Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Searching for the Real Truth about Life with Tony; THIRTY DAYS: A Month at the Heart of Blair's War by Peter Stothard (HarperCollins, [Pounds Sterling]7.99)

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Searching for the Real Truth about Life with Tony; THIRTY DAYS: A Month at the Heart of Blair's War by Peter Stothard (HarperCollins, [Pounds Sterling]7.99)

Article excerpt

Byline: NOEL MALCOLM

TRUTH sometimes has to work hard to be more convincing than fiction.

We all feel we already know what life is like inside Tony Blair's 10 Downing Street, because we have seen it on the Rory Bremner show.

The nervous, eager-to-please Prime Minister and his master, the cynical and bullying Alastair Campbell: it is as convincing a duo as Holmes and Watson or Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Hitherto, the only people who could tell us what really went on behind the scenes had all signed the Official Secrets Act.

But in March this year Peter Stothard, a former editor of The Times, was given unprecedented permission to be a "fly on the wall" in Downing The whole world in his hands? Blair comes across as relentlessly driven to get on with the task Street, shadowing the Prime Minister for 30 days.

His account of that period - which just happened to include the Iraq War, plus the last days of frenzied diplomacy that preceded it - is no less convincing than the Bremner version and, in places, almost as entertaining.

Where Campbell is concerned, fiction and truth seem not too far apart. He is omnipresent here: the entry for him in the index is twice as long as those for Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and Chancellor combined. At one point Stothard refers, with delicious ambiguity, to "John Prescott and Alastair Campbell, both known as 'the Deputy Prime Minister', the one because he is, the other because he seems to be". And the caustic Campbell sense of humour is a constant presence: when Blair asks how he should begin his TV address to the nation, announcing the outbreak of war, Campbell suggests, "My fellow Americans!".

But, of course, the Prime Minister himself is not the fretting, gormless Blair of the Bremner sketches, even though there are some fretful moments in these pages. …

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