Tuesday, 11 September 2007
In His Prime...
Remember the dying days of Blair's reign? Just to show us that he wasn't clinging on to office for an extra several months just to get as much media exposure as possible, he went on a farewell tour of Africa with a posse of snappers and sycophants from Men's Vogue in tow. I seem to remember venting forth about it on this Blog so angrily that there is still a bloodstain on my keyboard. Anyway, I recently went to the USA for a wedding (amazed they let me in) and happened to see Blair's smug grin leering at me from a Newstand. I caved in to the temptation and bought the copy of the magazine, and spent the rest of the day furiously shouting at the article, which got me lots of strange looks on the New York Subway. I'm not surprised that you can't buy it in the UK, as otherwise there would be a significant increase in the number of incidents of newsagents being daubed in pig excrement.
But seeing as I had to endure the litterary equivalent of having my netheregions clamped in a vice, I feel forced to share the pani with everyone else. The article that cost the British Taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds starts thus:
"Tony Blair left Britain better than he found it, and now the bombers in Baghdad and the tabloids in London are someone else's problem."
Genius. It then goes on to give an subjective politcal assement of his greatness:
"With Blair, you begin and end with the eyes. His dark suits and white shirts and generally modest ties (with an occasional splash of Paul Smith boldness) are unremarkable, sending you back to his most arresting feature. Blue and warm in laughter, the eyes can harden to a gemlike intensity that has its measure of ice. This is his talisman. It is an expression that speaks of the willfulness beneath the geniality."
Eventually they do talk about things other than his ties and eyes, and Blair defends on the the most contentious part of Blair's leadership - his closeness with President Bush:
"Of course Clinton and Bush are very different personalities, But I like them both immensely as people, so personally there were never problems. Politically, obviously, you have a Republican president, and different political perspectives, but in reality, certainly after 2001, it did not make much difference."
This is atually quite revealing, admitting that ater 9/11 he shifted massively to the right. - the only other interpretation being that Bush shifted to the left.
"One of the things that I've already seen is that, as prime minister, you have to deal with everything," Blair said. "The liberating quality of this new life is that you are free to concentrate on the areas where you can make a difference."
Astonishing... firstly that he still thinks that he did "deal with everything" while Prime Minister, and secondly that he honestly believes he can "make a difference" as condoleezza Rice's tea boy (aka Special Envoy to the Middle East). The article ends with a visit to 10 Downing Street on the penultimate day of his premiership.
"On his second-to-last day in office, I find Blair at Downing Street—the kind of place where you run a country from a dowdy sofa—flanked by, of all people, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California.
He and Schwarzenegger clamber into a Jaguar, and their motorcade sets out across London, now the world's financial center. Later, Schwarzenegger admits, "I wanted to model myself on him." He describes how the fun-loving Blair is "not clamped down—as we say in German, verklemmt. You know how you can find the sweet spot in tennis or in golf? Well, in politics you can also find the sweet spot, that fine line that gets the economy and the environment pulling in the same direction. Blair did that, and I wanted to do the same."
So rather than spending his final hours doing some detailed handover notes for Gordon (where the hotline to Rupert Murdoch is, which button to press when George says to Bomb Iran, etc) Blair spends even more precious moments with Men's Vogue while hanging out with Arnie. It's also very worrying that Arnie wants to base his plans for the environment on Blair's miserable record in the UK: CO2 emissions rocketing, faliure to meet any of our Kyoto targets and massive plans approved for extensions to all our aiports.
But I've saved the most gobsmacking section for last - the desperate assertion that he will continue to have a powerful influence in the days after his abdication as the special envoy to the middle east:
"So it was plain enough even then in South Africa, shortly before the long- announced though contentious end of his three-term run as Labour prime minister, that Blair, far from turning to a multimillion-dollar memoir, would take on the Jerusalem-centric mother of all conflicts."
No-one knows preceisely how many, but Tony Blair has thus far spent less than 10 days in the middle east since he took on this mother of all well paid jobs. And what's this tosh about not doing a multi million dollar memoir?!?! The bidding war has already begun...
Show me the money...
While ranting about this to a pair of elderly New Yorkers, one of them pointed out to me a reason for Blair's absurdly long departure that I was completely unaware of. Apparently, if you are Prime Minister for 10 years or more, you get you Prime ministers salary for life.