At long last, I’ve finished this biography, and what an excellent biography it is!
From 1997—2007, Tony Blair served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, after a historic election that saw the first Labour Party victory over the Conservative Party in eighteen years. After this remarkable time in Number 10 Downing Street, Blair has retired from political life but remains active in working for the vision that he came to acquire.
In comparison with George Bush’s biography (which can be seen as a companion piece of sorts to this one), you really get a sense that Blair writes the way he speaks—he strikes a balance between justifying his views philosophically and appealing to the emotional side as well, an effect that carried through in his major speeches. And he hits these points again and again and again until you find yourself wanting to vote for the guy. As the British would say, he’s “Quite the articulate fellow, really.”
Very much in the standard biography format, he goes through all of the issues that defined his time in office—from the requisite multiple chapters on the Iraq War to his efforts to modernize the British welfare state to issues unique to British politics, such as his complicated relationship with Gordon Brown, the harrowing terror of the weekly Prime Ministers’ Questions, and EU integration.
But it isn’t all stump-style discussion—he keeps a cinematic feel going with images of the 2000 millennium celebrations, laughing and bro-ing it up with the other G8 leaders, strolling around the grounds of Chequers with his glass of wine, and receiving a standing ovation from Parliament on his last day.
Ten years in Downing Street does quite a bit to hone your knowledge of life, and Tony Blair certainly writes about quite a bit of it, as my many dog-eared and highlighted pages attest.
I really do get quite a different feel after finishing this biography, and in some ways I found it more satisfying than “Decision Points” (but that’s probably because I’m not as familiar with the world of British politics). A very interesting observation in this book came up during a section on handling British media criticism during the 2005 election. Even though many profoundly disagreed with Blair especially on foreign policy, they still voted for him simply because they appreciated strong, decisive leadership.
The following may have been my favorite paragraph:
“Somehow the human spirit always finds ways to adapt. I don’t mean that having a tough time as prime minister ever remotely compares with the truly tough times many people suffer, and suffer heroically. I just mean that in a position of leadership, normal human being though you are, you discover under pressure that extraordinary inner instinct to survive. It may be unpleasant, but you still have to get up in the morning, dress, eat, drink, bathe. You have to go on living. You have to find meaning in doing so. To me, by then, the only meaning was in being true to myself. I might be in a minority of one, but it would be a one I believed in.”
Maybe the British monkeys would like to weigh in on how they viewed him, but I’d be honored to have a leader like Tony Blair, especially now. I didn’t agree with everything he wrote, but what character. What nobility. What British-ness.
Read up, monkeys!
Monkey’s Review 1: Barbarians At the Gate
Monkey’s Review 2: The Financier
Monkey’s Review 3: Decision Points
Monkey’s Review 4: Debunkery
Monkey’s Review 5: When Genius Failed
Monkey’s Review 6: Monkey Business
Monkey’s Review 7: Death Of The Banker
Monkey’s Review 8: A Journey
Monkey’s Review 9: Damn It Feels Good To Be A Banker
Monkey’s Review 10: The Quants
Monkey’s Review 11: All About Hedge Funds
Monkey’s Review 12: The Unlikely Disciple
Monkey’s Review 13: Adventure Capitalist
Monkey’s Review 14: The Hedge Fund Book
Monkey’s Review 15: Investing In Hedge Fund of Funds
Monkey’s Review 16: Hilarity Ensues
Monkey’s Review 17: The Prince
Monkey’s Review 18: Markets Never Forget (But People Do)
Monkey’s Review 19: The Money Culture