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by Tony Blair

Download A Journey epub
ISBN: 009193690X
ISBN13: 978-0091936907
Category: No category
Author: Tony Blair
Language: English
Publisher: Random House; Limited Edition edition (2010)
ePUB size: 1801 kb
FB2 size: 1653 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 535
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I'd already left the UK by the time Tony Blair came to power. I'd voted for Thatcher back in the 80s because she represented a force for change in what was then a severely dysfunctional and moribund society. After she was ousted by her Party, the Conservatives presided over a period of decline reminiscent of the Heath, Wilson, and Callaghan years. In 1997 Major was defeated and a young, inexperienced and somewhat naïve Tony Blair stepped into 10 Downing Street. I was skeptical about the whole New Labor message - it seemed glib and merely a way to gain power. Underneath, surely, the old reactionary class-obsessed Labor apparatchiks were still lurking. Turns out, I was quite wrong about Blair's New Labor (though not about the reactionary "the State knows best and should control everything and we hate the markets and capitalists and anyone who's successful" old Labor types lurking in the background).

This book is basically the story of how Blair took the reins of the Labor Party, refashioned it to be more relevant for a new century, and then won the highest office in the land. But winning was merely the beginning of what turned out to be an extraordinary political and personal education. The great charm of Blair's book is that it really reads as though he wrote most of it himself. The tone is personal, immediate, introspective. We're always aware that this is the work of a master politician whose time upon the world stage is far from over. Hence he is generous to a fault in his assessment of those he's worked with. He mostly avoids the score-settling that is too common in political memoires. Indeed at times the book reads like a job application for The Next Big Job (and, frankly, many organizations would benefit greatly from Blair's experience and apparent integrity). But this is a minor quibble. What is truly important about this book is the points Blair makes about the modern political world.

We live in a time where the public attention-span is measured in seconds, and where even a sound-bite can end up being regarded as too complex. News organizations live and die by advertising, so they have become nothing more than a branch of the entertainment business. Truth, responsibility, real information - all these have been cast aside in the desperate quest for eyeballs. The result is that the electorate is growing ever less able to understand complex issues and discern what is really happening in the world. Important issues of policy are lost in the flotsam of news-of-the-moment. We live in a world in which the personal lives of celebrities get more attention than issues central to our very survival. The result is that the Western democracies are falling apart, rotting at the core. There has always been a gulf between the elites who make decisions and the masses who periodically get to exercise some sort of vote, but today there's no real trust between voter and politician. This is less the consequence of today's politicians being more venal and incompetent (realistically, the opposite is generally the case) but rather the consequence of the news media's absolute need for crisis, scandal, intrigue and anything else that will grab eyeballs for a few moments - just long enough to raise ad prices. When the pace was slower this mattered less. There have always been scurrilous magazines and newspapers out for sensation, but until recently the "news" wasn't 24/7 in our faces. It wasn't competing for eyeballs with "reality" TV shows and other ephemera on a must-win-every-tiny-extra-increment-of-revenue basis. By accident our world has turned serious decision-making into just another "reality" show and the media trivializes to the point where any serious issue is automatically abandoned (because it's too difficult) in favor of (contrived) scandal-du-jour.

It is difficult not to read this book and feel immense sympathy with Blair and those who, occupying high office in democratic governments, are actually trying to act in a positive way. Blair was consciously trying to be a leader rather than a follower, and that many of the decisions that defined his time as Prime Minister would have been dodged by some of his predecessors and successors. Indeed, Jacques Chirac (formerly President of France) built an entire career out of avoiding every difficult decision that came his way, and was re-elected by a grateful nation whereas Blair was ultimately deposed by his own people, as was Thatcher. The lesson, all too easily learned by people like Francois Hollande, is that it's better to drift and tack and compromise and waffle than to have convictions and to act purposefully. This is hardly the basis for any kind of stable or healthy civic society - and yet it's what we get because it's all the media can create. We live in a lowest-common-denominator entertainment world and thus in a lowest-common-denominator society. Which is, clearly, not a very good thing at all. My personal solution has been to turn off the noise - I don't own or watch a TV and I don't read newspapers. I do browse the BBC website and Le Monde Interactif and I read The Economist and I treat them all with caution and skepticism, regarding them as merely the best of a rather bad bunch: semi-reliable witnesses at best. But I doubt my approach has much general appeal and so... the fatal dance persists.

Aside from the final chapter in which Blair spells out his recipes for improving things, the appeal of this book is its "insider's account" of Blair's time as Leader of the (New) Labor Party and particularly his ten years as Prime Minister of the UK. We get to see some aspects of life behind the security cordon, though he's careful to present the illusion of completeness while actually avoiding disclosure of information that would potentially be damaging to national security, his successors, and perhaps (quite naturally) to himself. There's just enough on the Blair/Brown relationship that he doesn't skirt it entirely but he leaves the reader to draw the obvious conclusion. Some things are so blatantly obvious they don't need spelling out, at least for the informed reader. (In case you're not au fait with British politics, Gordon Brown - the former Chancellor/finance minister - undermined Blair in order to win the top job for himself. He lasted a couple of rocky years, quickly turned into an old-style fudge-and-flail Labor hack, and then proceeded to lose the next election after which he resigned and retreated into obscurity but not before crippling the Labor Party by returning it to its bad old ways.)

One thing Blair might usefully have expounded upon is the tendency among our species to be prey to sudden bouts of mass hysteria. There is very little difference between Germans suddenly discovering a passion for the "strong man" who could wipe out the stain of 1918, the Rwanda genocide, and the suicidal deposition from power that Blair himself experienced. Only the scale and object of attention was different. Perhaps it is because Blair himself is fundamentally a reasonable person who can't easily imagine a mob being whipped into a frenzy and then released on a mission of mass destruction that he fails to address this important aspect of human behavior. Yet without accepting this facet of humanity, it's difficult to see any of his post-Downing Street missions enjoying lasting success.

I came away from reading this book far more impressed with Blair than I'd expected to be. I enjoyed the two-volume Thatcher biography but this book is in a class of its own. The only major shortcoming is that Blair never really explains the nature of his religious faith, which therefore seems like evasion or perhaps is simply the result of the fact that there is no intellectual justification for religious belief. But it's clear that his faith, whatever it is, drives him in the direction of optimism and continued striving for positive change. It will be very interesting to see what happens with his Faith Foundation, which is built upon the premise that if people know more about one another they will be less likely to be hostile to each other - not a premise that has had notable success at any time or in any place, and indeed a thesis which is for the most part refuted absolutely by a mass of historical evidence to the contrary. But you have to admire his relentless optimism in the face of doom and gloom all around.
Parts of this book are terrific, and parts are extremely boring. At least a third of this book should have been omitted or moved into an Appendix. If this had been done, it would have been a vastly improved book.

Because the good parts are so good, I still recommend reading it. But expect to skip several sections.

The best parts: the section on the Northern Ireland peace talks; his descriptions of how New Labour broke new ground; his descriptions of "lessons learned"; and his descriptions of the political struggles with Gordon Brown.

One thing that surprised me was just how smart Tony Blair is. When he was in public office, the media always depicted him as a airhead. When reading this book I realized the exact opposite is the case. He is a very smart, astute person.

The worst parts of this book: the constant mentioning of new names (Blair seems to feel the need to describe every person he ever worked with in his life); and the sections on Iraq. Blair has some important things to say about Iraq, but they could (and should) have been said in just a few pages. He would have been just as convincing. Instead Blair goes on and on and on defending his position. His writing here is very tedious. Most of the Iraq section should have been moved into an Appendix.

It is obvious Blair wrote this book himself. This is both an asset and disadvantage: an asset because his voice and personality come through very clearly. It's a disadvantage, because he got carried away, and obviously didn't have an editor strong enough to enforce some discipline.
Dear Reader

Despite its appearance this book is not boring; it's a long journey of a politician.

This book is a controversial autobiography, especially, during the chapters dedicated to the war in Iraq.

According to his pen the UK intervention was "baptised" by the fact that, Saddam Hussein detained the weapons of mass destruction.

It is also true that the motivations of the intervention were disavowed by the report compiled by David Kelly, a British scientist and expert on biological warfare.

In his defence he tell us that his decision was derived by the fact that the UK's intervention was reasonable and legal according to the reports on his hands.

I'd like to speculate on the fact that the hidden message of these chapters are those of a human being with his strenght and weakness, especially when he admit clearly his problems with the bottle, and when he admits that he is a political "manipulator" in my opinion this is a rare autobiography if we consider him as a politician.


I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a really interesting blend of sharing experiences and perspectives along with the opportunity for an American to get a peek into the working of British politics. Like all books of this sort, it sometimes drags as he gets into the details of various bits of politics that weren't keen to me but probably were to British audiences who knew the players better.

I thought Blair put forward a coherent, compelling case for his "Third Way" politics laced with both triumphs and sadness as he saw the old "Left or Right" forces re-assert themselves in the waning days of his administration. I thought he carried this off without ever seeming self-congratulatory or bitter and indeed seemed very humble and appreciative throughout.

I would recommend it to any political junky.
This book was in great shape and came pretty quickly in the mail. I ordered this book for an AP Comparative Governement project and this book worked great! It is a pretty large book, it has over 700 pages in it and it's pretty heavy. But with that in mind, the book was a great price and was in great condition.