Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Like a record, baby

I completed the Andrew Marr book a week ago and have since started The Blair Years, Alastair Campbell’s diaries documenting New Labour’s journey from opposition to power. I must admit I’m appreciating a voyeuristic peek behind the scenes as a whole host of egos (Brown, Mandelson, Cook, Prescott etc.) clash and clash again. The energy of the first Labour administration is captured strongly, especially the relentless pace and ultra-delicate diplomacy required in seeking solutions in Northern Ireland. Blair cuts a fascinating figure, desperate to reach Number Ten and railing with impatience against any agency putting the quest for power at risk; in the early diaries this is mainly the old guard union leaders, later cabinet members with a tendency to produce unwelcome headlines (Clare Short is admonished on a seemingly weekly basis). I suppose this book’s main success is demonstrating just how difficult the job of Prime Minister is, an utterly tiring, some would say thankless, task. As one would expect, ‘spin’ plays a large part in this tome and, with massive decisions being made daily, the need to address how the various media will be briefed and manipulated is rarely far from the surface. I’m also enjoying the humanisation of key figures; Brown comes across as dark, moody and unpredictable, Clinton is ever charming, charismatic and inspirational and Blair flits between panic, vigour, relentless optimism and black humour almost hourly. I suppose my views on Campbell have changed having read his diaries. Yes, this is a cold, calculating operator, suffering not one fool but a more emotional, compassionate side is also manifest especially when dealing with friends, family and a political party he plainly loves. A fascinating read.

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