The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour Paperback – Nov 23 2010
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A devastating portrait of New Labour in power. For all the concentration on Gordon Brown's bullying, The End Of the Party is a much more complete account of New Labour than that. It is all the more devastating for it. Labour has rubbished it. But this is the best history of New Labour in power yet - and unlikely to be bettered any time soon -- Andrew Neather Evening Standard Rawnsley's book is a very good one. He's a top class political journalist who finds things out and writes them down extremely well. He has excellent sources and I don't doubt what he has written. Nor do I doubt its importance. -- Danny Finkelstein The Times It reads like a thriller -- Jeremy Vine As fine a piece of contemporary history as his previous magnum opus, Servants of the People -- Jim Pickard FT.com The detail is extraordinary -- Victoria Derbyshire Radio 5 Live Rawnsley has talked to everyone who has counted over the past ten years... A brilliant account...a sheer delight for the political connoisseur. Almost every page provides a fresh insight or piece of information not previously in the public domain... Some of his passages of description, such as the account of Gordon Brown's failure to hold a general election in 2007, or the long run-up to the Iraq War, are nothing short of masterpieces of modern political journalism -- Peter Oborne Daily Mail This engrossing book by Andrew Rawnsley, like its predecessor a decade ago, Servants of the People, has pulled together a lot of clues. Less than a week old, it already has Westminster agog with its well-sourced but roundly denied allegations Economist Andrew Rawnsley, the man who single-handedly has reignited interest in the political book...The book that brought us the 'bullygate' scandal. Go out and buy, buy, buy it now...I'm really looking forward to working my way through it -- Nick Ferrari LBC Unreservedly recommended GQ Magazine The book's authority rests on an impressive breadth of research... This lively Shakespearian account ... the most thorough, the most enjoyable and the most original book yet written about New Labour -- David Hare The Guardian I think the public perception of Gordon is accurate. Although I haven't always agreed with [Rawnsley's] interpretations, in the past they have always been broadly fair -- Ken Livingstone ...his racy, very readable new book The End of the Party. -- Richard Ingrams Independent A book that displays to the full his talents as a journalist, historian and even thriller-writer. It truly is a rip-roaring tale that provokes the reader to turn the pages to reach the next colourful episode... this book...provides us with the most authoritative account of the period so far -- Philip Webster The Times This book is a meticulously researched, authoritative and indeed devastating analysis of Tony Blair's troubled second term of government and Labour's "historic" third consecutive term... Rawnsley's retelling of familiar events is so skilful and powerful the cumulative effect remains shocking even with what we already know... Rawnsley handles the set-piece crises with aplomb, extracting every smidgen of drama but he is just as effective when analysing a landmark speech or reflecting on a theme such as Blair's uncritical championing of intelligence or flaws in Whitehall's decision-making... Flourishes of humour abound -- Christopher Silvester Express Rawnsley has established a justified reputation over the years for getting the members of the big, happy family of New Labour to sing... the monumental scale of Rawnsley's evidential base, and his journalistic mastery of the story, make this a compelling read. The End of the Party will be a bestseller -- Chris Patten Observer How accurate is he? Rawnsley says 'thousands' of confidential conversations over the years and 500 interviews specifically for this book have contributed to this account, and I believe him...The End of the Party is full of amazing revelations, and deserves to be read -- Craig Brown Mail on Sunday Rawnsley does a superb job of recounting the spleen and skullduggery that have energised and debilitated the New Labour project, and he sheds new light on the tempestuous relationship between Brown and Blair... he offers the reader a front row seat... a scintillating read -- Jonathan Wright The Herald A feast of high politics and low behaviour -- Andrew Gimson Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Andrew Rawnsley is associate editor and chief political commentator for the Observer. For many years he presented BBC Radio 4's Sunday evening Westminster Hour, and he has also made a number of highly acclaimed television documentaries.
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Top Customer Reviews
Rawnsley comes across as quite Blairite and for him other than when he details the David Kelly affair in which is he quite vitriolic about Blair's involvement, he is portrayed almost as the man who can do no wrong and when things do not turn out as they should, the finger of blame is nearly always pointed at Brown and those in his team who push him into being more extreme than he would be on his own (all of Douglas Alexander, Ed Balls, Ed Milliband and Damian McBride do not come out of this book looking good). In a chapter entitled 'the long goodbye' he details what he sees as the highlights of TB's 13 years in power:
"generous investment in health and education which reversed years of neglect of the public realm. State-funded childcare was introduced alongside the minimum wage. There was considerable redistribution, mainly the work of Chancellor, from the affluent to the poor. Tax and benefit changes since 1997 broadly raise the incomes of the poorest fifth of society. This was not enough to entirely counteract the global forces which were stretching the inequalities and the super-rich continued to pull away from every one else...he left Britain wealtheir and more diverse, but not much happier than how he found it.Read more ›
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Rawnsley shows how Blair became Bush's PR man, flying the world, lying for war. In July 2006, Blair backed Israel's attack on Lebanon. At the UN Security Council, only the British and US governments opposed the call for a ceasefire. Kofi Annan condemned Israel's `excessive use of force', inflicting `collective punishment', as a breach of the Geneva Convention. After Israeli forces had killed more than a thousand people, the US worked with France, not Britain, for a UN Resolution calling for an end to hostilities.
His Iraq war did for Blair; his economic record did for Brown. From 1997, Brown tied himself to finance capital, giving it all it wanted. He told us in June 2007 that freeing Britain's banks would bring `the beginning of a new golden age'. He praised the City's `great example' and `remarkable achievements'. In August 2008, he said of the crisis, "This will be over in six months."
Brown shares David Cameron's values and views. In June 2006, Cameron hailed `the victory of capitalism, privatisation and liberalisation'. In September 2007 he said, "the world economy is more stable than for a generation."
Brown handled the crisis by feeding public money to private greed. As Rawnsley points out, "during the frantic negotiations over the bail-out, the banks had not been nailed down to guarantee that they would sustain lending."
In January 2009, a second bail-out brought our total gifts to the banks to at least £289 billion, as against the £203 billion that the financial sector paid in taxes in the previous five years. By contrast, the government gave the car industry just £2.3 billion in January 2009.
Brown said he would not tolerate `rewards for failure' (GMTV, 8 October 2008). But he has tolerated such rewards. 89 per cent of us believe that the government should have stopped the bailed-out banks paying bonuses (Populus poll for The Times, 13 February 2009). But Labour knew better.
There are $10 trillion in tax havens, half of them under British jurisdiction. They were supposed to clean up their act or face sanctions by the end of 2009. What has Labour done about this scandal? Nothing. How about cutting them, rather than our hospitals, schools and colleges?
Labour has worshipped finance capital. It is only fitting that finance capital should wreck it. But what are we the working class going to do? Are we going to let ourselves get dragged down with the wreckage?
The reason the books are helpful is that they greatly thicken out the impressions I had gleaned from the press and other sources about how the Labour government operated. I don't normally read political stories in the papers in great detail and I learned a lot about the character and modus operandi of Blair, Brown and also Straw and Campbell from these books. For me Mandelson was always a more visible character.
The most important result of this for me was seeing Blair's good side. I have strongly disliked Blair because of what I saw has his complete mendacity over weapons of mass destruction etc. Rawnsley reveals that Blair was deeply concerned about developments in fundamentalist Islam and also Iraq going back to the late nineties. Before 9/11 he was reading and rereading the Koran to try and understand the thinking. His concern over WMD predates 9/11 as well.
The fact remains that it was crystal clear to many people (see Murray's seminal 'Murder in Samarkand' for example) that there could be no WMD before the Iraq war, and I haven't changed my mind about Blair as far as the war was concerned; but he had reasons to seek stories he could believe in which justified his stance. He was in fact a committed neocon. Bush didn't have to work on him and he was committed to invading Iraq, if that was what Bush wanted at least twelve months before it happened. The neocon doctrine was fundamentally about having a political/military base in the near East to keep an eye on all those dodgy mostly Islamic states which might or might not get a bomb. Even oil was secondary, it was good old fashioned world domination.
It seems virtually no-one in the cabinet, and only Jonathan Powell in the team at No 10 was in favour of the war. All the others rallied round to support Blair, whose thinking was largely kept to himself for long periods. Even Straw, despite his outward persona, was dragged into it.
Rawnsley clarifies aspects of Blair's personality: that his courage was awesome, once he had made his mind up, and in a crisis he quickly became able to voice his convictions and assume centre stage. However at other times he was chronically indecisive and unable to make decisions. Blair was an instinctive politician and not interested in working out all the angles. He wanted to join the euro, one fight he lost to Brown. When Brown put on a series of seminars to educate his colleagues Blair spent the whole time yawning and looking out of the window. For him it was a political matter not an economic one.
Blair also comes out well over Northern Ireland where his refusal to give in was crucial, according to all other parties it seems.
Both books detail continual rows between Brown and Blair but also and underlying, semi-conscious respect and affection. But the rows were frequently such as to make everyone else take cover, and often stopped work being done.
The last part of the book is probably fresh in our minds anyway and Brown's difficulties have so far been less dramatic than Blair's. Brown doesn't get a good press but his depth of understanding and research done on many issues and his confidence in economic crisis emerge clearly.
Overall I finished these books with a much more positive outlook on the New Labour project than I had when I started. I might even vote Labour. But I haven't changed my mind about the war.
What is perhaps both surprising and unsurprising about "End of the Party" is how Gordon Brown comes off. While Brown has never come off as "Miss Mary Sunshine", he certainly comes off a far gruffer, meaner, and more demanding behind the scenes than expected. A harsh taskmaster, he's frequently berated and demeaned staffers causing some to seek counseling. While that would hardly be unexpected in some quarters, this is 10 Downing, as one source points out in the book. And considering all that Blair and Brown went through in this period it's unsurprising that they demanded, and expected, a great deal from their staff. And in some respects, there's not a lot here that's new or that hasn't been read before. Most of what is new is the layers of detail, and the degree to which the infighting has crept into the Labour Party. And to a certain extent "End of the Party" and what it reveals may actually help Brown in his re-election fight later in 2010, as it shows him to be tough and resolute, and his skeptics and critics to be soft whiners. Rather than painting Brown as the bungler he's commonly perceived to be in public, he comes across as more of a hard man here. Were he to show that private face publicly it's likely the public would embrace him more than they have heretofore.
"End of the Party" points out how hard it is to maintain party cohesion after more than 12 years in power, and how that same party can run out of new ideas and fresh blood to carry on. While Conservatives will certainly delight in reading it, "End of the Party" is more of a cautionary tale that could just have easily been about the transition from Thatcher to Major and the same thing occurring. It seems a bit odd for Rawnsley to publish "End of the Party" without the rather fitting coda of the upcoming elections, which could lead skeptics to claim he's attempting to influence the elections. At any rate, "End of the Party" is a fun, gossipy read that covers an important epoch of British history. Rawnsley's delightful prose makes it all the more enjoyable.
I ploughed through the 679 pages of this book with ease; at times it was like reading a page-turner block-buster: so easy to read and even exciting in parts. It is fly on the wall documentary - and I felt as if I had been transported into the meeting rooms - to listen in on the converstations of the main players in the government. It was at times breathtaking.
This book is a triumph - detailing the failure of New Labour with great clarity and wit. However, it is a book of two halves: the first part deals with Tony Blair and the death throes of his final years at the helm, it is followed by Gordon Brown's ineptitude and failure to run the government.
Running through the book is the constant theme of Gordon Brown's rancorous and treacherous campaigning to obtain power and then to keep it all costs. It seemed to me that Gordon Brown was prepared to sacrifice everything to achieve his one goal of obtaining personal power. He simply used the economy to lather the situation so that it seemed as if we were doing well - to prepare a foundation for him to get the top job. We were living on credit - we never knew it and now we are paying the heavy price in a bankrupt and collapsed economy.
The first part of the book I enjoyed as I admire Tony Blair - the second part just made me angry - as Gordon Brown was so obviously ill suited to be Prime Minister - and I wondered at the intelligence of those supporting him who simply could not see it - the likes of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband.
I admire Tony Blair for his diplomatic skills, perseverance and thick skin - but his failings were all too apparent. His main weakness was the inability to be assertive with the likes of Bush and Brown; had he done so we might not have seen the wholesales collapse of the Labour Party, and the British economy.
Blair also failed to establish a succession policy - he knew that Brown would make an utterly useless Prime Minister - that he was mad, bad and dangerous - but yet he let him succeed in his quest and handed him the chalice of power. This failure to stand up to bullies was a major Blair weakness; a pathological avoidance of confrontation was a character flaw that dogged him throughout and cost him and us dearly. He was angry at the arrogance and ineptitude of the Neo-Cons like Rumsfeld, Cheyney and Paul Bremer but Blair had already lost all traction with them and we are now paying the price of a war of futility in Iraq.
Blair had a world vision whilst Bush and his cohorts had none and Blair's attempts to win them over were fruitless. Blair's charm was a double-edged sword: initially winning people over but failing to stamp authority - Bush never could take him seriously ("Yo Blair").
The section of the book that I suspected might be boring and arduous surprisingly turned out to be illuminating and interesting, and proved to me that Blair was indeed a true statesman of character and perseverance. If Blair has a legacy it is in the part he played in resolving the Northern Ireland problem. We cannot underestimate the role he played in this.
The second part of the book was difficult to read - and the utter tom-foolery of Gordon Brown just made me angry. When he came to power Brown was simply and fatally out of his depth. He had conned us all into believing he was running a steady economic ship when all along he was allowing banks to take charge. He was clueless as to the precarious foundation of sand on which the economy was built. He dithered and even more than Blair his edifice of power and authority was one of cosmetics and spin. He was a man who could not control his temper and was consumed with the love of power for its own sake. When the pressures came he was like a rabbit caught in the headlights - with no real connection with the ordinary people - emotionally constipated and sterile.
All very sad - for him and us.
This book is thoroughly entertaining and a great read - it is perhaps a little too biased towards Tony Blair - but we so easily forget how good a prime minister he was. This book says it all.
Andrew Rawnsley is a meticulous broadcaster and writer whose narrative is impeccably researched and the events revealed are cleverly interspersed with, often humerous incidents and anecdotes. Consequently he has created an outstandingly well documented history of our time with accurate high level revelations and opinion from reliable inside sources who have revealed the true extent of the bitter rivalry (the TB-GB's), and the division and anmimosity prevailing between the two Ministers. The narrative is full of riveting, revealing and often highly amusing anecdotes which expose the real depth of the machinations within (and without) that famous address - Number 10 Downing Street. The reader is left wondering how on earth any real government was actually able to function at all amid the true extent of the goverment's difficulties and the constant exposure of Labour's dirty washing!
Students of political history will find this book to be compelling reading and for many others it will seem to read almost like a political novel.
This is a massive, superbly written tome of some 700 pages. Even so, most readers will find it difficult to put down and will eagerly anticipate turning the pages to reach the next intriguing and revealing chapter.
This book is certainly going to go down as one of the most insightful and enjoyable reads of the year!