Former prime minister, Tony Blair’s epic, 700-page autobiography
4/5 Hutchinson It definitely looks like Tony Blair on the cover. But once you get inside the former prime minister’s epic, 700-page autobiography, something odd starts to happen. It’s like watching a Plasticine fugure moulding itself into a whole new guise – over the course of 10 years.
The book is ostensibly a record of the Labour Party in the UK’s longest period in government under its most electorally successful prime minister. But the ghost hovering in the background is not a socialist at all, but the leader of the present Conservative Party and coalition government, David Cameron. Words such as ‘aspiration’, ‘progressive’ and ‘modernising’ – key buzz words of the Con-Dem coalition – crop up time and time again. What is striking by the end of the book is how similar Blair and Cameron’s stances are on issues such as ‘free schools’, private finance initiatives and economic policy.
Nevertheless, this is a compelling read. Not so much for the highly publicised episodes of in-fighting between Blair and Gordon Brown, or his almost-but-not-quite apology for Iraq, or even the amusing anecdotes about the Royal Family’s penchant for pitching in with the washing up; but more for the day-to-day minutiae of running a government and deal brokering – especially with regard to the Northern Ireland peace accord.
Blair’s style is often inflated and hackneyed but he is also surprisingly candid. He describes the fear that gripped him on the eve of his momentous election victory in 1997, the sense of mortality about his own government even as he lead it, and his increasing reliance on alcohol.
But a lack of insight into the failings of his government and his own downfall leaves a bad taste in the mouth.