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Tony Blair the political chameleon

The most scary thing of all? He STILL wants to rule the world says the man Blair sent to Washington

By Christopher Meyer

How many Tony Blairs are there? After hacking my way through the 691 pages of his memoirs, I now have several voices ringing in my ears.

There is the self-deprecating charmer; there is the toe-curling sexual fantasist; there is the pragmatic, calculating, often brilliant politician.

There is the matey bloke, all slang and jokey asides, the official language of the Blair Downing Street (before being sent to Washington as ambassador, I was told ‘to get up the a*** of the White House and stay there’).

There is the slippery dodger of difficult questions on Iraq and Afghanistan (of which more later); there is the portentous world statesman and would- be global strategist.

There is the messianic evangelist, taking refuge in the moral stratosphere to avoid the slings and arrows of mere mortals down on Earth; and there is the bizarre faux-confessor to having a drink or two in the evening when the going got tough.

As is often the way, in the thousands of words already written about Blair’s memoir, some of the clearest insights come from abroad.

Earlier this week, a critic writing in the New York Times reminded us that Blair in his early political years was known as the man without a shadow. The critic’s conclusion, after reading A Journey, was that Blair remained ‘a curiously opaque figure’, still without a shadow.

It is a judgment which struck an immediate chord. I recall, years ago, watching Blair being interviewed on TV by Des O’Connor in front of a studio audience. For a moment I could not work out what was odd.

Then I realised that Blair was using Essex-style glottal stops. He was tailoring his speech to what he imagined would be more acceptable to a downmarket audience.

It was the same when he used to visit the United States. He would reposition his accent somewhere over the mid-Atlantic, the better to identify with America.

Blair emerges from his book a political chameleon. His memoirs are, of course, targeted at multiple audiences, above all in Britain and America, and he has adopted different voices to appeal to each.

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1 comment to Tony Blair the political chameleon

  • it felt safer when tony was our PM. He has got it right on iran, we need to stop them before they nuke someone.. cant imagine what all you protesters would be saying if they nuked another country! as for our soldiers , its a shame when they die, but soldiers know the risks.. thats why they sign up

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