Heroes or Villains? New book examines Blair years

heroes or villains
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A new book released yesterday aims to give a new perspective on the 1997-2007 premiership of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Heroes or Villains? The Blair Government Reconsidered, an adaptation of and companion text to co-authors Jon Davis and John Rentoul’s Kings College London Master’s degree course, construes the Blair administration as a political coalition between supporters of Blair and associates of his longtime frenemy Gordon Brown. Drawing on testimony from an array of major players in New Labour’s tenure in government to explore and analyse the essential relationships behind the scenes, as well as the key policies and events of the period, Heroes or Villains? aims to examine the Blair years from a distance and, the authors say, “take unfounded emotion out of the story”.

The fraught relationship with Blair and Brown, originally close friends, then political partners and occasionally bitter rivals, is examined thoroughly; as are the many and varied tensions between Blairite and Brownite MPs and staff, between government departments; and between civil servants and special advisors. Brown’s tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer is extensively documented, partially through the lens of wider Blairite-Brownite relationships.

Heroes or Villains? seeks to add context to Blair’s often contentious premiership, from the early landslide electoral success of New Labour to the widely condemned invasion of Iraq; through Blair’s eventual resignation as Prime Minister and the short tenure of Brown, his successor. The evolving roles of civil servants, special advisors and press officers are scrutinised in depth, as is the changing face of the increasingly frenetic, 24-hour media between 1997 and 2007: the authors cite a 2011 quote from Blair describing the effects on Cabinet protocols of “…the 24-hour, seven days a week media that completely changes the way that prime ministers have to operate. Literally, you cannot imagine how fast you have to take decisions and come to positions”.

Dr Jon Davis, Director of the Strand Group at King’s College London’s Policy Institute, teaches a number of other politics-related modules; including “The History of the Prime Minister since 1945 – in partnership with No. 10 Downing Street”. John Rentoul is a Visiting Professor at King’s College, as well as the Independent’s Chief Political Commentator; and has published a biography of Tony Blair. They have jointly taught versions of what would become the Blair Years course since 2008.

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