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The Third Man: Life at the Heart of New Labour Paperback – September 1, 2010
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'Gossip, intrigue and scandal!a truthful and witty account' New Statesman 'Informative, clear and containing refreshing doses of self-knowledge, occasional regret and thoughtfulness' Andrew Marr 'Shines a brutal light on the conflicts at the heart of Labour's leadership' Guardian 'Mandelson has added heavily to the sum total of political knowledge' The Times 'A revealing and important book by a more winning individual than I had expected to encounter' Matthew Parris 'A very good book!Fluently written and substantial, this is a serious book by a serious man' Sunday Telegraph 'A compelling account of the New Labour years. Revealing and subtle!The book should be read by anyone remotely interested in politics' Independent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
Drawing heavily on detailed diary notes he took during the events that shaped the British government for more than 25 years, Peter Mandelson tells his story of a life played out in the backrooms and on the frontlines of the Labor Party during its unprecedented three terms in government in this mixture of autobiography, personal reflection, and political history. He began writing the book while serving as European Commissioner and completed it since leaving office in May 2010. His revelations include that the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown became so hostile that Blair described his chancellor as "mad, bad, dangerous, and beyond redemption" and likened Brown's behavior to that of a "mafioso" in his dealings with him. Much has been written about Mandelson as the person at the heart of the New Labor project, but here is the unvarnished truth from the man himself. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Ok - that is not what this book is about at all, but the self styled Dark Lord does manage to do the dirty on his former friends and blow the lid off the open secret about the breakdown and growing rivalry between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown during the New Labour years. Unsurprisingly, Tony Blair is reportedly livid at this expose, but perhaps moreso because the frank honesty here will dampen enthusiasm for his own political memoirs. Maybe Tony Blair is most annoyed that Mandelson beat him to it.
The book is well written, frank and attempts to be honest. It covers a whole lot more than the Tony/Gordon spats, starting earlier and ranging more widely. But it is also obviously (being a political memoir) heavily coloured by the experience and mind set of Peter Mandelson himself. The thrice disgraced politician styles himself as the Third Man in the New Labour marriage, and who can dispute that interpretation when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown felt it so important to keep landing him with plum jobs in Government at home and in Europe?
This book is self reflective too. Someone as politically astute as Peter Mandelson would be bound to write in a self effacing manner that ought to win over less cynical readers. More cynical ones might feel that he just wants to sell books and knows how not to annoy his readers.
But then it comes down to this: who buys these political memoirs? Who really cares? All the really salacious details are already appearing in newspapers, and do we really discover much about the man who is Peter Mandelson in this carefully crafted book?
I think the answer is yes - we do. A little. Also, even though so much of this book will appear in print elsewhere, it is an annoyingly addictive read. Annoying because we know that Mandelson is just out to make a quick buck. Better histories of New Labour will appear by less partisan political observers (although they will use this book as a primary source no doubt). But in some ways this story is almost as good as reading about the dark days of Lord Voldermort, even if - unlike Peter Mandelson - you will be cheering for Harry Cameron and Nick Weasley in the end.
I say, 'So what?' I also say that, like him or loathe him, Peter Mandelson made a major contribution to the Labour Party, helping to make it re-electable in 1997 and helping it to be less irrelevant to the British people. In the context of his being clever and successful, many now wish that Peter Mandelson had been more clever and more successful in the run-up to the 2010 election. I enjoyed particularly his brilliant and up-lifting speech to the Labour Party Conference in September, 2009, but his problem, of course, was that he was a key figure in a government led by a man, Gordon Brown, who was widely regarded as substantial but who was also essentially charmless. Who knows what might have happened had Mr Brown possessed the charm of his predecessor, Mr Blair? It was a much closer run thing than most of the pundits predicted.
This excellent book, which is well written from 'the inside,' is a first-class chronicle of the politics of New Labour and of Europe during the past thirty-plus years and it also reveals the inner feelings of the ultimate 'insider.' It is one that I recommend most strongly to all serious readers.