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Book review: Peter Watt’s Inside Out – 5 things which struck me

Let’s begin with the positive: Inside Out, Peter Watt’s autobiographical account of his two years as Labour general secretary during the handover from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown, is an entertainingly gossipy book which, at 200 pages, doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s packed with anecdotes and throwaway remarks which cast a new – and rarely flattering – light on Labour’s senior dramatis personae. In short, well worth reading.

But does Peter Watt come out of it well. Hmmm, there I’m less sure. Here are the five aspects of the book which struck me …

Thing 1: Tribalism

The over-riding impression of Inside Out is quite how tribal politics is. And not just tribal between parties – that’s, at least in part, to be expected – but also within parties. For example, the very New Labour Peter Watt boasts of exploiting the rift between Blair and Brown when hacking for the post of general secretary, accumulating a motley collection of votes on Labour’s National Executive Committee from “trade unionists, people on the hard left and passionate Blairites”.

Mr Watt presents the traditional mea culpa at the end of the book (“tribalism turns good men bad”), but it’s easy to be sage after the event: what politics needs is for its participants to recognise this when they’re in leadership positions, not when they’ve shed them.

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments
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