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The Blair Years
The Alastair Campbell Diaries
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This is not the typical sort of book that OnTheIssues excerpts -- it is about American politics from the British perspective. Actually, it's about British politics, but our excerpts only focus on the parts relevant to American politics -- that's often a very different perspective than we're used to in America. The book itself is a diary -- which makes it even harder to read because it contains numerous abbreviations (a compendium of names and initials appears on p. 191ff) and also assumes the reader is familiar with issues relevant to the United Kingdom. If you can struggle through all that, it's a worthwhile read.
Alastair Campbell was Prime Minister Tony Blair's press secretary, and then Director of Communications and Strategy, from 1994 to 2004. That period, which is covered chronologically in this book, includes most of Bill Clinton's presidency and George W. Bush's first term. Campbell met both several times, and opines on both presidents from several perspectives. The diary also opines on Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, and all of the other key American political players in that period.
Tony Blair was elected to Parliament in 1983, and became Labour Party leader in 1994. He was elected Prime Minister in 1997 and served until 2007. Blair applied Bill Clinton's "Third Way" in getting elected and in serving as Prime Minister. The "Third Way" means the leader attempts to synthesize a policy stance reconciling the two opposing views, usually favoring a more centrist outcome than either the left wing or the right wing would prefer. The Labour Party is the equivalent of the U.S.'s Democratic Party, so Blair and Clinton are similar both in their underlying political philosophy as well as in their policy choices. Blair also worked with President Bush, however, most famously joining the U.S. as the prime supporter of the invasion of Iraq. Blair paid the price for his loyalty to America, being labeled "Bush's poodle," and undergoing a formal investigation regarding the intelligence dossier that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger (claimed as a reason to start the war, but later proven fraudulent).
Campbell's diary covers all those events and many more. For the avid U.S. political junkie, this book provides a good change of pace -- one must read it more slowly just to get past British terms like "dossier" and "Labour". For the rest of us, these excerpts are plenty.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, Oct. 2013
The Alastair Campbell Diaries.
Page last edited: Oct 29, 2013