13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A chronicle of unfullfilled promise,
This review is from: Blair (Paperback)
Seldon has developed an interesting and fresh approach for this biography of Blair - and much comment has been passed about his approach of alternating between the twenty most important events of his life and the twenty figures to have had the greatest impact. This allows the reader to determine where Blair drew his influences from - indeed he appears to be uniquely ungrounded for a politician and has drawn much strength and many ideas from people around him.
Seldon's main argument is that Blair has achieved little domestically in the UK because he failed to develop a detailed agenda for a number of reasons - not wanting to be hostage to fortune whilst in Opposition, a lack of time for preparation whilst in office, and perhaps most importantly road-blocking by Gordon Brown. Blair, and his colleagues it has to be said, have remarkably little experience of running any large organisation. At first glance this does not appear to bode well for Cameron, should he be elected at the next election.
The book is effective in dispelling a number of myths that have grown up around Blair. The most prominent is that he stole Brown's rightful crown - it is easy to forget that Blair carried much more popularity in the country. It is also easy to forget how much of a modernizing role Brown has played within the recent history of the Labour Party. The second is that he has no real political philosophy. Whilst it is true that he has done much to accommodate Thatcherism, he has always had a fundamental belief in community, even if he has failed to successfully translate that into policy.
The third, and the aspect of the book that I found to be most interesting was that on his relationship with Bill Clinton. Bush is often accused of having had a poor effect on UK foreign policy, but Clinton was similarly disinterested in payback for support from the UK. The question regarding UK-US relations therefore ought not to be "why did Blair fail to extract anything in return from Bush" but "why has Blair failed to extract anything from the Americans." Whilst a Gore Presidency would have been more sympathetic to the goals of the Blair Government, especially on the issue of Kyoto, they might not necessarily have been more open to Blair on other issues - the actions of Clinton on the Northern Ireland Peace Process is a case in point.
Seldon write clearly and if his conclusions appear rather vague, that is only a reflection of the difficulty in finding a concrete legacy for Blair after nine years in office. Blair is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in British politics.