Blair cancels London book signing over protest fears

By Anna Tomforde

LONDON – Tony Blair on Monday canceled a high-profile book-signing session of his best-selling memoirs in the British capital, amid mounting security fears and expected large-scale protests.

“I’m really sorry for those – as ever a majority – who would have come to have their books signed by me in person. I hope they understand,” the former Labour prime minister said in a statement.

His decision to call off the high-profile signing in London came two days after anti-war protestors threw eggs and shoes at him at a signing in Dublin, the Irish capital.

Blair said he will deliver signed copies of his autobiography – A Journey – to Waterstone’s bookstore in Piccadilly, where the signing was due to take place on Wednesday.

Anti-war protestors had vowed to turn up in large numbers for the event, and some groups had called for a “peaceful citizen’s arrest” of the former leader, whom they want to be held accountable for “war crimes.”

Feelings are still running high in Britain over Blair’s 10-year tenure in Downing Street, during which he joined the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq and sent British troops to Afghanistan.

Blair’s testimony to the Iraq Inquiry in January, during which he showed no remorse for his decisions and declined to apologize to relatives of war victims, has rankled many Britons.

In the 700-page book, Blair gives rare insight into the intense political emnity between himself and his chief rival and successor, Gordon Brown, while also revealing details about his own private life and drinking habits.

Blair, who has become a multi-millionaire since he left office in 2007, has donated the expected earnings from his book of between 3 and 5 million pounds (4.6 to 7.7 million dollars) to a charity caring for injured soldiers.

“I know the Metropolitan Police would, as ever, have done a superb job in managing any disruption but I do not wish to impose an extra strain on police resources, simply for a book signing,” Blair said.

“I don’t want the public to be inconvenienced by the inevitable hassle caused by protestors,” he added.
According to Blair, indications that the right-wing British National Party had also planned to join the protest played a key part in his decision to scrap the signing.

Waterstone’s said it was regretful that the “likely actions of a minority” would prevent customers from meeting a “three-times elected prime minister of the United Kingdom, whose book has become our fastest-selling autobiography ever.”