I’ve just read all 700 pages of Tony Blair’s autobiography, A Journey. It was quite a transformative experience for me, because I opened it convinced that he was amoral, venal and unprincipled, and one of the worst people we had ever had as Prime Minister, but I came out of it knowing that that’s untrue. He is, in fact, one of the worst people we’ve ever had as a person. He’s just awful.
Here, so that you have to spend none of the few hours you have on this fleeting rock reading it, are the top lessons you can learn from Tony Blair’s A Journey
25. Tony Blair hates democracy – He doesn’t even let you get past the introduction before he really feels that he has to be clear about how terrible democracy is. It really hinders leaders who are just trying to lead, you see.
The challenge of modern democracy is efficacy. Not accountability, transparency or whether it is honest or not, but whether it works to deliver effective change in times that need radical change.
That’s an elected leader saying it’s more important to get things done than to tell the people what you are going to get done, letting them know how it is done, that you don’t lie to them about it, or even that they have an opportunity to get rid of you if they don’t like what you are doing. You know, like in a democracy.
Fortunately, most governments have some sense of checks and balances to stop those who wield executive power abusing it. Unfortunately, Tony finds that really annoying:
Checks and balances are there for very good reasons in most constitutional democracies; but in the modern world they often lead not to consensus for change but to sclerosis or minimal change.
Well, surely he likes people voting, though, right? You know, like vesting more powers in the elected European Parliament, rather than in the not-directly-elected European Council.
So the notion of a steady evolution towards a reduced Council and an enhanced Parliament is based on a fundamental diversion from democratic accountability.
By making it more democratically accountable.
And this is just the Introduction.
24. Telling Lies To Get Elected Is Fine
I voted Labour in 1983. I didn’t really think a Labour victory was the best thing for the country, and I was a Labout candidate.
23. If You Can’t Play Sport (Say, Because You Only Have One Functioning Eye), You Will Be A Terrible Prime Minister.
It was, of course, a monumental risk as it always is when a political leader plays sport in public. No one expects you to be brilliant, but you can’t afford to be absolutely rubbish, otherwise you are plainly not fit to run a nation.
22. It’s Helpful If You Can Get The Right People To Die
Throughout the book, there’s a theme of people dying at times that prove convenient for Tony Blair. John Smith, Princess Diana, R0bin Cook, Mo Mowlam, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Not that I’m suggesting that he arranged their deaths, that would be ridiculous. After all, none of them were Iraqi civilians. But he certainly made use of them all.
However, the first example we get of this theme is the most Blair one. The murder of toddler James Bulger, which he describes like this:
[A]t the time, politically, there was a big impact on my standing, which rose still further.
Thank goodness for that murdered child!
21. Tony Blair May Be Schizophrenic
[O]thers would mutter about it being ‘a score draw’, or some such bull****.
Let’s examine what just happened. A man wrote a sentence, and then censored his own words.
Rather than choosing a diffferent word, or being confident that, as a grownup, he can use the words he wants in his own fucking book, he is using a word, then implying that it’s the sort of word he doesn’t think should be used. As if there’s someone else living inside his skull, crossing bits out as he writes them.
He’s a man with strong enough convictions to use a word, but not strong enough ones to be seen using it.
20. If You Can Combine Satan With Sport, Do It
I was aware we were playing with Faust’s companion, but with him onside, it was just too easy to score.
19. The Irish Peace Process Required Diamond-Shaped Tables
When the DUP insisted on rectangular tables to indicate that they were sitting opposite enemies, and Sinn Fein wanted round tables to suggest that they were now all on side with each other, the situation was only resolved when someone found a diamond-shaped table.
The Irish peace process was also Blair’s finest hour. On reading the book it becaomes clear that only someone so completely free of principles, who has no attachment to values or tradition of any kind, could have steered the Northern Ireland peace process to a successful conclusion.
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that – just as the Second World War demanded someone as racist, vicious, and batshit insane as Winston Churchill – the peace process could only have been guided by someone egotistical enough the be unable to empathise with all sides equally, and unprincipled enough to let nothing stand in their way.
Although you get the feeling that after 9/11, his answer would have been to bomb Ireland with depleted uranium until they took responsibility for the table situation.
18. Nelson Mandela was ‘fly as hell’
[N]ot because he’s a saint, because he isn’t. Or rather he is, but not in the sense that he can’t be fly as hell when the occasion demands. I bet Ghandi was the same.
I’ll take that bet.
17. George Orwell Lives
[I]ndecision is also decision. Inaction is also action.
16. Efficiency In Childbirth Is Achievable
There are times with that woman when I am in awe. She kept working until the last minute. Gave birth on time and to order. Got out that night. And she was forty-five. It was pretty impressive.
15. There’s Nothing You Can’t Legislate
[T]he world had changed and required a different system for enforcing good conduct in the absence of the pressure of tradition and family.
And that system is on-the-spot fines administered by policemen.
14. Anti-Social Behaviour Is Relative
When describing his attitude to law and order, Blair concentrates on the fact that one night he saw a man weeing in a doorway. When he asked him to stop, the man didn’t, and that – to Tony Blair – is symbolic of everything that was wrong with the world. By letting the door-splashers get away, we let the people who shit in hedgerows get away, the people who ejaculate into ornamental fountains get away, and that is the beginning of the end.
Blair believes that every small instance of anti-social behaviour should be immediately punishable by the police without having to go through the process of gathering and presenting evidence. Summary justice, administered against low-level offenders against common decency is the only way forward. Except in one instance,
When his own underage son is arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Leicester Square.
OK, he was drunk and shouldn’t have been, but this all seemed a little excessive – it’s not as if he was a proper criminal or anything.
13. He Doesn’t Care Who Thinks He’s Greedy
Before the famous picture of Blair and Brown together in the 2005 general election was taken with them both holding ice creams, Blair had to go and buy the ice creams. Kate Garvey told him not to get a flake because it would make him look greedy. He got a flake because Fuck That Noise.
12. He Was In Touch With The People
I should have realised that for your ordinary motorist, the rising cost of filling the car was a big, not an insignificant one (after all, the children’s nanny, Jackie, had been complaining about it for weeks.
11. Lying To The Media Doesn’t Count
It seems almost pathetic now when you look back on it. Because a wrong statement had been made to the media, they were able to turn it into a full-blown scandal.
That’s a ‘wrong statement’. Which is – somehow – different to a ‘lie’.
10. Decisions Made In The Heat Of The Moment Are Always Right
The emotional impact is replaced by a sentiment which, because it is more calm, seems more rational. But paradoxically it can be less rational, because the calm is not the product of a changed analysis, but of the effluxion of time.
Yes, it’s the moment when you forget your anger and fear that you start making stupid, irrational decisions because of the effluxion of time.
Which is news to those of us who thought that the effluxion of time was only responsible for the travails of Marty McFly.
9. Playing Into The Hands Of Terrorists Is Exactly What They Don’t Expect. And Therefore Exactly What You Should Do
It was, in a very real sense, a declaration of war. It was calculated to draw us into conflict.
Ha! That showed them! Wait, what?
8. There Are Different Ways Of Not Having WMDs
I shan’t quote this, because it goes on – and ON – but it turns out there are two ways you can not have WMDs. You can not have WMDs strategically – which is what our UN resolutions meant Saddam sould have done – or you can not have WMDs tactically – which is what he had actually done. The distinction is the difference between someone who is complying with a resolution by stopping WMD programmes and someone who is appearing to comply by stopping WMD programmes.
7. Fear Is Not The Same As Terror
And a little bit of fear about what America might do was no bad thing.
I’m sure we have a word for those who try to achieve their political ends by instilling fear – or ‘terror’ – in others. Now, what was it again…
6. War War Can’t Wait For Jaw Jaw
[T]hey had close on 250,000 troops in the region and they couldn’t simply wait until a diplomatic dance, which they had fair evidence for thinking would be interminable, was played out.
5. Protestors Are Hypocritical Bastards
When was there a single protest in any Western nation about such evil [the insurgency in Iraq]? Where was the moral indignation?
Stupid protestors, only protesting about the things their government was doing, rather than just milling around London in a state of permanent outrage.
4. Freedom Of Information Is A Terrible Idea
Blair often separates things he doesn’t like to think of being subsets of other things. So ‘party members’ don’t count in his mind as ‘voters’, and ‘journalists’ aren’t ‘people’. He doesn’t like the fact that the FOI Act is used by journalists and not people. And it’s not used to ‘bestow’ knowledge’ or to satisfy the ‘curious’. Instead “[i]t’s used as a weapon.”
Which, again, should be very separate things.
3. Tony Blair Likes A Good Shit
I am very typically British. I like to have time and comfort in the loo… I couldn’t live in a culture that doesn’t respect it.
2. Tony Blair Is A Typical Lad. Zoo Wouldn’t Have Folded On his Watch
As we sat down to dinner with the Queen, the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hit on a great line of banter.
Do fuck off.
1. My Marginalia Will Never Be Published
Whilst reading, I often fill the margins of my books up with notes, memoranda, and cross-references. In my mind these will be a treasure trove for whoever looks through my estate and decides they are so full of wisdom and learning that they should be published for all the world to read.
In reality, on reading them back, they consist of things like. “No,” “Twat,” “I refuse,” and “I bet he had a stiffy when he wrote that.”