Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, has published his memoirs to great fanfare and enormous controversy. Not only has Blair shed new light on his relationship with his U.S. allies, he has also written with unflinching honesty about his own party, his failings, and his regrets. (Watch an ITN News report about the book's reaction.) Here are five key revelations:
1. George W. Bush's "immense simplicity"...
Blair built up a close personal relationship with President Bush during the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003. Although he praises Bush as a "true idealist" with "genuine integrity and political courage," he also writes of the "immense simplicity in how he saw the world." It's the "closest [Blair] gets to criticizing" Bush, says James G. Neuger at Bloomberg, in a memoir that sometimes "reads like one of the court briefs he penned" as a lawyer.
2. ... and occasional "stupidity"
There's one particularly damning anecdote about Bush that comes to light in the book, reports the Daily Telegraph. At the G8 Summit in 2001, Bush apparently failed to recognize the Prime Minister of Belgium. "Aghast at the possible full extent of his stupidity," writes Blair, Bush questioned why Belgium — which is not a G8 member — would attend the summit. Belgium's premier was president of the EU Council at that time, explained Blair. "You got the Belgians running Europe?" replied Bush, shaking his head and "now aghast at our stupidity," writes Blair.
3. Princess Diana was a "manipulator"
Princess Diana, whose 1997 death in a car crash occurred in the early months of Blair's premiership, was something of a "manipulator," writes the former prime minister. Blair says he found Diana to be an "unpredictable meteor" with a "wildness of emotions." He should know, says Jonathan Jones at the Guardian. If this book proves nothing else, it's that he's an "experienced manipulator of his own image."
4. Gordon Brown had "zero" emotional intelligence
Blair's stormy relationship with Gordon Brown, his finance minister and eventual successor, is well-known but has long been denied by both men. Not any more. Blair writes that Brown lacked political instinct "at the human gut level." He wrote: "Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero." But we knew all this, says Anthony Seldon at the Financial Times. Blair and Brown's relationship was one of the "most intense" in the history of British politics. "It is disappointing that he does little to advance our knowledge of it."
5. Blair's battle with the bottle
Blair admits to unwinding after each day with a "stiff whisky or G and T," followed by up to half a bottle of wine. Even though he says his intake is "not excessively excessive," he adds, "I was aware that it had become a prop." Many critics have complained that Blair's book is too self-serving, says Lance Price in the Independent. But his drinking admission is "surprisingly brave," and evidence of a confessional tone that I, for one, found "refreshing."