Alastair Campbell recounts the events after 9/11 until his resignation in 2003 in this fourth book
Everyone remembers the dreaded Iraq invasion by the British under the command of Tony Blair. The backlash from the public and the media following the revelation that Iraq did not own any Weapons of Mass Destruction damaged Blair’s governing reputation, with question arising whether or not the then Prime Minister had personal agenda for the infiltration of Iraqi borders.
The Burden of Power – Countdown to Iraq, fourth instalment in The Alastair Campbell Diaries franchise, recounts the post-9/11 developments that took place away from the public’s eye, which ultimately led Tony Blair to make the highly detested decision in modern history in the midst of a hostile relationship with Gordon Brown and the constant scrutiny of the media.
Blair’s Chief Press Secretary and Official Spokesman, and now the author of the highly anticipated aforementioned book, Alastair Campbell joined John Rentoul, chief political commentator for The Independent last night at Queen Mary’s University, where they discussed in brief some of the events that Mr Campbell had highlighted in his factual book.
Alastair Campbell talked about the relationship between Blair and his eventual successor Gordon Brown that was dominated by one disagreement after the other. The former spokesman recalled how Blair had decided to sack Gordon Brown in retaliation to the shared paranoia among the cabinet members that Mr Brown was hell-bent on Tony Blair’s destruction.
He did however compliment Gordon Brown on his success stating: “Gordon did a very good job of establishing himself as an obvious successor.”
In the light of Hutton inquiry where arguably his reputation was hurt the most, Alastair Campbell blamed the media of being culturally negative stating that an ideal media should be a “vehicle of communication” but in reality it was more of a “barrier”.
The more intriguing part of the book – the Iraq invasion – however, gives little consolation to the public seeking answers based on his discussion last night. He seemed more interested in justifying the Prime Minister’s decision with technicality rather than factual information that would eventually put the public’s curiosity, and to some extent the aggression towards Blair, at rest.
He emphasised the pressure Mr Blair faced prior to the invasion with information guaranteeing the presence of WMD in Iraq. He stated: “What made it worth the risk was the briefing on WMD […], the impact of chemical and biological weapon on the world […]. Fear was real […]. Everyone believed they had the WMD. [Tony Blair] had to make a decision.”
Will the mention of desperation and the supposed urgency of the situation help reduce the anger among the public? Probably not; but then again the book is not about justifying or apologising about what happened but rather narrating the selected events that took place between 9/11 and 2003 – when Campbell resigned – from the author’s perspective that invites the readers into the stressful lives of politicians and the decision they make for better or worse.