From Publishers Weekly
Critics who dubbed Britain's ex-prime minister "Tony Blur" for his allegedly substance-free politics swaddled in gauzy PR won't have their minds changed by this nebulous memoir. Blair's brief for his "ground-breaking" New Labour platform reads like a marketing plan: it's all about middle-class "aspiration," "focusing on the developing tastes of consumers," and "modernization," the glossed-over particulars being a muddle of small-bore education, health-care and law-and-order initiatives. The Iraq War is a similar "battle between modernizers and reactionaries," according to Blair's high-minded justification, a battle which would have gone well but for the meddling of Al Qaeda and Iran. He writes like an ad executive--"it had to be dignified, it had to be different, and it had to be Diana," he says of the laudably "modern" princess's funeral--but his candor can be bracing. He paints comic scenes of excruciating audiences with dull dignitaries and the weekly torment of Prime Minister's Questions, is nakedly spiteful toward his Labour rival and successor Gordon Brown, and never hides his preoccupation with image-crafting and media relations. ("Look like a prime minister," he reminds himself on election night.) Blair reveals himself to be savvy, charming, and sometimes earnest and impassioned, but never quite a statesman. (Sept. 2) (c)
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The longest-serving Labour prime minister of Britain, and still a figure on the international political stage, Blair recalls in detail the events of his premiership. He covers lots of actions and activities and shares with forthrightness his thinking on world and domestic issues he had to confront; on the other hand, on occasion he does play his cards close to the vest, avoiding a complete “spilling” of his thoughts about a certain situation he had then and now. Blair’s view of the late Princess Diana is discerning; of his successor, Gordon Brown, hardly affectionate; of George Bush (the younger), certainly controversial. Consciousness of his public image was never far from how he acted in office and now how he writes about his actions. Behind the scenes in the halls of power is always an interesting place to go, and Blair takes us there with delight on his part and on our part, from weekending with the royal family in Scotland to the nerve-racking “Prime Minister’s Questions,” when the PM must face inquiries (read “criticism”) from the opposition MPs. A necessary purchase for all public-library contemporary political-memoir collections. High-Demand Backstory: Reviews everywhere and author appearances on major television shows indicate just how much interest in this book is out there. --Brad Hooper
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