Friday, 23 April 2010

The End of the Party by Andrew Rawnsley

The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour by Andrew Rawnsley (Viking 2010)

The Servants of the People published in 2000 chronicled Labour's election and first term in power, this book details everything that has happened since. Rawnsley, political columnist for the Observer, quotes from quite an impressive array of sources as he writes the story of New Labour, 9/11 and the war on terror, the Iraq War and the dodgy dossier that got us there and the financial crisis. It also goes into deep details of the personalities and conflicts between the main protagonists.

Rawnsley comes across as quite Blairite and for him other than when he details the David Kelly affair in which is he quite vitriolic about Blair's involvement, he is portrayed almost as the man who can do no wrong and when things do not turn out as they should, the finger of blame is nearly always pointed at Brown and those in his team who push him into being more extreme than he would be on his own (all of Douglas Alexander, Ed Balls, Ed Milliband and Damian McBride do not come out of this book looking good). In a chapter entitled 'the long goodbye' he details what he sees as the highlights of TB's 13 years in power:

"generous investment in health and education which reversed years of neglect of the public realm. State-funded childcare was introduced alongside the minimum wage. There was considerable redistribution, mainly the work of Chancellor, from the affluent to the poor. Tax and benefit changes since 1997 broadly raise the incomes of the poorest fifth of society. This was not enough to entirely counteract the global forces which were stretching the inequalities and the super-rich continued to pull away from every one else...he left Britain wealtheir and more diverse, but not much happier than how he found it."

The book received a great deal of press pre-publication for the details of Gordon Brown's temper and the book paints him as palpably mad. He is seen as moody, sulking, petty and violent. The reason, it is made to look, that there was no real challenge to Brown for the Labour leadership is that he crushed any promising talent that might challenge what he viewed as his solemn right to govern Britain. He and his team are shown to continually brief and leak against Blair, the content of his budgets were rarely divulged up to a couple of hours before they were announced when they were already at the printers and he is shown to be the worst micro-manager possible.

The book is far from perfect and you are painfully aware that the author is still working with the people he is writing about and so tries to stay away from making personal judgement. However in an election year and despite whatever economic competence he portrays Brown as having you cannot but arrive at the conclusion that Gordon Brown is insane.

An interesting if not biased account.