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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Banal Years
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...
Published 20 months ago by T. T. Rogers

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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?
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...
Published on 24 Jun 2008 by A reader


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Banal Years, 28 Dec 2012
By 
T. T. Rogers - See all my reviews
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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Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diaries' consists of choice entries from Alastair Campbell's (then-unpublished) full diaries.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. What these diaries demonstrate is an approach and attitude to politics that is about management of perception, of which "New" Labour represented the apotheosis. Blair instituted a dictatorial structure within the Labour Party, with the result that substantive political philosophy, democratic structure and policy-making ability were evacuated from the Party, leaving a small governing (or ruling) clique at its apex. Philip Gould (a key strategist), and Campbell, not to mention Peter Mandelson and even Gordon Brown, actively - one might say, obsessively - drove an agenda that was reactive to events and concerned primarily with media management.

Campbell retains the media sensitivity and caution here. He just doesn't pour his feelings out or confide in us. I can only conclude from this that he either agreed fully with everything Blair was doing (most unlikely) or he was in some way party to the decisions at an executive level. It is almost as if the government was being driven by a news agenda rather than a leader. Still, overall I must rate this book highly purely because of the subject-matter, but one note of caution I would signal to buyers is that this volume was published prior to Campbell releasing his full diaries. While an Extracted edition like this might have some utility for casual readers and serious researchers alike, I should have thought the full diaries represent a better investment now.
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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
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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
By 
Brian R. Martin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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. Everyone opposing them (and that means practically all reporters) is vilified by Campbell in abusive, often sexual language, whereas supporters are praised as `sound' and having a clear understanding of the wider view. It is all a little too simplistic. The obsession with the media is in some ways surprising, because Campbell frequently advises others attacked in the press to ignore it, as it will `soon blow over'. He also notes that despite their best efforts the media failed to topple President Clinton, despite the Monica Lewinsky affair.

There are other surprises in the diaries, for example the lengths that Blair went to keep the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, `onside'. Prescott was portrayed in the media as a buffoon and it is no exaggeration to say that the general public concurred with this view and were unable to see what was his role was. Had he been dismissed following the disclosure of his later risible sexual antics with his secretary in his office during working hours, the public would have applauded, but he was not disciplined in any serious way. The reason for his apparent invulnerability is not clear from the diaries.

Campbell certainly pulls no punches, not just about the media and the Tories, and does not hesitate to criticise his own side, usually if they oppose the party line as Mo Mowlam and Claire Short frequently did, but also from time-to-time Blair himself and even Blair's wife, Cherie. This gives the diaries the ring of authenticity and honesty. In other places they are not so convincing. Amongst these is the account of the so-called `dodgy dossier' and its inclusion of the claim that Saddam Hussein had `weapons of mass destruction' available at 45 minutes notice. (Incidentally, neither term appears in the index.) Campbell accuses the BBC of sophistry in its statements about the role of its reporter Andrew Gilligan, but a similar charge could be made about Campbell's account of his own role in preparing the dossier and `outing' the scientist Dr Kelly, who later committed suicide.

The diaries are, inevitably, also about Campbell himself. Regardless of whether one accepts his view of politics or not, one can only admire the energy of a man who overcame a problem with alcohol and a serious psychotic breakdown (which he freely discusses in the diaries) to become, in many people's opinion, the second most powerful man in the country. At times the extraordinary pace of his work and the absurdly long hours resulted in solitary sobbing sessions, had serious consequences for his personal family relations, and were a contributory factor in his decision to leave the job. It is a measure of his loyalty that someone who clearly admires achievement so much could continue to make regular long journeys to support Burnley football club!

I greatly enjoyed these diaries, although they are probably a little long for the general reader who just wants to get a flavour of how New Labour came to power and how it operated when in government. For example, it does not need almost 800 pages to understand that Cabinet was largely a sideshow and that major decisions were taken by Blair and a small group of his closest advisors, or the importance attached to media reporting by New Labour. However, I am sure the detailed material in this volume (and in several further projected volumes) will be of enormous help to future historians of the period.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 4 May 2011
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Written for publication, but even so..., 18 Jun 2008
By 
Chris Widgery (London) - See all my reviews
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Firstly, the down side: it's been edited. By Campbell himself. Which means that the juiciest stuff is either on the floor or, more probably, being held back until Labour is no longer in power and we can look forward to THE CAMPBELL DIARIES: THE EXTENDED EDITION! And this is a pity - there are times when you know the good stuff has been snipped out. And that's why it's 4 stars and not five (although it's long enough already, mind, so I'd not want to read a longer book)

Because the rest of it, for political anoraks, is fascinating. A genuine insight into how Number 10 works, and what it is like to be prime minister. Yes, it's biased (of course it is), it's self serving and it has a very one eyed view of the press; but that was his job. What particularly interested me was how much wider his role went than just press - he was an all purpose adviser and clearly for a long time the second most influential man in the country.

Worth a read
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Office Politics, 12 Aug 2008
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Campbell has a sharp eye for personal description and these pull the reader through the book, they are funny and rude. He has no confidence in the abilities of MPs and Cabinet Ministers. Sadly neither Blair nor Campbell were able to encourage the abilities of those who could have been working with them, instead they laughed at them.The book shows the egoism and fragility of both men, who steamrolled others throughout their reign.
The book was also totally dishonest about so many political incidents. EG: the contentious Dome, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Mandelsons's resignations are all skated over. There is no development and no analysis, political or otherwise. On this level the book is a lightweight sham.
Campbell obviously needed people to see that he had got his story out there first. Campbell was Blair's Office fixer and this is the only level on which the book works.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who's ego is biggest?, 3 July 2010
Campbell goes from narrator to historical commentator to hysterical translator for the thoughts of his main man of the time TB.

The book does make you wonder at times that Campbell may see himself as more important and influencial than he perhaps was, but us common folk, we will never know. If all he says is true, then the diaries have a story to tell more compelling than any of us can imagine.

Insightful, funny, and a story which goes right to the heart of the world events of the day, I found the Blair Years a credible/incredible account of the New Labour project and one that anyone interested in politics in this country should read. Loads of funny asides about TB's dress sense and the nuances of others, Campbell is a fantastic storyteller and someone who sharp observations on human behavoiour.

AC has an ego no doubt, but it is so big that he tries to out-spin once again the power people of this country in order to secure his place in the history of New Labour? - I hope not, but in any case I'm opening the first page of "Prelude to Power" to try and find out a bit more.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alistair Campbell's 'The Blair Years', 29 Jun 2010
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I am only part the way through but so far it is a very honest account of the Blair years. It provides a very good insight into that period of UK government. I would certainly recommend this book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars He's no Alan Clark, 1 Jun 2014
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 write as this account is so obviously written with the intention of publication. He should have had the guts to be honest. The writing style is crude and ugly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Secondhand book, 8 Jan 2014
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Arrived quickly, good nick! Interesting insight into a self confessed nutter! Why do I need so many words for this review
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