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VINE VOICEon 10 December 2005
This is a really good read - I'd rate it highly even without the parts on the run-up to the Iraq fiasco. You'd have to have one skin too few to be offended by the remarks he makes about people who feel offended (and he often has words of praise for them also). Most of the book is an entertaining and informative - and well-written - behind the scenes view on life as an ambassador, and compared with many of the others I've read this is well done. It also has the great merit of telling the truth - at least, the truth as corroborated by a great many other rational and observant folk.
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on 13 September 2009
I came to these Meyer Memoirs immediately after reading the Alistair Campbell Diaries of the Blair Years. The latter reveal a more mature and professional individual but Meyer is still worth reading and in the main quite entertaining. He seems overpowered by his wife and obsession to settle scores - against Germany, Jack Straw, the FCO and Blair. His appointment to Washington was a personal one at the behest of Blair, he claims, but then Blair clearly had doubts because he seldom read the detail of Meyer's briefings and yet Meyer couldn't see or indeed ask himself why. The insight into the Washington post, as Meyer ran it, of being one for a Socialite who "monitors what is going" on must be of questionable value. The most staggering chunk is to read first in Campbell's book of the attempts by No 10 [or whomever] to get Meyer excluded from a exclusive Bush/Blair dinner shortly after 9/11 and then to compare it with what Meyer recollects and has to say. These are grown men for heaven's sake! No wonder Blair avoided Meyer on his lengthy farewell circuit.
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on 21 December 2012
This book is rather like finding yourself in an airport bar and sitting next to a diplomat or other governmental official and overhearing some interesting stories, made more even interesting by the fact that the speaker has had a little too much to drink. In this case, the speaker seems a little drunk on his own self-importance.

Meyer is not mentioned in Bush's Decision Points or Rice's No Higher Honour. In other words, he wasn't actually that important, at least not from the American side. He was just another spanner in the workshop; he made no difference.

Having said that, the book is readable and enjoyable. The short chapters mean that you can put it down and pick it up without losing the narrative. I also like his lack of respect for some supposedly important figures. He calls Peter Mandelson an "odd-job man" because he was a Minister Without Portfolio (in other words, he had no real purpose) in the first Blair administration. You could argue that apart from serving his own interests, Mandelson has had no real purpose in any job he has done.

But does this make Meyer ant-Labour? Not necessarily. John Smith, the Labour leader before Blair took over, said of Mendelson, "[H]e was so devious he would one day disappear up his own something or other." (Quoted in Mandy: Unauthorised Biography of Peter Mandelson by Paul Routlesge.)

There are jerks in all governments. Meyer just calls it the way he saw it. The only question is: Do other people, the ones he worked with, see him as a jerk? That could also make an interesting book.

Chapter 6 (Catherine's Story) goes into great detail about when Meyer met his second wife, Catherine. Catherine ("Lady") Meyer hit the headlines when she fought for custody of her children from her former husband. Big deal!

In 2012 she was given a CBE for "services to children and families". This was largely, I presume, on the result of her "charity", Parents & Abducted Children Together. Given that she had already been involved in a bitter divorce, the honor was extremely ironic. Interestingly, the fist picture in the illustrations section has Catherine standing behind Margaret Thatcher: not much self-promotion there, then.

Can anyone tell me who was the guilty partner in her divorce case?
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on 26 December 2005
This is a very well written book by Christopher Meyer who was ambassador to the US in the run up to the Gulf war in 2003. While much of the public attention focused on Jeremy Greenstock at the UN debates Meyer played an equally crucial and influential role as Britain’s Washington ambassador. His caricatures and descriptions of his former political masters have received some public attention not least from the Foreign Secretary and the Deputy Premier but on balance I don’t think he sets out to be malicious. Very interesting was the British Embassy and No 10 relationship, which he describes as uneasy for much of the time, particularly in advance, of the Bush-Blair meetings leading to the 2003 invasion.
Sir Christopher is without doubt one of the most experience and able British public servants to occupy the position of ambassador to the US, that it was during this extraordinary and troubled period between September 11 and March 2003 makes this book all the more important. With this in mind this book will be of benefit to those who want a good all-round description of what led Britain and America to war while their half-century-old alliance of France and Germany looked on with incredulity.
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on 13 November 2005
If you've ever wondered how a country ends up at war, then this is a must read.
DC Confidential is a most candid and riveting account of what really happened behind the scenes. What I really enjoyed were the colourful portraits of politicians as human beings, with the same foibles, strengths and weaknesses that we all have. It's funny and serious at the same time and gave me lots of belly laughs.
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on 21 November 2006
This book isn't that good at all, but you have to read it to see how stupid some of our senior UK politicians have been when using whatever power or leverage they have over Bush. I am constantly surprised how amatuer our guys were compared to the American heavyweights.
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on 31 July 2011
Having very much enjoyed 'Getting our Way', I thought I'd read Meyer's earlier book. But it suffers from three things:
- Its style. The book was written apparently because his nearest and dearest got fed up with continual anecdotes after his retirement and suggested he write them down. The resulting read is just too chatty and undignified for a former high FO official.
- He is relying on memory, not on any contemporaneous writings like a diary, and hindsight is a wonderful thing.
- He would appear to have an inflated idea of his own importance.
'Getting our Way' was an interesting analysis of diplomacy through the centuries, and proves that Meyer can write a lot better than he did in these memoirs.
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on 25 April 2013
I was expecting a deep "confidential" insight into American politics. What I got was a book about Mr. Meyer's life with plenty of self-serving episodes about his "great work". Also, I now understand that Mr. Meyer doesn't like the Germans - which I wasn't really interested in, but had to read about on at least five occasions.
In the end I had to put the book down after reading about two thirds.
My advise: save you time and money!
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on 25 February 2011
This book is tinged with a bit of pomposity and self regard but it nonetheless needs to be read at face value. Its basically a lighthearted canter through a top diplomat's career, probably of more interest to international affairs fans than the average reader - most of whom think all diplomats are bunch of gin and tonic swilling toffs. At least its a lot more readable than many a turgid memoir produced by politicians. Meyer comes across as a good hearted bloke who is now distancing himself from a lot of Blair's foreign policy decisions. You can't really fault him for that.
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on 2 January 2006
Written in the syle of a political thriller, this book is an eye-witness account of US-UK's 'special relationship' during the run-up to the Iraqi war and life as the British ambassador to the US, one of the most prestigious posts in the foreign diplomatic service. Christopher Meyer describes his hectic and demanding schdule, testy relationship with No.10 and political hobnobbing.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for inspiration, a career in the foreign diplomatic service or simply wanting to be dazzled by life in the upper echelons of one of the world's most powerful cities.
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