Learn more Download now Shop now Browse your favorite restaurants Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Amazon Music Unlimited for Family Shop now Shop now Learn more

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
Outside In
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 February 2012
Peter Hain, one-time anti-apartheid campaigner turned Cabinet Minister, here describes his fascinating political life both outside and inside mainstream politics. For more than four decades he has been an active campaigner and politician, during which he was involved in some of the most important events of this period.

Hain starts his account with the story of his early life in South Africa as the son of anti-apartheid campaigners at a time when this was a dangerous thing to be. When his parents eventually felt they could no longer stay in South Africa, the Hain family moved to London where they continued the struggle, with young Peter gradually becoming a major player in the British anti-apartheid movement, leading the Stop the Seventy Tour campaign (the proposed all-white South African cricket team tour of England). During this period, Hain was very much outside mainstream politics and in fact was tried for conspiracy and, rather surreally, for bank robbery - charges he clearly believes were politically motivated. Hence, his description of himself as an 'outsider'.

Having joined the Labour party and working for the Union of Communication Workers, Hain's political career as an 'insider' began with his election to Parliament in 1991. During a lengthy Cabinet career, Hain held a number of positions though never quite the top rank ones. From his own account, Hain was neither a party hack nor involved to any great extent in the in-house political manoeuvring of the Labour Party. Instead, his aim seems always to have been to achieve something substantive in each of his roles - following the mantra 'all or something' rather than 'all or nothing'. As European Minister, he was involved in the negotiations that subsequently led to the Lisbon Treaty; he was a minister in the Welsh Office during the devolution referendum campaign; he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the St Andrews Agreement was reached, resulting in the restoration of devolved government.

Hain writes interestingly and enthusiastically about all these events, and if he perhaps blows his own trumpet a little too loudly at times, well, that's a common failing in political memoirs. He also gives us a little on the Blair-Brown saga, but thankfully not too much. I found this book a refreshing change because of Hain's concentration on the politics rather than the politicians of his time in office - it's also better written than many political autobiographies. Whether you agree with his politics or not, this is a well-told tale of a fascinating political life. Highly recommended.
33 Comments| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
VINE VOICEon 7 May 2012
Peter Hain has always carried a whiff of hypocrisy during his time in politics, as a campaigner, MP and Cabinet Minister. He rose to prominence with his Stop The Tour campaigns first by disrupting the1969 South African rugby team tour with pitch invasions and goading the Labour government into forcing the MCC to withdraw its tour invitation to the South African cricket team the following year. During the rugby disruptions Hain complained about police treatment of pitch invaders and could never understand his responsibility for any of the violence that occurred. He still doesn't. Instead he basks in the idea he was ahead of his time which may be the case.

Hain refers to the recitation given at the funeral of John Harris, the only white person to be executed by the apartheid regime. It's more or less where the hypocrisy starts. Harris, a primary school teacher, planted a bomb at Johannesburg Railway Station. The bomb injured twenty-three people and killed a seventy-seven year old woman. Harris belonged to the African Resistance Movement (ARM) which believed terrorism should be employed against the apartheid government. Hain's hypocrisy is transparent. He claims he was opposed to violence but "my support for the (the African National Congress) was never to be confused with support for 'terrorism'. The vital distinction is that the violence of guerrilla movements is directed against the oppressive apartheid state whereas the violence of terrorists such as Al Qaeda is directed indiscriminately against innocent bystanders." He excuses those "occasions when sabotage carried out by the ANC unintentionally caught bystanders ....(as)....valid and important". Yet Harris specifically targeted white people going about their daily lives. Claims he did not intend to kill were hollow. If there was no intention to kill, the bomb would never have been planted.

The apartheid regime itself was based on - and regularly used - violence against its opponents, including murder and intimidation. It was a regime built on fear and paranoia. Attempts by the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) to deal with subversion were brutal but pitiful. They led to the downfall of John Voster as Prime Minister while two botched attempts to reduce Hain's influence by using the legal system and letter bomb campaigns were counter-productive. Hain's sporting boycotts had some effect of raising the political consciousness of South Africans but the development of television was important in bringing home to white South Africans just how isolated they were. By establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the post-apartheid regime enabled all groups in South Africa to admit their responsibility for the past. Hain accepts none.

Hain's political ambition and opportunism was exposed when he left the Liberals for the Labour Party. He remained active in a variety of fringe groups characterised by their extremist views of world politics. He calls it libertarian socialism, the cynical might describe it in less charitable terms. When Hain describes "no meeting of minds", he usually means people who disagree with him.!! He founded the Anti-Nazi League which led to confrontation with the National Front. Although he claims he used his influence to urge restraint, violence was as inevitable as fights between football hooligans on match days. Hain helped introduce changes in the process of selecting Labour leaders and supported Tony Benn's bid for the Labour deputy leadership before falling out with him over Benn's opposition to the exclusion of Militant from the Party. Before then Hain blundered badly by dissenting from Kinnock's stance on the Miners' Strike, notwithstanding Scargill's political agenda to topple the government.

Even allowing for the duplicity which appears to be the stock in trade for politicians, Hain's hypocrisy reverberates throughout the book. If the Conservatives act incorrectly it's described as "scandalous". Yet when the Iraq war was declared Hain pleads he was acting honestly, in good faith. He acknowledges that Labour policy was perceived as a "big lie" but seeks to shift the blame on to the French who wouldn't support moves for a second UN resolution and the Americans who had a war plan but no peace strategy. He even blames the neo-Conservatives in America and tries to absolve Blair, yet it was Blair who tied Labour to Bush's policy, privately agreeing almost six months before war broke out that he would support the invasion of Iraq with or without a second UN resolution. He credits himself with having played a decisive role in resolving the political impasse in Northern Ireland but does so in the underhand way of quoting a journalist singing his praises.

In 2006 Hain made an unsuccessful bid for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party but was speedily eliminated. In 2008 he was accused of failing to declare receiving over £100,000 in campaign contributions. His response was to deny doing anything wrong, then to claim it was an oversight and finally to accuse many Conservatives of reporting donations late, complaining, "While I was being hounded, those who had committed the very same offence of reporting donations were not". Within two weeks of the story breaking he resigned from his ministerial post. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to prosecute on the grounds he was not the "regulated donee". He criticises the Electoral Commission for not knowing the rules but it appears his own solicitors didn't know the rules either. He fails to recognise that at a time New Labour was perceived as having one rule for the politicians and another for the electorate any whiff of hypocrisy would create a stink.

When Labour lost the 2010 election Hain rapidly became an advocate for a Labour-Lib Dem alliance to form a "progressive coatition". He blamed Nick Clegg for its failure claiming he was, " more in tune with the Tory right-wing agenda of savage public spending cuts". He barely acknowledges the role of New Labour in facilitating over-spending by reducing banking regulation. As ever, Hain's world is myopic and self serving. Nontheless the book is better than the average autobiography. Four stars.
0Comment| 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 11 November 2013
Hain has had an extraordinary life and I found out a lot about him through this book (as you would hope). It's a decent read, though slightly spoiled by his seeming lack of modesty or retrospection. Every event he describes makes him out to be brilliant, even when he clearly wasn't. For example, he talks about backing the Iraq war without seeming to have any doubts about it, despite it now being shown to be a ludicrous political mistake.

It is also very disappointing that he starts off as a fighter, but over time clearly becomes very establishment, to the point that at one time he is campaigning against somebody he personally backs because the Labour party asked him to. Principled? Hardly. But in Hain's world this is merely pragmatism.

Digested read: People keep telling me I'm brilliant. And they're probably right.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 26 February 2018
Great book, great service. Many thanks
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 19 August 2015
He has had an interesting life. Born in South Africa and eventually representing Neath in the House of Commons.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 27 February 2012
A readable account of critical period for wales and northern ireland set also in the context of the author's own history in south africa and the anti apartheid movement. Enjoyed the revelations about the reality of life as a minister,dealing with the civil service etc (the Civil Service get a more posiitve presentation here than in pre government writings). The chapters on the foreign office and on NI peace were fascinating in setting out the negotiating tactics. Writes movingly of parents, wife and of the difficulties experienced as a result of the innocent mistake made during leadership campaign. Not great literature (she said sniffily) but definitely worth a read.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 29 November 2014
why is this intelligent articulate passionate man not prime minister..... love him.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 5 May 2015
Worth the stars
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 10 March 2012
Good read for anyone interested in the Labour Party. Good quality product, received well within the agreeed time limit. Would really recomend this book
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 13 August 2014
Excellent-a bargain!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

Need customer service? Click here

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)