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3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
A Journey
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on 21 August 2017
Exceptional political journey.

Amazingly detailed for standards yet to be reached since.
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on 30 October 2010
This is more of a personal testament than history, and as such how much you enjoy it may depend to some extent on your opinions about the man, but I'll try to be objective.

Blair has an easy, readable style but at times this book could have done with a bit of editing. He often uses long, obscure words like `crudescence', when a simpler one would do. It can be repetitive - a reflection, I think, of the fact that the book was written as series of instalments rather than as one continuous narrative. In character, he speaks with passion and commitment, but there is a relentless quality to his eagerness to persuade, and I found it easier to get through this book in a series of small chunks.

However, on the plus side, and again in character, he can be fearlessly honest and the pace is far more lively than one would expect from a political memoir. He does not get bogged down in detail, and he is able to bring out the comical side of many of the activities and events in which he had a major political part. He tries not to take himself too seriously, and this personal touch affords the reader some welcome breathing space from the energetic pursuit of his political goals.

For me, the major revelation in the book is just how tense and dysfunctional his relationship with Gordon Brown actually was. I cannot imagine that the two men are now still on speaking terms.

This book has its flaws, but also its unique qualities. It is the account of a man battling to keep his soul, integrity and personal life intact amongst all the pressures and dilemmas of top level political leadership. I'd say he succeeds, but we must each decide.
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on 20 July 2017
It is a long book, easy to start but not so easy to finish. However, I like the way the author presents the facts and people. He shows a good power of argument, which partially explains several facts in the book.
However, it is important to take in mind that this is a unique point of view of complex situations and events. It is definitely nice to be able to know the point of view of a former PM, but it doesn't explain the history itself. I'll need to read other books now.
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VINE VOICEon 8 November 2015
I was never a huge fan of Tony Blair and New Labour. I never could warm to him as a person and was suspicious of his relentless desire to change things. However having read his fascinating autobiography I now have a respect for a man who has a towering intellect and an astute political vision. He comes across as a serious, ambitious moderniser driven by a deep belief in his own rectitude and virtue. However he also comes across as being too single minded and intolerant of those who disagree with him. The book is well written and covers the period between his becoming Labour leader and him stepping down as PM in 2007. The reader gets fascinating insights into the lifestyle and thought processes of a British Prime Minister,the pressures and the problems. We find out about his fractious relationship with Gordon Brown, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the election victories and his driving ambition to implement New Labour social and economic reform policies which were different from Old Labour ones in that they accepted the virtues of the market, competition and personal wealth accumulation in contrast to socialist values which were suspicious of them. New Labour was a centrist, Tory lite concept which was however extremely successful. Blair won three general elections and attracted voters who would tend to normally support the Tories. Since Blair left the scene Labour has returned to its old socialist ways and predictably has lost two elections in a row. This book is an intriguing analysis of the New Labour years and Blair comes across as an impressive figure. However he will probably be remembered for his less than successful military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan which have come to define his legacy and made him a hate figure for those on the Left who have set about destroying New Labour. It may take another two election defeats for Labour before they return to Blairite policies once again,but there is a certain inevitability that they eventually will. Anyone who is interested in politics and history should read this book and reach their own conclusions about this divisive ,but influential ,political giant.
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on 21 July 2014
Although a supporter of TB, I found his style just way too wordy.
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on 8 October 2010
I pre-ordered this book with a view to reading it on a holiday at end of September. It started off well enough and I settled down thinking it would be a good holiday read, however I soon found I was scanning and missing out pages which is a sure sign that things are starting to get boring. Having already decided to miss out the chapters on Ireland and Kosovo I really expected this to be more in-depth than it was. For instance I would have liked to know how he decided to form his early Cabinets but found little there other than an admission that he had made a mistake in appointing Margaret Beckett to Foreign Secretary.(Apologies if this was covered in the 2 chapters I skipped!).

I really felt it was lightweight and at times insulting to the readers' intelligence. He admitted that he kept digressing and I found this really annoying. Also the chronological order was all over the place,but maybe this happens with a 700 page book. At times I felt sorry for him yet at others he came over as a user, self-serving and always finding excuses for his behaviour. It was interesting to see how he completely pushed Brown aside for the Leadership even after admitting that Brown was probably a better Parliamentarian. It astonished me that he seemed to believe he had some divine right to the Leadership (and ultimately to PM post) after visiting and seeing the House of Commons some years before and deciding that he MUST become an MP!!

I did not feel that he was completely honest within the book. Yes Brown was a total bugbear and that's putting it mildly, but Blair lacked strength and courage to do anything about it. He seemed intent on getting good Press and being popular rather than actually being a good leader. At the end of it all I was disappointed beyond belief, feeling that Andrew Rawnsley's (The End of the Party) gave a much greater insight. Even Blair's Update/Postscript written after Labour were defeated left me feeling flat, as though he could have said so much more.

I remember reading a Political Commentator's review which wondered how New Labour had lasted so long. I think this question sums it up completely.
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on 21 December 2010
I was looking forward to this book, only to be sorely dissapointed by it.

It rambles from topic to topic as if the author can't decide what he wants to write about, with little thought to theme, structure, or the patience of the reader. Blair's role in events is grossly overplayed, other personalities in the book (including Presidents, Kings and sundry other greater men) appearing only as plot devices who help sweep Blair from solving one crisis after another.

If you read this book (I was unable to read it in its entirety I'll admit) and believe it, you'll see Blair as a Collosus, bestriding the world with a sword of justice solving the ills of all men.

If you read between the lines you'll see a poorly skilled ghost writer doing his best with imperfect tools.
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on 22 February 2014
Big disappointment. I expected so much more. Very poorly written in comparison with others I have read by Peter Mandelson and Alistair Darling for example.
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on 29 September 2016
This political autobiography of former Labour (or 'New Labour') Prime Minister Tony Blair, is an interesting and well-written book, whatever your own politics or opinion of the man. It makes a surprisingly persuasive case even for the highly controversial Iraq War.

Compared to Tom Bower’s recent hostile biography ‘Blair, The Tragedy of Power’, while Bower, who has written several books, is the professional author, Blair is actually a better writer.

Blair gives some details about his life before politics, but does not, for example, say much about his time as an employment law barrister and what he thought of the employers, employees, and Tribunals that he had to deal with, and whether it gave him much insight into business or other people’s working lives.

The book concentrates on his political career, beginning with his early efforts to persuade an often resentful Labour party to ditch some of its old socialist policies if it wanted to win elections and have the power to do anything. Blair’s predecessor as party leader, Neil Kinnock, had already begun that process. Blair considers the key difference was that Kinnock’s message sounded like “We don’t like to change but we have to, because the electorate demand it”; while his own was “We have to change, because the electorate are right”.

Blair has quite a lot to say about how ‘New Labour ‘in his time presented their message to the electorate more successfully than their Conservative rivals.

As for what he actually did with power once he achieved it, he repeatedly talks about the need for ‘reform’ and ‘modernisation’, but is vague as to what this means. I suspect that one of Blair’s limitations was that his previous career as a barrister, a profession composed of self-employed individuals with minimal support staff, develops analytical and presentational skills, but provides almost no experience of management, organisation and administration. (Years ago, I was literally asked by a barrister “What is management?”)

As Prime Minister, Blair was obstructed by his Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who had once been Blair’s friend and ally (Brown actually thought up the slogan that became associated with Blair “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”). However, Brown spent the first 11 years of the last Labour government sulking that he was only No.2 man in the government rather than No.1, and determined that, if he could not run the country himself, he would make it difficult for Blair to do anything. Brown seemed to think it was his right to be Prime Minister. Blair reasonably comments that the premiership is something that [via the Queen] the party and country bestow, no one ought to think it theirs by right. (Sad that, when Brown finally became PM, he did not look as though he enjoyed it much and he did not last long.)

Then there is of course the Iraq War, fought on a pretext that Saddam Hussein had to be stopped because he was building weapons of mass destruction (nuclear weapons, chemical weapons e.g. poison gas etc.) , although no such weapons were actually found. Blair makes a case that while Saddam was not actually maintaining or building a stock pile of such weapons he was preparing in every way he could to start building them quickly as soon as the world’s attention was off him, so it would not have been safe to leave him in power. Possibly (as has been said of the West’s dealings with North Korea today) all available options in relation to Saddam’s Iraq were bad ones.

However, most other things I have read (e.g. Tom Bower’s ‘Blair The Tragedy of Power’ mentioned above, which is partly based on interviews with ex-very senior Whitehall and military figures) agree that whether the Iraq war was necessary or not in principle, the Blair government sent British forces, both there and in Afghanistan, to risk their lives in situations that had not been properly thought through and for which they were not adequately funded, even for their role as very junior partners to the Americans.

The lack of funding may in a sense be the fault of Gordon Brown at the Treasury, but if Blair could neither replace Brown nor make him adequately fund the armed forces for the role to which Blair’s government committed them, then Blair should not have volunteered them for those roles.

With hindsight, Blair’s enthusiasm for joining the European single currency, the Euro, might have proved disastrous. In this respect, it may be a good thing that Brown obstructed him.

At one time, when briefly considering doing postgraduate research in an aspect of modern British political history, and discussing relvant books with a University lecturer, she mentioned the memoirs of various politicians, but in almost every case then added “probably full of lies” or “full of lies, I’m sure”. If that was right, then Blair is no worse in that respect than many others and may even be better.

It is easy for us to be arm-chair Prime Ministers, draw up with hindsight a list of Blair’s greatest mistakes and imagine that we could have done it better; not necessarily, I think.

All Prime Ministers make mistakes; many hold office for years but leave few noticeable, lasting achievements behind them. So in making criticisms of Blair here, I am not saying that he was that bad a Prime Minister, as Prime Ministers go.

However, his government did not really solve the related problems of the inefficient welfare state and stretched government finances. He nearly made the mistake of locking Britain into the perpetual financial crisis that is the Euro currency, and naively sent our armed forces unprepared into two unwinnable wars.

There was also a contradiction between allowing large-scale Muslim immigration with inadequate integration even while joining in 2 wars that many Muslims perceive as “The West attacking Muslim lands!” This helped to create Muslim communities who lived in Britain but were sometimes separated from the rest of us by deep mutual suspicion, and increased risk of domestic terrorism.

Even Blair’s successful election winning strategies could only work for so long; in the long-term they left people so disillusioned that many former working class Labour voters gave up voting, or switched to UKIP.

The remainder of the Labour party has, in part in reaction to Tony Blair’s 13 years as leader, since he stepped down marched ever further to the politically correct left, possibly now foreshadowing electoral failure and internal strife comparable to the Michael Foot / Militant Tendency era, which Blair had hoped to lead the Party away from forever.

The UK public’s recent vote to leave the European Union was surely in part a reaction against a remote liberal-ish Establishment of which both Labour’s Blair and the Conservatives’ David Cameron were seen as part.

This book was written not very long after Blair left office, so says little about his and his wife Cherie’s lucrative business activities, controversially interweaved with diplomacy and charity, after leaving office.

With strange insensitivity, when Blair has made public pronouncements in recent years, e.g. on the Middle East or the European Union, he seems unable to comprehend that he is now so little trusted, especially on these topics, that his support probably harms causes more than helping them.

Possibly, over time, the public mood and judgment of history about Blair will change. However, I suspect that if people read Tony Blair’s ‘A Journey’, in 50 years’ time, the majority of readers will still say, as now, that it is sad that someone who can write so interestingly and engagingly made such a mediocre job of being Prime Minister.
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on 19 September 2015
One of the interesting features of political memoirs and autobiographies is how they tend to reflect the public personality of their subject: Thatcher's 'The Downing Street Years' is punchy and trenchant and supported by a cold, sovereign certainty; by contrast, John Major's eponymous tome is apologetic, careful, thoughtful and melodic, and surprisingly well-written; Clinton's 'My Life' is stylistically eclectic and inclusive, variously generous, liverish and expansive, and always self-absorbed; Jimmy Carter's 'Keeping Faith' is faux-parabolic, earnest and unintentionally hilarious; Willy Brandt's 'People and Politics' is defensive and cagey; Jim Callaghan's 'Time and Chance' is technocratic in tone and with an air of machine competence; and at the extreme end of the scale, Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' amounts to a screaming, oratorical prose dictated while in gaol, but with some gems of thought and insight.

'My Journey' is not a bad memoir, but it cannot rank among the best. It's really a jumble more than a journey. Blair's vitae, thoughts and reflections have been assembled thematically, but you come away with the impression of an unstructured, inchoate mission, a government that was concerned more with what people thought about it than with actually getting anything done. That's not to say the Blair Ministries were without 'achievement' - a considerable amount was done, but it was a confused and ad hoc agenda without an underlying transformative narrative. Thatcher set out to save Britain. Major set out not to be Thatcher but also to implement a calmer, gentler type of Conservatism. What did Blair set out to do? This book doesn't really tell us. Blair claims that he was going to undo the 'injustices' of the Tory years, but in reality Blair was a continuation of Thatcher-Major, a managerial politician who would follow whichever way the wind blows. The mission was to be in power. Power itself gave the opportunity for certain revolutionary Left elements at the top of the Labour Party to implement a radical social agenda, but to what extent Blair himself was cognisant of this is unclear. Blair is well-spoken, articulate, but I doubt he really had much of a sense of direction or any rigorous understanding of policy issues. I think he attained the leadership of the Labour Party because he was the ideal 'front man'.

That said, I think it is also fair to say that the Iraq War (indeed, the whole aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy) was the point when Blair really came into his own. It is quite possible that had 9/11 not occurred, he would have been remembered as a fairly undistinguished Prime Minister. As it is, the so-called War On Terror gave his premiership a dramatic narrative. In this book, Blair justifies his actions ably and, rightly, points out that the campaign among some of his political opponents to label him a 'liar' is deeply counter-productive and corrosive of our democracy. Either a mistake was made with the intelligence on WMD or it was not. There is no proof of malfeasance and Blair himself admits the intelligence was wrong. What he perhaps does not tackle so well here is the possibility that there might have been a sound basis for not launching the invasion at all, indeed for a more reconciliatory policy toward Iraq.

I am not certain Blair actually wrote this book himself, but if he did, then my conclusion is that he is not a specially good writer, but he conveys his ideas clearly and competently, although the prose is at times a little too companionable for my liking. Whatever, the real Blair is captured here well: the archetypical mainstream politician, crowd-pleaser and holonomic party manager; a politician who was turbid and hazy in his vision - almost to the point of somnambulism - and always slightly vague and non-committal in his practical politics: in short, all the attributes of the politically rootless. Blair concerns himself obsessively with what people think of him. Even the Iraq War, seemingly an abnegation of Blairism in that it was a principled stand in defiance of public opinion, actually had broad public support in opinion polls: the mainstream opposition, if it ever existed, came later, by which time it was too late.

Despite the critical issues, I still rate this book highly not because it is a great autobiography (it isn't), but because what is written here is Blair through and through. You always have to give credit when the subject puts his stamp on a memoir because it allows the astute reader to come away with a good understanding of the man, and I think that is possible here.
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