Monday, October 7, 2013

Recently Read: Power Trip by Damian McBride

I've just finished 'Power Trip' by Gordon Brown's former special adviser Damian McBride. It was a fascinating read. Concise, well-written and very engaging. I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in the Blair/Brown period of British politics.

The book more or less confirmed my general view of the Blair/Brown rivalry. Gordon Brown and his entourage come across as good and conscientious, albeit flawed, individuals. Whereas Blair and the Blairites come across as self-interested, self-serving careerists. Ed Balls comes across in a particularly good light, and Ed Miliband comes across quite well too - although I was left with a much more mixed opinion of him. I'm convinced that the bounce in popularity that Labour have recently received in the press is more due to this book than to the Labour Party conference itself, which to my mind was as dull and cringeworthy as ever. I think that political journalists across the board have read this book, seen the two Eds in a much more capable and competent light and that this has coloured their write-up of the Labour conference accordingly.

The book also clearly illustrates that the Blair/Brown divide in the Labour Party was more due to policy differences than personal differences. At times we've been led to believe that it was Brown's personal ambition that drove him to thwart Blair's plans, but clearly he was more driven by a genuine fear that Blair was taking the country down the wrong path (which in my opinion he was).

For anyone of a conspiratorial mindset it was interesting to note how close Brown was to Robin Cook before the latter's untimely death. This following passage about Brown finding out about Cook's death stood out;
"Gordon was so upset he could barely speak. He and Robin had only recently resolved their long-standing feud and become firm friends again, talking almost every day. It was central for Gordon's plans for his premiership that Robin would become his Deputy Leader or Chancellor, or be restored as Foreign Secretary, symbolising a break from the Blair years more than any other appointment could, following Robin's resignation over the Iraq War."
It's hard to underestimate how much of a U-turn that would have represented in regards British foreign policy. Now I'm not gonna sit here and state that therefore he was killed by some security service, but I'd be lying if I said the suspicion had never crossed my mind. Especially given all the intrigue surrounding the death of weapons expert David Kelly.

Anyhow, whatever did or didn't go on during those turbulent years, I find it hard not to feel that Brown was essentially a force for good and that Blair was ...well, er, not a force for good.

Books, especially books written by people in politics, should always be viewed with a degree of scepticism, however I feel that this one may be one of the more honest political ones we'll read in recent times. Recommended.

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