This is a must-buy for anybody who wants to cut through the spin, hyperbole and justification of the many autobiographies (and biographies) of the New Labour years for a serious analysis of what happened and why. Steve Richards - columnist ofr the Independent - had been talking to Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and those around them since the birth of New Labour and charts the following 16 years in terms of policy and belief.
He compares the ideology-light Blair with the socially-committed but personally flawed Brown. Examining the two men and how they governed - both more terrified of criticism from the right than plaudits for actual achievements.
We see Gordon Brown as neither a hero nor the man who stopped the march of New Labour. Richards recalls the early days of the Brown-Blair partnership inder both Neil Kinnock and John Smith when the Scotsman we now recall as ham-fisted and unable to use the modern media could dance around his TV interviews as Labour's young star and future leader. When Blair takes the leadership, Brown buries himself in working up policies for government - already waiting for his turn at the top.
And so we have the years of the Blair government with Brown looking for poverty reduction strategies that the Daily Mail will not notice and Blair becoming increasingly market-oriented and playing for good headlines. Always in the background is the festering sore of Brown waiting impatiently to be leader.
After broken promises and attempted coups, Brown comes to power with a divided party and a public hungry for change from the spinning of New Labour. He can shine through floods, terrorist attacks and foot and mouth and his popularity soars. Yet after encouraging media talk of an early election, then announcing that ducking out of it had nothing to do with disappointing polls, public and journalists realised the talk of new politics and change was a sham. When the global credit crunch hits, Brown sears he will do anything it takes to stave it off and Richards postulates that his actions and international influence brought us out of it. But nothing could save Brown from election defeat.
This book should be a mandatory text for all politics students interested in the complexities of how and why both Blair's New Labour and Gordon Brown disappointed all but their fiecest cheerleaders.