Apologies for the non-gaming post, but regular readers will know I occasionally get distracted by other things and this is as good a place as any to scribble down my thoughts! The reason for this post is that I have been reading Andrew Rawnsley's book about the rise and fall of New Labour; The End of the Party.
I know I'm a little late coming to the book (it was originally published in March 2010 and generated massive headlines around the world at that time), but I've found it no less interesting or relevant for not getting round to reading it until now.
Rawnsley, chief political commentator for The Observer newspaper and presenter of Channel 4's A Week in Politics, has written a weighty political book that details the behind-the-scenes conversations and actions of every major event during the time of the British New Labour Government from 2001 to 2010.
It sounds like it has the potential to be as turgid and boring as most political writings, but in reality the book reads more like one of the best political thrillers. It is the first political book I have read that is a real page turner.
The book is genuinely well written and an absolutely fascinating read. Part of this is due to Rawnsley's writing style which makes you feel like you are watching "All the President's Men". Part of it is down to the fact that everything is based on a series of interviews that Rawnsley conducted with all the major players; the book reads like a fictional thriller but is totally based on fact. Mainly it is down to the fact that almost every single page of the book's 912 pages contains some amazing revelation that has you holding your head in your hands at the stupidity, luck, bravado or sheer gall of many of the people that lead this country for ten years.
Every chapter offers an insight into a major event. The chapters covering the lead up to the invasion of Iraq and the production of the dodgy dossier made me shake my head in disbelief at the temerity of people who should have known better. The sad tale of the death of Dr David Kelly is both emotionally affecting and anger-inducing.
Chapters like the ones about the feud between Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown (which was longer, deeper and more destructive than I had ever realised), the parliamentary expenses scandal and the poor regulation that lead to the collapse of the economy leave the reader feeling shocked and bewildered. Shocked at the extent and scale of ignorance, and bewildered at the purposeful and deliberate campaigns of misinformation and wilful spinning of events for personal gain.
Yet, for every chapter like the above there are chapters of genuine hope. The tale of how the peace was forged in Northern Ireland really made me appreciate that for all his (many) faults, Tony Blair was possibly the only person who could have made that happen, and the story of how he almost single-handedly dragged the participants over the line is a thought-provoking and uplifting tale.
The book is shocking in it's honesty but fair in it's portrayal of the deeply flawed people who were at the head of the British Government. If you have any interest in modern British politics it is really worth a read, and the writing style makes it accessible to anyone.