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The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 31, 2007

3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Tony Blair was one of Great Britain's youngest and longest-serving Prime Ministers, and Campbell was Blair's Press Secretary from 1994 to 2003, accompanying Blair through his initial, hugely succesful campaign for Prime Minister, the reform of the Labour Party, the death of Princess Diana, the Clinton presidency, 9/11 and the war in Iraq. The style of Campbell's diaries, full of shorthand and acronyms ("TB" for Tony Blair, "BC" for Bill Clinton), takes some getting used to but pays off in immediacy and candor; rather than a polished account of events, Campbell gives readers refreshingly unvarnished impressions of what occurred at the time it was occurring, free of spin or second-guessing. People behave badly-swearing, losing tempers, perspiring, dressing inappropriately and lusting after women-and political fortunes, as well as marriages, suffer the strain. Appearances by Bill Clinton (in the midst of the Lewinsky fallout) are remarkable for the vulnerability they reveal, and the arrangements for Diana's funeral, made by the Blair cabinet and the Royal Family together, exhibit a fascinating mix of compassion and calculation (Blair comments, shrewdly, "She will become an icon straight away. She will live on as an icon.") As readers watch Blair navigate the shoals of political life, they, like the author, will emerge admiring him, and appreciating the frank and ultimately flattering portrait that Campbell provides.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Alastair Campbell's diaries provide a fascinating front row seat to the daily drama of the Blair premiership. American readers will be intrigued by Blair's relations with the Clintons, with Bush post 9/11, with Condi, Cheney, Powell, Princess Diana and the Queen.”
—Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles

“Beyond question the most important and revelatory book so far written about the inner workings of Blair’s government . . . By turns arrogant, brilliant, combative, demotic and emotional, Campbell delivers his impressions and verdicts in a wholly committed, staccato style. It is an earthy account of life in the Blair government's 24/7 media-centric world.”
The Washington Post Book World

The Blair Years is a classic text of the you-are-there school of politics at work. Surely a valuable source for scholars to scour for many years to come, it is available here and now as one of the most compelling reads of history in the raw . . . The diaries provide a behind-the-scenes look at dramatic junctures in recent history.”
Los Angeles Times

Reviews from Britain:

“This is a brilliant, absorbing account . . . Vivid, direct, immediate, and honest in its way, the diary draws you into a world for which ‘evil’ is hardly too strong a word . . . Rich in detail, powerful in mood, honest within its own lights, it is the more intriguing for the dark and often unspoken presence, at its core, of a mystery: the Master, Blair . . . These diaries will be gasped at, and relied upon, for decades to come. Buy them: they will suck you in.”
The Times

“This is a riveting, compelling and genuinely revelatory book . . . The Campbell that comes across in these diaries is certainly a complex and interesting character: . . . engagingly frank, with a winning line in black humour, a certain blokeish faux-naivety when faced with an array of international statesmen and an unrivalled understanding of how the tabloid press works.”
The Sunday Times

“There are fascinating details and revelatory nuggets . . . Campbell brings back to vivid and gripping life the night that Diana died [and] when Nato was losing public opinion over Kosovo.”
The Observer

“Electric . . . Campbell is a first-rate diarist [with] a very acute eye for the telling detail . . . He has a novelist’s ability to reveal character through a close study of behaviour and–rare in a political diarist–an artist’s understanding that it is the smallest things which reveal the most . . . The portrait of Tony Blair is by turns endearing and unnervingly frightening . . . This is a perfect piece of diary-writing: eagle-eyed, gossipy, funny.”
Mail on Sunday


This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st US Edition edition (July 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307268314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307268310
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #398,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Until Tony Blair himself publishes his account of his time in office, this has to be the next best thing. Although most of the daily entries are short, it conveys the mood. Sunday morning confabs to determine the appropriate response to a breaking story, speechwriting on airplanes, careful feeding of information to journalists, it is all here. I found myself thinking " *that's* how they did it".

There are also many amusing/bizarre anecdotes such as Campbell walking in on Mo Mowlan in the bath.

The Diana parts felt set up to me. We hear about how she wanted to meet Campbell, then they met, she asks for him later, and then of course her crash and death. His affection for her seems somewhat overblown, and it says something of his reputation that I found myself believing his portrayal in "The Queen", coldly feeding the "People's Princess" line to Blair, more than his own diaries. The cartoonish version of Campbell as the arch spin doctor is now a cultural fixture of its own, turning up not only in "The Queen" but in books like "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen". I wonder what Campbell must think about that.

Ambition and rivaly are never far from the surface. When describing Blair's lengths football header session with Kevin Keegan, Campbell is careful to note that it was easier than it seemed, since "of course a professional like Keegan can head the ball towards a target in the same way most of us can throw it, so it wasn't that difficult."

I found it amusing that Campbell goes out of his way not to to use the word "spin". I expect that he became thoroughly sick of hearing that word.

Note that this is "Extracts from" Alastair Campbell's diaries. The really secret stuff is, well, secret.
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Format: Hardcover
Alistair Campbell was privy to the innermost secrets of Tony Blair's Labour Government, acting as the Prime Minister's counselor, intimate friend, and occasional critic. These diaries chronicle the years in power from 1997-2003. The book is a wonderful resource for those interested in the minutiae of British politics, but quite dense - not to say verbose - for nonspecialist readers. Sometimes politicians need a firm editorial hand to produce effective works; this is certainly the case with this volume.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We'll see in a hundred years if Blair's leadership was meaningful, a bridge or a failure. Until then the book allows us to see a side that we have not had an opportunity to study yet - if you want to see it. If you don't, then you've already decided history, I guess, which is a brave thing.
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Format: Hardcover
I am really into Tony Blair and am especially fascinated with his dealings with the War on
Terror. I wrote a research paper on that very subject and checked this book out from a library as a source. I like it because the information is first-hand, straight from the confines of Number 10. I enjoy reading about Blair and made this the first "chronicle" really, to my Blair library. It's an easy read, though long, because of the journal entry-like style. It's also really gritty, not polished over like many things you might read about someone in government. It's fantastic.
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Format: Hardcover
Whereas the recently released diaries of President Reagan were an approachable exercise in easy readability that never excluded facts and anecdotes about the personages of the age, this diary is truly for hard-core political aficionados only. I can read almost anything, and even I had trouble getting through The Blair Years. What's wrong here? Well, the typeface was poorly chosen, the writing style was distancing at best, and even the entries themselves were printed too closely together and should have been better designed. In the end everything about this work serves to put a reader off.

For every interesting piece about, say, dinner with Princess Diana (who served Mr. Campbell tea), the Queen's bored reaction to the Millennium celebrations, or juicy details on Bill Clinton's personal opinion of then-President elect Bush, there are scores of entries that cover minutia so densely recorded that I truly think this is a book that will be of greatest value to a graduate student studying foreign affairs, or a future historian who wishes to research the Blair years. The average reader hoping to get a backstage pass to politics as undertaken at 10 Downing Street will probably do better looking elsewhere.

While Campbell is comprehensive, he is not (at least as evidenced here) gifted with those talents that make for an engrossing reading experience.
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