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Blair Hardcover – 21 Jun 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition, First Impression edition (21 Jun. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743232119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743232111
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 5.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 499,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

'Packed with information, and clearly and thoughtfully written' -- FRANCIS BECKETT, Guardian

'Superbly well-informed and exhaustively researched' -- PETER OBORNE, The Tablet

'The best account so far of the high politics of the Blair era' -- NICK COHEN, New Statesman

'The most readable of all the books this year on the Prime Minister and/or the [Iraq] war' -- ELINOR GOODMAN, Sunday Telegraph Books of the Year

'This book will become the automatic reference point for studies of a political period that promised so much' -- JOHN KAMPFNER, Observer

About the Author

Anthony Seldon is the author of several books including the official biography of John Major and the authorised 'biography' of Number 10 Downing Street. He is also the editor of an ongoing series of essays by the foremost political commentators of the time, the latest of which, THE BLAIR EFFECT, was published in 2001.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 30 July 2004
Format: Hardcover
As Anthony Seldon Himself admits, this is not a conventional biography. It's certainly not a womb-to-tomb chronological record, nor is it one of those ubiquitous hagiographies written by a friendly journalist or party hack. Rather it is a critical and analytical study in political communication, although Seldon himself seems scarcely aware of this.
He has presented us with 700 pages of text organised into 40 chapters. They deal with twenty episodes and 20 people who are important in Blair's life. If you think it odd for a text to run to exactly 700 pages, then you may think it odder that all the episode chapters are assigned odd numbers and are presented chronologically. Those chapters ending in seven present Blair at his boldest. Clearly the number seven is important to Seldon and so are multiples of ten, for he presents the political backbone of his book in Chapters 10, 20, 30 and 40.
The reader will quickly forget this obsessive-compulsive concern with numbers because within a few pages he will be completely involved in an extraordinarily dense but very clear poltical narrative fleshed out with incisive analysis. We watch a bright boy acquire an Oxford education, become a barrister, marry another barrister and, comparatively late in life, become interested in politics.
It is at this point that an interesting "life" becomes an absorbing account of how politics is communicated in a complex democratic society. As we are introduced to such influentials in Blair's life as Neil Kinnock, Philip Gould, Peter Mandelson, Derry Irvine, Roy Jenkins and Alastair Campbell, we are treated to impressively detailed accounts of their interaction with Blair, the political system and with each other.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a comprehensively researched book by an experienced political historian. For those who want to know, he gives a revealing portrait of Blair's family and his psychological and political development. It thoroughly goes into the evolution of the Labour party from Blair's arrival in Parliament in 1983 under Kinnock, Smith and Blair himself. The influence of Brown, Mandelson and many other figures in this process is detailed.
Then we get a fascinating picture of Blair's philosophy, political agenda - Seldon makes a convincing case that it was consciously Thatcherite - style, and organising ability in power. A clear picture is given of how the Labour party changed and how Blair altered structures of government, lately apparently more and more in a frantic effort to correct what he thought was going wrong. There is also a detailed analysis of Blair's relationships with Brown, Campbell, Mandelson and many others not to mention the press and the civil service.
Finally of course we get what seems like a balanced view of Blair's agenda over Iraq which to me ends up being whatever else it was an expression of his choirboy personality. For anyone who has been really puzzled as to why Blair committed himself to the war I think this book will help them understand.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've not read anything before by Seldon, but I hope to now. This is well written and interesting, and if you find yourself not enjoying the 'company' of one of the characters, it soon moves into another story. I say that it could be longer as some incidents are referred to in passing, and most of the current generation will remember these, but in years to come these will need revising, and expanding, or another biography will be needed.
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