Three years after he left office, the image makers are still working overtime on Tony Blair.
The former prime minister's memoirs have been surrounded by the sort of spin, hype and control-freakery associated with an instalment of the Harry Potter series. Every detail of their launch has been planned in fine detail to maximise the book's impact – and help burnish Mr Blair's image.
Two months ago, its title was altered from The Journey to A Journey in an apparent attempt to make the author seem a little less messianic. The image chosen for the book's jacket features Mr Blair in an open-necked shirt, evocative of his attempts to bring a more relaxed style to government. A promotional video for the tome featured him travelling the world – meeting Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama – and entering Downing Street to cheers.
The Iraq War, the abiding memory of the Blair years for many voters, is mentioned only once. One close ally of Mr Blair told The Independent: "The ads are clearly the work of people who worry more about promotion than reputation." Mr Blair, who received a reported £4.6m fee for taking up his pen, has resisted the temptation to rake in a huge sum for selling its serialisation rights.
He followed the lead of his former press secretary, Alastair Campbell, who decided not to let a newspaper pick out the juiciest bits of his diaries on the basis that the book would become "storified" and its author lose control over what was judged to be important.
Next month's publication of the memoirs has been carefully timed to ensure its does not overshadow the beginning of the Labour Party conference three weeks later. Sufficient time has also passed to avoid any of its thunder being stolen by Lord Mandelson's rapidly penned account of his time in office, which was published last month.
Meanwhile, extraordinary controls are being imposed on Mr Blair's only planned book signing at Waterstone's flagship London store. Purchasers will have to surrender their mobile phones and bags before being given a wristband to join the queue to meet him.
They will not be allowed to be photographed with the former prime minister and will be banned from receiving personal dedications on their copy of A Journey. He will sign a maximum of two copies per customer.
The rules are partly dictated by security concerns: hundreds of anti-war demonstrators are expected to protest outside the shop.
But there is also an apparent desire to protect his reputation. It would, after all, seem a little undignified for scores of autographed copies to appear immediately on online auction sites.Reuse content