Until I can buy Tony Blair’s ‘A Journey’ in Poundland…

…I will have to mull over second-hand accounts. Never mind- Tony Blair’s autobiography seems to take fictional dialogue about his life as gospel as well!

Blair meets Jedward: ‘Hey guys, if only me and George had dressed like this before attacking Iraq…’

The best single review I have read of A Journey so far is hiding behind the Murdoch Paywall at The Times website. Robert Harris’s piece (‘The chosen one’ Sunday Tmes Culture 12/9/10, pp.41-42) nails Blair’s autobiography as something that could serve ‘as a standard text for psychologists’, not least for those interested in the ‘Messiah complex.’

In the early 1990s, Harris notes, TB thought himself as an instrument of divine Providence:

I felt a growing inner sense of belief, almost of destiny…I could see the opportunity to take hold of the  Labour party, rework it into an electoral machine capable of winning over the people. I could see it like…an artist suddenly appreciates his own creative genius.’

On the day John Smith died in May 1994, Blair encountered Peter Mandelson in Parliament and discussed the Labour Party leadership:

‘Peter,’ I said, putting a hand on each shoulder, ‘don’t cross me over this. This is mine. I know it and I will take it.’

Then once he became PM:

I was alone. There would be no more team, no more friendly clique, no more shared emotions among a band of intimates. There would be them; and there would be me. At a certain profound point, they would no tbe able to touch my life, or me theirs.

As Harris comments, looking back it should be no surprise that the impulses that led Blair to support British involvement in the US invasion of Iraq were there from the start:

a reckless feelng of invincibility, arising out of a solipsistic sense of personal destiny; an almost ludicrous penchant for self-dramatisation; a deluded detachment from the advice of colleagues and officials; and above all, an oversimplistic view of the world as a place of good versus evil, drawn in part from a Hollywood film.

No wonder he thinks he has only God to answer to for Iraq and much else besides! Blair seems to share the same deluded self-assurance which other so-called Men of Destiny have achieved over the years:

But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it… Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me. Fidel Castro, 1953.

You may declare us guilty a thousand times, but the Goddess who presides over the Eternal Court of History will with a smile tear in pieces the charge of the Public Prosecutor and the judgment of the Court: for she declares us guiltless. Adolf Hitler, 1924.

In my mind I went through all the stages of my life.. Individual episodes emerged with the vividness of a dream. Gradually all of it began to assume increasingly sharp outlines. With amazing clarity I saw those ‘disciples’ who were true to their master in the little things, and not in the big. As I breathed the sea air in, I assimilated with my whole being the assurance of my historical rightness in opposition to the epigones. Leon Trotsky after Lenin’s death in 1924.

Nearer to home, there is another political figure associated with the concept of the Man of Destiny who had a meteoric rise through the Labour Party and liked to use the word ‘New’ when discussing his political outlook. Namely Oswald Mosley. As his biographer Stephen Dorrill notes (Blackshirt:Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism, Penguin, 2007, p.647):

Mosley failed, but he was the forerunner for the kind of ‘manipulative self’ which, James Glass suggests, has come to be valued as ‘a desirable paradigm’ for a political leader. Pathological narcissists are the model for the ‘successful, admired, tough and calculating’ politician, who excels at ‘manipulation and rational organising’, no matter what the content or techniques used. He resists self-reflection and sees ‘all forms of human encounter in the language of utility’. These prized values, adds Glass, have been ‘translated into a popular ideal and dominate modern consciousness.’

He is certainly not a Fascist but…Tony Blair is an obvious example of the narcissist leader. ‘He is in thrall to the idea of the strong leader,’ according to biographer John Rentoul. A devourer of biographies of Lloyd George, Churchill and Cromwell, like Mosley he is transfixed by leaders who ‘force the nation on to a new path by exercise of will’. The essence of his ‘third way’ was synthesis as an end in itself- a concept one commentator, unaware of Mosley, claimed he had ‘never before seen advocated so openly in democratic politics. It is either breathtaking, or sinisterly Orwellian.’ Political actors such as Blair- synthetic and lacking genuiness- are dangerous and suffer from hubris. They lead men to war.

Robert Harris in his review of A Journey notes that:

One cannot rid oneself of the uneasy feeling that Blair enjoys war- its stark simplicity, its historic drama, its emotion. Informed of the attacks on the World Trade Center….Blair claims to have felt ‘eerily calm…There was no other option….It was war….And it came with total clarity. Essentially, it stayed with that clarity and stays still, in the same way, as clear now as it was then.’

Furthermore, Blair wants more Western military interventions in the Middle East in the name of ‘nation-building’ (how he squares this with being the Middle East Peace Envoy is beyond my comprehension. ‘War is Peace’ anybody?) which ‘requires above all a willingness to see the battle as existential and to see it through, to take the time, to spend the treasure, to shed the blood.’ Not his own, obviously, but…

Blair refers to opposition to his Iraq adventure as ‘the demonic rabble tearing at my limbs’ (no wonder he couldn’t face protests in London last week, the poor lamb). As has been pointed out elsewhere, A Journey shows how Blair hated much of the Labour Party. Convinced that ‘If we departed a millimetre from New Labour, we were in trouble’, (Sounds to me  like a Big Business-friendly version of  ‘Comrades, No Deviation From The Correct Line Should Be Tolerated’) Blair and his acolytes inside the Labour Party fear the next Labour leader will blow the Great Leader’s ‘legacy’- although overseeing the loss of 4 million votes during his time as leader, and convincing just 22% of those eligible to vote to put a cross next to a Labour candidate on their ballot paper in the 2005 General Election does beg the question: ‘what legacy?’


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  1. […] Until I can buy Tony Blair's 'A Journey' in Poundland … […]

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