By Alexander Topping – The Guardian
Tony Blair took a last-minute decision to cancel his key book signing in central London because of security fears, after unrest at a signing in Dublin saw the former prime minister pelted with eggs and shoes.
Blair said he was cancelling the event, due to take place tomorrow at Waterstone’s bookshop in Piccadilly, central London, “to avoid the inconvenience to the public it would have caused”.
He said in a statement: “I very much enjoyed meeting my readers in Dublin and was looking forward to doing the same in London. However, I have decided not to go ahead with the signing as I don’t want the public to be inconvenienced by the inevitable hassle caused by protesters. 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 called for understanding from those who were hoping to attend the event. He will sign copies of his memoir, A Journey, for the bookseller, which will be available from the store from 9am on Thursday.
A spokesman for the former PM had earlier said that the majority of the people who had gone to the book signing in Dublin on Saturday had wanted to meet Blair and get their books signed, but a small and vocal minority had grabbed the headlines. Blair met with a hail of shoes and eggs at the event, his first public signing, at Eason’s bookshop onO’Connell Street. Four men were arrested.
Blair added: “I’m really sorry for those – as ever the majority – who would have come to have their books signed by me in person. I hope they understand.”
Blair first raised the possibility of cancelling the planned appearance during an interview on the new ITV morning show Daybreak, saying that he feared it could cause unnecessary “hassle and cost” for police. Anti-war protesters had planned to rally outside the Piccadilly bookstore. Blair said he was also worried the far right British National party might attempt to cause trouble.
Waterstone’s confirmed that the scheduled book signing had been cancelled, “according to the wishes of the author”. The managing director, Dominic Myers, said: “Our job as a bookseller is to bring books to our customers, and where possible enable them to meet authors as well. It is a matter of regret that because of the likely actions of a minority, our customers are now not able to meet a three-times elected prime minister of the United Kingdom, whose book has become our fastest-selling autobiography ever.”
The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) said it was planning to protest at a launch party for Blair’s book at the Tate Modern in London tomorrow night. Lindsey German, convenor of StWC, said: “It’s a stain on the reputation of Tate Modern, to host a gathering of war criminals.”
The limited number of signed copies of A Journey will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis, one copy per customer.
Waterstone’s is also having to cope with a number of anti-Blair protesters moving his memoirs to the crime area of their stores, after thousands joined a group entitled “Subversively move Tony Blair’s memoirs to the crime section in bookshops”.
The Facebook page, now has almost 8,000 members, urging them to “make bookshops think twice about where they categorise our generations [sic] greatest war criminal”.
[4th September] On Saturday 4th Septmber Kate O’Sullivan, an activist from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), made a citizen’s arrest on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a book signing in Eason’s. However the Gardaí refused to act on the arrest, preferring instead to detain Ms. O’Sullivan for half an hour in a stairwell. At the protest outside Eason’s, where over 1,000 people gathered to protest the presence of Mr Blair in Ireland, at least three arrests of peaceful protesters where carried out, including that of a secondary school student. All have subsequently been released and are due in court on 30th September.