I have now - finally - finished "A Journey". You can love the man or you can hate him, but if you don't understand where he's coming from, you can't really hope to understand Labour politics of the last 20 years. Over the next couple of weeks I shall do an occasional post on things which stand out. First observation:
There is a conventional wisdom has always implied that Blair did not have a deep grasp of the economic fundamentals and left the economy to Brown, on the grounds that he is a technical inept and terrible at maths, by his own admission. (I have some sympathy for this view, having once tried to show him round the Labour Party website. He kept a PC on his desk during election campaigns at Millbank but never, reputedly, switched it on).
This conventional wisdom I now find to be completely false: not just because of what he says explicitly about it "the perception was that I kept out of the economic policy space", but by reading the text you can see that he has a pretty profound grasp of macroeconomics. He simply disagreed with Brown on where it should go, after 2005 at least and, only at the last, ceded control when he knew he was going to go anyway.
Blair never got his spending review in place, which would have trimmed and cut to get back towards the magic "golden rule": total taxation = total spending over the economic cycle. But he pretty much drew a diagram for Brown of where it should go, so that the decision would be Brown's alone when he diverted from it.
In short, it seems entirely credible the argument that Blair was a brake on the tax-hiking instincts of Brown, who fundamentally thought that people should pay more tax. Brown was good at this stuff, and understood the detail better than most. But Blair also understood as much as he needed to and, on the big picture, he arguably had much better instincts for what the electorate would buy.