The stage was set for a high-energy celebration this afternoon. There was clapping, music, and a woman in black and white dancing near the podium. But by the standards of this most theatrical of public speakers, the Prime Minister’s farewell address today was personal and pensive. Compared to the shouted list of Labour’s achievements that has become so familiar at Prime Minister’s Questions, punctuated only by whoops of support, this speech seemed like a sombre confessional.
Sometimes, he said, decisions had been easy to make, and easy to plan. But "sometimes, as with the completely unexpected, you are alone with your own instinct." With what he conceded might seem like "messianic zeal", Tony Blair described how in the end, each of his decisions has come down to "belief". He ended by giving "thanks for the times I have succeeded, and apologies for the times I have fallen short."
Iraq was hanging over this address, and with the banner outside saying "Sedgefield against the war" there can be no doubt which of his policies this intimate confessional was chiefly designed to explain. The Prime Minister gave the impression today that his "bitterly controversial" decision over Iraq was a dark and lonely one, and that, implicitly, he was not the best person to judge on its success or failure. For the first time, he seemed aware of the eccentricity of his position, and ready, finally, to give up trying to persuade others of it. "Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right", he said. "I may have been wrong – that’s your call."