counter create hit A Journey: My Political Life - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

A Journey: My Political Life

Availability: Ready to download

In 1997, the biggest Labour victory in history swept England, ending eighteen years of Conservative government. Prime Minister Tony Blair — young, charismatic and complex — shaped the nation profoundly in the ten years that followed. From his work in Northern Ireland to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, few of his decisions were free from scrutiny and debate. Alternately In 1997, the biggest Labour victory in history swept England, ending eighteen years of Conservative government. Prime Minister Tony Blair — young, charismatic and complex — shaped the nation profoundly in the ten years that followed. From his work in Northern Ireland to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, few of his decisions were free from scrutiny and debate. Alternately beloved and reviled, he was an international figure to a degree matched by few British leaders — a role he continues in to this day through the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and his work in the Middle East. Now, for the first time, we see the fascinating journey and difficult choices of the prime minister through his own eyes. Grippingly candid and deeply intimate, A Journey is a must-read political memoir, full of startling insights into a host of world leaders, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. It is also a book that delves deeply and profoundly into what it means to be in a position of great power today, and its emotional and personal toll.


Compare
Ads Banner

In 1997, the biggest Labour victory in history swept England, ending eighteen years of Conservative government. Prime Minister Tony Blair — young, charismatic and complex — shaped the nation profoundly in the ten years that followed. From his work in Northern Ireland to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, few of his decisions were free from scrutiny and debate. Alternately In 1997, the biggest Labour victory in history swept England, ending eighteen years of Conservative government. Prime Minister Tony Blair — young, charismatic and complex — shaped the nation profoundly in the ten years that followed. From his work in Northern Ireland to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, few of his decisions were free from scrutiny and debate. Alternately beloved and reviled, he was an international figure to a degree matched by few British leaders — a role he continues in to this day through the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and his work in the Middle East. Now, for the first time, we see the fascinating journey and difficult choices of the prime minister through his own eyes. Grippingly candid and deeply intimate, A Journey is a must-read political memoir, full of startling insights into a host of world leaders, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. It is also a book that delves deeply and profoundly into what it means to be in a position of great power today, and its emotional and personal toll.

30 review for A Journey: My Political Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This is a difficult book to review really, To be flippant, as I reflected on which shelves to place it I did wonder about placing it on fantasy or surreal and i suppose in some ways it would fit loosely onto 'history' but all in all, though i am pleased I read it and I suppose every arch critic of Mr Blair ought to, yet i still finished it feeling a little dissatisfied and disgruntled. Why, I am not totally certain. On a number of occasions he spoke of Gordon Brown, who i have to confess i have This is a difficult book to review really, To be flippant, as I reflected on which shelves to place it I did wonder about placing it on fantasy or surreal and i suppose in some ways it would fit loosely onto 'history' but all in all, though i am pleased I read it and I suppose every arch critic of Mr Blair ought to, yet i still finished it feeling a little dissatisfied and disgruntled. Why, I am not totally certain. On a number of occasions he spoke of Gordon Brown, who i have to confess i have even less time for than Mr Blair, as having no clear vision of where he wanted his Primeministership to lead the country but I did not feel, at anytime, that Blair clearly sets out what his vision was. He lists 'lots of things' his Government achieved, and I do not think it can be argued with that he did achieve a great deal of good in his ten years in Office, but the greatly trumpeted third way or concensus politics does not feature clearly here. He sends up all sorts of comments and slogans but i did not feel I had much of a clearer vsion of the actual philosophy behind it by the end of this then i had at the start. He is, by his lights, very honest and up front. Inevitably, in any memoir, there will be much self excusing and defense and I do not think he indulges this anymore than I would if i were in his position. He speaks from a position of confidence and certainty, verging on the arrogant, where, on a number of occasions, he speaks of how he dealt with this situation or this crisis as good as anyone and better than most. I paraphrase but that is certainly the impression left to me from his account. I found this confidence acceptable in the sense that he is a man who quite clearly is led by conviction and his understanding of the world and it would be more unsettling I suppose if he changed with the wind. Indeed towards the end he has an extended reflection on how he changed from being a politician who knew the way the wind was blowing with public opinion and would harness that to how he recognized that a leader ought to be prepared to lead and not be blown about by a seeking after popularlity. I found I respected this in him, for this honest attempt to be true to himself and his outlook on the world but I struggled with the fact that throughout the book this honesty never seemed to crystallize into any real ackonwledgement of any substantial mistakes. He never seemed to acknowledge that he made any incorrect decisions except those in relation to political actions which had repercusions for his own political life. (Mostly concerning, it seems, Brown and Ed Balls). It is an interesting opening out of a majorly significant decade in UK political life and, of course, the disastrous or noble, depending on your stance, involvement in the 'War on Terror'. His attempt to explain his mindset and reflective process here was always going to be a tought sell as he recognizes. Personally I was wholly against the War in Afghanistan and uncertain about Iraq but it was important for me to at least give him the opportunity to express his reasoning without the undoubtedly hypocritical and two faced British Press throwing in its disingenuous halfpennyworth. I still am unconvinced about the justification for the action as Western Governments leave all sorts of tyrants and thugs in power when it suits but i did leave the chapters on Iraq feeling at least more clear in my own mind that Blair was honest even if, in my opinion, mistaken. Is this the clever plan of a master-spinner or the sincere words of a genuine man of principle. At the risk of drawing down an avalanche of raspberries upon myself, I would say the latter. The book was full of self-justification but what politician or indeed human being would not take the opportunity to explain and dissect. Blair defends and upholds friendships and talent that he recognizes. It is a memoir in which he acknowledges and affirms hard choices and those who supported him in them. If team GB...(Gordon Brown his successor as British Prime Minister until 2010 for those unaware of the UK Political Scene) come in for some criticism it is no more than an understandable human reaction to back biting and back room coups. The memoir, to be fair, did not strike me as a huge character attack on Blair's enemies real or imagined but rather was an attempt to explain his journey as he saw it from populist, charismatic can-do-no-wrong hero swept in on the tide of hoped for change after nigh on two decades of conservative rule to a man of principle and vision, confident in that vision but also conscious that his time had come to an end. I would venture to say that he did strike me in this as more unattractively cocksure than i found comfortable but perhaps that is me. His hope to fix in stone his vision and plan for continual change was hamstrung by Gordon Brown's taking over of the reins but he did seem to see that that would always be the way of ex-leaders. His final weeks in Office were ones in which, unlike the vast majority of previous Prime Ministers he was leaving, to a certain extent, of his own accord. On a nit-picky note i found his use of 'with-it' language a bit annoying. One of the most ridiculous was when we were told that Clare Short was 'dissing him' in public and private. Now I am sorry but the man is 50 and lives in middle class England, this awkward use of the 'language of the street' is jarring and silly. There were a number of such occasions and his editor needs to tell him and indeed all editors need to tell all men and women of a certain age that no matter how much 'street' and 'hip' language they seek to insert in their books it is not going to get people reading the books any more than before. Being one with the people is great but act your age and use your own vocabulary, adopting poses and slang never works.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    General spoiler alert (the book is discussed in detail) I’m writing this review because a couple of friends have said it is okay to do so, in spite of my appalling political ignorance. If you are seeking wide-ranging insights, stop here. For the most part I am simply going to plonk down what I understand that Tony Blair did and did not achieve – and I offer no criticism on any of his policies. I liked the book, and felt that Blair wrote it with much honesty; I felt that I got to know the man, his General spoiler alert (the book is discussed in detail) I’m writing this review because a couple of friends have said it is okay to do so, in spite of my appalling political ignorance. If you are seeking wide-ranging insights, stop here. For the most part I am simply going to plonk down what I understand that Tony Blair did and did not achieve – and I offer no criticism on any of his policies. I liked the book, and felt that Blair wrote it with much honesty; I felt that I got to know the man, his government and his policies a lot better. That reliance on the word ‘his’ is not happenstance. He seems to have governed very much from the top downwards. THINGS BLAIR WAS PROUD ABOUT: *The fact he came to power in 1997 with a majority of 179 seats – the largest number in British history. *The fact he worked so hard to create “New Labour”, a centre-based, progressive, pro-European party. Keen to work for the aspirational working and middle classes, as well as the underdog. A party which would not kowtow to left-wing activists. A party “fit for government” (Labour had been out of government for four previous elections before the Blair overhaul). A party embraced by a huge swathe of the British public who would never have dreamed voting Labour before. A modernized party run by an inspired leader. I felt a growing inner sense of belief, almost of destiny……I could see the opportunity to take hold of the Labour Party, rework it into an electoral machine capable of winning over the people….It’s an extraordinary feeling, the sense you can achieve something beyond the ordinary. *Radical increases in public spending to make up for the underinvestment of the Thatcher years. *The longest period of economic growth for over 200 years. *Over 2.5 million more people in work. *His toughness on crime and legislation to help reduce anti-social behaviour. *The introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Act – enabling police to seize assets that might be associated with criminal activity. (Only after each seizure would there be an inquiry as to whether they had been obtained lawfully or not.) * Increasing rates of literacy amongst schoolchildren. *Making a lot of schools into ‘academies’ – encouraging independence, ethos and identity, strong leadership, flexibility, innovation and excellence. Today academies are improving three times faster than other schools. *The introduction of tuition fees for university students. He argues that several top universities have said this was a life-saver for them. (This was also the issue that made him more unpopular with the public than anything else – even more so than the invasion of Iraq.) * The peace talks in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement, and the following years of negotiation. He says The Good Friday Agreement wasn’t the end, it was the beginning. There was still much talking to be done. This was obviously a major undertaking for all involved, including President Clinton, John Major, the previous (Conservative) prime minister, and all the different factions in Northern Ireland. *The independence of the Bank of England * Overall crime down by 30% during his tenure. The employment of a record number of police – almost 13,000 more than in 1997 when he came to power, and 4,600 new community support officers. *Decreasing waiting times both in accident and emergency departments of hospitals, and in waiting times for operations. *5% cut in VAT on fuel, to help people with their heating bills *The introduction of the Civil Partnership Act. *Various bits of legislation to increase anti-terrorist monitoring and holding. These curtailed civil liberties, but Blair felt this was justified, given the seriousness of the threat. * The ban on tobacco advertising *The banning of the production or export of landmines *Changed hours for drinking alcohol, to bring England in accord with the rest of Europe. Some licences now allow 24hour openings. *The stopping of using juries for complex fraud cases . *The broadening of the use of DNA in crime databases. This was fiercely resisted on the grounds of civil liberties at the time, but the results have been dramatic. *Signing up to the European Social Chapter (which included legislation on employment rights like paid holidays). *The introduction of a minimum wage. *The introduction of a greater period for maternity leave, and paternity leave. *The handing over of Hong Kong to China (although 99% of the legwork for this was done during Margaret Thatcher’s time as prime minister). Blair said it improved Anglo-China relations greatly. *Plans for the inclusion of the European Convention on Human Rights Act into UK Law. *The creation of a London mayor for the first time in centuries. *Regeneration in several inner cities, like Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. *The trebling of aid to Africa and the cancellation of debt. *The way the government handled the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001. THINGS BLAIR WAS DEFENSIVE ABOUT: *His notorious relationship with Gordon Brown. The fact he promised Brown that he would allow him to take over the leadership of the Labour Party, then reneged on that deal. Or did he? Blair would argue that Brown reneged on his promise to carry forward the policies and ideals of the ‘New Labour Party’, and thus Blair felt he couldn’t hand over the reins of power. *British troops in Afghanistan. He argues that we needed to do something to try and help bring order to the country, eliminate the Taliban, and reduce their reliance on poppy as a farmed crop. Later we were to experience the unexpected difficulties of keeping an ongoing presence there. Our experience in Afghanistan should have been short, sharp and decisive, but instead the situation dragged on and on, and the British people did not have the will for that sort of protracted situation. *The invasion of Iraq. Blair still argues that Saddam had plans for weapons of mass destruction. He says that Saddam kept the scientists able to make the weapons, even if he had destroyed the facilities for making them. Blair feels that had we lifted sanctions on Iraq those scientists would have started working on wmds again. He also feels, in spite of the fighting, that the average Iraqi is better off now than they would have been under Saddam’s continuing rule. *The fox hunting ban. Blair said he had absolutely no idea the furore this would cause nor the number of people it would inflame (from both sides of the argument). He wished he had never made it an issue in the first place. *The uproar over MPs expenses – Blair says that MPs are underpaid, and expenses were understandably used to top up income. THINGS BLAIR WAS THWARTED IN ACHIEVING: *Management of immigration issues – primarily his inability to lessen the endless beaucracy involved in trying to return economic migrants to their country of origin. He is at pains to point out that he is not anti-immigration per-se, just anti illegal immigration. *Difficulties in reforming the criminal justice system “This seemed impervious to any reform beyond the further entrenching of rights for offenders and every more bureaucratic processes encumbering the police” *The introduction of identity cards – which he feels would have particularly helped with illegal immigration. He also argues that they are used successfully in many well-functioning democracies. *The introduction of GM foods, which he supported. *Changing the gambling laws to allow super casinos in this country, with American financial backing. He felt this would have rejuvenated many seaside towns, and encouraged tourists. THINGS BLAIR SAID HE DID WRONG: *Encouraging the Freedom of Information act, which came through in January 2005. I was an absolute idiot to urge this upon us. The information sought isn’t by the general public, it’s by journalists – and it is used to hit politicians over the head. But another reason it is terribly bad is that governments need to be able to debate with confidentiality. This is essential. Without confidentiality, people are inhibited and that is not conducive to good decision-making.” I apologise that the above is just a synopsis of Blair’s activities (and probably a pretty patchy one at that). It will however be a helpful record for me to keep. I feel there are several elephants in the room which I have not addressed. My pulse indeed throbs at some of the issues mentioned, but I (rightly) have not the confidence to pontificate upon them in public. A big thank you to my pal Kate – who banged my inbox every day with furious emails whilst I read this book. She says everyone calls Blair “Teflon Tony”, because he is so impervious to anyone else’s point of view. Now I think she may be right on that….

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    I always had, and always will have, the greatest admiration for Tony Blair. According to another source, not his book, he pledged to make Britain a young country again and the world a better place. He was the most popular British prime minster in human history. He was the pop-idol of world politics. His keyword was modernization, embodied in a young leader. He starts off his book by saying: On 2 May 1997, I walked into Downing Street as prime minister for the first time. I have never held office, I always had, and always will have, the greatest admiration for Tony Blair. According to another source, not his book, he pledged to make Britain a young country again and the world a better place. He was the most popular British prime minster in human history. He was the pop-idol of world politics. His keyword was modernization, embodied in a young leader. He starts off his book by saying: On 2 May 1997, I walked into Downing Street as prime minister for the first time. I have never held office, not even as the most junior of junior ministers. It was my first and only job in government." He captured the imagination of the world when he managed to become the prime minister of Britain, with a society so clearly defined by class differences. It is almost the same as the caste system in India. You have to be born priviliged to become 'one of them'. So, for a youngish person with a Labor background and no Blue Blood - connection anywhere in the history of his family, the voice of Middle England, to get into the hot seat of ruling the country, was a major accomplishment! "Our victory of 1 May 1997 had released new energy everywhere. Challenges that mired a tired and psychologically demoralised government now inspired an energetic and confident team to have a go. I often reflect that such audacity could only be given wing in the first flush of enthusiasm that greets a profound moment of change." (p.159) For this reason I always got his back in my own little world, sort of. I believed that he was the epitome of what a democracy should really be about, although I do not agree with the original Labour Party sentiments. And since it was Britain where it was happening, it restored my faith in the western style of democracy. His appointment was a manifestation that democracy really counts and works. He needed all the support he could get, and even though I am not British, I was, like billions of other world citizens, a devoted supporter. It is for the same reason that I admire Barack Obama and the country that made it possible for him to become president. The combination of Tony Blair and Princess Diana, hiting the British establishment in succession, probably had the same effect as a tsunami hitting the sleeping city of New York. I instinctively took up their trail and waited for the fireworks to start. And boy oh boy, what a show it was! The rebel in me, seeking democracy, equal rights and respect for all people, wanted them to rock the boat. To force old established prejudices and comforts to be tested and changed. And yes, I admit I had a few good laughs but also experienced tremendous heartache for both Tony Blair and Princess Diana. So, from this point of view, my review will be presented! Subjective, for sure. Objective - only with a weapon against my skull :-) Jokes aside, I did read other sources and watched some You Tube documentaries to get a broader insight into the man and the book. I am including some of those opinions in the review. He says about his relationship with The Court: " What I am about to add may say more about me than about them. I always felt that they preferred political leaders of two types: either those were of them - or at least fully subscribed to their general outlook - or the 'authentic' Labout people, the sort they used to read about, who spoke with an accent and who fitted their view of how such people should be. People like me were a bit nouveau riche, a bit arriviste, a bit confusing and therefore suspect." Tony Blair is 'one of the boys'. He puts his kids to bed, he loves to share a pint in the village pub with his friends and he has his feet squarely grounded in middleclass England where everything is happening for his country. Where the taxes are paid and the work is done to propel a country into greatness. He was painfully aware of the outrage of the people with the cold, perfectly choreographed reaction of The Court to the death of Diana. I personally was of the opinion that princess Diana was the 'world-elected' Queen of England. By the Brits themselves, as well as the world. She was the only recognized, respected and preferred princess of the people (including the entire world). It did not matter, at the time of her death, that she was no longer a member of the Royal Family. The world still regarded her as the Queen of England, the Princess of the People and, with millions of Brit's support, demanded a proper burial for her. Of course it rocked the establishment when they realized how out of date they were with this world view. 'Their Book' of rules did not tell them how to handle a modern crowd of angry people. It must have been a shock as well, especially when the reaction of the Brits were turning the Royals' 'Book of conduct' into a comic strip for the deranged. Because, in the world's view, they were occupying the palace of the People's Princess. They should have been gone, not Diana! She was the true ruler of England, and she was dead. He is frank, but respectful, in his assessment of the situation in the palace during the events following the passing of Diana: There were two camps inside Buckimham Palace. One was thoroughly traditional, and had not regarded Diana as an asset but as a danger. They felt that to give way to press and public pressure was to start down the slippery path to a populist-driven monarchy, which then lead to the monarchy ceasing to be true to its station, and therefore losing the essential raison d'être. As admirably tough and principled as that approach was, it seemed hopelessly out of touch. While they may have understood the sadness of the people, they didn't understand the potential rage." Tony Blair understood her universal power which was much more than The Royals ever had or could wish for. He was aware of her world influence and what it could do to Britain if this situation were handled wrong. Her decisions surpassed all governments. They followed in her foot steps without any choice. She had that effect on the world and its people - my opinion. To read about these events in Tony Blair's book in which he honestly, and profoundly, shares his own thoughts and feelings, is one of the reasons I wanted to read this book. Although he is diplomatic, sometimes kind, he is also direct in his explanation of many of the events he was involved in during his 'reign' as prime minister. I admire his guts. He still believes that it is better to intervene and make a difference, than to sit back and deal with the bad consequences of corruption, gangster-politics and exploitation(in Africa) One thing is sure: he is a decent, sincere man, driven by his belief that he did what he believed was right. He still believes that the world should stand up to radical Islamic terrorism and should not stop fighting it. P.437: " We all know that there are terrorist groups now operating in most major countries. Just in the past two years, around twenty different nations have suffered serious terrorist outrages. Thousands of people - quite apart from September 11 - have died in them. The purpose of that terrorism is not just in the violent act; it is in producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, and to produce consequences of a calamitous nature. Round the world, it now poisons the chances of political progress - in the Middle East, in Kashmir, in Chechnya and in Africa. The removal of the Taliban - yes - dealt it a blow. But it has not gone away." Comments: With this book, Tony Blair is openly discussing his own woes and wonders in detail. In-depth. His accomplishments and failures. In his own style. There is no other British leader in history that would ever compare to him. He summarizes contemporary history - the history of our times in his own words. That is one of the major reasons why I wanted to hear his side of the story. The important motivation for me to read autobiographies like these, is to find balance in a media-driven society where political decisions are mostly based on what we read and watch, which is often the blown-up versions of real events. We are so easily influenced by public opinion, which is often emotionally driven and unbalanced. Sometimes it is also riddled with hidden agendas. It creates problems for people acting on those media-induced hype, and often with devastating consequences. By reading the thoughts of prominent leaders, unedited by media editors, provide the balance that is important. There are many documentaries made on Tony Blair's legacy - by his supporters as well as his opponents. In this book he addresses most of those issues in his own voice. He is a master of the word. I watched several BBC-documentaries on Tony Blair throughout reading the book. He says of his book that is a very personal account of what it is like, as an ordinary human being, to lead a country while living in extraordinary times and what he learnt about himself during this time. Politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. However magical it all sound, there were two rival managers in the Labour party. His chancellor, Gordon Brown, governed the Brits from the treasury, in opposition to Tony Blair, which would result in an internal rivalry which hindered the establishment of new programs and changes set out in the election campaign. Gordon Brown did not accept the outcome of the leadership elections in the Labor Party when Tony Blair became prime minister. He was also leaking on Tony Blair and undermining him where-, when- and however he could. Tony Blair's biggest opposition was orchestrated from within his own party by Gordon Brown and created obstacles in Tony Blair's path. It would result in tension and turbulence throughout the next ten years of the party's management of the British government. In my personal opinion, it was a huge mistake to keep Brown in the inner circle. But Blair trusted his own ability to keep control over Brown where it was possible. He explains his decision to do so in the book and also give credit to Gordon. When Gordon Brown eventually took over government after Tony left, it took him three years of disastrous failures to lose the majority support and hand over the reigns to the Conservative party on a silver platter. He simply could not handle it and Tony Blair knew that all along( in my opinion). Some even alleged that Tony Blair rose to become a pop-star prime minister and fall down to become a conviction-driven lone ranger in his own country. He was accused at one point of: sprinkling too much adrenaline on his corn flakes(destroying Kosovo's tyrant Slobodan Milošević); of being hesitant at home, but abroad, a crusader (Al-Qaeda - Afghanistan); exporting democracy, even at the point of a gun(bringing down Sadam Hossein); tie himself to the tail of a tiger(George W. Bush). He entered the world stage and experienced 1) some of his best moments but also 2) his gravest misjudgements that would ultimately bring him down. All that was needed were men, material and motivation to destroy the countries that were supposed to be liberated, but were left defenseless and vulnerable to interior strive. He accepted some of the blame and faced the consequences head-on. In the book he shares his personal feelings and thoughts around all the issues he had to deal with in his work. The mass deception that lead to the war against Sadam Hossein, made him a loser in the currency of trust he dealt in. His most important legacy, however, would be a different approach to politics. He modernized government on a unprecedented scale. He modernized politics. More comments from the You Tube documentaries: He was a destiny prime minister. "Every day was a new destiny for him"; "He had a decade-long dance with destiny"; "He was stealy, progressive, decent, stubborn"; "He was, like Margaret Thatcher, a destinity politcian who would always be judged in primary colors and it was never as simple as that either"; "His ultimate destiny was determined by two men with the initials GB. One would be the man next door (Gordon Brown) and the other, being the most powerful man on earth, George Bush ". He might have been many things, but in my opinion, he was a remarkable tour de force. He was strong, he was tough, he was skilful. But he was also compassionate, kind, sincere, decent. A remarkable human being. One of the last things he said was: "I give my thanks to you, the British people, for the times that I've succeeded and my apologies for the times I have fallen short." This is not a book for everyone, although in my opinion it should be. The book requires many hours and dedication. But to understand the modern world we are living in, how it vastly differs from previous centuries, it is important to get to know the ordinary human beings who will ultimately land up on the pedestals we built for them. More importantly, this book gives us a glimpse into the reality of governments, what is really shaping modern politics, the role of the media, the responsibilities we have as voters to understand the issues and challenges we have to deal with and how to not allow ignorance to rule our decision making. We have a responsibility to seek balance in our approach to a voting booth. If we are not willing, or mature of enough, we should not vote. ************ You Tube sources: Tony Blair - The Inside Story: Part One Tony Blair - The Inside Story: Part Two Tony Blair - The Inside Story: Part Three The Rise and Fall Of Tony Blair 2007/06/23 Part 1 The Rise and Fall of Tony Blair 2007/06/25 Part 2 Tony Blair - A Journey: My Political Life Gordon Brown - Where Did It All Go Wrong ?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is refreshingly candid in his memoir. Written in 2010, it chronicles mainly his long run at Number 10 Downing Street (1997-2007). Blair tosses in bits and pieces of his life prior to those years, such as the time he confronted a bully in school,but only when he becomes Opposition Leader while John Major is Prime Minister does the story begin in earnest. Blair is forthright and unvarnished in his opinions about his Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is refreshingly candid in his memoir. Written in 2010, it chronicles mainly his long run at Number 10 Downing Street (1997-2007). Blair tosses in bits and pieces of his life prior to those years, such as the time he confronted a bully in school,but only when he becomes Opposition Leader while John Major is Prime Minister does the story begin in earnest. Blair is forthright and unvarnished in his opinions about his Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Parliament, other world leaders, and himself. Aside from the chapters concerning Iraq and the disaster that became, he seems quite willing to accept blame for actions that he took/words that he spoke. He even comments on Queen Elizabeth and his interactions with her, as well as Princess Diana and Prince Charles. The first half of the book, more or less, is devoted to Blair's ascendancy to leader of the Labour (I'm using the British spelling since this is a British book) Party, his overwhelming election as Prime Minister, and British domestic politics. To a non-Britisher such as myself, this could easily induce a case of glazing over of the eyes, especially considering that I am not familiar with the topics and only remember a few of the major players involved, and most not at all. But that is not Blair's fault, and really he does keep the narrative flowing so as to not completely bog down in policy details. He sprinkles in anecdotes that keep the story engaging, such as when his teenage son was picked up for intoxication. He also includes a chapter on the sudden death of Princess Diana and how the government had to respond to it. I did find the chapter on the peace process with Northern Ireland to be quite interesting. He and his Cabinet put in a lot of hours to make that work. One thing quite clear from the outset is that Blair, like pretty much all American politicians, despises the press. He documents numerous examples of the press hounding people, making mountains out of molehills, and seemingly looking for controversies even if none existed. There are, of course, two sides to everything, but his side deserves to be heard. No doubt this complicated his life, yet there really was no alternative. Britain has a free press, and that is a good thing (Blair never says or even implies otherwise). And oftentimes, it was his own people who leaked and tipped off the press about something potentially embarrassing that a rival was doing. Blair details his relationships with U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in detail. Politically, Clinton and Blair were aligned. Although Blair ended up being close to Bush as well, I suspect this was more to do with the 9/11 terrorist attack and the subsequent ill-advised war on Iraq and all that brought with it, rather than any natural affinity. Blair, at least as of 2010, still thinks that he was right to wed himself so closely to Bush's invasion of Iraq and the futile search for weapons of mass destruction that were never found. That is not to say that Blair did not agonize over the decision and second-guess himself at times. He even posited would he have done the same thing had he knew what subsequently took place in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled. That is impossible to answer; he made the best decision as he saw fit at the time, with the information that he possessed. Many people think that was the wrong decision, and thus far history would seem to agree. But I will give Blair the certainty of his convictions, and I am convinced that he was doing this with the best intentions possible. What he does not make a convincing case for, in my mind, is why he signed onto engaging in regime change in Iraq. This was clearly the goal of the neoconservatives such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. So why did Blair go along with it? Apparently to be a steadfast ally of the U.S. And of course Hussein was an awful person and treated his people horribly. Would Iraq be better off without him? But at what cost? Ultimately, I think only Iraqis would know what the better of two evils would be: more Saddam or the chaos that occurred once he was overthrown. Blair spends a lot of time writing about his complicated and continually deteriorating relationship with Gordon Brown, his Chancellor of the Exchequer and eventual successor as Prime Minister. They seemed to have many policy differences, despite being of the same party. But it seems that the professional differences were intertwined with personality conflicts. Gradually they drifted apart, and became more rivals than friends. Blair maintains that kept Brown as part of his Cabinet because of his ability. I am sure there is some truth in this, yet in hindsight you have to wonder: was he afraid of ousting him? Brown had many supporters, and Blair increasingly came under attack due to Iraq and some reforms at home. As Blair's time in office winds down, he is even-keeled in explaining not only what he did, but why he did it, and what worked well and what he should have done differently or better or not at all. Blair was PM for an entire decade – that is a long time to wield power and be in everyone else's cross-hairs. Clearly the burdens of office weighed more and more heavily upon him. He writes about his family and the sacrifices that they had to make for his career. One particularly moving passage comes on page 565, writing about his young son Leo not too long after there had been a terrorist attack in London: “I went back upstairs and looked in on Leo again, still sound asleep. A life ahead of him. How much triumph, how much tragedy, how much happiness, and sorrow would he accumulate? How many tears, and to what purpose?... Leo could have been on that Tube train, on that bus. Oh God, don't let my children die before me. I think of the grief of it, of the fathers and mothers of soldiers who died in Iraq.... Think of the horror. My responsibility. I quietly closed the door to Leo's room and paused for a moment to throw it all off me. Let me forget for a while. Till the time comes to put it back on.” I do not think that there are too many politicians who would write that candidly and personally. Blair finishes with a postscript chapter (titled just that) in which he talks about the world of 2010. While relevant back then, so many things have occurred and changed in the world since then that I didn't really get too much out of that. Much more interesting was the rest of the book, recounting his memories as Prime Minister. While occasionally long on British domestic politics, overall this is a frank look behind the scenes at someone who was at the pinnacle of power for ten years. If more politicians would follow Blair's lead in that respect, political memoirs would have enjoy a much enhanced reputation. Grade: B+

  5. 4 out of 5

    Simon Taylor

    Given that this is a review of Tony Blair’s memoirs, and not of his policies or of Blair himself, I shan’t be delving too deeply into the actual decisions represented in the book. Whatever your political loyalties, it is undeniable that Tony Blair is one of the most memorable Prime Ministers in modern history. His decisions are among the most controversial, and there is a real sense of intrigue surrounding his memoirs. The much-hyped, long-awaited volume promised to go inside the head of the man Given that this is a review of Tony Blair’s memoirs, and not of his policies or of Blair himself, I shan’t be delving too deeply into the actual decisions represented in the book. Whatever your political loyalties, it is undeniable that Tony Blair is one of the most memorable Prime Ministers in modern history. His decisions are among the most controversial, and there is a real sense of intrigue surrounding his memoirs. The much-hyped, long-awaited volume promised to go inside the head of the man behind the politics. Instead of being presented in strict chronological order, the book’s chapters are arranged by theme, allowing the reader to read about standalone topics of interest. Given that these chapters are still organised in what is broadly date order, I found myself able to read from beginning to end without confusion. I found Blair’s prose incredibly easy to read, and other than himself and Gordon Brown as TB/GB, he used the full names of the people he talked about. I mention this because Alistair Campbell’s 2007 offering The Blair Years referred to almost everybody by their initials, perhaps the most irritating quirk of what was otherwise a book I rated very highly. I actually appreciated the very droll humour that Blair used, and on occasion I chuckled out loud. Most rewarding for anybody who would pick up a political memoir, Blair is refreshingly frank (much to the reported chagrin of Mr Brown and Her Majesty, among others). His bluntness as to his thoughts, his agreements and disagreements makes compelling reading. Naturally, there is some trumpet-blowing. In fairness, when anybody – and especially a figure as divisive as Blair – attempts to pen their legacy, it can only be expected that their successes are recounted with relish. As Blair himself says, if he doesn’t then nobody else will. But more interesting yet, Blair is honest about what he regards as mistakes and is critical of his own attitudes, speeches and decisions where he feels he got it wrong. Considerable coverage is given to, unsurprisingly, the Iraq war. Blair seeks not to convince anybody of his case, but he does ask within the book that his words are read with an open mind. Therein, he recounts with what appears to be honestly his reasons for instigating the conflict and answers some of the most frequent criticisms. Thereafter, he leaves the reader to judge. Admittedly, Blair’s overall account is one-sided at times. No doubt, Brown and other key players would remember things differently. But it is Blair’s memoirs that we are reading and not a history book, so that is to be expected. Having said that, it genuinely does feel like having a conversation with the most powerful man in the New Labour movement. His conversational style, with his frequent sidetracks and returns to his original point, make the lengthy book surprisingly fluid. His personal stories, judgements and anecdotes are as interesting as his political ones and the rare insights into national and international political workings are gems. Overall, I have awarded A Journey maximum five stars. Not because I believe every decision was the right one, and not because I believe that Blair was the perfect Prime Minister. I rate it five stars because the memoir delivers what it promises to: “Amid the millions of words written about him, this book is unique: his own journey, in his own words.” For anybody interested in politics, or current affairs in general, this is a must-have. Love him or hate him, Tony Blair is one of the most prominent PM’s in modern times. His decisions changed the national and international landscape forever and to read his thoughts, his reasoning and his outlook in his very own words is compelling, intriguing and the only chance you will ever have to reach into the mind of the longest-serving, most divisive Labour Prime Minister in UK history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I'm glad I read this, don't let 2 stars dissuade you. But get it from your beloved public library like I did please, you know, the ones that are getting cut. He doesn't deserve your money, that's for sure. There's so much to say, but I'll keep this as short as I can. Mr Blair is certainly very clever. This is like a little babbling brook of cleverness, a little superficial stream of frankness and honesty. There is very little of substance here. I can't even tell if what's written is as deep as he I'm glad I read this, don't let 2 stars dissuade you. But get it from your beloved public library like I did please, you know, the ones that are getting cut. He doesn't deserve your money, that's for sure. There's so much to say, but I'll keep this as short as I can. Mr Blair is certainly very clever. This is like a little babbling brook of cleverness, a little superficial stream of frankness and honesty. There is very little of substance here. I can't even tell if what's written is as deep as he goes; tragic as that would be, it seems entirely possible. Cleverness abounds, but there is little wisdom to be found. This book reads like a political manoeuvre in itself, which I am fairly certain it is. I'm just not sure what he's angling for. I think it probably gives a fairly good sense of the day-to-day politicking, the characters and constant maneuvering and wheeling and dealing that makes government go round. That Blair is a master of that sort of thing goes without question. That he captured some kind of spirit and hope in the voters also goes without question, given Labour's election to three terms. Trying to think through how he did that is interesting from a radical left perspective though sadly there isn't much of substance here to help get a grip on it. I also liked his key principles of resolution from the chapter on Northern Ireland, I thought they were actually practical and useful, particularly in the importance of seeing things through over a decade or more. What I didn't appreciate? That I still have no bloody idea what exactly he means by "New Labour". Ironic, given how many times he repeats that it is a clear policy programme rather than a political sleight-of-hand to get elected as most of his party seemed to believe. He calls it at one point, "tough on crime, pro-gay rights" politics. It's obviously a departure from old labour, what I would have liked is a clear rendering of how it differs from the tories -- apart from some compassionate spending and some "slanting to the poor" from the same space. In fact, I don't understand why he calls himself labour at all, praising Thatcher and Bush and the current government's direction under Cameron. I really want to think more about the language of this, how the very idea of what is progressive has been twisted, and our view of what is possible narrowed into this travesty of 'innovative' and 'modern' thinking within conservative, neoliberal confines. I hated this facile and constant equation of modernisation and innovation with privatisation. I fail to see how that is innovative, though it does fill party coffers. This position forces him into some uniquely half-assed analysis of the current crisis at the very end. He tries to minimise the role of business. Hard to do. I hated his repeated sound bite that the left just doesn't get 'aspiration'. There's a lot of sound bites in this book, and this was the worst. The section on Iraq? In my considered opinion? Yikes. Entirely self-serving, and I know he's smarter than to believe that the Bush entourage was not talking about Iraq from the beginning. To skate over the whole build-up to the invasion was pretty shocking. To argue even now that it has made the US and UK safer? Ridiculous. About the G-8 "Of course the big cost is security, yet somehow this is the leaders' fault for having the temerity to meet and talk about world affairs, rather than that of the motley variegated protestors who, unrestrained, could run amok." No wonder he finds the tories natural allies. I imagine that most of the people mentioned in here were cringing, whether they were praised or panned. And Gordon Brown? This was sort of a non-characterisation. For much of the story he's just an intelligent, Machiavellian and somewhat delusional obstacle. Kind of an opportunist block. The main messages? Progressives must improve and modernise (ie privatise, interesting definition of the modern and the progressive). Britain needs America to be a big power, so it should swallow anything and pretend to like it (as Blair has done -- in fact the whole intro is a surprising paean to how great and misunderstood America is), but if we can weld the EU into a powerful unit then maybe we can stop pandering quite so much. Leaders have to lead, they can't listen to people when they believe they are in the right -- but being in touch with the people is how they get power in and over their party. Bit of a muddled message, but it's all slippery and slick beneath a veil of false candour. Much like his time in office, so I suppose it's fitting.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Will

    I got some funny looks while reading this, but it was definitely worth it - one of the best and most insightful political memoirs I've read. He structured it really nice thematic (and broadly chronological) structure, so you can just dip in and out of chapters such as: Peace in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, the 2005 Election, etc. This makes it easy to read, but also means I'll probably flick through it in future. It's a massive book, and I've got dozens of thoughts on it, but a few points that I got some funny looks while reading this, but it was definitely worth it - one of the best and most insightful political memoirs I've read. He structured it really nice thematic (and broadly chronological) structure, so you can just dip in and out of chapters such as: Peace in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, the 2005 Election, etc. This makes it easy to read, but also means I'll probably flick through it in future. It's a massive book, and I've got dozens of thoughts on it, but a few points that immediately come to mind: 1. Iraq. I only started paying attention to politics around 2012-ish, by which time the consensus on the Iraq War was fairly clear - it was bad. As a result, it's convenient for no-one to really question this: for both the Conservatives and the Left of the Labour party, it's something to discredit the New Labour legacy, and for the centre left it's deemed toxic and not worth defending. So you very rarely hear an unambiguous case for the war. That's what you get here, and it's pretty strong. I don't know if it convinced me, but it was a useful challenge. 2. Foreign policy. You may disagree with the Iraq war, but it was the logical extension of a foreign policy that was broadly successful and popular in previous moments of his premiership - specifically Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. Particularly with the latter 2, he was much more strongly pro-military intervention than a lot of the public and European mainstream, and the missions seem to have been a resounding success. What's more, you can see the progressive values underpinning them - attempts to stop violence and oppression. He's clearly very pro-intervention, and has no issues with trying to support regime change in countries with despotic dictators (he says he would've liked to oust Mugabe if he thought it possible). I feel a bit queasy about meddling in the affairs of a foreign nation - it reminds me of an argument in 'Yes to Europe', where Robert Saunders argues that although Leavers were portrayed as the imperialists, it was actually the pro-Europeans who were more imperialist as they viewed Europe as a way to extend British influence over the world. But on the other hand, the unambitious hands-off approach to global issues we've since taken (e.g. Syria) also makes me uncomfortable. It's useful to have the challenge of a coherent foreign policy framed in progressive terms, and I do miss having any kind of foreign policy attempt to improve the world. I'm not convinced of his perspective, but I do feel more open-minded towards it. 3. Conviction. There is sometimes the idea that Blair was all about popularity, and splitting the difference betewen left and right. You absolutely cannot read this and come away with this impression. He's pretty damning of ideologies in here, presenting himself as a non-ideological pragmatist - I'm not sure that's wholly true, there's a definite ideology here. He has clear beliefs and pursued them with skill and passion. Compared to our current PM, it's quite appealing - it reminds me of the part in 'Hamilton', where Hamilton helps swing the 1800 election in favour of Jefferson (with whom he profoundly disagrees) over Burr (who he deems to have no real opinions). Conviction over self-serving narcissism any day. 4. Law & Order. After reading 'A Journey', I'm now pretty sure this is the policy area where I most disagree with Blair. His hard-line views on crime really come through, and for my money, the tougher approach to policing has not been a success in policy terms. However, I think this might be the area which explains more than any other why his was the only Labour government to win more than 1 full term (3, in the end) - his views are much more in-line with public opinion. It doesn't make them right, but I do wonder if they are necessary for strong election victories. It's no coincidence that Labour's most successful electoral leader (Blair) chose to start his high-profile political life as Shadow Home Secretary. Is it worth it for the election victories, and consequent progress in many, many other fields? Probably, but it's a massive trade-off that I don't like. I could keep writing about this book for hours, and where I agree or disagree with him, but I'll stop as I suspect I've gone on far too long anyway. But I'd definitely recommend it: it's thought-provoking, coherent and very well-written.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Topher Hooperton

    For a politician who embraced, and arguably embodied, the age of celebrity, it seems appropriate that Tony Blair has dutifully released a book that is more autobiography than political memoir (by his own admission), to sit alongside the scores of hardbacks by sport-stars, glamour models and reality TV contestants. What follows is a personal account of the changes he went through as a world leader, and how it felt to be at the eye of the storm. It also forms a manifesto for the New Labour project For a politician who embraced, and arguably embodied, the age of celebrity, it seems appropriate that Tony Blair has dutifully released a book that is more autobiography than political memoir (by his own admission), to sit alongside the scores of hardbacks by sport-stars, glamour models and reality TV contestants. What follows is a personal account of the changes he went through as a world leader, and how it felt to be at the eye of the storm. It also forms a manifesto for the New Labour project - a desire to define the philosophy as a third-way, centrist and progressive system of government, far from the marketing tool for election success for which it is was subsequently derided. It can be an odd read, to say the least. That's not to say it isn't fascinating; having an insider's view of a significant period in Britain's history was always going to be interesting, but the manner of its execution occasionally raises an eyebrow. Passages throughout the 691-page tome veer from having too much information ("I like to have time and comfort in the loo"), to unexpected moments of high camp ("[Bill Clinton and I] threw away the script and worked the crowd like two old music hall queens." This week, Blair became the recipient of a spurious honour as the first non-fiction author to receive a nomination for the Literary Review's Bad Sex Award - an annual prize that celebrates poorly written erotic passages. The paragraph in question, from the fateful night in 1994 when he took over as Labour leader after the untimely death of John Smith, describes a tender moment with his wife: "That night she cradled me in her arms and soothed me ... I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct." It's an example of one of the book's occasional bursts of truly heinous writing. There's a propensity to use exclamation marks like a teenage girl (with enthusiasm and great abundance) and the text is also peppered with anecdotal non-sequiturs; when he's outlining the roles of his inner political team he breaks off to talk about the time he did 29 headers with Kevin Keagan. Of the two most anticipated subjects, Iraq and his relationship with PM-in-waiting Gordon Brown, he was never going to fully satisfy the appetites of our collective expectation. On Iraq, he devotes three chapters to the unfolding nightmare and his political reasoning behind it. He asserts that in an age of increasing globalisation the fate of nations are more entwined than ever before; therefore, post-9/11 the need to eradicate rogue states, and protect global security, increased. He recognises it's an argument that can be disputed (and most people, as he points out, do), but he makes a clearly constructed case nonetheless. It's also one he roots in the interventionist policy of the Kosovo and Sierra Leone operations, which were not met with the same level of angry protestation. On his relationship with Gordon Brown, he's candid but steers away from outright hostility. You get a sense of disappointment about the inability of the two camps within the government to come together. Of the supposed 'deal' to hand over power to Brown, he admits there was one - but in the 2005 election, not 1997; and he only delayed his exit to further embed the policies he felt a Brown administration would drop. It's a book that was badly in need of editing - the frequency of the phrase "As I say," being the key indicator that he's saying the same thing far too often. And, like the dust-jacket image that is inexplicably ever so slightly out of focus, you can't help feeling the prose inside is similarly blurred - as a first-person analysis of a period of history is always going to be. Bizarrely, Blair has been accused of plagiarising from a fictional account of his life, when he writes that the Queen remarked, "You are my tenth prime minister. The first was Winston. That was before you were born." It's a line which Peter Morgan (the screenwriter of The Queen) says he made up. Whether that casts doubt on the truthfulness of the book is up to the reader. What you're left with is a portrait of a man who truly believes he acted in the best interests of the electorate, and a politician who genuinely wanted to change the way government operated. Whether you applaud his achievements in the Northern Irish peace process, the introduction of legislation that made Britain a more egalitarian society; or, dismiss his 10 years in power as a failed promise or, worse, an abuse of power - to hear it from the horse's mouth is compelling. http://tvnz.co.nz/lifestyle/journey-b...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jim Bowen

    Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, wrote this book. It's about his period as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister (mostly), though he does mentions the parts of his earlier life, as it fits into the story he wanted to tell. To be honest, I found this book smug and slightly infuriating. I've now read both George Bush's and Tony Blair's book (I was interested in the run up to war) and this book was (without a shadow of a doubt) the more irritating of the two. In the book Blair Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, wrote this book. It's about his period as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister (mostly), though he does mentions the parts of his earlier life, as it fits into the story he wanted to tell. To be honest, I found this book smug and slightly infuriating. I've now read both George Bush's and Tony Blair's book (I was interested in the run up to war) and this book was (without a shadow of a doubt) the more irritating of the two. In the book Blair describes himself as a moralist with a vision "for good" who changed the Labour for moral reasons, and started wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, and Kosovo for much the same reason. I found his thinking about Kosovo perhaps the most illuminating part of the book. His (and Bill Clinton's) use of the armed forces in Kosovo enabled him to liberate Kosovans and bring down a tyrant (in Milosovic). Part of me wonders whether this changed his thinking towards the potential effectiveness of military action that lead him to Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't know for sure, but I honestly think it does, and that's a shame because it clearly went horribly wrong the second time round for him. Anyway, why do I spend so much time talking about war and Blair? Well, let's face it, that's why I suspect that people will read the book. It's also because Blair spends a lot of the book writing about it. Consequently it's work mentioning. But what's the rest of the book like? Well, as I said, it's smug. Blair talks a lot about "moral force" and "moral vision." With Bush you know you're going to get a moral "tilt" to his writing because he's never claimed to be anything else. Blair, on the other hand was presented as "less that way." Had he been as explicit about his "moral vision" before the got elected, I don't think he'd have been as successful as a leader. Reading this book forced me to compare what I had seen him present then and what he presents now, and it grated. If you don't know Blair as well or can put up with how he presents himself, you'll probably learn something from this book. If you do know Blair or find "ostentatious morality" irritating you might find this book irritating (or want to throw the book across the room).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jim B

    Everyone who lived through this era should read Tony Blair's book on his years in office. Blair uses the book to give his view of what he was trying to (and did) achieve, and what his motives were. He never forgets that he is human, frail, and can be mistaken in his views (although his willingness to admit he could be wrong grew markedly less when he wrote about the final two years in office. I had believed that President Bush knew there were no "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq, but Mr. Everyone who lived through this era should read Tony Blair's book on his years in office. Blair uses the book to give his view of what he was trying to (and did) achieve, and what his motives were. He never forgets that he is human, frail, and can be mistaken in his views (although his willingness to admit he could be wrong grew markedly less when he wrote about the final two years in office. I had believed that President Bush knew there were no "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq, but Mr. Blair makes a strong case for why they believed what they did at the time. Reading the "inside" story makes one even more fearful of the news media and their power to distort a story. Mr. Blair dissects the reasons that the news media turns ordinary facts into controversy. By telling the sometimes more "ho hum" facts of what happened, you see how the media's need for conflict and crisis led to destructive accusations and outright lies. One of my favorite expressions came near the end of the book, when (in a phrase only someone familiar with the Bible would understand) he described certain people's blind (and ultimately self-destructive) following of a political leader as "gadarene"! (Google it!) You don't have to like Tony Blair or agree with his politics to enjoy having an insiders' view of what went on during the Blair years (1997-2007). The audio book is an abridged version of the book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Simon Sundboell

    You can agree or disagree with Tony Blair and you can question his quest for - as another book title says - a legacy. But in my humble opinion, he is still one of the most charismatic leaders the world has seen in a long time - and combine that with his eloquence, flair for a good argument, modern view on UK and the world and his willingness to act (the latter is a long lost trait in many politicians today), and you have a world class leader. In this book, he is honest - as honest as a You can agree or disagree with Tony Blair and you can question his quest for - as another book title says - a legacy. But in my humble opinion, he is still one of the most charismatic leaders the world has seen in a long time - and combine that with his eloquence, flair for a good argument, modern view on UK and the world and his willingness to act (the latter is a long lost trait in many politicians today), and you have a world class leader. In this book, he is honest - as honest as a autobiography can be - about his reasons for doing what he did, and he somehow even manages to explain his insistence and stubbornness with the UK electorate in the latter period of his time as prime minister. An impressive guy, a tour de force in the art of argumentation and reasoning, a candid view on the world and the forces shaping it. I'd definitely recommend this book, even to his opponents.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mr.L.Palmer

    Really enjoyed this and confirmed a preexisting view of TB as the consummate politician with both the positive and negative connotations that would imply. Masterful at bringing the reader onboard to his perspective. Also fascinating to understand how the foundations of third way politics were laid and the cracks that ultimately lead to the dismantlement of NL.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hywel Owen

    Disappointing, but not unsurprising. Blair's unpolished writing reflects his Messianic and narcissistic views, coupled with a slightly Marx-ian view of historical inevitability. This could be excused if there were interesting revelations, but actually he remains on-message. Too long.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marwan Asmar

    This maybe a good book to read because of its layback style, if not for its politics that must be revealing in itself. Reviewers are pointing to the unexpected, chatty way he says things which is not at all expected from an Oxford-educated politician.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    Shockingly boring. Irrelevant details; crammed with chest-beating. There's a story in there begging to be released.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Whilst going through a spell of reading biographies I decided to give this a try. Having grown up with Blair as the Prime Minister, it was interesting to see he’s thought process during that time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hannes

    This book was...interesting. Now, as my family can attest to, I am not the biggest fan of Tony Blair; I think he ruined the Labour Party and that he acted wrong in Iraq, but nonetheless I thought I'd read his book anyway. Big mistake. I want to make perfectly clear that I do not hate Tony. I really don't. However, his book, while informative about his perspective, shone through with incredibly unsubtle bragging from page one to the references. This quickly became tiring, especially for someone This book was...interesting. Now, as my family can attest to, I am not the biggest fan of Tony Blair; I think he ruined the Labour Party and that he acted wrong in Iraq, but nonetheless I thought I'd read his book anyway. Big mistake. I want to make perfectly clear that I do not hate Tony. I really don't. However, his book, while informative about his perspective, shone through with incredibly unsubtle bragging from page one to the references. This quickly became tiring, especially for someone who doesn't like him in general. The reason that this book got 3/5 is that while slightly propagandist, it really helped me see things from his perspective and to humanise him. Does that mean that I'll start parading New Labour signs around and kissing his picture goodnight every day? No. Does it mean that I've gained some empathy and understanding of him? Absolutely.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joe Martin

    This book caught my eye because I knew very little about Tony Blair. I knew he was the Prime Minister in Britain. I knew he was the leader of the Labour Party and a big government, big spending progressive. I knew he was President Bush’s staunchest ally in the war on terror. And, that’s about it. I really didn’t know anything about what he actually tried to accomplish in Britain or why. I didn’t know anything about who he was or what he made him tick. And, after reading Decision Points, I was This book caught my eye because I knew very little about Tony Blair. I knew he was the Prime Minister in Britain. I knew he was the leader of the Labour Party and a big government, big spending progressive. I knew he was President Bush’s staunchest ally in the war on terror. And, that’s about it. I really didn’t know anything about what he actually tried to accomplish in Britain or why. I didn’t know anything about who he was or what he made him tick. And, after reading Decision Points, I was interested in his perspective on the events of the past decade. Although long, this book was an enjoyable read. Blair writes with a light, conversational style that I really enjoyed reading. It could be a little distracting at times, as he would occasionally take a rabbit trail into the past. It was usually apparent when he did so, but I got confused about the timing of events a few times. That was a minor complaint as the style generally contributed greatly to the tone of the book. As I read, I discovered that Tony Blair has a wonderful sense of humour. That’s matched with a very contemplative approach to life. For example, he recounted several times how stressed out he would get before a big speech, spending his time constantly writing and rewriting his text. He compared this to President Bush who was amazingly laconic before most speeches and never seemed to worry about the message or the delivery. (Some might say that those contrasting approaches showed up in the quality of speeches that each man gave.) This book is exactly what it says on the cover: a story about the journey Blair took during his political life. It’s partly a history of the events of the past 30 years and partly a recounting of the decisions and actions that formed Blair’s own evolving outlook on life and politics. After reading the book, I came away thoroughly convinced that I would like Tony Blair as a person, even if I felt compelled to oppose many of his policies. As to policies, I won’t spend a whole lot of time critiquing them. Blair and I are on different ends of the political spectrum, when it comes to the question of how involved and active government should be. It’s not really worth belabouring the point of all of the different ways in which we do disagree. I was greatly impressed by Blair’s perception of the ways in which traditional big government liberalism and socialism is highly unsuited to our modern economic system and dynamic society. Blair clearly saw what was wrong with the Labour Party and with the government’s highly centralised approach to decision making. He saw that people were used to choice and used to firing incompetent providers in the private section. And he saw that the government’s provision of services wasn’t coming close to what people now expected. As a result, he spent his entire political career trying to reform the delivery and provision of government services. While I don’t agree with his solutions, I was very happy with his overall critiques of government services. This comes across clearly in his definition of what it means to be a progressive. First, what makes you a progressive? I would say: belief in social justice, i.e. using the power of society as a whole to bring opportunity, prosperity and hope to those without it; to do so not just within our national boundaries but outside of them; to judge our societies by the condition of the weak as much as the strong; to stand up at all times for the principle that all human beings are of equal worth, irrespective of race, religion, gender (I would add of sexuality) or ability; and never to forget and always to strive for those at the bottom, the poorest, the most disadvantaged, the ones others forget. Notice these are all values, not policies. They may beget policies. … Third, there is a new divide in politics which transcends traditional left and right. It is what I call “open vs. closed.” Some right-wingers are free-traders, others aren’t. Likewise with the left. On both sides, some are pro-immigration, others anti-. Some favour an interventionist foreign policy; others don’t. Some see globalisation and the emergence of China, India and others as a threat; some as an opportunity. There is a common link to the free trade, pro-immigration (controlled, of course) interventionist and pro-globalisation political positions, but it is “open vs. closed,” not “left vs. right.” I believe progressives should be the champions of the open position, which is not only correct but also a winning position, as Bill Clinton showed conclusively. However, it is a huge and important dividing line in modern politics. I would agree with this definition and, by it, I think I could call myself a progressive. I would place myself on the “open” side of his dividing line. I think Blair and I would merely (merely!) disagree on the policies that this definition begat. I very much enjoyed this book as a look into the mind and growth of Tony Blair. It did exactly what a good political memoir should: it helped me to understand who he is, why he made the decisions he did, and how he grew as a result of his time in politics. Now that I’ve read it, I’m strongly rooting for him to have success in the Middle East peace process and I wish him well in his post prime ministerial career.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Cook

    I felt this book was interesting and entertaining. Blair is a fascinating political figure...with his liberal stance on social issues and conservative views on national security he would be an anomaly in American politics. He’s intelligent, candid and witty.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James Herbert

    Blair’s clearly not a great writer but don’t let that you stop you from reading a first hand account of such a significant period in British social democracy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    "it is probably less likely to be fatal to a political career to be bad at management than to be bad at politics. That is also a problem. A good politician can survive being a lousy manager, but a good manager will find it hard to survive being a lousy politician."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tom Coates

    I really have no idea where to start with this one. It's written in a strange informal style that on occasion grates enormously, but makes it pretty readable at the same time. It's not revolutionary in insight - I doubt there's much here that people will be radically shocked by - but it spells out some of the stuff that he feels about the changing role of politics, which feels, well, right. In a way, it's fascinatingly unspectacular, in mostly the right way. And it resembles Blair's Labour party I really have no idea where to start with this one. It's written in a strange informal style that on occasion grates enormously, but makes it pretty readable at the same time. It's not revolutionary in insight - I doubt there's much here that people will be radically shocked by - but it spells out some of the stuff that he feels about the changing role of politics, which feels, well, right. In a way, it's fascinatingly unspectacular, in mostly the right way. And it resembles Blair's Labour party in that respect. He's not ideologically dogmatic - he doesn't care about the high concept view of the world. He's not interested in radicalism in the economy, and he doesn't believe in the Old Labour fascination with the worker. His view of the world is pragmatic, ideologically dull and probably roughly in the right place. He seems to think of the role of government as correlating more with management than flag-waving leadership. Seems about right to me. There are great chunks, obviously, where you will disagree with some of the politics. His stance on the involvement of private companies towards the ends of his regime seem way over the top to me. His stance on the kinds of decisions Governments have to take that affect civil liberties is understandable, but I think profoundly dangerous - it's not reasonable to take some powers to government even if you won't abuse them, simply because you cannot trust that all subsequent governments will be as scrupulous as you were. I think his position on these issues is just wrong. And obviously there's Iraq, which is something I have felt strongly about for years. And it's a hugely divisive issue. Blair doesn't convince me, but he does make me question some of my thoughts in that area, and give him a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt. I think the big thing for me is that Blair actually does have an argument. You might not agree with his take on things, but this is true evidence that he had actually reasons for what he was doing, and that these reasons were (in his mind at least) pretty clear and worked through. He believes that there actually is a battle going on in the world for the soul of Islam, between the vast majority of Islamic people and a radicalised extreme that also happens to have it in for the West. He believes that rogue states with powerful weapons are dangerous. And he believes that a combination of Islamic extremism and those Rogue/Dysfunctional states in the world is a recipe for potential catastrophe in the West. So he favours an interventionist approach to try and get rid of this radicalised component of Islam, while trying to welcome and work with other Muslim countries. It's a position I've been mulling over since reading the book. As I've said, it doesn't necessarily completely convince me, but I've started to understand it more. In the end, whether you 'like' this book is going to have a lot to do with whether you agree with Blair. I don't give this book four stars because I agree with Blair, I'm giving it four stars for giving me insight into a man that I strongly believed in but had major disagreements with. It's important for that purpose alone - to get an understanding of the psychology and the reasoning that led the world to its current position. Does that make sense?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Peter Myers

    The first part of the book was very good, particularly some of the insights into the early years. I found the second half of the book tedious and hard going

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Actually, I'm not quite finished, but close enough to go ahead and send up a brief review. There are ways in which I disagree with Tony Blair, and ways in which I cheer him on. There are aspects of his worldview I share and resonate with, and aspects that I don't or can't share, at least not entirely. Two of the things I appreciate the most about him are his "third way" worldview that seeks an alternative to extreme positions, and his belief in doing the right thing even at personal or political Actually, I'm not quite finished, but close enough to go ahead and send up a brief review. There are ways in which I disagree with Tony Blair, and ways in which I cheer him on. There are aspects of his worldview I share and resonate with, and aspects that I don't or can't share, at least not entirely. Two of the things I appreciate the most about him are his "third way" worldview that seeks an alternative to extreme positions, and his belief in doing the right thing even at personal or political cost. Whether or not you agree with him, and I largely don't, it's difficult to argue that he does not genuinely care about doing what he believes is right. Every political autobiography (or biography, or history book, for that matter) ought to be read with a grain of salt. There will be some self-justification, blame-shifting, and other attempts to make the political figure described sound as favorable as possible. This is somewhat true of Blair's book as well, however, there is also a great deal of questioning, self-critique, and analysis offered in the "if I knew then what I know now" vein. All of these things are done in a genuine attempt to see things from both sides or multiple angles and to arrive at conclusions via rational arguments instead of sentiment or emotion. For American readers, the major shortfall of this book is that it assumes the reader has more understanding of British politics and the parliamentary system of government than he or she probably has. There is no real attempt at explaining any of the basics, so you may want to keep various Wikipedia articles or some such resource handy as you read this book. Blair spends considerable space laying out his own rationale for joining the US in its war on terror and conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, which includes fairly extensive quotations (some documentation of these quotations would have been nice, and added to the force of his argument). It is by no means a "George Bush love fest," as Blair actually seems to distance himself from Bush even while he defends their partnership. Blair has far more personal interest in and affection for Bill Clinton, which comes through loud and clear. These chapters are worth the price of the book alone, and will prove enlightening for genuinely interested, open-minded readers actually willing to hear another point of view instead of automatically assuming Blair is the devil or at least his chief underling. And that, perhaps, is the greatest value of this book - aside from the fact that it will serve future historians as an important primary source. It is written specifically for those who are willing to hear his point of view, and are open to believing that - agree or disagree - he actually tried to do the right thing.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Simon Howard

    Tony Blair's autobiography gives a real and detailed insight into what it's like to be Prime Minister. Politically, there's little in here that we haven't heard before, but the detail and explanation of how and why decisions were reached seemed interesting to me. The "behind the scenes" detail of the huge events that occurred under Tony Blair's leadership provided genuine insight, if not new information. Yet, it's considerably hampered by the writing style, which resembles transcribed speech. It Tony Blair's autobiography gives a real and detailed insight into what it's like to be Prime Minister. Politically, there's little in here that we haven't heard before, but the detail and explanation of how and why decisions were reached seemed interesting to me. The "behind the scenes" detail of the huge events that occurred under Tony Blair's leadership provided genuine insight, if not new information. Yet, it's considerably hampered by the writing style, which resembles transcribed speech. It frequently becomes very thick and frustrating. For example, read this sentence aloud: "I wondered - as did some of the newer and more radical faces in my Policy Unit, although this was still heresy in the party, not least among most of my ministers - whether we had been right to dismantle wholesale GP commissioning in the NHS and grant-maintained schools in education, instead of adapting these concepts of local self-govenment to spread decentralised management across the state health and education systems, but without the inequity inherent in the underfunded Tory reforms we inherited." While the message is clear, it isn't an easy read. A decent editor would surely have cut this leviathan down into several sentences. Here's a similar quote: "Precisely because the roots of this wider struggle were deep, precisely because it was a visceral life-or-death battle between modernisers and reactionaries, precisely because what was - and is - at stake was no less than the whole future of Islam - the nature of its faith, its narrative about itself, and its sense of its place in the twenty-first century - precisely because of all this, there was no way the forces opposed to modernisation, and therefore to us, were going to relinquish their territory easily." These examples demonstrate the message that this book is not an easy bedtime read. Yet, within a few sentences of passages like those above, Blair tells us about Alistair Campbell's "clanking great balls", describes Iraq as "a basket case", PMQs as "a girls' school playground" and relates that "I like to have time and comfort in the loo." And then, occasionally, Blair becomes suddenly coy: he didn't want to discuss his son's vaccination status "for private reasons the family was sensitive about issues to do with." Note, again, that this hardly scans well. The constant juxtaposition of long badly written passages of political prose and puerile descriptions of characters and situations wore me out. I couldn't read more than a couple of chapters of this at once. It took me nearly two years to get through the full thing. This is a book that badly needs a revised and edited edition under the guidance of a decent editor! Until then, I can't in good conscience give it more than three stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tony Daniel

    Blair's account of his time in office as prime minister of England. Ended up really enjoying this. Blair is very good at constructing enough of an open and honest persona that you're willing to suspend your disbelief and allow that he's at least attempting to give you the straight story, at least by his own lights. You know you're being spun, but it's kind of enjoyable to watch how a master does it, even if you are the mark. He's also quite good at giving the reader glimpses of what he wants you Blair's account of his time in office as prime minister of England. Ended up really enjoying this. Blair is very good at constructing enough of an open and honest persona that you're willing to suspend your disbelief and allow that he's at least attempting to give you the straight story, at least by his own lights. You know you're being spun, but it's kind of enjoyable to watch how a master does it, even if you are the mark. He's also quite good at giving the reader glimpses of what he wants you to believe he REALLY thinks about particular personalities. Gordon Brown does not fare well. Bush he clearly likes as a person, Clinton he clearly adores. Cheney he at least attempts to understand (but gets it wrong). It's all very deft -- like listening to a long, but really pretty good, political speech by somebody who knows how to deliver one. And what I think Blair absolutely accomplishes as a writer in a nicely artless way is to paint a portrait of the one of those people who are always "the smartest guy in the room" -- and the frustrations and triumphs of being that guy most of the time whether you want to be or not. If only Gordon Brown had seen the political necessity and essential rightness of New Labour positions. If only Obama had turned out to be a Clinton-like DLC Democrat instead of some mini-FDR wannabe... Sigh. It probably also doesn't hurt that I essentially agree with Blair's political instincts, even if I think some of his particular choices are daft (global warming, E.U. membership at all costs and offering idiotic and unnecessary British concessions) and sometimes his essential misunderstanding of the foundations of his position are hilarious. But in the end, I think Blair got it right more often than not, and he stuck true to what was obviously the right course despite enormous headwinds blowing from the gasbags of his own political set and his opposition.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    I'm not sure why I read this. I don't read political memoirs and I never voted for Blair (in the elections I was able to vote in) but I quite liked him and his political take in the early days. For me, New Labour came in at the height of the Britpop/'Cool Britannia' era, approaching the end of my teens. An important time personally but I wasn't that politically minded back then. Current stronger political opinion (and knowledge) aside I feel he did a fair amount of good for the country and I'm not sure why I read this. I don't read political memoirs and I never voted for Blair (in the elections I was able to vote in) but I quite liked him and his political take in the early days. For me, New Labour came in at the height of the Britpop/'Cool Britannia' era, approaching the end of my teens. An important time personally but I wasn't that politically minded back then. Current stronger political opinion (and knowledge) aside I feel he did a fair amount of good for the country and despite the later controversies and issues I think he was a pretty good PM. He ended up with a tough run and had to make some difficult decisions. It's very easy to criticise but I cannot imagine how hard it must be to take some of the responsibilities he had to. So I guess I was curious to hear his take. It covers a lot of ground (and it is a long book) but I found it generally quite sparse throughout; he covers the early years and Northern Ireland era well but many other important occasions are glossed over. There's a lot of political chatter and he explains his New Labour approach though I felt you need to have a reasonable political knowledge to back up much of the discussion. I've never read a political memoir before so I'm not sure where it would rank between political discussion versus standard autobiography. It's almost list-like in nature at times, reeling off the achievements of his government (which were substantial) and consequently doesn't always make for fun reading. Still, there are some fun anecdotes (I enjoyed all the tales about the Royals), personal insights and it is easy to read. I think if you lived with his Government and leadership and you have an interest, then hearing his side of the story is worthwhile. He certainly comes across as earnest, truly believing his cause and I guess you have to respect that. Still, I wonder if there's a better book down the line with more perspective.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Glyn

    I liked Tony Blair. As a young man in the early 1990s, I completely bought into his vision for change where the old political battle lines between left and right needed to be cast aside, and a new agenda, as a third way progressive should be embraced. But I fear he lost his way, as international events distracted him from the domestic mission. I'm sure many would say that his legacy is severely tainted by Iraq and Afghanistan, and I wanted to read this book to get an insight into the mind that I liked Tony Blair. As a young man in the early 1990s, I completely bought into his vision for change where the old political battle lines between left and right needed to be cast aside, and a new agenda, as a third way progressive should be embraced. But I fear he lost his way, as international events distracted him from the domestic mission. I'm sure many would say that his legacy is severely tainted by Iraq and Afghanistan, and I wanted to read this book to get an insight into the mind that was behind such terrible decisions. What I discovered was a real, genuine openness in this book, where events are not swept under the carpet, but are dealt with head on. At first, the chatty style of writing was very irritating, but in the end I warmed to it as you really feel you are getting in his head. When reading, it was almost as if I felt he was talking to me. His accounts of the wars in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistran was enlightening. I didn't always agree with his decision but I understood why he did what he did. Instead of looking at international decisions in the national interest, he assessed them from a moral point of view - a dangerous approach for a national leader. I found the account of his relationship with Gordon Brown captivating. The papers always made out that things were bad but on reading this book you realise things were far worse! All in all, I'm glad I read this book. It gave detailed insight into the history of the last 15 years and into what it takes to be Prime Minister. There is an arrogance and vulnerability about Blair, but he was more of a visionary than I gave him credit for.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Harpal

    Aside from the occasional, amusing anecdote, this book was mostly disappointing. Tony Blair revolutionized the Labour Party, and yet he spends a paltry 30 to 40 pages describing the development of his thought process into the "New Labour" transformation. Frankly, it's intellectually shallow enough that, after having read his book, I'm actually beginning to buy the allegations that New Labour was a less a coherent political philosophy and more an electoral strategy. The chapter about the Northern Aside from the occasional, amusing anecdote, this book was mostly disappointing. Tony Blair revolutionized the Labour Party, and yet he spends a paltry 30 to 40 pages describing the development of his thought process into the "New Labour" transformation. Frankly, it's intellectually shallow enough that, after having read his book, I'm actually beginning to buy the allegations that New Labour was a less a coherent political philosophy and more an electoral strategy. The chapter about the Northern Ireland peace process is both engrossing and instructive, I think, but little else is in the book. His defense of Iraq is reasonable but unrevealing of anything that wasn't or hasn't already been said. Last, his final couple of chapters, dealing with his last few years in office, continuously fighting off calls for his departure, were mostly boring and overly detailed. Gordon Brown doesn't like him. He strayed too far from the base of the party, etc., etc. I get it. I don't need a blow-by-blow analysis. Still, there are some delightful tidbits of info, like his hillarious and extreme antipathy towards PM Questions, some of his early experiences in the party when he got dominated, and a few absurd moments during the Good Friday negotiations. On the whole, Blair comes across as a thoroughly nice fellow, an electoral dynamo, a resolute (dare I say stubborn?) decision-maker, and a hardworker. But where will that leave him amongst the pantheon of British PMs? He's not really an intellectual giant, and, if his New Labour policies are undone by his own party, nor will he be thought of as a political one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    This is one of the very few autobiographies I just couldn't finish. I LIKE autobiographies -- and political ones are usually good as they give me behind the scenes insight & I like political autobiographies of folks in my lifetime even better for that reason. I was looking forward to a good read, but it became quite tedious after a few chapters. I forced myself to continue but ultimately couldn't force myself to finish it. The book might be more interesting for those with an understanding or This is one of the very few autobiographies I just couldn't finish. I LIKE autobiographies -- and political ones are usually good as they give me behind the scenes insight & I like political autobiographies of folks in my lifetime even better for that reason. I was looking forward to a good read, but it became quite tedious after a few chapters. I forced myself to continue but ultimately couldn't force myself to finish it. The book might be more interesting for those with an understanding or knowledge of British politics and politicians. I will admit that the chatty style was surprising to me (one doesn't think of British Pols as chatty) and even interesting of itself at times (I listened to it as an audiobook & he read it himself), but the sheer amount of details & justifications & explanations and re-explanations he choose to include, without giving any real clue as to who he was as a non-political person -- as a man, or husband, or father -- just lost me. I was on my third push to keep listening & had gotten to the Iraq war on the day the Navy SEALs caught Bin Laden -- you would've thought that would've re-enlivened my interest in the book at that point, but it stayed tedious & didn't even finish that section before I gave up. I recently read Geo. W. Bush's Decision Points -- and even though I don't agree with him on several points, it was a MUCH better book. Go read it instead...unless you're British, this might be more interesting if you're British.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.