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Interesting but unlikeable
on 30 January 2011
A Journey is the autobiographical account of his time in office by Tony Blair. It's difficult to be objective about a review without your political persuasion getting in the way, but I will try.
For the purposes of transparency, I should state that I didn't vote Labour but I will try, as I said, to be objective.
Firstly, I would recommend this book. I think it gives a valuable insight into the trappings of power, the workings of parliament, the numerous (and diverse) challenges that challenge today's modern politician and indeed, Prime Minister.
The book itself is lengthy, and gives fairly detailed accounts of the key issues that challenged Mr. Blair during his presidency leadership of both the Labour Party and the country. Iraq, Afghanistan, New Labour, Gordon Brown, Fuel Crisis, Irish Peace Talks, the odd scandal, Europe, September 11th, Diana, etc. It's all there and reads like a very modern history, and serves as a good reminder about how much occurred during his leadership.
His writing style is almost conversational, as you might expect if he was recounting verbally to you, which I quite enjoyed and found accessible. It certainly help through some of the longer winded (and to me) less interesting phases of the book.
This review is meant to be a quick review so I am going to cut to the quick with my summation.
In my view he never really answers the Iraq question. His reasons for invading still don't appear to justify it (from a "legal" perspective) but what is clear and I believe is sincere, is the toll the losses from conflict have taken on him mentally. I truly do.
The Tony Blair / Gordon Brown piece, well this is his side. You could say his view in the book has been justified by Gordon Brown's subsequent leadership disaster, but I think I'll withhold my conclusion until I read Mr Brown's memoirs.
His position on Labour is interesting. Basically he says that Labour will go back to being an occasional government if it goes back to it's left roots and gives up on the New Labour program. Time I guess will tell on that conclusion.
Really interesting was his often bitter attack on the press. I'm intrigued by this since New Labour (in my humble opinion) were the first real example of a "spun" party and government. True, the reforms (when you are reminded of them) are impressive on the face of it, but I can't help recalling the spin that Alistair Campbell and co used to masquerade at the height of their power, fully supported by the media. When the media turned their back, clearly Mr Blair thought it unreasonable and unjustifiable, which of course is laughable. Being in office and being PM ends in only 1 way. Just like a football manager. He should be big enough to acknowledge that.
And therein lies the ultimate end point for me. I still get the impression that Mr Blair feels that he was abandoned by party he reformed and got into power for their longest serving period ever, and is still very bitter about that. He never really acknowledges some of the bigger issues he perhaps didn't manage as well as he could have, even in hindsight, which leaves him accepting odd little mistakes that would have made no difference here or there. At times the account therefore seems a little disingenuous. Don't get me wrong, I didn't expect him to turn around and say he was wildly wrong in so many areas, but not accepting fault or blame for certain things, I believe could undermine the sincerity he places on the more important elements of his account.
Nevertheless, I would recommend reading this book and trying to read it as objectively as possible. It's a fairly riveting read (although there are passages on foreign policy and religion that do go on a bit) and a great insight into the world of modern "presidential" politics.