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Daily View: Dissecting Tony Blair's autobiography

Clare Spencer | 08:45 UK time, Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Tony BlairCommentators dissect the first extracts of Tony Blair's autobiography.

Julian Glover says in the Guardian that the revealing part of the book is that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair's rift was about policy rather than personality:

"What lasts - and matters much more - is Blair's sustained attack on Brownite ideology. 'I felt sorry for the party,' he says as Brown stages yet another inept coup to remove him. 'It was going to be a disaster.' Not, he adds, because Brown was unelectable as a man but because, underneath, Blair knew him to be just another reactionary socialist, addicted to 'old style trade union fixing and activist stitch ups'...
"[T]he point is that the difference between the two men wasn't really about style - Blair the actor, Brown the grump. It was about policy. The split was always there. Blair saw it. He didn't dare act by sacking Brown, as he should have done. And now Cameron and Clegg are in power. Blair sounds content with that. Read his analysis of Brown the policymaker and it is not hard to guess why."

Tory blogger Iain Dale comments on the first morsel of information coming out from the extracts already in the press - about Tony Blair's relationship with Gordon Brown:

"What does it say about Tony Blair that he knew Gordon Brown would be a disaster as Prime Minister, yet actively endorsed him and facilitated his election as Labour leader?
"It's not exactly a sign of being a great leader, is it? "A real leader and statesman would have taken measures to ensure it could never happen. The fact that Blair didn't do that shows why he can never be regarded as a great Prime Minister."

In the Daily Mail Stephen Glover calls the passages about Iraq "self flagellation" and isn't convinced:

"Even those who were against the war might have partly respected him if he had simply stood by his decision, and honestly rehearsed the reasons for acting as America's junior partner in 2003. As it is, he wants it both ways. Although he remains certain that the war was right, and he did nothing whatsoever that was wrong, he will be racked with sorrow to the end of his life because he is a good and decent person."

Political correspondent for the Bloomberg news agency Robert Hutton got hold of the book. He tells the Today programme what suprised him most:

"The big thing that jumped out at me is that right at the end of the book Blair effectively endorses David Cameron's economic programme. He says the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are getting it right and the Labour party is getting it wrong... He says the New Labour response to it would be to cut the deficit by cutting spending by driving through reforms in public services, as the government says it is doing and by raising VAT. So he doesn't endorse a Labour leadership candidate but he does endorse the government."

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Peter Hoskin says in the Spectator the book reveals Tony Blair as self-assured:

"There's a remarkable self-certainty about what we've seen of Tony Blair's book so far. Sure, there are the fleeting moments of doubt and insecurity: the drinking that was becoming less a pleasure and more a habit, for instance. But, apart from that, the dominant motif is how His Way was the Right Way. And so, he was right to keep Brown on as Chancellor. He was, it seems, right to prosecute war in Iraq - even if the WMD intelligence was 'mistaken'. And his chapter on Northern Ireland is written up as a ten-point action plan for future peace processes after future conflicts."

In the Independent John Rentoul thinks that "Blair rage" is skewed by the media:

"Today has already been described as the most important day in publishing history since Johannes Gutenberg thought of movable blocks of metal with letters on them, which makes it a big day for the Blair-hating community. For an alarming proportion of my colleagues in journalism and allied trades, the idea that Tony Blair's memoir might provide an important and instructive account of how one of the most successful of modern British prime ministers saw his time in office is simply preposterous. The main lines of inquiry can be sketched out now: Does he apologise for Iraq? Does he admit he was a shallow chancer whose only achievement was to introduce the word spin to the English language? And so on, for thousands and thousands of words. All day.
"Immoderate views of Blair are held by a minority of the population, while in the media class they are the norm."

The Times editorial stands up for Tony Blair [subscription required]:

"[W]hen the dust settles on the career of this remarkable politician, when the anger is spent and the arguments have been exhausted, A Journey is, in its way, a brilliant riposte. For the clarity of vision, for the courage to take on serious issues, for the capacity to give articulate voice to liberal causes, Mr Blair remains a communicator and a politician of the first rank. It is not fashionable to say that Tony Blair used his unusual fluency to give voice to the voiceless. It is far from the conventional wisdom to say that he was the progressive politician par excellence. It is to invite ridicule to conclude that British politics suffers from the absence of his forensic ability to locate the centre of an argument. All of these things are true."

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