'...I have never been able to detect, in his behaviour or speeches, any evidence of bedrock Labour sentiments, and this memoir fails totally to explain why he drifted into the party. There was never any real reason. It was happenstance. Or rather I prefer the Quixotic explanation offered by his former housemaster at Fettes, Eric Anderson and his wife Poppy. Blair was always a consummate actor, and was given the part of Anthony in the school production of Julius Caesar, although not yet a senior boy. He had a startling success in the part, as one would expect. Poppy did the costumes, and dressed the followers of Brutus in blue. Anthony and his men wore red. "And that," she said, "was how Blair became Labour."'
Many is the time I mused on this myself. I, unlike about 97% of the British population, have always liked and continue to like Tony Blair. I didn't like his policies in many crucial respects, but as a man, I found him optimistic, warm and humane. He is confident, but not narcissistic and vain like Obama. He is also a good Christian, in an era where those are as rare as hens teeth. He is also one of very few politicians who seems to understand that with great power comes great responsibility.
The story of British politics for at least the last three or four decades has been one of running away from responsibility and the refusal to weild power in the cause of right and good. Obsessed with pampering the not-very-poor of Britain, most British politicians have paid scant regard to the rest of the world, lest they be seen as 'neo-colonial'. Never, never, never accept the premises of your enemies!
'His admiration for Margaret Thatcher was unbounded and had he followed his father and become a Tory MP he would have been her natural successor.'
What a terrible thought. What Mrs Thatcher (PBUH) conspicuously lacked was a successor. What if Tony Blair had been the one? I say terrible because what actually happened was so vastly inferior to that outcome it hardly bears thinking about. Whatever New Labour was, it had a vast sea anchor hauling it backwards called Gordon Brown.
'Blair's instinctual conservatism expresses itself in various ways. One is his good manners. He has the best manners of any political leader I have come across, here or abroad. I happen to believe manners are important, in theological terms an outward sign of inward grace. They spring, certainly in Blair's case, from a profound love of order, which is illustrated, time and again, in his memoir.'
What a wonderful and original thought. It also reveals another strand of why I like the man. Here is another-
'...one of the most touching things to emerge from this memoir is Blair's half-formulated desire to be much more ruthless, at a personal level, than he is. But it is beyond him. One cannot see him, like Lloyd George, snarling at a colleague: "I want him dead chicken by midnight" or, like Churchill, marching up and down the Cabinet room, saying aloud to himself, "I want them all to feel my power."'
I wish, as I'm sure millions of others in the country do, that he had been more ruthless with Brown, throwing him under the bus at any one of dozens of excellent opportunities. But he didn't. He soldiered on. But he wouldn't have been himself (he would have been Peter Mandelson) if he had thrown him overboard.
I have always had a lot of time for Paul Johnson, and this is one of the most interesting pieces about Tony Blair I've read.