Tony Blair’s key book-signing event in central London was cancelled at the last minute on Monday amid security fears. The former UK prime minister was pelted with shoes and eggs at a previous event in Dublin and deemed a possible repeat in London not worth the effort.
The event, due to happen at the Waterstone’s bookshop in Piccadilly, was purportedly cancelled to avoid any inconvenience to the public. Blair asked readers who wanted to attend to understand his predicament. Signed copies of his memoir, A Journey, will be made available with the bookseller and will still be placed on a first-come, first-served basis sale from Thursday morning.
And these are not the only protests. The group, “Stop the War Coalition” stated it intends to protest at the launch of Blair’s book at the Tate Modern in London on Wednesday night. Some protesters are also turning creative – a number of anti-Blair activists are moving copies of his book from the memoir section to the crime section, and there is even a Facebook page with more than 8,000 fans devoted to this cause.
Blair released a statement saying he had enjoyed meeting readers in Dublin and had been quite excited to do so in London as well. But he felt the public shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by the hassle caused by protesters. He also felt that, while the Metropolitan police were more than capable of handling the event or any disruptions that might arise, they shouldn’t be burdened merely for a book-signing event.
Photo: Police officers restrain protesters outside a bookshop in Dublin, Ireland September 4, 2010. Three people were arrested when protesters threw eggs and shoes at former British Prime Minister Tony Blair when he arrived to sign copies of his memoir at a bookshop in Dublin on Saturday, national broadcaster RTE said. REUTERS/David Moir.
Regarding the fracas in Dublin, Blair’s spokesman said most of the people who had come to the book-signing in Dublin had wanted their books signed and meet the former PM, but headlines focused on a small and violent minority. The hail of eggs and shoes that welcomed him at his first public signing led to the arrest of four men.
The first indications of the cancellation of the event had been raised earlier as well, when Blair said on the ITV show, Daybreak, that police may face unnecessary hassle. He had good reason for thinking so: Anti-war protests were scheduled to take place outside the bookstore in Piccadilly. Blair was also apprehensive that the right-wing British National Party might have tried to cause trouble.
Wherever Blair goes these days he is hounded by protesters hell-bent on making him pay for his support of George W Bush and the Iraqi War. And the costs are not a small consideration either. The security needed for Blair’s appearance at Chilcot Inquiry into the UK role in the run-up to the Iraqi war earlier this year cost 270,000 pounds.
The bookstore, Waterstone’s, confirmed the cancellation, and its managing director Dominic Myers, said he regretted that customers would be unable to meet the author of one of the “fastest-selling autobiographies ever”.
Make it “the” fastest-selling UK autobiography, ever. You see, all you need to do is become a PM, send your nation into an unnecessary war, lie here, fudge there, and presto! You are a best-selling writer. Easy, hey? DM
Main photo: Copies of the political memoirs of Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair, “A Journey”, sit in boxes before being displayed in a bookshop in London September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor.
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