|Muaah, I am a yankee poodle|
First, his memoirs are called ‘A Journey’, and without reading it I have formed a fair opinion since it has been publicised a good deal.
It has, like most books these days, to do with publicity. In fact, he has written a six-page introduction for his transatlantic readers that says:
“The book, in many ways, is a story about America as well as, evidently, a history of my time as British PM.”
This reveals how he seems to have meshed the roles of PM with that of keeper of America’s political policies. He even audaciously writes about the US:
“Mere mortals are still inspired by a certain awe.”
I understand awe; people do admire characteristics of nations and societies and even some leaders. But, what does being mere mortals have to do with it? Are the US and its leadership god, whatever is the herd or individual definition of such a god? It is ironical, then, that the qualities he admires are based entirely on practical considerations:
“These Americans can be smart – really, really clever. Homely, folksy, in certain aspects disarmingly simple: but don’t let any of that fool you. Underneath all the pop culture, old-fashioned courtesy, Disney, McDonald’s and the rest of it, there beats a brain.”
Pop culture and the rest arise from a canny mental ability as does consumerism. You don’t get apple pie only because your heart beats for it.
“I have come to love America and what it stands for. The essential values it embodies are so much more fundamental to our fortune than even Americans themselves may appreciate. America is great for a reason. It is looked up to, despite all the criticism, for a reason. There is a nobility in the American character that has been developed over the centuries.”
Fine. If he is talking about values embodied in the Constitution; if he is talking about the everyday American. But can character be generalised? What have the British learned from the Americans? What nobility is he talking about and what centuries? It would seem he is talking about some ancient civilisation that has fought off several conquests by outside forces.
It is clear that he is not referring to the America of the people but of the politicians.
On George Bush: “The stupidest misconception was that he was stupid…He also had – has – great intuition.”
On Barack Obama: “The personal character is clear: this is a man with steel in every part of him.”
On Bill Clinton: “an extraordinary mixture of easygoing charm and ferocious intellectual capacity. Probably . . . he is the most formidable politician I ever met.”
Blair comes up with an smart analysis of the Monica Lewinsky affair. As stated in a report:
He says Mr Clinton had a curiosity in people. With men, this would result in friendship, he says, while with women there was a sexual dimension. “In this, I doubt that he is so very different from most of the male population.”
Right. This ignores the fact that the curious men are with women who might be curious themselves. They do not get the same respect in society or by the likes of Blair. He justifies Clinton’s lies as “not wanting to embarrass his family”.
Do families not understand curiosity? And it is precious that while he accepts with equanimity the affair of his minister Blunkett, he dismisses the scandal to his choice of the “wrong woman”. She was married. A woman’s marriage is a problem with this curiosity business, it would seem.
Tony Blair has had a rather interesting recollection of when he tried to rid himself of anxiety when faced with a leadership battle. I don’t know whether it is wife Cherie or his opponent Gordon Brown who can take credit for this!
“That night she cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be told; strengthened me; made me feel that what I was about to do was right... On that night of the 12th May, 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly.If there is a potent connection between sex and politics, then this is it. More importantly, Blair has done it with tremendous delicacy. Selfishness and instinct are married rather well. It is also a great analogy for the survival need that regresses to evolve to withering heights.
“I devoured it to give me strength, I was an animal following my instinct, knowing I would need every of emotional power and resilience to cope with what lay ahead. I was exhilarated, afraid and determined in roughly equal quantities.”