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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging memoir from "Our Man in Washington"
Christopher Meyer has written a very likeable and accessible memoir - concise and snappily-written, and with a liberal sprinkling of wry humour. Not for him the 900 plus pages of so many dry, self-congratulatory examples of the political/diplomatic memoir genre. He has many interesting things to say about both political personalities (statesmen and civil servants) and...
Published on 21 July 2006 by kingofwessex

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bill Bryson joined the FCO
Don't let the cover deceive you, this is not a book especially concerned with telling a tale about the inner thoughts of the Blair government in the run up to the invasion of Iraq and it's seemingly vain attempts to influence Bush Jr''s decisions. Instead, it is as the category says, memoirs, going all the back to the 1960's when Meyer joined the diplomatic corps. You...
Published on 23 Mar. 2007 by Exmatelote


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging memoir from "Our Man in Washington", 21 July 2006
By 
This review is from: DC Confidential (Paperback)
Christopher Meyer has written a very likeable and accessible memoir - concise and snappily-written, and with a liberal sprinkling of wry humour. Not for him the 900 plus pages of so many dry, self-congratulatory examples of the political/diplomatic memoir genre. He has many interesting things to say about both political personalities (statesmen and civil servants) and governing institutions (The FCO, No. 10, etc).

Also, he does not pull his punches when it comes to offering judgements upon the actions and intentions of major political fugures, such as Blair, Straw, Prescott and many other leading New Labour ministers.

His reminiscences about earlier diplomatic postings in both the the US and Germany are informative and amusing in equal measure. In particular, he deftly conveys some of the flavour of both countries' political traditions and bureaucratic traits, and is illuminating on the social and political landscape of the USA west of the eastern seaboard.

The latter part of the book, dealing with pre-and post-9/11 is a riveting read, and provides a balanced overview of US and UK foreign-policy activities in this fraught period. Overall, then, a sharply-written, well-told account of a diplomatic life in both Germany and Washington D.C., packed with interesting anecdotes and comments - sometimes acerbic, sometimes affectionate - about the realities and rewards of overseas postings.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable, revealing, and occasionally cringe-making, 30 Nov. 2005
This review is from: DC Confidential (Hardcover)
This memoir offers a fly-on-the-wall look at how the British ambassador to Washington experienced events leading to the Iraq war. It contains much of interest, ranging from a couple of sharply-written chapters exploring whether or not the war was inevitable after 9/11, to Meyer's mostly unflattering descriptions of leading politicians. But its main achievement is to be highly readable, making this an enjoyable way to learn something about British-US relations.
Drawbacks: the book feels a bit lightweight, and doesn't explore in depth many of the most interesting themes on which it touches – eg whether UK interests suffer from No.10 Downing Street trying to run foreign policy. Much of the stuff about the loveliness of his wife made me cringe, but might appeal to some readers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bill Bryson joined the FCO, 23 Mar. 2007
This review is from: DC Confidential (Paperback)
Don't let the cover deceive you, this is not a book especially concerned with telling a tale about the inner thoughts of the Blair government in the run up to the invasion of Iraq and it's seemingly vain attempts to influence Bush Jr''s decisions. Instead, it is as the category says, memoirs, going all the back to the 1960's when Meyer joined the diplomatic corps. You will find no insightlful analysis of the war or stark protrayal of the way the information was presented to the public but rather a Bill Bryson like read full of ammusing anecdotes of the DC political circuit, my favorite of which is Don Rumsfeld paralysed in a river raft for three days next to a large box of excrement (I'll let you decide on the relation there). I suspect the FCO regarded this book as an 'unacceptable breach of trust' because it describes the kind of toadying flunkies so often seen in governments these days as they really are, as immoral and odius creatures of less than high honour, not becuase there are any great secrets revealed in this book, because there are none. According to the author, most of the secrets he had access to ended up leaked to the press anyway and he complains often that none of his cables on the thoughts of the US adminstration were read by anyone, causing continual stupid questions from those who ought to know better (maybe another 'breach of trust there'). In short, anecdotal and light entertainment, not heavy analysis. If like me, you were after that, chose something else.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not that controversial, 25 Jan. 2006
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This review is from: DC Confidential (Hardcover)
Although there was a hoo hah when this book first came out I can't see that there is anything within it's pages that is hugely controversial. Meyer certainly doesn't condemn Blair wholesale as a poltician without any merit but as you read the book you do come to the understanding that Blair's political preferences are not the same as Meyers. Nevertheless Meyer was a diplomat and by his account anyway seems to have executed his duties nuetrally and very helpfully for his country.
The book is full of anecdote but hardly any real polticial gossip. He's very carefully to say nice things about almost everyone and if he is disparaging about Blair and New Labour it's nothing we haven't already read in the press. If anything he strives to give a rounded, balanced, diplomatic view of Blair and friends although it is possible to detect a note of disgruntlement that his efforts were not always appreciated by Blair and often suspected. Meyer would not be the first person in public life to feel this way about our current glorious leader - he joins quite a list of disgruntled ministers and back benchers.
My conclusion is that it's worth reading and gives you a fascinating insight into the goings on in Washington during a very tumultuous period. This book is also a good explanation of exactly what amabassadors and diplomats do for us in far flung places.
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63 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important book, but not compulsive reading, 12 Nov. 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: DC Confidential (Hardcover)
Written at times in an almost tabloid style - albeit a polite, educated, gentlemanly tabloid style - the account is certainly not a stuffy, academic description of one small (but vital) corner of foreign policy. Christopher Meyer was British ambassador to Washington from 1997 to 2003, so had a unique perspective on the agreement between Bush and Blair which led up to the Iraq invasion. Collusion, delusion, or deceit?
Meyer witnessed the demise of the Clinton presidency; a veteran of the diplomatic corps, he'd also seen Thatcher's foreign policy in action. He points to the spinelessness of Blair's approach compared to the Iron Lady's. Although Meyer supported the invasion of Iraq, he is quite disparaging about New Labour's conduct. Britain has effectively become a US poodle.
Meyer's book has caused acute embarrassment in political and diplomatic circles, and will almost certainly lead to further censorship of civil service memoirs and leaks. It provides a vital perspective on the workings of the Labour Party and its failure to think through the invasion and occupation of Iraq. There are anecdotes and insights aplenty, and it is a book which has its fascinating and entertaining passages, but it's not one which will be to everyone's taste.
If you are interested in politics and foreign policy, then this is an engaging and informative read. Serialised in the 'Guardian', it may be absorbing in small doses, but it's not really a book you'd choose for bedtime reading. It's essential message is that Blair has settled into a cosy little relationship with the US, so much so that British foreign policy is taken for granted by the White House. Any expose which throws light on the way our politicians behave is to be valued, but this is probably a book which is better read as edited highlights, not one which will rivet your attention from cover to cover.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a real page-turner, 22 July 2006
By 
Andrewmac (beckenham, kent) - See all my reviews
This review is from: DC Confidential (Paperback)
I read this book like a novel, finding it hard to put down. Meyer's opinions and observations are trenchant, funny and naughty. He is not a great stylist - no shortage of cliches here - but his story moves along at a great pace and he emerges as a likeable and insightful person. He clearly relies heavily on his second wife Catherine who is portrayed as beautiful, clever, witty and friendly - almost too good to be true. His first wife gets little mention, though his children by her are mentioned several times. Essential reading for anyone disillusioned with the Blair phenomenon (not to mention Campbell etc) and seeking to understand how the Iraq war could have gone so disastrously wrong.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the definitive expose - Meyer could have given more, 30 May 2007
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This review is from: DC Confidential (Paperback)
I am impressed with Christopher Meyer's bluntness on TV after leaving his diplomatic post for the Press Complaints Commission. I expected similar directness in this book but was disappointed. He is frank enough about his feelings about T Blair and clearly doesn't rate his deputy, John Prescott. What was lacking was an incisive critique of the performance of leading Americans at two periods of unique importance. He paints GW Bush in a kindly light but I wanted more insight to the qualities and abilities of those running the most powerful country in the world. It seems most achievements in diplomacy land are made over grand dinners and there are numerous but disappointingly superfical accounts of this dinner and that drinks party. Where is the meat?, I ask. What is so confidential?? In short, a worthwhile book but it could have been so much more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More DC Curious than Confidential, 8 May 2010
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This review is from: DC Confidential (Hardcover)
An interesting but not explosive book which, having read it a few years after publication, has stood the test of time reasonably well. Meyer has presented it in a tabloid style that makes an easy read. Less appealing is that it jumps around quite a bit and so personalities appear and are then returned to with anecdotes that preceeded their original introduction.
Aside from the Germans, who do not fare well, Meyer is more critical of his British masters than his American contacts, in terms of personality at least. Perhaps this is a reflection of the subtle difference in his relationship with the UK government. In other words he was always HMG's employee whereas to the Americans he was an Ambassador - thus a difference in status and role. I thought he gave an honest account of the lead up the 2003 war which should be given credence for reflecting the political challenges faced on both sides of the Atlantic.
His wife's rise to power was curious. When they first met Meyer's staff advised him to avoid her yet within a few chapters world leaders are championing her very distressing but nevertheless personal cause. Thus this is an intersting insight into the manipulation of contacts for personal gain as one doubts if he'd have acted so industriously for anyone else. Amazingly he expressed dissatisfaction with the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, for failing to pursue her cause as vigorously as he thought it deserved. As the title implies, curious....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Precious and privileged, 13 Sept. 2009
By 
Graham Hooker (Sussex UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: DC Confidential (Paperback)
I came to these Meyer Memoirs immediately after reading the Alistair Campbell Diaries of the Blair Years. The latter reveal a more mature and professional individual but Meyer is still worth reading and in the main quite entertaining. He seems overpowered by his wife and obsession to settle scores - against Germany, Jack Straw, the FCO and Blair. His appointment to Washington was a personal one at the behest of Blair, he claims, but then Blair clearly had doubts because he seldom read the detail of Meyer's briefings and yet Meyer couldn't see or indeed ask himself why. The insight into the Washington post, as Meyer ran it, of being one for a Socialite who "monitors what is going" on must be of questionable value. The most staggering chunk is to read first in Campbell's book of the attempts by No 10 [or whomever] to get Meyer excluded from a exclusive Bush/Blair dinner shortly after 9/11 and then to compare it with what Meyer recollects and has to say. These are grown men for heaven's sake! No wonder Blair avoided Meyer on his lengthy farewell circuit.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Pump It Up, 21 Dec. 2012
This review is from: DC Confidential (Hardcover)
This book is rather like finding yourself in an airport bar and sitting next to a diplomat or other governmental official and overhearing some interesting stories, made more even interesting by the fact that the speaker has had a little too much to drink. In this case, the speaker seems a little drunk on his own self-importance.

Meyer is not mentioned in Bush's Decision Points or Rice's No Higher Honour. In other words, he wasn't actually that important, at least not from the American side. He was just another spanner in the workshop; he made no difference.

Having said that, the book is readable and enjoyable. The short chapters mean that you can put it down and pick it up without losing the narrative. I also like his lack of respect for some supposedly important figures. He calls Peter Mandelson an "odd-job man" because he was a Minister Without Portfolio (in other words, he had no real purpose) in the first Blair administration. You could argue that apart from serving his own interests, Mandelson has had no real purpose in any job he has done.

But does this make Meyer ant-Labour? Not necessarily. John Smith, the Labour leader before Blair took over, said of Mendelson, "[H]e was so devious he would one day disappear up his own something or other." (Quoted in Mandy: Unauthorised Biography of Peter Mandelson by Paul Routlesge.)

There are jerks in all governments. Meyer just calls it the way he saw it. The only question is: Do other people, the ones he worked with, see him as a jerk? That could also make an interesting book.

Chapter 6 (Catherine's Story) goes into great detail about when Meyer met his second wife, Catherine. Catherine ("Lady") Meyer hit the headlines when she fought for custody of her children from her former husband. Big deal!

In 2012 she was given a CBE for "services to children and families". This was largely, I presume, on the result of her "charity", Parents & Abducted Children Together. Given that she had already been involved in a bitter divorce, the honor was extremely ironic. Interestingly, the fist picture in the illustrations section has Catherine standing behind Margaret Thatcher: not much self-promotion there, then.

Can anyone tell me who was the guilty partner in her divorce case?
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DC Confidential by Christopher Meyer (Paperback - 28 Jun. 2006)
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