So Tony Blair is to sign copies of his memoir A Journey at Waterstone’s flagship store in Piccadilly in September. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be braving the “strict security conditions” to queue for a wrist-band to queue for a signing
It will be interesting to see if the book puts the Labour Party in such a spin as did Mandelson’s recent tome The Third Man. (Now why should that title irresistibly remind me of Orson Welles looking out over a ruined Vienna from the top of the Prater Riesenrad? You know how it goes:
“In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”)
But nothing Blair writes – however self-serving – is likely to do more than add circumstantial detail to the already dismal picture in the public eye. As for damaging Labour’s electoral chances, let’s face it: none of the feeble shower currently contesting the leadership has a hope in hell of ever becoming Prime Minister. Labour will only become electable again when a new generation, untainted by association with the ancien regime, comes to the fore, with new ideas and a fresh political vision.
What A Journey is unlikely to do is shed any light on the central mystery of how the husband of a barrister who earned substantially more than he did became one of the richest men in the world. Blair’s abuse of the prestige of his office to fill his pockets is not a sideshow to the tragedy of New Labour but the very heart of it. His oleaginous schmoozing of the rich and powerful (Silvio Berlusconi, assorted oil sheikhs, Russian ‘biznismyeni’) undermined the core values of his party, enmeshing even stolid Tessa Jowell in a web of financial intrigue. Worse still, it undermined the core values of the nation. If the wealth did not trickle down, the greed certainly did, encouraging people to live beyond their means, making thrift appear stuffy and ridiculous, leading directly to the economic mess we are in today.
Not so much a dismal picture, then, as a dismal sequence of pictures, a la Hogarth: the bright new dawn of Cool Britannia; the first hint of trouble with the Bernie Eccleston affair; Mandy’s mortgage; the flats in Bristol … the images darken progressively towards the horror of the Iraq war. Hogarthian indeed. What we’re looking at here is The Harlot’s Progress.Tagged in: Blair, Mandelson, memoirs, New Labour
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