Glass half-full for Tony as half-price books fail to fly off the shelves

On the day that Tony Blair's memoirs were released, it all seems a bit quiet. There were no queues; the bookshelves still full of hardbacks with “half price” stickers placed on the front.

On the day that Tony Blair’s memoirs were released, it all seems a bit quiet. There were no queues; the bookshelves still full of hardbacks with “half price” stickers placed on the front. With Labour party members starting to receive their ballot papers this morning, and with the combat mission in Iraq declared over yesterday, ‘A Journey’ was released in true symbolic style.

There was little speculation as to what would be said – perhaps because there wasn’t much to take us by surprise. There was no deal done – the most we heard was that Mr Blair would kindly be donating all profits to the Royal British Legion.

It was unlike when Peter Mandleson’s book ‘The Third Man’ was published two months, when a deal was done to give The Times the rights to his book, the paper publishing a series of videos of the ‘Dark Lord’ reading extracts in a dimly lit room (said to be worth in the region of £350,000).

Instead, the press, the 24-hour television news stations and radio were forced to wait until 23:30 last night before they could start buzzing at every new, occasionally poorly written snippet released. Political Scrapbook encompassed the mood of the morning in its series of front page headlines.

On Iraq

Mehdi Hasan over at the New Statesman published an early morning critique of Blair’s journey in Iraq. At an equally early hour he told Twitter:

“Just been reading Blair’s chapter on Iraq, online. He is still Bliar. The man tells barefaced porkies like no one else”

A conservative approach

Mark Hoban, Treasury minister, claimed that Blair backs Conservative economic policy. Blair suggests that the Labour government (page 680):

“should have taken a New Labour way out of the economic crisis: kept direct taxes competitive, had a gradual rise in VAT and other indirect taxes to close the deficit, and used the crisis to push further and faster on reform.”

Polly Toynbee asks:

“was Tony Blair always really a closet conservative, or did he convert late in life?”

Also in The Guardian, Michael White takes a more sympathetic approach – considering the idea of Tony the Tory as “a bit glib”.

On Twitter, the more personal parts of Tony’s memoirs caused a stir. Originally tweeted by Fraser Nelson, the Spectator’s Coffee House post appeared put many people off their lunch.

The outer limit

Unfortunately – and rather expectantly – Tony’s comments on Gordon outweighed anything nice he had to say.  At least they did in the reporting. Most attention today has been paid what he had to say on the ‘madenning’ Gordon Brown, who ‘drove him to drink‘ whilst prime minister.

Andy McSmith wrote on the Independent website that the memoir is:

“Less like a “description of a journey” and more like a long memo to Mr Blair’s staff, setting out their boss’s decisions and reasoning.”

• Live blogging on Tony Blair’s book and interview with Andrew Marr, which is broadcast tonight on BBC1 at 7pm, is available at the Guardian with Andrew Sparrow.

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