Andrea's Reviews > A Journey: My Political Life

A Journey by Tony Blair
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Aug 04, 11

bookshelves: biography
Read in August, 2011

I'm glad I read this, don't let 2 stars dissuade you. But get it from your beloved public library like I did please, you know, the ones that are getting cut. He doesn't deserve your money, that's for sure. There's so much to say, but I'll keep this as short as I can.

Mr Blair is certainly very clever. This is like a little babbling brook of cleverness, a little superficial stream of frankness and honesty. There is very little of substance here. I can't even tell if what's written is as deep as he goes; tragic as that would be, it seems entirely possible. Cleverness abounds, but there is little wisdom to be found. This book reads like a political manoeuvre in itself, which I am fairly certain it is. I'm just not sure what he's angling for.

I think it probably gives a fairly good sense of the day-to-day politicking, the characters and constant maneuvering and wheeling and dealing that makes government go round. That Blair is a master of that sort of thing goes without question. That he captured some kind of spirit and hope in the voters also goes without question, given Labour's election to three terms. Trying to think through how he did that is interesting from a radical left perspective though sadly there isn't much of substance here to help get a grip on it. I also liked his key principles of resolution from the chapter on Northern Ireland, I thought they were actually practical and useful, particularly in the importance of seeing things through over a decade or more.

What I didn't appreciate? That I still have no bloody idea what exactly he means by "New Labour". Ironic, given how many times he repeats that it is a clear policy programme rather than a political sleight-of-hand to get elected as most of his party seemed to believe. He calls it at one point, "tough on crime, pro-gay rights" politics. It's obviously a departure from old labour, what I would have liked is a clear rendering of how it differs from the tories -- apart from some compassionate spending and some "slanting to the poor" from the same space. In fact, I don't understand why he calls himself labour at all, praising Thatcher and Bush and the current government's direction under Cameron. I really want to think more about the language of this, how the very idea of what is progressive has been twisted, and our view of what is possible narrowed into this travesty of 'innovative' and 'modern' thinking within conservative, neoliberal confines.

I hated this facile and constant equation of modernisation and innovation with privatisation. I fail to see how that is innovative, though it does fill party coffers. This position forces him into some uniquely half-assed analysis of the current crisis at the very end. He tries to minimise the role of business. Hard to do.

I hated his repeated sound bite that the left just doesn't get 'aspiration'. There's a lot of sound bites in this book, and this was the worst.

The section on Iraq? In my considered opinion? Yikes. Entirely self-serving, and I know he's smarter than to believe that the Bush entourage was not talking about Iraq from the beginning. To skate over the whole build-up to the invasion was pretty shocking. To argue even now that it has made the US and UK safer? Ridiculous.

About the G-8 "Of course the big cost is security, yet somehow this is the leaders' fault for having the temerity to meet and talk about world affairs, rather than that of the motley variegated protestors who, unrestrained, could run amok." No wonder he finds the tories natural allies.

I imagine that most of the people mentioned in here were cringing, whether they were praised or panned. And Gordon Brown? This was sort of a non-characterisation. For much of the story he's just an intelligent, Machiavellian and somewhat delusional obstacle. Kind of an opportunist block.

The main messages? Progressives must improve and modernise (ie privatise, interesting definition of the modern and the progressive). Britain needs America to be a big power, so it should swallow anything and pretend to like it (as Blair has done -- in fact the whole intro is a surprising paean to how great and misunderstood America is), but if we can weld the EU into a powerful unit then maybe we can stop pandering quite so much. Leaders have to lead, they can't listen to people when they believe they are in the right -- but being in touch with the people is how they get power in and over their party. Bit of a muddled message, but it's all slippery and slick beneath a veil of false candour. Much like his time in office, so I suppose it's fitting.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Jan-Maat (new)

Jan-Maat I'm glad you read this because I'm getting feathers in my mouth just reading your review!

What did New Labour mean? It was an advertising slogan (like Labour, but new!) and the less it meant specifically the more people it could be marketed to.

At least, I suppose, he's honest about having continued along in the policy direction laid down by Mrs T and Major.

I'm tempted to read the Bob Marshall Andrews book when it comes out, but then I don't really need to take up teeth grinding as a hobby.


Andrea It's always a hard call, reading what you know will make you furious, I'm not sure if I'll be up for that one after reading this :) And New Labour was absolutely a slogan, which is why I find it so curious that Blair should swear up and down at multiple points in the book that it wasn't, and write about his genuine disappointment in the people who couldn't see that! I wouldn't be surprised that he believes it actually, but it also wouldn't surprise me if he didn't...I just can't tell how much of his own spin he actually believes, it's an interesting question.


message 3: by Jan-Maat (new)

Jan-Maat That's a scary thought, that he believed his own spin!

Maybe we were all supposed to share the vision?


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