Here are the defining events of our time, from Labour's new dawn to the war on terror; from the death of Diana to negotiations for peace in Northern Ireland; from Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, through to the Hutton Inquiry of 2003. But above all, here is Tony Blair up close and personal, making the decisions that affected the lives of millions, under relentless and frequently hostile pressure.
Feared and admired in equal measure, hated by some, Alastair Campbell was pivotal to the founding of New Labour and the sensational election victory of 1997. As Blair's press secretary, strategist, and trusted confidant, Campbell spent more waking hours alongside the prime minister than anyone. His diaries take the listener right to the heart of government.
Unflinchingly told, The Blair Years covers the crises and scandals, the rows and resignations, the ups and downs of Britain's hothouse politics. There has never been so riveting a book about life at the very top, nor a more human book about politics, told by a man who saw it all.
©2007 Alastair Campbell; (P)2007 Random House
Good Music Hunting
A great perspective on the power and management of the press in the UK. Campbell's voice adds a great deal to interpreting parts of this, so listen rather than read. Great for American readers for perspective on Bush, Iraq, Clinton. While Princess Di was interesting, nothing new to add to that story. One of my favorite Audio reads this year.
Though I dont ususally go for political biographys I heard a very favorable recommendation for this book in a podcast (TWiT) which got me curious enough to listen to the sample. In 2 mins I was hooked (try it). A travel around the world during the Blair years in the form of a political diary narrated by the author, Alastair Campbell, whose style takes you right along on a trip of a sort that you are not likely to experience in any other way. Go behind the scenes to a group of young men who finally get their chance to run a country. Go behind hte scenes to Princess Dianas death, Bill Clinton and Monica, the negotiations to unify Ireland, Prince Charles and his organic produce, the Royal family and Buckingham palace, Elton John and Stevie Wonder-scandals and questionable loans- a cast of hundreds! One of those books you cant put down. Couldn't stop listening. Very highly recommended.
I am a big fan of autobiographies read by their authors. The tone of voice and manner of speaking gives you a chance to learn something more about the author and his experiences than is possible from the words alone. As one of the other reviewers mentioned, Campbell reads with a Yorkshire accent that sounds quite cold and flat, but that might give a sense of his personality and the excerpts from his diaries are a gripping insight into the rise of Tony Blair's New Labour. A leading political journalist who served as Blair's chief media strategist, Campbell was at the heart of the work in Downing Street between 1997-2000. He gives his frank personal impressions of leading figures of the day including public figures in the UK and US, as well as insights into UK government strategy and his personal experience of the all consuming life of senior politicians and their advisors. He seems to have had an unusually clear understanding of how to use simple concepts to communicate through the media, as well as strategies for controlling the development of stories and how government policies would be understood by the public. This is probably what made him one of Blair's closest advisers. It is an insightful account. My only thought is that because these are excerpts, and move from key event to key event, they are probably missing insight into the calmer days between crises. Campbell also says that he held back material that might have made life harder for Gordon Brown or damaged the Labour Party.
Unless you know the players and are close to british politics this book is a hard listen. Author uses lot of initials and does a poor job explaining all the characters he is refering to and this made it very difficult to follow along.
The material may be interesting but the audiobook is dreadfully let down by awful & boring oration; worse still, by the author himself !
I guess that the audiobook only contains a small fraction of the published book's 800 pages. That means it doesn't take that long to listen all the way through. There are quite a few large jumps in dates. Names of people aren't always explained - you need some background knowledge to realise who they all are. (Eg 'PM' = Peter Mandleson, 'CDS' = Chief of Defence Staff, 'Jonathan' = Jonathan Powell...). So you have to keep your wits about you.
But none of this detracts from the fascination of the many issues covered. I ended up with a feeling of a much better appreciation of many of the stories that have been in the press during the years Alastair Campbell worked alongside Tony Blair.
The narration is clear. In summary, it was a real pleasure to listen to it. I often had a wide smile on my face (eg listening to the encounters with Princess Diana) and sometimes a lump in my throat.
I was never much of a fan of Blair and Spin, but the diaries of the man behind a lot of the image are fascinating. Narrated by the downbeat and laconic Campell himself, all the best anecdotes are here, plus many that you might not have heard about. As an insight into how the country is run, this paints a human and surprising picture, exposing politics as how you might have feared it is as well as how you might have hoped it can be too. Very enjoyable, espescially Mandy's hissy fits, egotistical and thoroughly entertaining, I just wish it had been the unabridged version.
I just could not stop listening to this Audiobook. Alastair Campbell's narration really added something else to this book which I feel I would not have got if I had read the book myself. I recommend this book.
"Good, but not great."
A wise man once said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this book proves this. It tries to explain why each decision, good or bad, was the lesser of two evils, but of course it would, wouldn't it.
My main criticism however, is not a political one, but that the author reads the whole book in a bored monotone, and by the sound of it, in desperate need of a glass of water.
The book itself however, gave a fascinating, if naturally one sided insight into how the British government was run for a decade.
"Best for those who remembered the events in real time"
I found this interesting, but there is not a lot of explanation about the media coverage of issues at the time. This is a problem with my expectations more than the book or narration, but I'm not old enough to remember these years and the much-discussed media coverage of the time, and that did diminish my enjoyment of the book.
I've been glued to this whilst out walking, the inside story during major events such as the Clinton scandal, the death of Diana and the invasion of Iraq.. compelling listening. I laughed quite a bit as well. Thoroughly enjoyed it 'Big guy' as George Bush would say!
"A very different perspective"
I was genuinely intrigued to hear the perspective of Mr Cambell. I have listened to almost every political memoir of the time and found them to be extremely interesting and I was expecting a fascinating journey from a man with a reputation.
What I experienced was an absolute load of self aggrandising, face saving, pr nonsense. I am greatly saddened that AC fails to retain any sense of perspective in the achievements he should be rightly proud off but spends his time dealing with complete nonsense.
Despite finding the book horrendous I would recommend it to anyone who's interested in politics as it clearly shows how AC and his ilk make the process and purpose of political action more difficult for everyone. It's a sad reality that TB felt he needed this plonker to make his operation effective. I wonder if he actually did or if AC simply became a circular cause of problems for himself to solve.
"Who does Alastair Campbell think he is?"
Maybe Jeremy Paxman
Yes, if only to understand how events around the time unfolded.
A truly despicable character and the arrogance..... he's clever though but so full of his own self importance and his delusional Diana fantasy? Poor monotone narration didn't help.
"Wish it had been the full account."
I love listening to someone with such a rich experience, so flawed and on occasion vulnerable. Wish it had been the full account not just extracts.
A very interesting insight into the inner workings of government and the corridors of power. Well narrated and always looked forward to getting back to it.
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