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4.0 out of 5 stars The End of the Party - The Blair Brown Feud dissected and unmasked, 14 Mar 2010
This review is from: The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Feb 2011 13:12:05 GMT
prime.design says:
I too suspect this book to be mostly a work of fiction. Since Rawnsley is so very toxic to New Labour, then why would they let him into their confidence? I just don't buy the line that the Conservative Party were deceived into voting in favour of the war on Iraq, just because Tony convinced them all that Saddam had his finger on the trigger of weapons of mass destruction. Weren't any of them shadowing the Ministry of Defence for gawd sake? The Conservatives must have known exactly what was going on status-wise, and let's not forget, their donors in the defence industry stood to pick up big orders out of Iraq.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 May 2011 11:32:49 BDT
Last edited by the author on 25 May 2011 09:46:07 BDT
travelmike says:
Please note that the hardcover edition of this book is incomplete. It does not include the additional three chapters that were added to the later paperback edition (and also the Kindle edition, which I have). These chapters take events right up to after the May 2010 election. These chapters are: 39. 'Prisoners of their Fate'; 40. 'Dusk'; and a new epilogue chapter, 'Epilogue: The Last Days'. (Note that the 'look inside' contents list for this paperback version on the Amazon webpage incorrectly shows only the (38) hardback chapters, though the product description for the paperback edition makes clear that the new chapters have been added). One wonders why the publishers had jumped the gun in releasing a hardback version which omits those vital three chapters. Conclusion: Buy either the paperback or Kindle version of this book. You will then get the complete 40 chapters, plus an epilogue chapter.
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