If anyone has any doubt about the sheer complexity and difficulty of the work of a modern-day Prime Minister then this book and all 730 pages of it should dispel any lingering lack of understanding! It takes us into the heart of the work of government, the handling of the press, the management of a political party and the holding together of complex personalities and egos of politicians, their ambitions and their fantasies.
It is the fourth in a series of books completing this particular stage of Campbell’s work. It begins with the harrowing circumstances around 9/11 and ends with Campbell’s resignation. It is properly entitled ‘The Burden of Power’ and the reader can see the way 10 years of holding the office of Prime Minister has aged Mr Blair. Whatever you think of his politics then you will come out of this journey through the days and weeks of political struggle with some greater sympathy of the huge pressure that comes with responsibility.
The relationship with Brown is splashed out across the pages and little is spared – speculation, argument, disappointment, anger and even despair – it is surprisingly that government worked as well as it did considering the dysfunction between number 10 and number 11 Downing Street! Campbell is not of course an unbiased commentator and we await other narratives that might provide perhaps a more balanced perspective on this relationship, including, of course that of Mr Brown.
Campbell is reflective about himself, his depression and the pressures that working in 10 Downing Street put upon his relationship with his partner and his children. Despite the extraordinary aggressive and unrelenting style of Campbell there is a rather endearing vulnerability, self doubt, and redemptive self-knowledge about his strengths and weaknesses.
Campbell is sour about the media and these pages will make unpleasant reading for many journalists – some of whom he dismisses with brutal and sneering disregard.
Any historian of the conflict over Iraq will certainly need to examine the course of events as described in some detail here. No doubt strategists working for the Labour Party will look at some of what Campbell says in relation to evaluating the success of new Labour and the prospects of what may lie ahead of the present Conservative and Liberal coalition.
It was certainly a long read but hugely worthwhile. When I get some time I shall have too cross reference some what Campbell says with Mr Blair’s memoir – in the meantime the grisly business of politics continues and we need to ask ourselves what kind of political culture best supports our living and aspirations as individuals, families and communities.
We have not heard the last of Mr Campbell – there’s another story waiting to be told. A good read and worth persevering with as the nights draw in.