Tone Deaf

[This is the third (and final) half of the increasingly inaccurately titled two part series recounting my encounters with Tony Blair. Part One: Two phone or not two phone. Part Two: Don’t call U.S., they’ll call you. Hopefully reading these will help you.]

Tony looked over at me as if I’d slapped him.

“People forget that you started with Clinton,” I made eye contact with him.
He looked away, but I went on, “yes people forget that. You were Clinton’s leading ally. And now you’re George W.’s. How did you manage that Tony? How did you survive? You sold your soul to the devil didn’t you.”
“You are out of line, Alex.”
“Forgive me Prime Minister. I got carried away. But I do know how it actually happened. I remember the situation weeks after George got in. Suddenly new Tory donors were coming out of the woodwork. There was agitation within your own party for the first time. And you, you could read what was happening faster than almost anybody else. You knew Bush was pushing to oust you. You knew he wanted an ally who was ready to go to war. And he thought he could never get it from you. And so you gave him what he wanted didn’t you? You promised to change. To become his kind of Prime Minister.”
“I had to. He would have gone to the Tories instead. His aides had already held meetings with Hauge. It was only international political protocol which meant he had to see me first.”
“And so you decided to save yourself.”
“It wasn’t myself I was saving. I was sacrificing myself. I did it for Britain, and the world. I couldn’t have somebody toadeying up to him. Saying yes to his every whim. A prime minister yes man. I needed to tame the beast. Even if my own party, my own country would hate me for it.”
“But that is what people think of you Tony. They do think that you are a yes man to the president. They don’t see anything different. And to be honest Tony. Among friends here. What have you actually been able to do?”
“I’ll be honest, not as much as I’d hoped. But the G8 was good.”
“But so much of that was because of the popularity of the movement. Most of it was Bob not you.”
“He couldn’t have got the meetings without me.”
“You know it was the second resolution on Iraq that destroyed you.”
“I know. I know. I still think about that moment every day. It haunts me. I can’t escape it. It defines me. If we had got the second resolution people would have seen me bringing George to the UN and not this mess. We, all of us in Britain, would be in this together.”
“But why didn’t you back down when you didn’t get the resolution? Why didn’t you stop there? By carrying on when you knew you were no longer being listened to was what made you look weak.”

He took a deeper breath, paused, and said, “I couldn’t stop.”

This admission hung in the air while I shifted in my seat.

Then I spoke, “so Tony, they’ve interviewed you again have they?”
“Yes.”
“And you’ve brought me here because you want advice. And…”
I paused, to give the appearance that I was thinking about what I was about to say rather than I was inviting a question.
“And… You want to confide in me something that you were asked not to share with your staff.”
“Yes. Well no. Nothing more than I’ve said really. Except…”
“They’re going to arrest Levy”
“Yes. How do you know. I was told no one knew.”
“Well I have the benefit of being no one quite often.”
“Yes. I suppose you do”
“what are you going to do about it Tony?”
“I don’t know. I can’t know.”
“You want them to stop don’t you.”
“Yes of course I do.”
“And people have been telling you to stop haven’t they. Saying that if you stop the police will all go away.”
“Yes.”
“But we both know it doesn’t work like that.”
“Yes.”
“If you quit you won’t be the prime minister any more. And you won’t be protected.”
“But that’s not it. They still won’t arrest me I didn’t do anything.”
“Are you saying Levy did?”
“No, no. Of course not.”
“So it is entirely selfless?”
“Yes. Yes it is.”
“You’re doing it for Gordon?”
“I’m doing it for Labour.”

I was relieved. I knew he had been so stressed recently. I really had been worried that he had been loosing his political nose. The Tories were right on the money asking him to quit now. But any Labour party member asking for the same must be mad.

The first one hundred days of being in control are the most important for any politician. They make or break you really. Look at Cameron. He got off to a flying start right when everyone wanted to talk to him. And then kept them listening by keeping in the news. It’s easier to be in the news if you were in the news yesterday. Miss a day and nobody comes sniffing.

Imagine how badly Gordon would fair if the first hundred days were taken up with “The trial of Tony Blair”. And Tony could still read the party politics. I looked up at him and a small smile spread across my face.

“What’s that for?” Tony asked.
“Well I was just thinking, ‘thank God he hasn’t totally lost the plot'”.
“I just wish I could convince my party.”
“I’m sure you do.”
“So, Alex, what do I do?”
“I’m sorry Tony. I can’t help you. I can’t advise you any more. What would it achieve?”
“Well it would help me. You know for old times sake.”
“I can’t you know. I can’t advise you like I used to, not in the run up to the next one. It wouldn’t be fair. I can only tell you what I’d like you to do personally.”
“Well at least that would be something.”

“Well Tony I would like a complete Mea Culpa. A full and frank admission of guilt on your part. Admit you misled the public about Iraq and admit you did offer honours for loans. The people already think you did it, and you know the truth of what happened. But you should say exactly why you did it. And how it all happened. Explain the situation honestly. And then move on. Say that it would be wrong to remove the soldiers from Iraq now and that if we do there will be an even bigger humanitarian disaster than there is now and we’ll just have to send even more troops back in. Say all of that because Tony you seen like you are just constantly repeating your version of the truth in the hope that it will become true. Just because you say something out loud just because you write something down. Even if you say it and write it many many times you will find that it still isn’t the truth. Just because you or I say something has happened doesn’t make it true. We’re not that powerful.”

And with that I vanished.

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