analysis of the tragic march to war in Iraq is thorough but his judgement on Blair as "a sincere deceiver. He told the truth about what he believed; he lied about the strength of the evidence for that belief" is a cop out. The best chapter in the book however is on the election that never was and Brown's chronic indecision which could ironically turn out to be the right decision in the next few months. It is here we see Brown at his worse and the idea that the thuggish Damian McBride was a bit part player is decimated by Rawnsley who charts how this attack dog would rubbish anyone in defence of his master and with his full knowledge. Brown as the brooding, moody and tempestuous Scot is portrayed here in all his glory/weakness (it depends on your politics) but clearly during that period Number 10 was a truly awful place to be.

Like "Servants of the People" this insiders view has considerable strengths but also weaknesses. Rawnsley's ranges of sources inevitably are secretive and in some cases might even be fictional. Yet the key message of this book is that the last two decades have been one of "government by ordeal". This is about a style of politics which is brutal and thoroughly depressing. Recent events in the expenses scandal suggest a plague on all houses but at the end of the day someone has to govern. We should hope whichever party wins the forthcoming general election that some of the lessons in this excellent book are learned.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of our illusions about democracy?, 10 May 2010
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Alan Walton "book tourist" (England) - See all my reviews
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As a distinguished journalist Andrew Rawnsley opens up Labour for us from the time they took office in 97. Writing for the Labour-sympathising Guardian group his account rings all the more true in revealing just how much parties become virtual dictatorships when big manipulative characters like Blair and Brown are able to use their cabinets as little more than supporting cast in enacting what they believe is "the right course". This is no more evident than in the farcical way in which we were committed to war effectively by unminuted conversations in private between President Bush and (would-be president) Blair so brilliantly exposed in Mr Rawnsley's book. A huge volume but thoroughly entertaining and informative throughout.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is unfinished - wait for the paperback!, 24 Aug 2010
This is a decent, enjoyable read. Rawnsley writes very well and as a politics student I actually got a fair amount out of his account of the New Labour years.

However my big criticism of this book is that it is incomplete. The story ends abruptly in the months leading up to the 2010 general election, and this is no place to finish. I can only assume that this is so the book could be released at that time in order to maximise revenue.

Sure enough, the paperback is due out on 30th September and contains exactly what this book is missing. It is updated with two new chapters to take the book to its logical conclusion - through the election and the coalition negotiations that followed to the moment when Gordon Brown resigned as Prime Minister.

Having purchased and read this book I feel ripped off as I feel it is now essential to purchase the paperback in order to read the ending. I therefore recommend that people avoid buying a book that is missing the final two chapters by waiting until the paperback is out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An apologia for and archive of New Labour, 15 Feb 2014
This review is from: The End of the Party (Paperback)
Andrew Rawnsley's vast two-volume work on New Labour is a remarkable achievement. This is the second part, covering Blair's increasing disconnection from the party, Brown's coup, and then the implosion of the whole thing under Brown, culminating in his removal from office after the 2010 election.

Let's start with the really good points. Rawnsley is very much a New Labour man and an insider, despite being a journalist. He had access to most of the top ministers, who found him very useful as a conduit for their views. As a result, he had access to a vast store of information and he uses it very intelligently to map out the politics of New Labour as a 'blokes behind doors' style history. That alone will almost certainly make it an important book for several decades at least on the study of New Labour's government, which after all mostly worked by private and unrecorded conversations. By setting down some of the things that happened before the participants died and the memory was irretrievably lost, he has undoubtedly done a service to history. Without these, almost all of Labour's actions from 1997-2010 would veer between the puzzling and the inexplicable.

In explaining New Labour more or less as a clique of tribal Labour intellectuals hellbent on getting and keeping power for its own sake, he also almost reduces them to comprehensibility. If some of their actions (the Iraq War) still remain baffling, that may simply be because they were baffling decisions made for incomprehensible reasons. Trying to explain New Labour as a social or economic phenomenon wouldn't really work - indeed, Rawnsley gets into a tangle when he tries to explain their positions over the economic growth and collapse, suggesting that the reason Labour won is because they brought good times and lost because they failed to adapt to bad ones (both of which are at best doubtful).

By outlining Blair and Brown's characters, relationship and ambitions, he also makes what always seemed weird media references to 'Blairites' and 'Brownites' clear at last. Whether they were quite as different as both sides (and Rawnsley, for that matter) claim is questionable, but it is fairly obvious after reading this that the Blairites were unabashed and mostly patrician social democrats in a Harold Macmillan/Roy Jenkins mould, while the Brownites tended to be (or at least pretended to be) a bit less wealthy and a bit more keen on the old shift of wealth - if hardly the fundamental and irreversible one so beloved of Bevan and Benn - from the minority to the majority through government intervention.

So this has much that is good. But I felt it only deserved three stars for two very good reasons. First of all, Rawnsley is not only close to New Labour, he is very much part of new Labour. As a result, his book far too often tips into uncritically accepting Labour's line, especially when it is manifestly wrong. A handful of examples will suffice. Rawnsley claims Brown boasted about 'No more Tory boom and bust' in the good years before the banking crash. This was simply not true. Brown said it just once, in 2008, when Nick Robinson asked him if he regretted saying 'no return to boom and bust.' Brown's claim to deflect the question was that he had used the word 'Tory.' Quite apart from the question of why a Tory bust was somehow worse than a Labour one, even the BBC didn't buy that. I was most amused at the clip they put together of a selection of Brown's 142 (if memory serves) references to 'no return to boom and bust' without the Tory. It was the most transparent lie since Nixon claimed he was not a crook. Rawnsley's uncritical adoption of this is perhaps partly informed by his portrayal of the Tories as evil, scheming and corrupt, completely amoral and unfit for office. The irony is that actually the Tories under Iain Duncan Smith and David Cameron in particular were politically very close to the Labour party. They just never found anyone to match the formidable skill, charm and presence of Blair to communicate it. Rawnsley also accepts the 'it started in America' line on the banking crisis, along with the claim that the Tories were arguing for even lighter regulation of the banks. Neither are really acceptable excuses for the banking crash. While it undoubtedly did start in America, it is the job of a government to be ready for a crisis, not to make it orders of magnitude worse by rash public statements (for example, accusing people of panicking by withdrawing their savings from a bank that the government had announced required emergency funding). Moreover, although it is entirely true that Cameron and Osborne had argued for lighter regulation of the banks, the issue was less what regulation the government had in place than the fact that it was being deliberately and systematically ignored due to the supine and corrupt nature of the Financial Services Authority that caused the problem. And that undoubtedly happened because of Gordon Brown's ineptitude in setting up the FSA in the first place. The most puzzling one is Rawnsley's furious response to the suggestion that Brown was taking anti-depressants (a lie made up on the internet but raised by the BBC). His suggestion that it was somehow an improper question is extremely strange, given that Brown's behaviour as revealed in Rawnsley's book would certainly have seen any normal employee in a normal company referred for psychiatric treatment - and it was rumours of this behaviour that led to the invention of the 'happy pills' story in the first place.

The second problem is that Rawnsley accepts Labour's view that 'they changed Britain' for the better, and therefore portrays their time in government as, on the whole, a Good Thing. I think this could be one that, as with Thatcher, will be argued about for decades if not centuries. It may be true that in London things got a bit better under Labour. Labour is now very much a party of London and a metropolitan elite, and Rawnsley, having lived there for thirty years, probably reflects that. As I lived outside London, I am much more sceptical of this. I saw schools being torn down and replaced by all but useless PFI funded (at five times headline cost) white elephants that were no use to man nor beast - too hot in summer, too cold in winter and too cramped to work in. I saw hospitals cease to be places where people waited on trolleys, and instead died needlessly of infections because there were no cleaning staff. I saw people afraid to say what they actually thought of politics, or politicians, for fear of losing their jobs. I saw others who did say what they thought of inept managers hired for their political connections be accused of racism, sexism or homophobia (depending on why the manager had been hired) and threatened with criminal prosecution. I saw a country that had gone from one that wasn't brilliant but somehow all rubbed along to one where a new and stultifying orthodoxy had taken over and led to a new and sour industry in 'equality and diversity' - where in some jobs, we once again had discrimination on the basis of race, gender and sexuality. The nadir was the disastrous Racial and Religious Hatred act, which seemed to me at least in some of its more bizarre clauses to be a revival of sixteenth century blasphemy laws. This seems to me to be a less open and less tolerant society, and the response of some of the saner Labour MPs towards the alarming recent surge of the hard right and UKIP suggests I am not alone in my misgivings. But most of all, it is a poorer country - where wealth is concentrated in a distant metropolis where people live lives far removed from the rest of us, and we get poorer, forced to claim impossibly complicated tax credits we never wanted and pay extra council tax on the order of the central government for services we never needed run for profit by Labour's 'friends'.

So, I must admit my doubts about Rawnsley's book are based in part on my doubts about his subjects. But for all that, still a hugely important book whose value will only grow as time goes on.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mammoth work, 31 Aug 2010
In conjunction with its predecessor, 'Servants of the People', this book provides a rich and carefully woven analysis of Labour's entire 13-year history in government. As such, it is a rather mammoth piece and those disinclined to occupy themselves with the minutiae of domestic politics would be well advised to steer clear of it.

Superbly written, it chronicles every twist and turn of the Blair-Brown administration, from the fuel crisis to the Iraq War, from foot and mouth to MPs' expenses. The reader is both reminded of events past and given an insight into the minds and workings of those at the hub of political power. What is most striking is Rawnsley's ability to synthesise an incredible amount of material into a coherent whole, on the basis of numerous interviews and articles, as well as information garnered from his own private conversations with those who monitored and influenced day-to-day politics closest at hand.

An exceptional work - my only criticism is that Rawnsley seems woefully unaware of the existence of the pluperfect tense, seemingly omitting it at every available juncture. A minor point indeed.

Other than this, the book certainly pays the effort of study from cover to cover, leaving the reader better informed about the ways in which key (and often not-so-key) decisions are taken at the heart of government. In short, it is eminently recommenable.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most captivated since Benn and Clark, 23 Mar 2010
By 
Prospero77 "Prosp77" (Warwickshire) - See all my reviews
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I've just completed the book and couldn't put it down (always a good sign). I cannot remember being this captivated by the politics genre since the best of Tony Benn and Alan Clark. Rawnsley's Observer credentials surely lend weight to a high percentage of what we read about the triumph and tragedy of the New Labour project. The 'nitty-gritty' of workaday political life is exposed here in the raw. The bare naked truth is: our country is run by extremely flawed individuals. However, it would be wrong to suggest this is a biased tirade against New Labour. The macro theme of the book is certainly a critique of 'The Project' but there are several positives in the book-Blair's handling of Northern Ireland one case in point. The Northern Rock chapter was perhaps the heaviest going in terms of textual flow but overall Rawnsley's narrative is crisp, lively and punctuated with many comic gems. It's well worth the money for the perspective (sometimes alarming perspective) it throws upon modern political life.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 10 Mar 2010
Far from failing to "recognise the role of ideas in New Labour", a key element of Mr Rawnsley's thesis is that New Labour was principally a project for winning power, and that its failure adequately to think through what it wanted to do when it attained power is a major cause of its underachievement.

This is a well-written, balanced and authoritative account that skilfully weaves analysis into its narrative of events. Highly recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside The Court of New Labour, 23 May 2010
By 
J A C Corbett (Blackheath, London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Andrew Rawnsley's great doorstep of a book is the inside story from the court of New Labour. Gossipy, exhaustive and, at times, exhausting, it unveils the mask of the last two Labour governments.

Much has been made about the revelations about Gordon Brown's temper, serialised in the Observer, but really these are just a footnote in its 680page narrative. Rawnsley is fair in his assessment of both Prime Ministers, praising where praise was deserved (for example, Brown's handling of the global economic crisis; Blair's success in Northern Ireland) but withering about their failures.

He is a good writer, and although the book is somewhat overlong it retains its momentum nicely.

Perhaps the central thesis of the book is how New Labour were brilliantly prepared to win power, but unable to utilise effectively. Chaos frequently reared its head, particularly at Downing Street under Brown, and endless initiatives and laws were issued without being properly thought through.

Of course, the central problem that undermined the New Labour project was the Blair-Brown rivalry, and Rawnsley expertly details the conflict.

`History,' Rawnsley writes, `might be kinder to Gordon Brown than the me contemporary media and electorate.' That might be true of his Prime Ministership, but his central failing, which crucially undermined Tony Blair, was a chancellorship which as much as anything seemed to be defined by unstinting antipathy towards his next door neighbour.

In short he put the kibosh on any number of Blair's initiatives, while Blair - never a man to thrive in confrontation - was unusually supine when faced by Brown's latest tantrum.

Theirs is the most compelling political partnership of our times, but there is a whole cast of New Labour heroes and villains - the apoplectic Alistair Campbell, the thuggish Damien McBride, the Machiavellian Peter Mandleson, and many others besides - who make this a gripping story. No matter what you might think of their politics this is a compelling read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of the obsessive lust for power for its own sake, 29 Mar 2010
By 
J. Coulton "Julia Coulton" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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As soon as I am finishing one book, my mind turns to what sort of read I will want next. Maybe a classical novel, or a Greek tragedy, or possibly something with a bit more humour. In this fascinating new account of the demise of New Labour by the Observer journalist Andrew Rawnsley, I got some of the best elements of all these genres. Very Shakespearean, and also just like watching my favourite TV comedy ` The Thick Of It', complete with weak but power crazed politicians and their malicious spinning side kicks, who battle with each other in a stunningly vicious way. The phrase `you couldn't make it up' comes to mind again and again during this complete page turner of an account. And lots of pages to turn in it there are too - with the meat of the book taking up nearly 700 pages.

Rawnsley takes us to the heart of the New Labour action, taking up the story from the start of their second term in office in 2001. Predictably, it is the insight into the relationship between Tony Blair, the dashing, charming and media savvy Prime Minister, and his jealous, bitter and resentful Chancellor next door, Gordon Brown, which makes the most compelling reading. Blair obsessed with power and his legacy; and Brown so obsessed with taking that power away and having it for himself that he seemed to completely forget to plan what he would do with it if he got it. Some of the more astonishing revelations have unfortunately already been released to the media and splashed across newspaper front pages. Even so there are some episodes that have not been given so much publicity that seem just too bizarre for words. One such is the apparent anger felt by Brown when he believed that the Blairs kept leaving their young son Leo's pram outside their flat door deliberately so that it would remind them of the death of their baby daughter Jennifer. That seems frankly preposterous but apparently that is exactly what Gordon thought.

Blair comes across as stymied at every turn by the antics of his rival. Rawnsley claims that Brown stopped him from doing many things during his premiership, just because he could - apparently even refusing on occasion to let Blair know what was going to be his Budget. And the hapless Tony refused to believe that his old pal Gordon could be quite so cruel, and so gave him the benefit of the doubt again and again, until it was too late. In fact the two men seem to have been so unhealthily obsessed with each other that it is a wonder that they managed to achieve anything at all. There is certainly no sense of any political project being undertaken here, just factional infighting; very unprofessional behaviour by themselves and their many followers; and amazing hubris by both.

Apart from the TB-GB issue, as it was fondly referred to by the inner circle, this account charts the journey to war in Iraq that Blair made, and his poodle like behaviour in the face of the war monger Bush. The shameful episode of the `sexing up' of the case for war dossier, and the death of scientist David Kelly is well known to us by now, but it still incredible to peek into the minds of the main protagonists as they played the terrible story out. Alistair Campbell (or should that be Malcolm Tucker?) in particular was obsessed at his own fight with the media, rather than the actual truth. You just would not want to come across any of them in a dark alley at all.

And so when Tony is finally ousted, hoisted on his own petard of the war, it is unbelievable the Brown seems to continue is his bullying manner, only this time not aimed at a single rival, but rather anyone who he sees as vaguely standing his way. It is frankly amazing that his character has not been revealed before. The various crises of his leadership are explored from the credit crunch to the expenses scandal. Brown comes across as a very weak leader, who lacked the charm and charisma of his predecessor, and lamely followed in his footsteps without conviction. For example, in his handling of the continuing war in Afghanistan, Rawnsley says that `Brown would never be mistaken for Henry V', as he read out the few speeches he did make on the war `with the passion of a man reading out the weather forecast for Kirkcaldy.' And the bitter irony of his increasing dependency on old foes to shore up his leadership, such as Prince of Darkness Peter Mandelson, Alistair Campbell, and even his old friend Tony Blair is quite ironic.

Towards the end of the book, as the events Rawnsley is retelling seem more like news than history, the analysis is less compelling. Indeed it is rather a gamble to prophesy to end of the New Labour project when opinion polls are still subject to such fluctuations, giving rise to differing predictions of who will form the next government on a daily basis.

But Rawnsley has given us a riveting account of the dangers of power without conviction, check or morality. And of course of the way an obsessive rivalry can grip a government, and the reader, from the very first page of this fascinating book.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr Nasty PM, 2 April 2010
By 
T. Reece "Compo the Great" (Bexhill on Sea UK) - See all my reviews
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Fabulous book of fact that soon became the most horrendous horror story I've read. Opens the door to frightening scenes of gross incompetence, total distortion of the truth, greed, avarice, bullying, theft,cowardice,arrogance beyond belief and a total disregard for this country's electorate.
All the things you think may be happening but dismiss as fantasy are all here. How the public have been fooled ! We are all aware that there are things we don't need to know but after this you would not want to. From Blair the actor to charisma-bypass Brown the hidden sides of politics are stripped bare to expose the rotten core within.
Should be made compulsory reading for all voters in the UK
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The End of the Party by Andrew Rawnsley (Paperback - 30 Sep 2010)
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