In tomorrow’s papers the reviewers will compare ‘A Journey’ to those "real-life" misery memoirs that seem to be publishing catnip. It is not inaccurate to conclude that this is tale of one man’s struggle in an abusive relationship, and all the more unstatesmanlike for it.
The tiny details of the relationship between TB and GB fascinate me. Brown is the one, Blair admits, who coined the soundbyte "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" for example.
However, by far the most interesting aspect of the book is Blair’s barely disguised hatred of the Labour left and, most of all, the left-wing intellectuals. So here, very quickly are some of his key quotes about today’s leading left-wing Labour figures. Tony Blair, it is reasonable to conclude, does not like the Labour Party one bit.
Jon Cruddas: "reheated Bennism"
Jon made quite a name for himself. It was clever political positioning. To his overall political analysis – New Labour had deserted the working class and thus our base – he added a programme for the party. It was clothed in some modernist language, but was ultimately an attempt to build a left coalition out of Guardian intellectuals and trade union activists. However beguiling – and he was smart enough to make it beguiling – it was, in effect, reheated and updated Bennism from the 1980s."
Douglas Alexander: "not a free-range thinker"
Douglas was and is a very clever guy indeed. I had tried to wean him off membership of Gordon’s inner circle; but to no avail. It was a real shame … But the Gordon curse was to make these people co-conspirators, not free-range thinkers. He and Ed Balls and others were like I had been back in the 1980s, until slowly the scales fell from my eyes and I realised ir was more like a cult than a kirk."
Ed Balls: "muddled"
…He has guts and he can take decisions. But he suffers from the bane of all left-leaning intellectuals. As I have remarked elsewhere, these guys never ‘get’ aspiration … He added a truly muddled and ultimately very damaging party critique. This was the view – I fear tutored by Gordon’s inclination in dealing with the party – that I deliberately chose confrontations with the party in order to demonstrate my independent credentials with the public."
On the left wing opponents of Blairite reform:
"recalcitrant union leaders, bolshie MPs, lefty activists and assorted intellectuals whose main contribution was to explain why nothing should change in the name of being real radicals".
John Prescott (Blair’s condescension is withering):
" At Cabinet, he would occassionally sit like a grumbling volcano ready to erupt at any moment. The proximate cause of the eruption would more often than not be one of the women intervening. Patricia Hewitt was certain to get him moving … John would make some slightly off-colour remark if he was in a sour mood. I would then bring her back in again, just for the sheer entertainment of watching him finally explode … He genuinely made me laugh. It was a bit like ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?’ In The Sound of Music, though the similarlity ends there…
Perhaps his most alarming trait was his habit of starting a conversation in the middle – no beginning, no context, no explanation of what the problem was. I remember a time when it looking as if I was going to bring the LibDems into the cabinet … In storms John. ‘Where’s fookin’ Menzies?’ he begins. It wasn’t a promising start…"
And John Smith, of course, "was not a true radical".
Oddest of all, Blair has a premonition of Smith’s death apparently:
"Of course, I had no knoweldge that John would die prematurely. Except that, in a strange way, I began to think he might… I said to (Cherie): ‘If John dies, I will be leader, not Gordon. And somehow, I think this will happen. I just think it will.’ Is that a premonition? Not in a strict sense; but it was strange all the same. On Saturday afternoon we went to see Schindler’s List…"
What a weirdo.