Sunday, May 13, 2007


‘With hand on heart, I swear I did it all for England and St George…For this sceptred isle, set in a silver sea, and a people who are the greatest in the world, I did it my way…’
No parody of Tony Blair in Shakespeare or Sinatra mode can wholly sum up his self-justifying ‘farewell’ performance at his local Labour Club in Trimdon when he finally announced his resignation as Prime Minister on Thursday.
In fact it was an inaugural performance, a curtain raiser to the global tours he plans over the next six weeks to lay the foundation for his future career on the world stage.
Already he’s been to Paris to say au revoir to the retiring French President, Jacques Chirac, and bonjour to his successor, Nicolas Sarkozy. But as his programme is more like a rock star’s or opera diva’s concert schedule, his appearances would be really better suited to the Comedie Francais and Broadway than the Elysee Palace and the White House.
Without doubt Blair is the finest actor of his generation. His performances can make Kenneth Branagh and Sir Ian Mackellan look like amateurs. And, as his appearance in a Comic Relief sketch with Catherine Tate revealed, he really should have played himself opposite Helen Mirren in The Queen instead of Michael Sheen.
Like all great actors, when Blair gets into the part and his eyes light up with a look that says his heart is moved and he feels the emotion, he believes the words he utters.
At that moment he speaks he is as sincere as any Oscar winning star. But when the moment is over and gone, he moves on to his next role.
That is why so many people who have taken their troubles or causes to him and been convinced he was sympathetic and understood them and would do something to help, have felt let down afterwards when he did nothing.
When he told the House of Commons Saddam Hussein had non existent weapons of mass destruction which could reach the UK in forty-five minutes, by his own lights he did not think he was lying or misleading anyone; he was simply giving a powerful performance. Listening to intelligence reports, he may well have imagined a clear picture of a UK devastated to the point of extinction by nuclear explosions.
Convinced this could happen, he gave a performance in which all reality was suspended. Blair also has the supreme survivor’s talent for turning misfortune to his advantage.
Though the attempted coup to force him from office immediately last September failed but has meant he is leaving Downing Street sooner than he wished, the shabby exit meted out to Margaret Thatcher is not for him.
Instead he is the first British PM to turn his leaving into a triumphal progress from one world to the next.
And although he has long admired and yearned to join the mega rich, which book and lecture circuit deals will enable him to do, money alone will never be enough to satisfy Blair. At fifty-four, he is at an age when many men are only embarking on leading their nations.
It is also unlikely that simply joining the ranks of ex world leaders who flog themselves around the world as roving ambassadors or mediators will be enough for him for long.
Blair will still hanker after power and may already have his eyes on the day when the revised new European Union constitution is finally agreed and a new President has real power.
He may even believe it is only right that he should become the first really powerful President of Europe.
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