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The political thriller of the year - UPDATED WITH A DEVASTATING NEW CHAPTER ON THE CHILCOT INQUIRY 'Excellent' Sunday Times 'Devastating' Daily Mail When Tony Blair became prime minister in 1997, he was, at forty-three, the youngest to hold that office since 1812. With a landslide majority, his approval rating was 93 per cent and he went on to become Labour's longest-sThe political thriller of the year - UPDATED WITH A DEVASTATING NEW CHAPTER ON THE CHILCOT INQUIRY'Excellent' Sunday Times'Devastating' Daily MailWhen Tony Blair became prime minister in 1997, he was, at forty-three, the youngest to hold that office since 1812. With a landslide majority, his approval rating was 93 per cent and he went on to become Labour's longest-serving premier. So what went wrong? With unprecedented access to more than 180 Whitehall officials, military officers and politicians, Tom Bower has uncovered the full story of Blair's decade in power. He has followed Blair's trail from his resignation, since which he has built a remarkable empire advising tycoons and tyrants. The result is the political thriller of the year, illuminating the mystery of an extraordinary politician who continues to fascinate to this day....

Title : broken vows tony blair the tragedy of power
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ISBN : 29390672
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Number of Pages : 688 Pages
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broken vows tony blair the tragedy of power Reviews

  • Athan Tolis
    2018-10-22 18:48

    This is a 594 page book.It was, for lack of a better word, a bad book. Thank God I’m done with it.I’m not sure who the intended audience is. I read the FT every day, thoroughly, and I follow the politics closely and have lived in the UK since 1992. I listen to Radio 4 and used to make an effort to watch the 9 o’clock news (now the 10 o’clock news). I vote in local elections, Tory for mayor and Lib Dem for everything else.With the best intentions on earth, I completely lost track of what's what. So if the author was making an effort to keep a reasonably well-informed and very interested anti-Labour reader with him, 600 pages did not suffice for him to weave some sort of narrative that would allow me to keep track of some of the main characters, policies, ideas, anything.Not that Tony Blair, the subject matter of the book, makes this easy. The book is a history of the travails of the 4 ministers in charge of Health, the 5 ministers in charge of Education, the 7 who had a go at Immigration, the 3 who were ignored in the Foreign Office, the sundry permanent secretaries, gurus, press officers, confidantes, generals, admirals, spies and fixers he went through in his ten years in 10 Downing Street, his refusal to protect his closer lieutenants, his special relationship with George Bush, his not-so-special relationship with Gordon Brown and, of course, IRAQ.Regardless, no narrative emerges, no thread. And the author has barely a good word to say for anyone. Statistically speaking, one or two of the main 50 characters in this tragedy must have been OK guys, but no, not here. Reid comes across as handy; a "safe pair of fists." That gave me a laugh.If the intention was to prove that it was chaos and the manner to convey the chaos was to plunge the reader in 600 pages of chaos, then mission accomplished.I totally despise Tony Blair, but at some point I did find myself thinking “well, the guy won the election on the premise that he will meet the Tories halfway, why is the entire Labour party refusing to listen,” or alternatively “he’s spending all this money on schools and hospitals and teachers and doctors and administrators, how awful that the results are not coming,” or “damn that tight-fisted Gordon Brown,” but I did have to do it over the author’s heckling about immigration and a 40% debt/GDP (give us a break, bud, that was the lowest in the G20) and I got the feeling the book’s whole point is to confuse you to the point where you feel you’re surfing along with a God-fearing Chauncey Gardner who talks big enough a game bring his party into power, only for them to make a dog’s dinner of the opportunity and in a bout of frustration starts a war in the Middle East to get away from it all.So I was starting to think there was method in the madness, and then on page 571 I lost all faith in any detail the author provides when JP Morgan banker Ian Hannam is described as “mining diamonds in Sierra Leone.” Ian Hannam may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but he’s a pretty straight guy, he was one of the SAS who stormed the Iranian Embassy back in the day and he later in life had the guts to take on the might of the FCA and judging from the rest of the book would probably very much be to the author’s liking if Tom Bower had bothered to check.And all that’s fine. But get the bloody name straight. It’s Ian Hannam, not Hamman.I did not mind too much that the author is bigoted (we all have our faults) or that he has an axe to grind. I don’t’ mind that Blair’s success in Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement is not covered here. I’m rather prejudiced myself in my feelings against Tony Blair, besides. But I got nothing out of this book, especially now that I know I cannot trust the sundry juicy stories about his post-premiership sell-out. It’s a slapped-together mess with no beginning, no middle and no end. The conclusion to this 594 page tome takes up less than a page!Bottom line, if I did not like this book, I have no idea who will. Perhaps somebody who knows all the detail and wants to have some fun guessing who served what angle to the author. If that does not describe you, stay away.

  • Kieran
    2018-11-08 22:47

    Think what you will of Tony Blair. He had many failings, and the chapters on his post-premiership activities were insightful and damning.But, I can't believe that in 10 years in office, he got absolutely nothing right. The book presents his entire premiership as one disastrous day after another, with no redeeming features. These bits were not history or biography. They were moaning, and tediously repetitive moaning at that.

  • Michael Gilbride
    2018-11-12 19:33

    Watching democracy in action always gives me a kick. I was seventeen when Blair and New Labour swept all before them in that magnificent landslide in 1997. Blair was young, articulate and in touch with the times. Ten years of governing would change that completely but Bower failed to capture the zeitgeist at the time. To be fair, Bower was honest about his intentions in writing his biography "he won three successive elections...and that meant he was successful. But, for others, there is a difference between success at the polls against weak opponents and success in government". “Broken promises” is a critical review of Blair, backed up with painstaking research and interviews with over two-hundred civil servants that worked with him. Although, disappointingly, he did not interview any of the key players or top aides. Once you accept the type of biography Bower set out to write, it is a valuable one to read, yet it is far from the fairest or most objective portrait of Blair.
It is fascinating, and unfair, reading Bower's biography after Brexit. The problem with history books is that it is always easier to contextualise after the event. Nonetheless, it is not difficult to see how Blair's policy on immigration, or lack thereof, resulted in the UK's subsequent departure from Europe. "We need immigration, it is not an issue - even the Daily Mail isn’t talking about it", said Blair. This failure to foresee that turning on the taps of uncontrolled immigration would result in an obvious backlash was misguided. Blair's comment also revealed how he used the media perception of him to decide whether or not he was taking the correct course of action.
The Home Office took advice from several people who agreed with their open doors policy, including Sarah Spencer, of whom Bowers wrote, “her assumption that the British would unquestionably accept hundreds of thousands of migrants was underpinned by the BBC's general categorisation of critics of immigration as racist, which had censored public debate". Blair banked on this sentiment and believed, like Spencer, that it was necessary to hold a certain "disdain (for) white Britain’s glorification of British history and identity. British society could be transformed, she hoped, by relaxing the home offices immigration controls".
This was the initial Labour strategy, if you could call it that, and it continued after the 2001 election when Blunkett replaced Straw. After blaming him for not doing a whole lot, Blunkett continued in the same vein. Labour had targeted a level of immigration of 100,000 in 2001 but 500,000 came in. As Europe expanded, so too did the number of countries that would be allowed into the free movement area.  Britain had a chance to add some elements of control but New Labour was more worried about the optics of “being good Europeans” and continued with their strategy.
Commenting on the 350,000 immigrants that had arrived in 2004, Blunkett remarked on Newsnight that “there is no obvious upper limit on immigration”. More evidence that their strategy remained unaltered. Bower highlighted how Blair occasionally discussed some anodyne, opaque aspirations on immigration but never with any clear vision of how to control it.
Blair remains proud of his legacy in education to this day, but Bower argued that a lot of what Blair deemed good results were achieved by spinning the facts to make the results better than the reality. In 2005, the OECD released a report that identified that England had fallen from 13 to 22 in the education rankings. Campbell spun the report to within an inch of its life. It was Bower's assessment that Blair and New Labour prioritised the quick fix that Blair could sell with a cheap soundbite over any long-lasting strategy.
When Blair built a plethora of Muslim faith schools because they were a cheaper alternative to the expensive, multidenominational state schools, he was informed of the risk that creating areas where immigrants would not mix together cohesively would have. He pushed on and refused to contemplate any downside.
Blair was an admirer of the so-called “Third Way” political philosophy. The benefits of which were obvious as Blair cherry-picked the best parts from the right and left and moulded them into an effective policy, thereby pleasing the majority of non-ideologically motivated people. The drawback was that Blair did not stand for anything concrete and frequently changed policy. Blair often referred to the innate “belief” that he had. “I only know what I believe" he would utter. Bower also alleged that he was not well educated on pre-1939 history and painted a picture of an uneducated leader who frequently acted according to his “feelings” on key issues. As he had no moral ideology, he increasingly relied upon what he believed was his innate sense of what he knew to be the right course of action, even when confronted with evidence that contradicted his beliefs. When it was put to him that invading Iraq would contravene International law, he said, “there are many views on International Law”. This indicated the worst of Blair - spinning objective facts to suit his own beliefs. It also highlighted how his somewhat postmodern mindset in that he did not think that International Law, or any law, was completely objective or immutable. He did not believe in objective truth. The postmodern denial of belief in overarching narratives suited his lack of ideology.
Blair did not fund the British army adequately at any stage during his time as Prime Minister which was at odds with how he saw Britain in the world. He wanted to increase Britain's involvement on the global stage. He irresponsibly ignored members of his own defence cabinet, who had informed him that the soldiers in the British army “lacked the necessary body armour”. Bower highlighted how Blair lied during his testimony at the Chilcot hearings when he said that money was never an issue and remains mystified as to why this lie was not more rigorously followed up on.
His philosophy on foreign policy borrowed from the right and he liked the Edmund Burke maxim about evil flourishing when good men do nothing. Indeed, he repackaged this for a speech that he gave.  He saw himself as Churchill and not Chamberlain. Before the disaster in Iraq, Blair was instrumental and persuasive in stopping Milosevic slaughtering civilians in Kosovo. Or as Bower disingenuously put it, “He had taken a gamble and won”. This is proof of Bower's lack of objectivity as he just put his successes down to luck. Foreign Policy is extremely complex. The world has been guilty of standing by and watching atrocities like that in the Balkans take place. That he was successful there was to his credit.
Bower believed that Blair used the moral authority that he had by then acquired with the initial "victory" in Kosovo to validate future foreign policy excursions. When the British army managed to prevent a civil war in Sierra Leone in 2000, this further bolstered him that his “belief” system was right. There are some revealing insights into Blair’s psyche post 9/11 and pre Iraq war. Bowers quoted Christopher Meyer, “he was more Neocon than the Americans!" Blair glibly ignored Middle East experts Peter Rickett’s and Michael William's advice that Saddam Hussein was the only thing holding the Sunni and Shia divide together, saying “that is the past, not the future”. There was something very arrogant about the way that Blair disinvited Richard Wilson and David Omand from meetings that involved Iraq. Wrote Bower, "Blair’s position was unprecedented. No other British Prime Minister had planned to start a war while distrusting his Chief of Defence, the Permanent Secretary at the MOD, the Cabinet Secretary, the Foreign Minister, the Defence Secretary and most of his Cabinet".
Blair chose to ignore the increasing evidence that Saddam had no WMD’s. Nigel Inkster, then of MI6, flew to Jordan and reported, categorically, that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Once again, Blair acted on his belief and said that he “felt the hand of fate on his shoulder”. Strangely, leaders in the UN, France and Germany did not "feel" the same way.
During the Iraq war, with the army stretched to breaking point, Blair sent troops into Afghanistan. This was after Blair had ignored a plea for an extra three thousand more troops to help the worsening situation in Iraq from Walker. Again, he did not heed the advice from his generals and pushed on with what he believed was right. The intervention in Afghanistan did not even have an objective and there were some shocking reports of the army not knowing how prevalent the Taliban were in certain districts. In some ways, it seemed more chaotic than Iraq. There was no vision, plan or exit strategy. £38 billion was spent and 400 British servicemen were needlessly killed. Doubtless, Blair's previous success in Kosovo had emboldened him. The Iraq War was the epitome of how his lack of a moral compass got him into trouble. To me, violence is only ever justified in a defensive capacity. Therefore, Kosovo was justified after the horrible ethnic cleansing at Srebrenica. However, this was not the case in Afghanistan or Iraq and both of these wars were illegal and unjust.
Most independent observers would admit that the NHS was left in a substantially better condition in 2007 than in 1997 and whilst Bower did not outright deny this, he was reluctant to acknowledge it. His logic was that Blair changed tactics and key personnel multiple times which destabilised the department. Furthermore, he concluded that what Blair really did was to throw more money at the problem and it was this and not the reforms that really improved the service. Bower reflected on how the soundbite was always more important for Blair. Essentially he was a salesman who wanted to show what he was doing. It is an interesting critique and brings to mind the wise words of Rosa Luxembourg, “The most revolutionary thing that one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening”. Bower does not seem to give Blair any credit for this. He does not acknowledge that Blair’s real genius was in his ability to clearly articulate what was happening.
Whilst in power, Blair spoke about ridding the world of despotic tyrants which is a noble aim. Why, then, did he cosy up to them for his own financial gain after he left his post as Prime Minister? Bower does an excellent job of highlighting Blair as a hypocritical opportunist. Shockingly, Blair had advised Cameron to let Gaddafi into Britain when he was looking for refuge after the Libyan people had revolted against him. Blair gave Nazarbayev, the vicious Kazak autocrat, advice on how to manage the press after his regime murdered fourteen of his own people in the Zhanaozen massacre. In 2013, he suggested removing Assad from power, and then in 2014, he changed his mind and said the West should work with him. Backing Gaddafi, Assad and Nazarbayev was not a good look and it also made a mockery of Blair's grandstanding about removing Hussein because he was a brutal dictator. It was not really surprising that he had no qualms about doing business with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait either. As Bower pointed out, when it came to lining his own pockets, morality did not come into the equation for Blair.
When he started his role as peace envoy between Israel and Palestine, Blair said to the British consulate in Jerusalem, "I’ve solved Ireland. This is just another problem”, displaying a stunning mix of arrogance and ignorance. When he wore a yarmulke to the funeral of Shimon Peres, he discarded any vestiges of impartiality and incensed the Palestinians. Bowers unearthed that Blair had spent £25m on property whilst setting up numerous legal and financial ruses to stop the public learning exactly how much he was earning.
Bower dismisses the positives of Blair’s time as Prime Minister. He did not discuss Britain’s economic growth under Blair, which grew at an average of 1.4% for ten consecutive years. Doubtless, Blair should not be entitled to claim all the credit for that but it seems a little unfair not to mention it as they outstripped the growth of the other G6 nations during this time and were a benchmark in steady economic growth. Blair’s legacy will most likely not be as negative as is portrayed in “Broken Promises” nor as positive as the one that he likes to spin himself. The truth is somewhere in the middle ground that Blair loved to occupy. It remains a pity that Bower could find it although, as of 2017, Blair's legacy appears like it will borrow more from the right than the left and follow Enoch Powell's assessment that all political careers end in failure.

  • Chris Leslie
    2018-10-25 19:38

    A lot of this review is so I can hold on to my thoughts down the line: I'm quite new to politics and I wanted to understand Blair's place in the narrative. So it's quite lengthy. But please read by all means if you're interested in my thoughts!I have little doubt that most of the stuff in here is broadly true, otherwise Blair would surely have sued. But I have numerous issues which, in the end, stopped me taking the book too seriously.I don't think Bower is the best person to write this biography. There's no pretence of objectivity, and quite often he makes judgemental statements without evidence to back them up (see this review from the London Review of Books for more on this, as well as a mention of Bower's factual innaccuracies: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n07/david-ru...).The picture of Blair that emerges is a borderline psychopath: narcissistic, insubstantial, lacking in empathy and full of empty charisma. The picture of his government that emerges is farcical and satirical. Perhaps these two portrayals are accurate - I have no evidence to say otherwise, and Bower certainly interviewed a lot of insiders. My problem was that the book often betrayed something that seemed like a vendetta. At one point Bower describes Blair's banter with Alistair Campbell, recounting how Blair paraded around shirtless in No.10 saying, "Not many Prime Ministers have a body like this." I actually thought this was mildy endearing and pretty much reflected the humour shared by many friends, but in the context of the book it's clear that Bower simply wants to make Blair look even more ridiculous than he is rendered by the portrayals of chaos in Blair's professional life. I found these instances unnecessary and distracting.Bower often describes Blair's thought process, putting his thoughts in quotation marks as if they can be reproduced verbatim ('That's very strange,' thought Blair). This was another factor that stopped me taking the book entirely seriously.He also makes assertions which may be true, but were undermined by my lack of confidence in him as a biographer due to the above niggles. He asserts that Blair was the politician who was primarily responsible for the erosion of the public's trust in politicians. I was a bone headed teenager at the time of Blair's premiership, so I can't really speak from experience, and perhaps this is true - certainly Blair's chicanery around Iraq and his deployment of Campbell's spin machine could constitute depths of deception not seen before by the public? But come on - Thatcher alienated swathes of society, Eden deceived the British public about Suez, and Blair took office from a Tory government beset by sleaze. I don't know if Blair can be said to have been the sole culprit for the lack of trust we now have in officials, and let's face it, there's been plenty of corruption and conflicts of interest under the governments that followed his.I was annoyed that there was very little said about the peace agreement in Northern Ireland. Wasn't this one of Blair's big achievements? I wanted to know more about this, but I didn't find it in here, and my respect for Bower's integrity decreased as a result.My final criticism of Bower (and one which, admittedly, might be a little unfair) is that sometimes he chides Blair for not having an ideology to define domestic policy, and equally sometimes he chides him for allowing ideology to impinge too much on foreign policy. Perhaps Bower's belief is that a firm ideology is necessary in domestic policy but pragmatism should guide foreign policy? Either way, it did make me think about whether ideology is actually a good and necessary thing for a politician. George Osborne seemed to have a steadfast, inflexible belief in a shrinking state which resulted in the austerity which (in my opinion) was unhelpful and damaging to our country. My belief, for the moment, is that I would rather have a politician who appealed to the middle ground and didn't allow ideology to get in the way of what needs to be done.Despite all of my reservations about Bower, it would take an obstinately reverent view of Blair to deny the book's fundamental representation of his administration. He eschewed consultation with his cabinet, and managed to sidestep the checks and balances in executive government which in theory are supposed to safeguard against someone assuming too much individual power. I was astonished to see how the advice of ministers, civil servants and military chiefs could be either disregarded or never given a chance to reach the prime minister's office at all. I also had no idea how powerful the Treasury could be, and I had no idea of the extent to which Gordon Brown was allowed to hamstring Blair. I was consistently shocked to see how Brown would deliberately undermine Blair, using the press to portray him in an unfavourable light. Ultimately, Brown fell into line on some issues to preserve party unity, for instance during the votes on top up fees (as far as I remember - it certainly happened on a crucial vote around that time). But it made me angry that a party could allow infighting and personal ambitions to get in the way of preserving a strong adniminstration to lead the country.I don't think many people can argue too much with Bower's portrait of Blair as a man unable and/or unwilling to wrestle with fine details. More often than not, he seemed bored by discussions about details and complexities, preferring simply to concentrate on fairly vague visions for each ministry. This lack of detailed understanding seemed to be hidden from the public by two things: the spin machine of Alistair Campbell, and Blair's skill as an orator. A picture emerges of a politician lacking in substance.And yet, while Bower clearly paints this aspect of Blair as negative, I think he's being slightly disingenuous about his expectations of a prime minister. Bower consistently savages Blair for not reading documents, but it seems to me that there simply isn't time and space for a PM to become deeply ingrained in pages and pages of reports, rather than asking civil servants to summarise the main points of these documents as was Blair's practice. One of the main criticisms of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister was the length of time he would take to make any decision, large or small, because he insisted on examining minutiae and trying to micro manage issues below his pay grade. Labour MPS were heard to complain that the machinery of government seemed to be grinding to a halt. To me, a leader supplies the vision and strategy; I can't bring myself to believe that this hasn't occurred to Bower, who has also written a biography of Brown. Across politics, the more cerebral characters are generally not best deployed in leadership roles, as far as I can see, and I would be surprised if Bower really believed the opposite was true.There's lots to say about Iraq, but mainly, the ground covered is the same as that covered by previous commentators. The dossiers which were sent back to John Scarlett with requests for changes in order that they could be sold to the public, the warnings about chaos in Iraq which went unheeded, Blair's determination to be involved despite Rumsfeld's open admission that UK support wasn't even particularly important. There's loads to say on this issue, but it's all been said.Anyway, this is everything I wanted to get down about this book. Ultimately I am glad I read it, but my rating is based on the fact that Bower's approach is extremely irritating, sometimes unhelpful and ultimately hard to trust entirely.

  • Meg
    2018-10-30 19:36

    An excellent book. Of course, Labour supporters are bound to rubbish it, to try and hide the inadequacy of their leaders, Blair and Brown! Longing to see how much of this is covered in the Chilcott report which is due to be published!Not a comprehensive assessment of the Blair years; for instance, many of the colourful personalities like John Prescott are barely mentioned. Nonetheless v good on education, immigration, military failures etc. Shocking how Blair apparently ignored important issues out of ignorance or the lack of a good headline! And how inadequate some of his advisors and ministers were, ignoring or actively acting against the civil service safeguards designed to avoid bad government! And the Blair/Brown relationship was so dysfunctional it could only be described as horrific!

  • Mr R M Davies
    2018-10-28 19:32

    Fascinating but UnfairI enjoyed reading this book and found the Labour back story and workings of the government machine fascinating. I thought the book both unfair and biased. The NL government achieved a lot of good things under TB and his colleagues and admittedly got things wrong. That's said the book had me gripped to the end.

  • Robin
    2018-11-10 22:26

    I am interested that so many reviews refer to this book as being 'well researched'. With never a footnote or citation in the four and a half chapters I read I wonder how anyone knows the level of research. Rather than an academic approach to an extremely important era and person where particular standards of research are required, this is a journalist's 'investigation' and reiteration of opinion. This is a valid piece of work, nevertheless. After all, 'people are entitled to their opinion'. However, it stands in a very different place from accounts from researchers and writers who feel compelled to verify their statements. That being said, I found the book interesting, but sadly repetitive in its desire to blacken a long period of Labour Government after the end of the long and, for some, devastating Tory Government. One wonders why this is the case. To underestimate the people who voted for the Blair Government is remarkably arrogant. It is not good enough for the writer to claim he was one of them. Voters are not the fools suggested by the tossing around of the claim that 'spin' was the winning feature of the three elections won by Blair and his ministers - more competent than this writer would have one believe. The writer's sycophantic attitude to the civil service is a feature which bears investigation, together with the claim that civil servants are there to 'make policy'. This is surely the prerogative of the elected government. People vote because they would like to see the Labour or Tory manifesto enacted, not to continue with policies churned out by non-elected officials. Why would a newly elected government blindly trust a civil servant? Why shouldn't a minister question whether particular officers suit his or her approach to a portfolio? Running though the chapters I read was a belief that ministers did not know their portfolios, were uninterested in reading briefings and didn't understand their role. Is there evidence that the government was entirely shambolic? If so, it did not appear in the part of the book I read. I didn't bother to read any more than the sample I ordered on kindle. It seemed to me that it would only be more of the same and I prefer to read material that is , indeed, 'well researched' with supporting evidence.

  • Harry Lewis
    2018-11-03 17:33

    This is not a 'good' book, per se. As previous reviews have mentioned, the idea that in 13 years in government, New Labour did precisely nothing right is preposterous, and the impressions that Bower leaves of key figures in the Government - especially Gordon Brown - are no doubt exaggerated. The clear bias of the book would be acceptable if there was actually a narrative line, with Bower consistently giving his opinion, but this happens rarely and Broken Vows suffers as a result. Even though it is written in the style of an objective and unbiased political memoir, there are moments where Bower jumps from one subject to another without warning or even a simple double paragraph break, as well as random details shoehorned in the middle of an unrelated chapter as if there were nowhere else to fit them. As with many other accounts of governments and political campaigns, there are sometimes too many special advisers and minor politicians introduced and subsequently only referred to by their surname.That said, the book is not entirely without use. Bower provides a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the moments leading up the Iraq War, and a good summary of Tony Blair's little-recorded life after leaving Downing Street. Read in conjunction with a more positive account of the New Labour years - Blair's memoirs, say, or Alistair Campbell's diaries - Broken Vows may well be of some analytical usefulness. Yet what holds it back as a standalone book is the clear agenda its author has to discredit not only Blair, but almost every key figure in his government.

  • Keen
    2018-11-20 19:38

    “I think that most people who have dealt with me think I’m a pretty straight sort of guy- and I am.” Were Blair’s words after he and his party were caught in the first of many examples of lies and deception, this one being the £1 million donation from Bernie Ecclestone, who was wanting preferential treatment regarding the banning of cigarette advertising in sport. Blair did what he does best when questioned about it, he "denied any wrong doing".This book started off really well, but with the main body being 594 pages long, I’d say that without doubt, it would have benefited from more ruthless editing. I’m not sure that I can believe that Blair is as bungling and incompetent as he is made out here, but one thing is for certain, he was clearly a man who was well out of his depth from the start, and clearly not equipped to do the job. The stories of the Blair’s moving from number 10 to 11 Downing Street are pure slapstick and are straight out of a poorly acted BBC sitcom.Bower has clearly done a phenomenal amount of research, and Blair cuts a forlorn and pitiful figure here, which I suppose is the author’s intention. In terms of capability and intelligence he often comes across more Trump than Churchill. He consistently proved to be remarkably ignorant on a whole number of subjects when trying to lead his party and the country, often surprising many of his own people at how out of touch he was. In saying that, I think there is a lot of misleading, emotional colouring here and I am a little dubious by the lack of named sources, for instance how can Bowyer possibly know of the books that Blair has and has not read?...Where is the evidence?...Why does he not cite it?...This is just one example, there are many situations and examples where he seems capable of reading Blair’s thoughts, but without anything to back it up. This book doesn’t make any pretence at balance and too often this has the tone of a snobby right wing, Daily Mail hack with a worrying obsession with Labour’s immigration policy. At times it also reads like a supermarket, tabloid magazine with some of the gossip. Too many of the main figures are reduced to one dimensional caricatures and no one comes out of this looking respectable. In terms of Blair and his cronies corruption and lies, we are spoilt for choice, there were many dubious subjects to rise from his time in power, from cash for honours, to two catastrophically failed wars. The constant tension between Blair and Brown and the many problems that lead to elsewhere were certainly not helpful to anyone apart from their critics and opponents. It all started off so well, heaving with so much promise and expectation and if we are to believe this Blair and his intentions were mostly good ones, but my oh my how it all went so horribly wrong. The facts around Iraq are just incredibly hard to fathom, in spite of Admiral Boyce’s speech declaring that, “Bombing would not defeat terrorism but would radicalise the Muslim world against the West. A conventional invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, he added, would fail to win ‘hearts and minds’ and would drag on for the next ten years. ‘The world cannot afford non-states, black-hole states or failed states because such states breed terrorism.”Being Prime minister cannot be an easy job, but then there are plenty of other jobs out there that are a lot more difficult and don’t offer the same rewards, scope for corruption or lucrative posts to take up when it finishes. Jobs like that don’t tend to attract the most pleasant or likeable types and the people who end up getting there, tend to be greedy, egotistical power hungry types with a questionable mental state. One of the great problems about having the job, is when all is said and done to them it really is just a job, and you can get away with far more than mere civilians elsewhere can. People like Blair who are responsible for the mess can and do just walk away into another immensely over rewarded sinecure posts elsewhere, meanwhile everyone else in the real world is left to deal with the lasting consequences of their incompetent and damaging actions as shown by Cameron last year who ran away and left others to clean up his mess too. The leaders of English speaking countries don’t need to worry about the law, it simply doesn’t apply to them in the same way. It remains to be seen what it would take for a law breaking leader to be put in jail?...They are like spoilt children in that they are immune from dealing or taking the consequences of their actions, whether it’s committing perjury, overthrowing and murdering democratically elected leaders of other countries, repeatedly lying to the public, bombing innocent civilians and being a war criminal are clearly not enough. Instead they receive a slap on the wrist as they hide behind rictus grins and pseudo charm till it all dies down and then they can get on with making their millions on various circuits.Some hail Blair as “the most successful Labour leader in history.” I suppose it depends how you choose to define and measure success. He won three successive elections, but then look at the hapless candidates he was up against in the Tory party. Blair developed such an inflated ego that he was able to act with such breath taking arrogance and impunity with regards to what happened in his Asian wars. He wanted a legacy, well I wonder what he thinks when he looks at his legacy, his illegal wars and the killing of thousands of innocent people is now being reaped in the streets and venues up and down the country from Glasgow, Manchester and London. Where is the man responsible for creating this hatred?...Travelling first class around the world, making millions as he squirms between various dictators and unsavoury billionaires. We in the UK laugh at the likes of Russia for their version of democracy, but then who has more blood on their hands Putin or Blair?...

  • Tarleton
    2018-11-16 21:19

    Bower asserts that some kind of mythical promise was broken when Blair came to power although I’m not really sure if this is true. After all, a politician who sells himself like a brand of shampoo and turns out to be disreputable and ineffective, should come as no surprise. The only surprise is that the people would vote for such a man in the first place.Nevertheless, it happened and Blair’s brand of ‘third-way’ politics took hold. His priorities were as narrow as his convictions, focussing on very narrow policy objectives which were repeated like a mantra and packaged like a consumer product thanks to a pliant press.The book would have been on steadier ground had it focussed more on Blair’s corrupt relationships (the press, the banks etc) given that such issues are particularly apposite at the time of publication and the financial and moral wreckage we now find ourselves in.But no. Bower doesn’t like Blair and relies largely on his clout as a hard-hitting biographer and journalist to get the former wronged colleagues to talk, as ex-colleagues who have been wronged will. Fascinating as settling old scores in print are, a good writer should bring more substance to bear or else end up as hollow as the subject you’re reviewing.

  • Jonathan Fryer
    2018-10-28 17:27

    Tom Bower has notched up an impressive number of biographical "kills" over the years, giving us warts-and-all portrayals of big beasts in politics and the business world. Disgraced former Prime Minister Tony Blair is the latest and there is a fascinating story to tell. I never voted for his government but like many people was excited by the possibilities raised by Blair's election in 1997, particularly in relation to Britain's playing a more positive role in the European Union. But my disillusion had set in long before the disaster of the Iraq War. Tom Bower is merciless in his dissection of Blair's political skills and lack of moral compass (despite the politician's adoption of the Roman Catholic faith), and the epithet "Bliar" that was accorded Blair in retrospect seems fully justified. Following his departure from frontline politics, Blair went on to make millions from speeches and advice to some pretty despotic heads of state, and his performance as "mediator" for the Quartet relating to Israel-Palestine was pathetic and biased. This book leaves one with quite a nasty taste in one's mouth, yet Blair's inner personality remains an enigma. Or maybe he doesn't really have one.

  • Steve Parkes
    2018-10-24 21:41

    The book would have been a better read if the author hadn't jumped from one aspect of Blair's failings, of which there were many, to another with every chapter, and then back again.It was difficult to keep track of one thread without going back to remind oneself of which characters were involved in which department, education, immigration, the economy etc.It was also difficult to distinguish which of the supporting characters were civil servants and which were elected ministers.If, like me, you voted Labour in good faith only to be betrayed by 'Thatcher in a suit' Blair, the book will confirm your worst suspicions, but more continuity and structure would have helped.

  • Rachel
    2018-11-07 20:47

    I was a bit unsure about this book as its subject rather polarises opinions but I actually really enjoys it. The author is pretty fair throughout and pulls no punches saying about Blair's strengths and weaknesses. The splitting of chapters into areas of policy also worked well.

  • Alex
    2018-10-31 19:36

    The most interesting of political times documented by the most boring of books. I didn't even finish it.

  • Graham Powell
    2018-11-02 21:37

    I wouldn't want Tom Bower to write my biography! As no fan of Blair this confirms some things, but I'm sure he got it right sometimes, if not often.

  • Andy Marshall
    2018-11-01 18:44

    Very few books are a genuine ordeal to finish but this was definitely one of them. While undoubtedly well researched and extensively sourced, the book has no discernible narrative, there's little or no attempt to structure events either thematically or in any kind of analytical fashion that might offer some insight into events and the players involved. Instead it's 600 pages of "he said, she said, he said, and they were all incompetent". The result is that, by the end, the reader is just glad to be done with it but comes away with no real insight or better understanding of the subject than when they started.

  • Dan Devine
    2018-11-20 19:32

    I don't review books, but leaving this note is necessary to stop other people wasting their time and money attempting to read this. I am not at all a fan of Blair - quite the opposite. I have an intense interest in British politics, though, and with all the good reviews and the reputation of the author this seemed like a perfect buy. However, throughout, the author cherry-picks evidence, quotes, time periods and anecdotes in order to offer a withering critique of Blair. But the evidence, quotes and anecdotes often go completely unreferenced; sometimes, they're referenced but just to other opinion pieces. The book is full of anecdotes which the author could not possibly know, and are clearly there on 'creative license'. Much of the discussion on the actual workings of the Blair government fly in the face of all available evidence. Whilst this is a good balance against the many pieces which show the Blair government as a perfectly oiled machine, it is far too much the other way, and paints a picture of a government in permanent disarray. This is clearly untrue - at least, not in more disarray than other governments. What this book is is an extremely long hatchet job, based on selective evidence and often no evidence whatsoever. Those who are looking for hundreds of pages of Blair hatred will be impressed - but for anyone looking for a genuine critique of the Blair era, it will be a sore disappointment.

  • Ian Mason
    2018-11-01 16:26

    Didn't finish this one; it didn't grab me. I got about 25% thru it but it's all a bit repetitive. The thesis is that New Labour was more spin than substance. The book appears to be thorough and well-researched but maybe too much a hatchet job.

  • David Brown
    2018-11-07 00:18

    Suffused by undisguised contempt for his subject - or should that be target - this biography cum hatchet job fails to satisfy on all counts. Bower seems divided as to whether he wants to attack Blair for being an almost unaccountable visionary, imposing his will on a quiescent cabinet, or for being an uninterested bystander, unaware of the details of what is going on in his own government. Infuriated by his continuing success, which he cannot explain away, Bower fulminates but fails to convince, so unbalanced is his account. He has come to the conclusion that Blair achieved nothing in his time as leader and, 'supported' by the most underhand of journalistic tactics (the unattributed quote, literally putting words in Blair's mouth) and a succession of disillusioned public servants and senior mandarins, seeks to tear apart the legacy. Some of it is gossipy, some superficial, divided even in style - he cannot decide whether he is operating thematically or chronologically and so tries to do both, leaving only a confused mess behind him - he horribly overplays his hand and therefore misses his target. A small but important example - he refers to Tom Watson's attempt to get rid off Blair as an 'attempted coup', the same description as he used for Blair's elevation to the labour leadership in 1994! Such moral equivalence - a challenge to an elected PM by disgruntled rivals and the winning of a leadership election after the death of John Smith - speaks volumes. He seeks to tear down Blair but only succeeds in making himself seem even smaller. Not worth a read

  • Gary Biesse
    2018-11-13 20:37

    Blair is portrayed as irredeemably despicable - a politician who knew how to win elections against a tired or weak opponent, but who had no idea how to govern. If Bower is to be believed, Britain suffered an enormous decline in health, education, energy and defence. Bower also portrays the cabinet as ineffectual and Brown as a curmudgeon who refused to fund Blair's programs while spending like a drunken sailor on his own. Most of the public servants are described as either lacking the backbone to challenge bad policy and bad governance, or as people that simply ignored their political masters. How much of Bower's account is true, I don't know, but if it's only half true Britain was very badly served.The book is difficult to read at times as name after name is mentioned. I found myself frequently turning back to try to find who abc was. Perhaps a cast of characters at the beginning would have helped an unfamiliar reader. It would have also helped if numerical data was tabulated rather than presented as narrative.Nevertheless, a must read for those interested in how Blair (with Bush and Howard) created ISIS and how he laid the foundation for Brexit.

  • Jerry Green
    2018-10-25 17:31

    Fascinating but difficult to know how much to believe. Bower clearly hates Blair and so the narrative is clearly skewed towards his flaws and errors. But even allowing for that it does give some insight into the character of TB. It highlights the challenge of running a successful government when many of your colleagues are either incompetent, hate you or are opposed to your politics. It's hard to imagine any other organisation where an utterly disfunctional relationship between a CEO and FD can endure for a decade!As someone who opposed joining Bush in his Iraqi war, there is plenty here to bolster my opinion that Blair was reckless and deceitful in the methods he used to get us to go to war, negligent in his attitude towards those who put their lives at risk and ignorant and/or uncaring about the aftermath of the initial task of removing Hussein. One way or another he has blood on his hands and needlessly so.

  • Book
    2018-11-01 21:18

    „Broken Vows“, written by Tom Bower, an investigative journalist and historian, gives a clear insight into the time longest-serving Labour Party Prime Minister Tony Blair spent in Downing Street.Bower’s book is full of controversy providing the details about particular issues that had long-lasting consequences on UK and world in general – such as war on the Middle East and allowance for 2 million migrants to enter UK.Among other interesting things, author also writes about the enormous amount of money Blair earned after his resignation in 2007 dealing with controversial and autocratic leaders around the world and Blair’s connection with Wendi Deng, who is Rupert Murdoch’s former wife.Overall, Tom Bower with his „Broken Vows“ managed to deliver candid and powerful biography of man who ruled Britain politics for a decade showing why, when and what went wrong for one of the most promising politicians of 21st century.

  • Michael Macdonald
    2018-11-02 17:19

    Bower biographies are rarely kind and this is no exception. His analysis shows that the destruction of cabinet government, an over reliance on advisors lacking any experience of life outside politics and the toxic arrogance of the Brown clique turned popular enthusiasm for change into cynicism. A lack of attention to detail, fear of challenging his Chancellor and a lack of long-term strategy meant that Labour overspent and under-delivered. Sadly the shambles of fighting two wars with an army underfunded due to personal rivalry shows that the conflict between Blair and Brown produced a right-wing government that made life comfortable for the wealthy friends of both men but drowned its achievements in nauseating spin. helps understand why Labour voters turned to the populism of Farage and Corbyn

  • John Devine
    2018-11-01 16:41

    Just 50 pages in to this and finding it intensely annoying already. And not with Blair. Blair (in my opinion) started out great, gave us all such hope and did have a positive effect on most people's lives. Instead he transformed into this Shakespearean personality whose hubris and desire to be an international statesman backfires and led to his ultimate discreditation.Bower on the other hand is telling a story that clearly meets his own agenda and doesn't reflect my own experiences and has had me shouting at a book. There is one pen portrait in particular that is of a politician that I have known for decades and that I have the utmost respect for. The picture that Bower paints bears no resemblance whatsoever .JD

  • Sorrento
    2018-11-17 23:19

    Tom Bowers has written a very well researched and illuminating account of a recent prime minister who won three general elections.The book describes in detail the Blair style of government and the roles played by ministers, opposition and civil servants. Bower’s has many entertaining detailed quotes which bring to life how Blair governed Britain and led his party. There is also a lot of detail about Blair’s foreign policy, wars and interventions.Towards the end of the book Bowers describes Blair’s post prime ministerial career. Bowers overall judgement is in the sub-title-“The Tragedy of Power”.I found this an enjoyable read which gave me lots of insights into a time which I lived through. It has helped me think about and reappraise what happened.

  • Sue
    2018-10-24 21:40

    I'm a Labour supporter and this book confirmed much of what I suspected happened to Blair during his time in office. Whilst some of the claims are dubious, made more so by some of the inaccuracies in the book which I hope will be put right in any subsequent editions, it does give readers a valuable insight into the operations of government and the mistakes made by politicians who fail to recognise the necessity of an effective civil service.Worth a read.

  • Eric Grounds
    2018-11-11 17:45

    This was a really interesting read and if a fraction of what is asserted is gospel truth, it is hard to understand how Mr Blair lasted for ten years as Prime Minister. One very small question mark in my mind is the issue of accuracy, since I found a number of very small errors which good editing should have spotted and cured. But those errors do undermine the quality of the whole

  • Colby
    2018-11-11 00:44

    Daffy Duck had the word most apt to describe this man [and his wife].

  • Grant
    2018-11-20 17:48

    Totally one sided interesting insight into government and how it works and I learnt a lot of things. But so badly written and one sided made for a disappointing read