UK press attack Blair for reopening party wounds

Ex-premier Tony Blair’s memoirs are a good read but they risk reopening old wounds in his Labour party just as it struggles to fight back from electoral defeat, British newspapers said on Thursday.

The personal details and indiscreet remarks contained in A Journey —including Blair’s admission that he used alcohol as a “prop” and details of his sex life—raised eyebrows among commentators after its publication on Wednesday.

The Guardian newspaper was not alone in calling the book “extraordinary”, and publishers have predicted that it will be a sell-out.

But observers warned that in laying bare the enmity between Blair and his long-serving finance minister, one-time friend and successor Gordon Brown, the former prime minister did his party a disservice.

The Times said the book sets a major challenge for those currently vying to succeed Brown as the new leader of the Labour party, which was ousted in May elections after 13 years in power.

“The philosophical difference that emerged between Blair and Brown—essentially a dispute about the size and role of the state—traces the lineaments of the battle between Old and New Labour that brought both of them to public attention,” the centre-right newspaper said in an editorial.

“This is a question that the Labour Party has yet to settle.”

The Labour-supporting Daily Mirror paper also accused Blair of “reopening old wounds”, saying: “Tony Blair gave the Labour party many things to be grateful for—but his memoirs aren’t one of them.”

The main contenders for the Labour leadership swiftly distanced themselves from the former prime minister, insisting he no longer dictated their future.

A chief criticism in the newspapers on Thursday was that while Blair attacked Brown throughout the book, he never really explained why he allowed his chancellor of the exchequer to stay in his job.

The Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph said the book represents “Mr Blair’s belated revenge for the manner in which his chancellor thwarted much that he would like to have achieved, before destroying his residual legacy”.

Blair was Labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007, and was replaced by Brown, who lost power in May’s election.—AFP

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