The End of the Party: The Rise and fall of New labour

The End of the Party: The Rise and fall of New labour

Here is the publishers blurb inviting and unsuspecting politics reader into buying this huge volume –

Andrew Rawnsley’s bestselling and award-winning “Servants of the People” was acclaimed across all media as the most authoritative and entertaining account of New Labour and its first term in office. As one reviewer put it, ‘Rawnsley’s ability to unearth revelation at the highest level of government may leave you suspecting that there are bugs in the vases at Number 10’. “The End of the Party” is packed with more astonishing revelations as Rawnsley takes up the New Labour story from the day of its second election victory in 2001. There are riveting inside accounts of all the key events from 9/11 and the Iraq War to the financial crisis and the parliamentary expenses scandal; and entertaining portraits of the main players as Rawnsley takes us through the triumphs and tribulations of New Labour as well as the astonishing feuds and reconciliations between Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and confidential conversations with those at the heart of power, Andrew Rawnsley provides the definitive account of the rise and fall of New Labour.

According to Andrew Rawnsley – there were times in the spring of 2004 when Tony Blair “would wake up with a start in the middle of the night to find sweat trickling down the back of his neck”. That “revelation” is a perfect example of the style and technique which, according to the advertisements, have resulted in The End of the Party “making headlines”. It gives simple-minded readers the feeling that “they were there” in Downing Street during the crisis of conscience and confidence that followed the then prime minister’s discovery that the invasion of Iraq was hugely unpopular with his core supporters and that, thanks to the brutalising of Iraqi prisoners by their American captors, it could no longer be portrayed as a battle of good against evil.

What is Rawnsley’s motive?Political?   Commercial? 

 The suggestion that detailing the supposed character weakness was a public service – the fearless journalist defending the people’s right to know – is absurd. Had truth and justice been Rawnsley’s only aim, he would have exposed the Prime Minister’s alleged faults in his weekly newspaper column, rather than storing them up to use as the bait which caught a publisher’s advance.

Rawnsley approaches great issues as if he were writing a gossip column.  Most of the book moves along at a great pace and much of it is written with elegent brio. That makes its general triviality all the more irritating. Sometimes he deals compellingly with important subjects. 

Although the publicity surrounding The End of the Party concentrated on unpleasant stories about the Prime Minister, it must be conceded, in Rawnsley’s defence, that he is unpleasant – often wholly gratuitously – about everybody except his named informants. Readers will
decide for themselves why he chooses to sneer about Lord Levy impressing Labour donors with “the nouveau-riche gold leaf decorating his mansion”, but the more fastidious among them will judge The End of the Party to be an unpleasant book.

Roy Hattersley sums it up this way:

‘Rawnsley clearly expects that The End of the Party will encourage the voting public to make moral judgements. Few people will regard the Prime Minister as a villain because he impatiently evicted a secretary from her chair when he discovered that he could type more quickly himself. However, perceptive readers will ponder the ethical propriety of Rawnsley’s informants. Many of them are Brown’s implacable enemies. Others seem willing to attack the Prime Minister – his character, not his policies – for the mere pleasure of proving that they are “in the know”. The most despicable among them seek to do their damage anonymously. As The End of the Party demonstrates, politics, although an honourable trade, attracts some highly undesirable camp followers.’

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