The Burden of Power is the fourth volume of Alastair Campbell’s diaries, and perhaps the most eagerly awaited given the ground it covers. It begins on September 12, 2001 as world leaders assess their response to Al Qaida terrorist attacks in New York and Washington the day before, a day which wrote itself immediately into the history books: 9/11, and it ends on the day Campbell leaves Downing Street. In between there are two wars, first Afghanistan, still going on today, and then, even more controversially, Iraq.
It was the most difficult decision of Blair’s premiership, and perhaps the most unpopular. Campbell describes in detail the discussions with President Bush and other world leaders as the steps to war are taken, and delivers an intimate account of Blair as war leader. He records the enormous political difficulties at home, and the sense of crisis that engulfed the government over the suicide of weapons inspector David Kelly. And in the meantime Blair continues to struggle with two issues that have run through all of the Campbell diaries in government – fighting for peace in Northern Ireland, and trying to make peace with Gordon Brown.
And Campbell continues to struggle with trying to balance one of the most pressurised posts in politics with the needs of a family and a partner who wants him to leave it. The Burden of Power is as raw and intimate a portrayal of the pressures and responsibilities of political life as you are ever likely to read.