cover image Tony Blair: The Making of a World Leader

Tony Blair: The Making of a World Leader

Philip Stephens, Author Viking Books $25.95 (265p) ISBN 978-0-670-03300-3

A senior editor at the Financial Times presents a biography of Britain's Prime Minister that's engaging and slickly presented but ultimately lacking in depth. Writing for an American audience unfamiliar with politics across the pond, Stephens paints Blair as a British version of Bill Clinton--a poll-driven, mediagenic, self-consciously religiose political animal who yanked the Labour party from its socialist and trade union roots and remade it into a business-friendly party of the moderate middle class. Stephens's account of Blair's administration focuses on foreign policy, particularly on his controversial collaboration with the United States in the invasion of Iraq, a stance that, the author contends, shows the moral principle and spine underneath the Prime Minister's geo-political maneuvering. Although Stephens acknowledges elements of ruthlessness, calculation and cynical image-management in Blair's career, he remains almost uncritically supportive of the man. His sometimes sketchy overview of Blair's domestic program skirts in-depth examinations of such controversial policies as the introduction of the private sector into the provisioning of public health and education services. And while he allows that Blair's""Third Way"" between anti-government conservatism and tax-and-spend socialism can seem like a hodgepodge of cautiously centrist measures, he rather unreflectively accepts its claims to philosophical coherence, noting that the post-modern service economy has created""new aspirational classes"" in the place of that old Labor standby, the working class. The result is a fluent but superficial take on a pivotal figure in British history, one that substitutes personality for substance.