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San Francisco Chronicle SEPTEMBER 8, 2010 - by Raphael G. Satter
BLAIR'S BOOK PARTY POSTPONED AFTER PROTEST THREAT
A book-launch party for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at London's top modern art venue has been postponed following a threat by protesters to picket the event.
Blair spokesman Matthew Doyle said the Wednesday party at the Tate Modern had been pushed back, but would not say until when. He also refused to comment about why the party had been put off.
Blair's book, A Journey, has reawakened the controversy over his decade at the top of British politics, particularly his decision to take the country to war in Iraq.
Blair's appearance at a book signing in Ireland's capital last week was greeted with a group of rowdy projectile-throwing protesters, while a book-signing event at Waterstone's bookstore in central London was canceled due to security concerns.
Anti-war activists claimed the bookstore cancellation as a victory, then expressed anger when word got out that Blair was still planning to attend a party at the Tate Modern, a power plant-turned-art gallery on the south bank of the River Thames. Blair's critics in the art world also expressed annoyance at the choice of venue, with Vivienne Westwood, Tracey Emin, and Brian Eno writing to The Guardian to say that holding the party at the Tate was a disgrace.
The Tate said in a statement that it did not comment on the private events it hosted.
Lindsey German of the Stop The War Coalition said she was pleased that Wednesday's event had been canceled.
"It shows he is running scared," she said of Blair, batting away criticism that his group was unfairly hounding the former British leader. "The people who say we should not protest are denying us the right to persist in asking questions about the war and denying the rights of Iraqis who are still suffering because of Blair's policies."
Blair was paid a four million pound (seven million dollar) advance for "A Journey," in which he defends his 1997-2007 tenure in office and his role in precipitating the war in Iraq. The book is a best-seller - currently number one in Amazon's British rankings and in the top twenty in its U.S. ones.