The Blair Years is the most compelling and revealing account of contemporary politics you will ever hear. Taken from Alastair Campbell's daily diaries, these audio extracts chart the rise of New Labour and the tumultuous years of Tony Blair's leadership, providing the first important record of a remarkable decade in our national life.
Here are the defining events of our time, from Labour's new dawn to the war on terror; from the death of Diana to negotiations for peace in Northern Ireland; from Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, through to the Hutton Inquiry of 2003. But above all, here is Tony Blair up close and personal, making the decisions that affected the lives of millions, under relentless and frequently hostile pressure.
Feared and admired in equal measure, hated by some, Alastair Campbell was pivotal to the founding of New Labour and the sensational election victory of 1997. As Blair's press secretary, strategist, and trusted confidant, Campbell spent more waking hours alongside the prime minister than anyone. His diaries take the listener right to the heart of government.
Unflinchingly told, The Blair Years covers the crises and scandals, the rows and resignations, the ups and downs of Britain's hothouse politics. There has never been so riveting a book about life at the very top, nor a more human book about politics, told by a man who saw it all.
©2007 Alastair Campbell; (P)2007 Random House
"Campbell has a draught Guiness voice with a husky edge to it; he could narrate Chandler thrilers to perfection." (Christina Hardyment, The Times)
"These diaries are His Master?s Voice. They will be gasped at, and relied upon, for decades to come. Buy them, they will suck you in." (The Times)
"It is electric: a tale of sound and fury." (Book of the Week, The Mail on Sunday)
I guess that the audiobook only contains a small fraction of the published book's 800 pages. That means it doesn't take that long to listen all the way through. There are quite a few large jumps in dates. Names of people aren't always explained - you need some background knowledge to realise who they all are. (Eg 'PM' = Peter Mandleson, 'CDS' = Chief of Defence Staff, 'Jonathan' = Jonathan Powell...). So you have to keep your wits about you.
But none of this detracts from the fascination of the many issues covered. I ended up with a feeling of a much better appreciation of many of the stories that have been in the press during the years Alastair Campbell worked alongside Tony Blair.
The narration is clear. In summary, it was a real pleasure to listen to it. I often had a wide smile on my face (eg listening to the encounters with Princess Diana) and sometimes a lump in my throat.
I was never much of a fan of Blair and Spin, but the diaries of the man behind a lot of the image are fascinating. Narrated by the downbeat and laconic Campell himself, all the best anecdotes are here, plus many that you might not have heard about. As an insight into how the country is run, this paints a human and surprising picture, exposing politics as how you might have feared it is as well as how you might have hoped it can be too. Very enjoyable, espescially Mandy's hissy fits, egotistical and thoroughly entertaining, I just wish it had been the unabridged version.
I kept this for a holiday listen when there was an uninterrupted period and was hopeful of a much more informative production - very disappointing overall!
not really relevant here
It's a great listen for your commute, however Alastair clearly holds back a lot when writing this, not much swearing unfortunately. Cherie Blair comes across as a bit of a wagon. If you like "The thick of it" you'll appreciate this.
They called him cold, sinister and a humourless control freak. Maybe he was but this biography delivered in flat measured northern tones unmasks the volatile cocktail of personalities that drove the new labour legacy. Campbells short diary notes emphasise his continuous doubts about his own abilities to control the main actors, deliver a concise new labour message and control his own self depressive character. More than just a diary of events or a write and tell expose this is a frank exposure of the darker moments that drove new labour throughout the nineties. Campbell is always fiercely loyal to Blair (TB) often at the expense of his own health and well-being. There is nothing new here. The events described in this book have been the carrion of the political journalists for a decade and it feels like what it is 'old news'. What this book describes perfectly is the emotional turmoil that raged behind the ruthlessly choreographed labour machine through some of the most momentous events of the Blair years.
A compelling read and even better delivered by Campbell himself in this audio format. For any armchair politician this is a must
The nature of a diary is that the context is not explained, and in the long term this will be this book's downfall. For this is fascinating stuff as long as you can recall what the story of the day was all about.
Surprising who came out well and who badly sometimes but the candour is refreshing and the author reads his tale well, with an urgency sometimes that really makes you feel you are seeing a story unfold.
A wise man once said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this book proves this. It tries to explain why each decision, good or bad, was the lesser of two evils, but of course it would, wouldn't it.
My main criticism however, is not a political one, but that the author reads the whole book in a bored monotone, and by the sound of it, in desperate need of a glass of water.
The book itself however, gave a fascinating, if naturally one sided insight into how the British government was run for a decade.
What a disappointment - rather than an interesting delve into the early days of Spin and the Blair government we're treated to a monotone moaning of a self centred man. Even the history making and emotional movements such as the death of Diana are turned into a glib egocentric bullet points.
Save your money/credit.
"Better heard than read"
A great perspective on the power and management of the press in the UK. Campbell's voice adds a great deal to interpreting parts of this, so listen rather than read. Great for American readers for perspective on Bush, Iraq, Clinton. While Princess Di was interesting, nothing new to add to that story. One of my favorite Audio reads this year.
"A wonderful travel through recent history"
Though I dont ususally go for political biographys I heard a very favorable recommendation for this book in a podcast (TWiT) which got me curious enough to listen to the sample. In 2 mins I was hooked (try it). A travel around the world during the Blair years in the form of a political diary narrated by the author, Alastair Campbell, whose style takes you right along on a trip of a sort that you are not likely to experience in any other way. Go behind the scenes to a group of young men who finally get their chance to run a country. Go behind hte scenes to Princess Dianas death, Bill Clinton and Monica, the negotiations to unify Ireland, Prince Charles and his organic produce, the Royal family and Buckingham palace, Elton John and Stevie Wonder-scandals and questionable loans- a cast of hundreds! One of those books you cant put down. Couldn't stop listening. Very highly recommended.
"a very personal insight into Blair's New Labour"
I am a big fan of autobiographies read by their authors. The tone of voice and manner of speaking gives you a chance to learn something more about the author and his experiences than is possible from the words alone. As one of the other reviewers mentioned, Campbell reads with a Yorkshire accent that sounds quite cold and flat, but that might give a sense of his personality and the excerpts from his diaries are a gripping insight into the rise of Tony Blair's New Labour. A leading political journalist who served as Blair's chief media strategist, Campbell was at the heart of the work in Downing Street between 1997-2000. He gives his frank personal impressions of leading figures of the day including public figures in the UK and US, as well as insights into UK government strategy and his personal experience of the all consuming life of senior politicians and their advisors. He seems to have had an unusually clear understanding of how to use simple concepts to communicate through the media, as well as strategies for controlling the development of stories and how government policies would be understood by the public. This is probably what made him one of Blair's closest advisers. It is an insightful account. My only thought is that because these are excerpts, and move from key event to key event, they are probably missing insight into the calmer days between crises. Campbell also says that he held back material that might have made life harder for Gordon Brown or damaged the Labour Party.
"Too much British politics"
Unless you know the players and are close to british politics this book is a hard listen. Author uses lot of initials and does a poor job explaining all the characters he is refering to and this made it very difficult to follow along.
The material may be interesting but the audiobook is dreadfully let down by awful & boring oration; worse still, by the author himself !
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