Blogging the Bookshelf

Blogging my bookshelf – one book at a time

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“The Blair Years”, Alastair Campbell”

June 27th, 2009 · No Comments · English, History, Policy, Politics

theblairyearsSynopsis: Tony Blair’s Director of Communications and general master of the dark arts tells (almost) all about The Blair Years.

My Take: Ordinarily I steer clear of political biographies (diaries in particular!) but beore I moved to the UK I thought I needed a bit of a crash course in the who’s who of the Party in the UK so I picked this up at the hot new political book of the time. The fact that I’d be spending a year at the LSE learning from Mr Campbell may also have played a part in the decision 🙂

AC has been demonised as being the death knell of liberal democracy personified because of his alleged practice of the dark arts of political ‘spin’. Far be it from me to have any public comment on the professionalism of contemporary journalists or their role in a functioning democracy, but AC really lines them up in this book (keep in mind he was a senior journalist for many years before moving into politics):

“For all its faults, our political process is a good one, and the means by which much meaningful change is made. That is not a very fashionable view to hold, but as someone who has operated at senior levels in journalism and politics, around a decade in each, it is my respect for the media that has shrunk, and my respect for politics that has grown.”

and

“I have no idea what people will make of this book. I am probably too close to it all, both the events and the process of publishing. I know some newspapers and commentators will come to it with minds made up, and look to find those parts that help confirm their prejudices. It is what is wrong with some of them in the first place, and why I have next to no respect for them, and no real interest in their views. Amid the enormous cuts I have made are many which relate to my dealings with a 24 hour media that has in my view changed for the worse not only political debate but politics itself, as the politicians have to devote so much time and energy to dealing with people who believe their role is not to impart information and fuel healthy debate, but to undermine where possible the actions, decisions and motives of politicians. It is a sad irony that we have more media coverage than ever, but less understanding or real debate.”

Say what you want about him, but AC has a way with words and an ability to zing those who get in his way (currently being perpetuated on his excellent blog). The book itself is a real tome (1000+ pages from memory) so is probably only worthwhile for real political obsessives, but is certainly an engaging account of a fantastically interesting period for UK labour politics.

Highlight:
On encountering a lefty opposing Blair’s move to remove the old Chapter 4 from the Labour Constitution, AC had this to say:
“Some twat with a Trot poster came up to me on the way in and yelled ‘Butcher!’ Traitor!’ at me. I stopped and mustered as much visual contempt as I could, then assured him that if we win the general election then don’t worry, thanks to wankers like him, there will always be another Tory government along afterwards. These people make me vomit.

And on the left wing of the party in general:

“It is all about how the party sees them as they strut around the conference, and got fuck all to do with whether we ever actually get the power needed to do anything for the country.”

Quite!

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