I’m currently listening to Tony Blair narrate his autobiography “A Journey“. It’s interesting, all the more because I recently finished Robert Harris’s “The Ghost”, which tells the fictional account of a man ghost-writing the autobiography of controversial former British Prime Minister. It hasn’t reached Iraq yet, but already I’m fascinated by how he describes how he came to hold the political values that he holds, and it got me thinking about how I don’t ever recall an Irish politician putting such an effort into explaining how he arrived at his or her values. Sure, there have been Irish political autobiographies, but they tend to arrive at a cookie cutter “which is why I believe that every child should have an opportunity” stance that is so inoffensive as to be meaningless.
That’s always been the interesting thing to me about Blair, the fact that people forget. He not only chose a policy that was unpopular, but he knew it was unpopular, yet stuck with it. Other leaders, like Chirac and Schroeder, decided to oppose the policy from the beginning, and their countries did not really suffer from it as a result, in terms of their relationship with the United States. Blair could easily have said to Bush that Britain would not participate in Iraq for logistical reasons (which were quite valid) and instead focussed on Afganistan. But he didn’t, because he believed, wrongly as it turned out, that it was the right policy. Blair did what we always say we want politicians to do: lead from conviction. The sad part is when they get it so wrong.
Listening to him tell his story in his own words is quite insightful, in its own way, in that you are reminded what a good communicator he was, probably the greatest British political communicator of the late 20th Century, even more than Thatcher. People forget: There was a time when many people actually liked Tony Blair, whereas they respected Thatcher but few actually liked her.
Having said that, I think quite a few people still like Blair. Only these days we keep it to ourselves, posting it on obscure political blogs, etc.