41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Confessions of a spin doctor
, 26 July 2010
This review is from: The Third Man (Hardcover)
After a brief Introduction, in which Mandelson blames a lot of his troubles on his loyalty to Brown and Blair, and lists the familiar claims of New Labour's achievements, there are background chapters on his early years as a member of a privileged left-wing family in North London. But the book takes off with his initiation into politics and the start of his controversial career as a highly successful backroom `fixer'. Right from the start, it is clear that Mandelson is out to stake his claim of parity with Brown and Blair in creating New Labour, defining its policies, and steering it to election victories. He emphasizes that that he `discovered' the duo and was the first to recognize their talents and potential for high office. The three of them became `brothers'. This didn't last long after New Labour gained power and we now know about the fierce and corrosive war that was waged between Blair and Brown, with Mandelson often in the latter's sights for his perceived `betrayal' in supporting Blair. This is discussed fully, but most of the details have already appeared in Andrew Rawnsley's recent book `The End of the Party'.
Given that the author was the supreme `spin doctor' of New Labour, a reader has to decide how much of this book to believe. Many details confirm what Rawnsley has reported, although Mandelson's version puts himself in the best light. However, there are places where he is disingenuous. For example: his strong denial that there was any connection between the peerage given to Lord Levy and the fact that he was Tony Blair's fundraiser, while admitting that Levy `held out for a peerage' after he was told it would be too soon; and his explanation of why he failed to disclose to either his senior civil servant or a building society a loan from Geoffrey Robinson to buy a house. There are new details about the about the final days of New Labour and events leading up to the 2010 General Election - how Brown refused to budge from his entrenched position that growth was the only way out of the severe economic problems and how he resisted all efforts from his colleagues to take seriously spending cuts or an increase in VAT - but this is a small part of the book.
Then there is what is not in the book. There is very little about foreign policy and Iraq, the event that, rightly or wrongly, will really be Blair's legacy, and no discussion of whether New Labour's economic and financial policies might have contributed to our present debt-ridden state. And of course there is almost nothing about Mandelson's closely guarded private life. To be fair, the sub-title of the book is `Life at the Heart of New Labour', but then why include chapters on his early family life, and why disclose very personal information about a former partner's sex life?
Overall, I found this a disappointing book that adds very little to what is already known about the New Labour years and the style lacks the sparkle of Rawnsley's book. The Labour Party may now `love Peter Mandelson', as Blair wanted and Mandelson believes, but it has not altered my view that the 'Prince of Darkness' has not changed.
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