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  1. Culture
1 September 2010

Ralph Miliband on Labour memoirs

Blair's magnum opus confirms what Miliband père knew 50 years ago.

By Jonathan Derbyshire

We shouldn’t be surprised by the tortuous self-justifications, not to mention the luridly overheated prose, of Tony Blair’s new book. As the father of two of the men vying to be Blair’s successor-but-one put it nearly 50 years ago: “Labour leaders do not write good memoirs.”

This was how Ralph Miliband began a review (£) in early 1961 of the autobiography of Peter Mandelson’s grandfather, Herbert Morrison. He went on:

As a contribution to history in general and to Labour history in particular, his book is virtually worthless . . . and as personal account of politics-as-lived, it is scarcely better. Why then bother? Because Labourism needs to be better understood and because Morrison’s story, for all its deficiencies (in some ways because of them), affords some help to that better understanding.

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