The Burden of Power is the fourth volume of Alastair Campbell's diaries, and perhaps the most eagerly awaited given the ground it covers.
It begins on September 11, 2001, a day which immediately wrote itself into the history books, and it ends on the day Campbell leaves Downing Street. In between there are two wars: first Afghanistan, and then, even more controversially, Iraq. It was the most difficult decision of Tony Blair's premiership, and almost certainly the most unpopular. Campbell describes in detail the discussions with President Bush and other world leaders as the steps to war are taken, and delivers a unique account of Blair as war leader. He records the enormous political difficulties at home, and the sense of crisis that engulfed the government after the suicide of weapons inspector David Kelly. And all the while, Blair continues to struggle with two issues that ran throughout his time in government - fighting for peace in Northern Ireland, and trying to make peace with Gordon Brown. And Campbell continues to struggle balancing the needs of his family with one of the most pressurised roles in politics.
Riveting and revelatory, The Burden of Power is as raw and intimate a portrayal of political life as you are ever likely to read.
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If I can use the word in its strictest form, these diaries are unique. They are a contemporary record of the intimate decisions of historic figures as set down by one who was a shrewd and straightforward chronicler of what he saw around him. They don't give a complete picture, how could they? Campbell was one important cog in the Blair machine, but there were others concentrating more on policy than on the media and the short-term crises that the media fed on. But authenticity adheres to these pages like oil on an engineer's rag. They haven't been prettified, intellectualised or gathered second hand. This is the real thing. - David Aaronovitch, The Times
Memoirs and the rest are written through the self-justifying lens of hindsight. Campbell's contemporaneous jottings take the reader behind the grand sweep to capture the texture and grit of events as they were lived during the most tumultuous years of Blair's premiership. - Phillip Stephens, Financial Times
The final months leading to the Hutton inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of David Kelly are riveting. Campbell himself comes across as a flawed genius, more spinned against than spinning. He is a man of excellent strategic and tactical judgement (it is easy to see why Blair became so dependent on him), brutally honest, occasionally self-indulgent and jealous of his undoubted integrity. - Chris Mullin, Guardian
As a first draft of history, albeit a highly partial one, this account is hard to beat. Campbell packs in all the events and the colourful cast of characters, enhanced often by caustic one-liners ... Campbell's evident personality flaws, coupled with his political passions, made him a far more intriguing character than most around him. They have equally ensured that his diaries will be required reading for the New Labour era. - John Kampfner, Observer
As happens with many long-running series, the latest instalment is the author's darkest work yet ... As ever, the immediacy of Campbell's account is engrossing. It is yet again a reminder of the salutary fact of history: that its actors do not know what is coming next. - John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday
It is worth getting this book for one absolute gem: Bill Clinton's mini lecture to Campbell in early 2003 on where New Labour had gone wrong and what it needed to do to get back on track. It is a masterclass in democratic politics, which David Cameron would do well to read today. - Christopher Meyer, Evening Standard
Fifty Shades isn't the only publishing phenomenon. There are also scenes of great passion and great excitement artfully described in Alastair Campbell's diaries. - Hugh Muir's diary, Guardian
Alastair Campbell was born in Keighley, Yorkshire in 1957, the son of a vet. Having graduated from Cambridge University in modern languages, he went into journalism, principally with the Mirror Group. When Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party, Campbell worked for him first as press secretary, then as official spokesman and director of communications and strategy from 1994 to 2003. He is now engaged mainly in writing, public speaking, consultancy and working for mental health charities, and Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, where he is chairman of fundraising. He lives in North London and his interests include running, cycling, playing the bagpipes and following the varying fortunes of Burnley Football Club.