This morning’s papers, blogs, radio and TV will be full of insights into the Blair biography and what it can tell us about the mind of the prime minister who won three terms for Labour.
Key lines include: 1] He believes that Gordon Brown abandoned the principles of New Labour, which led to this summer’s electoral defeat; 2] if he had sacked GB it would have destabilised the government and made matters worse; 3] he can’t regret the decision to go to war in Iraq, although it leaves him with nightmares.
Unfortunately it also reveals that he is a lousy writer. Reading through the chapter on Northern Ireland, you can’t help but be struck by the clunky way in which he strings sentences together. The impression is of a motivational speaker and part-time preacher trying to sound both philosophical and matey at the same time. And that grates.
The best political autobiographies make you feel that you are in the room with the writer, hearing verbatim conversations and watching history unfold one-to-one. This one doesn’t. It will be astonishing if Random House recoup their £4.6m book advance.
I thought the Mandelson book was a bit so-so, but Blair succeeds in making Mandy seem like Dave Eggers or Len Deighton at the peak of their powers.
Here are some sample sentences, so you can see what I mean:
(The chapter begins) Every conflict is, of course, different – each has its own genesis, its opposing traditions, its shared history, its variegated array of dimensions to resolve – so lessons in resolution are difficult to draw, but I came to the conclusion by the end that there were indeed core principles that have a general application.
Of Bertie and his contribution, I have spoken. Then there are Gerry and Martin. They were an extraordinary couple. Over time I came to like both greatly, probably more than I should have, if truth be told.
By contrast, like Moses with the Israelites, striking out in a new direction whose destination is uncertain, whose obstacles are formidable and unfamiliar and when at least some of the followers will accuse the leader of betrayal, is tough; and it requires the quality that motivates the best political leadership: a desire to do good.
The biggest problem with the Middle East peace process is that no one has ever gripped it long enough or firmly enough. The gripping is intermittent, and intermittent won’t do. It doesn’t work. If it was gripped, it could be solved.
Starting with the Crown Prince Abdullah Peace Initiative in 2002, the Arab nations no longer want to exploit the dispute, but to settle it. It offers an enormous opportunity to Israel. Likewise, a world troubled and threatened by a global terrorism based on a perversion of Islam needs the dispute resolved. The objective conditions are today benign.
I heard an interesting example of this once from, of all people, Nelson Mandela. Mandela – or Madiba as he is also called (his clan name) – is a fascinating study, not because he’s a saint but because he isn’t. Or rather he is, but not in the sense that he can’t be as fly as hell when the occasion demands. I bet Gandhi was the same.
To go to our live blog on the Blair book (as we wade through all 700 pages) just visit www.ft.com/westminster