7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: A Journey (Hardcover)
What you get from this book will depend greatly on your opinion of its author. I will state my own position: I was a strong admirer of Tony Blair's leadership. I admired his work on reforming the public sector; and I thought the decision to invade Iraq was controversial, but not necessarily wrong.
The book itself portrays Blair in ways that are good, bad, and indifferent.
The good: I found Blair's account of Iraq well worth reading. I also found very interesting his depiction of the politics of implementing (with great conviction), a social democratic reform programme. Other valuable insights are his informative observations about the difficulties of European politics, and his pessimism over the future of the left, `after' social democracy. On all these matters I felt Blair came over as authentic and plausible.
The indifferent: Notable of course is his relationship with Gordon Brown , slightly to his left. This was initially demanding, then dysfunctional, and finally broken down. Blair describes how towards the end he became distinctly (I would say over-)confident, and virtually stopped listening or attempting to negotiate a consensus. Also noteworthy is his depiction of how he effectively drifted to the right in the later stages, while becoming at the same time less liberal.
The bad: The first lay in the descriptions of peoples' motivations. Blair recurrently reveals a lack of depth and sophistication in his understanding of human psychology. For example, he repeatedly describes a like of `passionate' people - IMHO naively overrating overassertiveness, seemingly oblivious to its cost.
Secondly, for all his capacity to thoroughly understand situations, Blair's described motivations often seem somewhat hot headed. This takes various forms, from moral fervour and over-certainty ('I just wanted to know: what is the right thing?')to powerlust. This leads him in turn to justify some instances of dishonesty He reveals how he expected, but did not disclose this to allies, the use of ground troops in Kosovo; at one point he refers to the concept of sticking to a manifesto pledge as `absurd'; he still fails to give a convincing account of the Bernie Eccleston saga.) He portrays himself as more aggressive and less likeable than the image he conveyed while in post. He scathingly synonimises `liberal' with `wet' ; arrogantly dimisses in retrospect the pandemic flu scare as hype; he even manages to sound racist and sexist at times.
Lastly, for such a brilliant and polished political performer, it's a real shock that he has written the book so badly . It's as though, once he'd decided to donate the royalties to charity, he de-prioritised the project, writing it at night, and then skimping on the use of an editor.
Read the book - it has to be a key part of anyone's retrospective on the Blair decade. You'll learn more about both his strengths and his weaknesses.