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My Bet: An Incomplete Journey,
This review is from: A Journey: My Political Life (Hardcover)
Tony Blair's autobiography hits all the high points of his tenure and a few around it: Some brief background about Blair's fairly pedestrian middle class background; his rise to power in Labor including the timely death of one of his predecessors which allowed him to jump to leadership; his three elections and the many episodes that came between them such as Iraq, peace efforts in Ireland, National Health Service reform, and the millennium; and his long, somewhat tortured departure. A few observations:
1. Tony Blair never really had a friendship with Gordon Brown. Oh he says they were friends and the press has told us they were, but if you read between the lines they always viewed each other as competitors. Blair did not miss many opportunities to leapfrog over Brown in the party leadership or slap Brown down as PM. He then seems surprised when Brown does not treat him with total deference. I am sure he said something nice about Brown somewhere in the book, but I cannot recall where.
2. Blair is much more conservative than I thought. I always thought of Blair as a progressive to moderate who was muscular on national security. Blair tries to align himself with Bill Clinton as a third way type of centrist progressive. But other than climate change and a few platitudes towards progressive programs, Blair does not really have much patience for them. This really comes through with his criticism to the economic crisis that occurred once he was out of office, which he seems to believe the market could have solved. But throughout the book his description of "new labor" has a lot in common with the Republican Party in the United States. Oh I am sure I am overstating it, but I was really surprised by the way his positions came off.
3. Blair could not decide who his audience was. At times Blair does a good job of explaining things to us Americans but at other times names are flying by fast and furious and events and formalities that are likely common knowledge in the British system are a bit confusing. That is understandable given that he was the British PM and has no obligation to write for us uninformed Americans, just be prepared for it.
4. Blair needed an editor. The book rambles on a bit particularly in the section on Ireland (which brings me back to point 3, I did not have much context for it) and his "will he, won't he, when will he" departure. Blair also tends to describe people the same way. "Joe Smith was Joe Smith, as ever," never really saying too much about them, sometimes criticizing them, but assuring us that he still likes and respects them for some reason. I noticed it again and again.
5. Blair really liked George W. Bush. He also really liked Clinton, but he really gives a good defense of President Bush here including some of his lesser known but best policies such as support for Africa. Blair's relationships with the two US presidents he served with is interesting and I wonder if there is any president he would not have found a way to get along with. He did not think much of Reagan, though he was not PM then but praised Obama whose tenure began after his.
6. Blair wants to come back. He basically says it at the end but it is something that occurred to me as I was reading the book. Iraq prevents that for now, but this book's spirited defense and time may change the political calculus for Blair. Disraeli, Gladstone, and Churchill all had multiple runs at 10 Downing Street and I think Blair harbors that ambition too.
All in all, a good showing by one of the most influential political leaders of our times.