qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Yes, Prime Minister

Book Review: Servants of the People - the Inside Story of New Labour, by Andrew Rawnsley
I bought this in 2001, so it was interesting to see how it has dated. The answer to that question is, reasonably well - there's the odd pointer here to trends that have developed since, or invites accurate predictions for responses to then future events. Rawnsley begins with the halcyon days of 1997, but digs quickly into the Blair/Brown conflict with the independence of the Bank of England; Diana; the Bernie Eccleston affair; the Ethical Foreign Policy; Kosovo; Mandy (twice); the Fuel Protests and Foot and Mouth, amongst others. His verdict on the Blair-Brown team is that it generally works well, but is prone to breakdown of communications and mistrust. He identifies the regular absence of Brown whenever there is trouble as a source of conflict, a point which is tellingly accurate. Blair's other relationships are a curate's egg - over-trusting of Mandelson, neurotic about controlling the devolution process in Scotland, Wales and London, impatient with Clinton.

It's not a book of collected journalism, though it may have been better if it was. I can't point to specific sections, but the overall impression is just that the book is too long - particularly given that it now accounts for only half the time New Labour has been in government, as it does not delve post- June 2001, or into the Blair/Bush relationship. Rawnsley has the ability to write journalistic hyperbole, which can be effective, but isn't sustained in this book, so it becomes a patchy ride. There are copious endnotes, which turn out to be a disappointment, as the vast majority simply state 'private conversation'. It's an interesting, but not essential, chronicle of government between 1997 and 2001, now wearing well but clearly unfinished business.
Tags: books, politics
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