Tony Blair cancels London book signing after protesters vow disruption
|This article is reserved for developer testing|
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair Monday cancelled his book signing in central London because of the "inevitable hassle" of protesters who oppose the Iraq war. Over the weekend, Blair signed copies of his memoirs, A Journey, in Dublin, where protesters threw eggs and shoes at the former Labour leader. Blair had hinted that he was considering cancelling the signing, which was due to take place on Wednesday in a Waterstone's book store in Piccadilly, when he gave an interview to Sky News. "I don't want to put the public to a lot of hassle, the police to a lot of cost for what, after all, is a book signing," he said. "I think it's sad if you can't sign a book without people physically trying to prevent you, and as we saw in Dublin, there are hundreds more who want to come and have their book signed and want to cause the protest, but, we'll see. We'll take a decision [on whether to go ahead with the signing] later today I think."
Blair confirmed he was calling off his book signing in a statement on his website, describing how the chaotic scenes in Dublin over the weekend, where one protester attempted to perform a citizen's arrest on Blair and four men were arrested, had made him reconsider whether to go ahead with the event in London. "I very much enjoyed meeting my readers in Dublin and was looking forward to doing the same in London. However, I have decided not to go ahead with the signing as I don't want the public to be inconvenienced by the caused by protesters," he said. "I know the Metropolitan police would, as ever, have done a superb job in managing any disruption but I do not wish to impose an extra strain on police resources, simply for a book signing." Signed copies of his book will be on sale in Piccadilly store on Wednesday, he said, and added that he was dissapointed that the protesters had forced him to cancel the signing. "I'm really sorry for those - as ever the majority - who would have come to have their books signed by me in person. I hope they understand."
The Guardian newspaper reported that "a spokesman for the former PM had earlier said that the majority of the people who had come to the book signing in Dublin on Saturday had wanted to meet Blair and get their books signed, but a small and vocal minority had grabbed the headlines. Blair was met with a hail of shoes and eggs at the event, his first public signing, at Eason's bookshop on O'Connell Street ... Anti-war demonstrators had planned to rally outside the bookstore [in London], and Blair said he was also worried that the far right British National party might attempt to cause trouble." The managing director of Waterstone's, Dominic Myers, said that "our job as a bookseller is to bring books to our customers, and where possible enable them to meet authors as well. It is a matter of regret that because of the likely actions of a minority, our customers are now not able to meet a three-times elected prime minister of the United Kingdom, whose book has become our fastest-selling autobiography ever."
In the long-awaited book, Blair portays Gordon Brown, who served as chancellor under his government, as a manipulative figure who lost a winnable election by abandoning the principles of New Labour. There are several revelations in the book, profits from sales of which will largely be donated to the Royal British Legion, including that Blair turned to drink for the "support" he needed while in 10 Downing Street, reportedly drinking whisky and wine every day. But Blair also admits mistakes he made while running the country, including, according to The Daily Telegraph, "his failure to predict and tackle the boom in asylum seekers and to address the emerging 'underclass'".
HAVE YOUR SAY
Have you purchased a copy of A Journey—what did you think of it—and were you planning to attend the event on Wednesday to have it signed?
Families of those killed in the Iraq war will likely be dishartened by the book, however, since while Blair discloses his "anguish" over the deaths of British soldiers, and describes the war as a "nightmare”, he does not offer an apology and insists that he maintains the view that the war was correct, and, according to The Daily Telegraph, he intends to "devote the rest of his life to making amends". In the book, he writes that "friends opposed to the war think I'm being obstinate; others, less friendly, think I'm being delusional". The Independent revealed that Blair considered leaving Saddam Husein in power was "a bigger risk to our [Britain's] security than removing him". Speaking almost directly to his critics in the book, Blair writes: "do they really suppose I don't care, don't feel, don't regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died? ... I can't say sorry in words; I can only hope to redeem something from the tragedy of death, in the actions of a life, my life, that continues still". He says that he has "often reflected as to whether I was wrong. I ask you to reflect as to whether I may have been right.”
Blair also alleges that Brown put “relentless personal pressure” on him, and describes how "he used to drink a whisky or gin and tonic before his evening meal, then have several glasses of wine [afterwards]." Blair says he was aware it was “becoming a support". He admits that "as time goes on, it easily becomes a daily habit that our body needs to relax. To compensate for pressure. To stimulate. To make a boring evening bearable.” It has also been reported that Blair "repeatedly considered sacking his chancellor but failed to find anyone to replace Mr Brown." He eventually decided that Brown was better “inside and constrained” than “outside and let loose”. Blair also also discloses that, while he was US vice-president, Dick Cheney was keen to invade other countries in the Middle East, including Syria.
A Journey has seen mixed reviews in the press. Geoffrey Beattie, writing in The Independent on Sunday, described the book as "revelatory ... in many ways, offering a glimpse into the mind of a political leader during tumultuous times." He continued, "it is sufficiently candid and detailed to give us some insight into the man's underlying psychology, and sometimes it is the smallest detail that can be the most interesting." Andrew Rawnsley, a political columnist for The Observer, however, said that "it is Tony Blair's boast that he wrote every word in longhand 'on hundreds of notepads'. That I believe. He was the most brilliant communicator of his era as a platform speaker or television interviewee, but he can be a ghastly writer. Anyone thinking about taking this journey needs to be given a travel advisory: much of the prose is execrable ... I could say that it is a pity that Tony Blair did not employ a ghostwriter to prettify the prose and organise his recollections more elegantly." He did, however, said that it is "a more honest political memoir than most and more open in many respects than I had anticipated."
Customers wishing to have their books signed would, had the event gone ahead, have had their mobile phones and bags confiscated while they met Blair, after anti-war protesters announced they intended to disrupt the signing in London. But despite Blair cancelling his signing in London, protesters have now inisted that they will disrupt a party to celebrate the launch of the book at the Tate Modern gallery on Wednesday night.
A pro-Blair blog reacted angrily to the news. "Personally I’d lock the peace-and-loving bastards up – every one of them, and throw away the key," they wrote. "They are not making a ‘political’ point. Such points have been made over and over for years. We heard them. They are trying to uproot the mores AND STANDARDS of our civilised society and I for one want rid of them. NOW!" Another post stated: "Many, many British citizens think it is time these riotous anti-Iraq war demonstrators’ rights were treated in proportion to the rights of the rest of us. Indeed some suggest that it is they who should be locked up, and not the former prime minister. There is also a growing resentment that even after three years out of office Mr Blair is still not free to travel and speak in his own country. The rest of us, it seems, are not permitted to hear or see him for fear of this vocal and virulent minority." However, the Stop the War Coalition, a group opposed to the Iraq war, said in a statement that "[Blair] knows he cannot appear in public without being confronted by protests over his war crimes. He is running scared but he cannot hide."
- "Protest when Tony Blair hosts Tate Modern event: 8 September" — , 6 September 2010
- "Protest when Tony Blair hosts Tate Modern event: 8 September" — , 6 September 2010
- Alexandra Topping. "Tony Blair scrapped London book signing to avoid protest 'hassle'" — , 6 September 2010
- Ruth Barnett. "Protesters To Disrupt Blair Book Party" — , 6 September 2010
- Joe Churcher. "Tony Blair cancels book signing amid protest threat" — , 6 September 2010
- Geoffrey Beattie. "Inside the mind of Tony Blair" — , 5 September 2010
- Andrew Rawnsley. "Tony Blair's A Journey: Andrew Rawnsley's verdict" — , 5 September 2010
- "Statement from Tony Blair on Wednesday's book signing" — , 6 September 2010
- Andrew Grice. "Finally Tony Blair reveals his side of the feud with Gordon Brown" — , 1 September 2010
- Robert Winnett and Henry Samuel. "Tony Blair: Gordon Brown tried to blackmail me" — , 1 September 2010