The Point of Departure: Why One of Britain's Leading Politicians Resigned over Tony Blair's Decision to Go to War in Iraq [NOOK Book]

Overview

On 17 March 2003, Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons and former Foreign Secretary, resigned from the Cabinet in protest against the coming war in Iraq. His resignation speech against that war prompted the first standing ovation in the history of the House and marked the end of the ministerial career of one of Labour's most brilliant politicians. His arguments against that war are of profound interest and importance to American readers.
For the two years prior to his ...
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The Point of Departure: Why One of Britain's Leading Politicians Resigned over Tony Blair's Decision to Go to War in Iraq

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Overview

On 17 March 2003, Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons and former Foreign Secretary, resigned from the Cabinet in protest against the coming war in Iraq. His resignation speech against that war prompted the first standing ovation in the history of the House and marked the end of the ministerial career of one of Labour's most brilliant politicians. His arguments against that war are of profound interest and importance to American readers.
For the two years prior to his resignation, Robin Cook kept a diary, a personal record of Labour's second term, that forms the core of this narrative. The Point of Departure is Robin Cook's unvarnished account of this dramatic period in British political history. Though surprised by his abrupt dismissal in 2001 as Foreign Secretary, he became determined to effect the changes in Parliamentary democracy that he believed were essential if Parliament was to move into the twenty-first century. As Tony Blair told Cook on offering him leadership of the House of Commons, "This is the job for you."
Drawing on firsthand experiences in the Commons and the Cabinet, of encounters in conferences and corridors and late-night conversations, Cook details his gathering disillusionment with Tony Blair's change of direction, which he believes to be profoundly mistaken, and, above all, the change in foreign policy that led the United Kingdom away from its destiny in Europe and into participation in President Bush's war in Iraq.
This is the inside story of a government in power -- and of the tensions between those who govern. But above all it is the story of a politician who genuinely wanted to bring democracy closer to the people, but who saw a government increasingly detached from the values of himself and his party, and who developed a growing conviction that the government position on Iraq was morally, diplomatically, and politically wrong.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cook made headlines last spring as one of those who resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet in protest over the coming Iraq war. There's a lot in this diary of the past two years about his growing feelings against the war, his objections largely based on belief that Saddam didn't have any unconventional weapons and that the links between Saddam and Osama bin Laden were tenuous at best. As Cook puts it, the need for war because Saddam had unconventional weapons "might have carried more credibility if both the US and then the British governments had not been together in it up to their armpits in creating that capacity in the first place." Cook also repeats what are now familiar arguments: specifically, that the policy of containment was working, and that nonmilitary intervention would have been more effective. He's generally respectful and polite toward Blair - describing him as the most successful Labor leader in recent years - but he calls supporting the war "the wrong choice for Britain." His are familiar arguments, but Cook expresses them well and offers a dash of much-needed humanism in a polarized world. He also offers a pragmatist's vision for the future intended as a prescription for non-Blair leftists. Unfortunately, he does not follow through enough on the title's promise-the book fails to stick to the point. Cook spends too much time discussing British parliamentary reform, a topic unlikely to find much resonance among American readers. But those interested in what a principled British politician who opposed the war in Iraq has to say about that war will want to take a look. (Jan. 20) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fuel for a growing fire: a fly-on-the-wall, day-by-day account, by Labour Party stalwart Cook, of British prime minister Tony Blair's acquiescence in George Bush's war in Iraq. Blair's commitment of Great Britain to the Bush-Cheney "Neo-Con" cause brewed up a terrible crisis in the halls of Parliament, one that led former House of Commons leader Cook to resign from the government in March 2003, just as the Allied invasion got under way. Bad enough, Cook suggests, that the UK was cast in the role of junior partner while other European nations sensibly repudiated the war; Blair's alliance with Bush, Cook writes, "is symptomatic of a wider problem from New Labour's lack of ideological anchor. . . . [Blair] never comprehended the perplexity he would cause his supporters at home by becoming the trusty partner of the most reactionary US Administration in modern times." Cook has no kind words for those agents of reaction; he twits Bush apologist Richard Perle, for example, for storming off a BBC set when confronted with less-than-unanimous support for American hegemony. Public opinion against the war was not so strong as to turn Labour out on its ear-at least in part, Cook suggests, because the Conservative opposition was all for the war, too, giving voters no alternative. Yet Blair's alignment with Bush pushed away many who otherwise lined up with Labour on several critical issues, adding to a phenomenon Cook observes early in his pages: that "the country beyond Westminster is today much less tribal in its political loyalties. . . . Nowadays voters have a healthy tendency to change their minds between elections and very few buy into the complete programme of even their party of choice." Blair's"programme," Cook suggests, was founded on no small amount of cynicism, as evidenced by its oh-well attitude toward the persistent failure of Allied intelligence to find weapons of mass destruction anywhere in defeated Iraq-an attitude that Cook repeatedly, and effectively, disparages. A rueful portrait of war made into politics by other means.
From the Publisher
Douglas Hurd The most damning account of Britain's decision to attack Iraq.

Will Hutton, Observer The Political book of the year: a lucid and compelling insider's account of the two years that define the Blair Prime Ministership.

Martin Kettle, Guardian The one must-read memoir to have emerged from the years of the labour government.

Andrew Rawnsley, Observer Illuminating and witty...[Cook] has a forensic eye for the telling detail.

Elinor Goodman, Sunday Telegraph Books of the Year The best insight yet into the workings of the Blair Cabinet.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743267304
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/22/2004
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • File size: 886 KB

Meet the Author

Robin Cook first entered Parliament as MP for Edinburgh Central in 1974. He held a number of senior positions in Opposition -- Shadow Foreign Secretary, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, Shadow Health and Social Services Secretary -- before becoming Foreign Secretary in 1997. In 2001 he was appointed Leader of the House of Commons, a position from which he resigned in March 2003 in protest against the imminent war in Iraq.
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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
1. 'This is the job for you.': 8 June-24 July 2001 5
Why Parliament must Modernise 23
Democracy and the House of Lords 32
2. The Siege of Derry: 9 August 2001-22 January 2002 35
The US Neo-Con Battle Plan 49
Parliament and Press: A Vicious Cycle 57
Lords Reform: From Heredity to Patronage? 85
3. A Bridge Too Far: 23 January-14 May 2002 89
Britain and Washington 102
The West's Complicity with Saddam 116
Britain and Europe 130
Parliament and Parties 153
4. Putting Parliament First: 15 May-13 August 2002 155
The Euro: Collateral Damage of Iraq 168
Parliament's Right to Vote on War 187
5. We Did Good Work That Night: 15 August-29 October 2002 191
The UN: The First Casualty of War 205
The September Dossier: Intelligence or Propaganda? 214
Modernisation of Parliament: The Summing Up 234
6. Moving Apart: 30 October 2002-4 February 2003 239
Containment: A Strategy that Worked 252
Misreading the Public Mood 269
Lords Reform: Lost Among the Options 279
7. The Final Break: 5 February-17 March 2003 283
Saddam and al-Qa'ida: The Missing Link 287
Humanitarian Intervention and the UN 294
The Second Term: A Missed Opportunity 303
How Real a Threat? 310
8. After the Battle Was Over 327
9. Where Do We Go From Here? 339
Epilogue 359
Appendix Resignation Speech, 17 March 2003 361
Acknowledgements 367
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