Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Blair Years: Alastair Campbell, July 11—14, 2016
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
With the publication of Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry, it seems a good time to revisit the comments of a man who was right there when it happened: Alastair Campbell. Tony Blair’s former spin doctor published his memoirs to 2003 in 2007, when Blair left office. (Blair’s own memoirs followed in 2010.)
Unlike Blair’s thematically-grouped autobiography, Campbell takes a chronological approach, beginning with Blair’s ascent to power in 1994 until Campbell’s resignation in 2003. It’s frank, detailed and extremely interesting.
Those hoping for jaw-drapping scandal or the revelation of big secrets will be disappointed. What we get is a much more intimate view of life in and around Number Ten. There’s humour and pathos, whether John Prescott shouting his phonetically transcribed curses, or Mr Blair himself in his underpants.
Through the lens of one of the most recent Labour Government’s most divisive figures, we see the humanity at the core of the New Labour movement, from welfare reform to – of course – the war in Iraq. He described the anguish, uncertainty and brilliance of a man it’s clear Campbell deeply admired. Campbell is honest about everyone’s shortcomings – his included – and it’s fascinating to read a first-hand account of all the major checkpoints, from Diana to Gordon Brown.
As Press Secretary/Director of Communications and Strategy, Campbell lays bare the impact a media-savvy culture has on politics. He explains the impact a single sentence can have, the timing of announcement, the backlash anything will cause. It’s as much a game as it is serious and it’s riveting to the last.
Fair warning – he keeps calling everyone by their initials, and that gets annoying.