A Journey by Tony Blair – 1st draft extracts part I (Exclusive)

Today sees the publication of Tony Blair’s long awaited memoirs; the most important book to be published since the King James Bible. The title wasn’t the only part of the text to undergo minor amendments prior to publication. Opinionoid, a favourite blog within the Westminster village, has acquired an early draft of the book. The paper is scented with incense confirming its authenticity. The draft runs to 500,000 words and significantly differs from the final version.

Today and tomorrow I shall be publishing key extracts from what is arguably one of the most important political tracts in history.

Today, the path to power…

On his early years (From the Chapter ‘Ugly Rumours’)

Blair is studying at St Johns College, Oxford and is the lead guitarist for Ugly Rumours, a sodomite rock band. It’s April 1972 and they’ve just performed their first gig for an audience at Corpus Christi College.

I was never fully comfortable with the sodomy gimmick, though Mark [Ellen] insisted that it gave the band an edge. On stage it enraptured the crowd, particularly the girls, who’d never witnessed four men engaged in full homosexual intercourse over two hours while playing instruments and singing. The chanting was extraordinary. I heard “fuck him” and “shunt the drummer” coming from pockets of the audience. It was filthy, grotesque even, yet incredibly exciting. I’ve often lamented that I never felt so grubby or alive for years after that, not until the 1996 party conference in fact, when Peter [Mandleson] approached me and said he had a transcript from an illicitly recorded conversation at Tory Central Office. It purported to include John Major saying ‘Blair’s going to fuck us all in the arse.’ I thought this remarkable because John Major knew nothing of my musical background.

Following the gig Mark took me to one side, asking if he could have a word. He looked downcast, unwell even – his face looked caked in talc. “Tony, I’m just going to come out and say it,” he said, “but there’s a rumour going around the college that you’re a Tory. You don’t have to tell me anything now, just know that no one on the right has ever been involved with a successful rock band. Think about it.”

Of course this horrified me, I had no idea that being on the left was a prerequisite for success with one’s music (I mean, what about Phil Collins?) but I took it on board. Naturally the rumour was bunk. I’d always been Labour through and through; my mother’s eggs were individually inscribed with a Labour party membership number. I was pressed to explain how such a vile rumour may have started. I recalled making some light hearted comments about “the bloody unions” and “the obvious benefit of the free market” but clearly someone had put two and two together and made five. Innumeracy and ignorance were the twin maladies afflicting the left at that time, naturally.

On becoming a Labour MP (From the Chapter ‘Intelligent Design’)

The 1983 General Election has proved disastrous for the Labour Party but Blair has nevertheless been elected as the MP for Sedgefield. He now shares a parliamentary office with fellow newbie, Gordon Brown.

The 1983 victory was bittersweet. On one hand we’d gone down to a crushing defeat, one of the worst in our history. On the other I had joined the commons. Many, including myself, thought that the latter just about balanced the former, though there were others, notably the lachrymose Gordon, who was prone to dismissing the obvious and violently shaking me with a growl of “keep quiet you arrogant little bastard.”

Nevertheless I knew that I’d been provided with an incredible opportunity and, whisper it quietly, perhaps I had more than my new constituents to thank for it. One can consider it fanciful in this cynical, secular age, but I’d had some inkling of my personal success some two weeks before polling day. I’d been engaged in an act of furious masturbation, intimately involved in the circumstance of my release, when seconds before the climatic moment, I achieved a moment of absolute certainty. I knew I was going to win. Clearly absolute certainty was, at that time, the province of just two individuals, God and Mrs Thatcher, so it was obvious to me who’d inseminated my brain with this vision. Besides, there was no rational way that Thatcher could have been responsible.

In the early days I’d explain this to Gordon but even then he dismissed everything I said as “gobbledefuck” and “toss”. Gordon would talk about building a socialist utopia in which we’d nationalise the land and build two million new homes, each of which would come with a garage and a box of matches for the gas. Fortunately for The Labour Party, I held a different view. Although I’d barely begun to understand the complexities of the divine authority that guided my hand, I nevertheless could boast of now having a clear vision, unencumbered by the ideological infantilism of the past.

“Gordon,” I used to say, as simply and formally as that, “it’s all very well being a bastion of working class interest but ordinary people can’t be trusted to vote the right way.” Well, he hated that but I’d hardly begun.

“The problem,” I told him, “is that Mrs Thatcher has seized the initiative. She understands that the proletariat are essentially base, uneducated and envy-ridden. They look at the bourgeoisie and they say, ‘I want to be as materialistic, dull and self-righteous as them’ and who can blame them? They want what these people have – a car, a house, the best schools for their children. They want to make money for nothing, turning their home into an asset and borrowing against it in order to live in more segregated communities and buy consumer goods that will make them feel superior to their parents. If we understand this, above all else, and shed all this lofty, intellectually well-sourced, principled bollocks, then we’ll start winning elections.”

To me the merits of the argument were obvious but Gordon would usually respond by trapping my hand underneath his and hitting the tips of my fingers with a Keir Hardie paperweight. It was obvious to me even then, that he simply couldn’t be trusted with the leadership.

On the death of John Smith and the tussle for the Labour Party Leadership (From the Chapter ‘They Call Me Mr Blair!’)

The sudden and unexpected death of John Smith in May 1994 shocks the nation and prompts an immediate clamour for the party leadership. Blair feels destined to take over but before he can do so, there’s the little matter of Gordon…

I’d received the dreadful news while in transit to the commons. The phone rang and it was Peter. His voice was pregnant with emotion. “Tony, I’m sorry,” he began, and one could tell he was fighting back tears, “but it looks as though Gordon’s serious about the leadership.” I’m usually fairly restrained when it comes to expressing my feelings but I recall that I broke down and collapsed into Cherie’s slippery arms. This, coming just hours after John’s death, was too much. The party had lost its leader and now looked set to lose its mind.

I’d asked to see Gordon at his earliest convenience but that, according to his secretary, was July 1997, so I was forced to ring his private number and demand a face to face meeting. Gordon said he was busy putting his campaign team together and having any rival group liquidated and asked if I wouldn’t mind deferring the catch up until after his election as leader. When I told him it was about the leadership, he agreed to dinner at Granita, provided I’d pay and limit my vocal contribution to less than 15 minutes.

Peter and I role played the dinner conversation the night before. I played myself, as is customary and Peter stood in for Gordon, vying for authenticity with the deliberate avoidance of eye contact and the periodic insertion of the word ‘fuck’ into every other sentence. Nervous as I was, it was tremendously exciting. On our first run-through Peter rolled a D20 and inflicted +4 damage, meaning that I had to give up control of both Economic Policy and the domestic agenda. The second time I was more successful and was able to use a gold talisman that forced Gordon to resign his parliamentary seat and chair a Tobacco company. The average across 12 rounds had me accede to the leadership, win the next election and keep Gordon at bay. This, I felt, was a good omen.

“Fuck that,” Gordon said when I suggested that I might be the modernising candidate that could win Middle England, “you’re an opportunistic parasite, a piece of shit. You think you can lead the party? No one knows who the fuck you are. I don’t know who you are and I’ve been working with you for 11 years!” Such distortions, were I’m afraid, typical of the man.

“Gordon, you’d be chancellor with full control of domestic policy,” I offered, “and I can promise you right now that if you agree to this, in the interests of the party let’s not forget, I’d almost definitely stand down after two terms and endorse you as my successor.” I thought it rather clever to include the word ‘almost’ as it left me plenty of room for manoeuvre and fortunately Gordon, who is selectively deaf and predictable to a fault, duly excised it from his immediate recollection of the conversation. It wasn’t pretty but he acknowledged the proposition’s self-evident logic by spitting on my lapin salad. It had taken four hours and six courses but I’d been able to use the spectre of our 1992 defeat and the misgivings we’d all had about Neil, well, everyone bar Gordon that is, to evoke the inevitability of defeat under any man who didn’t sound educated, that is to say Southern and middle class, like myself.

“Oh Gordon, don’t you see,” I said, “Once we’ve circumvented the electorate and established a Labour government it will be safe for you to take over. Then the nation’s prejudices won’t matter, you can show them what a great leader you are and win them over. By that time New Labour will be the dominant force in British Politics, more iconic than the swastika, and you’ll be the most magnificent second act since Coppola’s Godfather sequel.” I confess that I’m still very proud of that little speech. Peter had written it but it was my delivery that had made the difference on the night.

On Labour’s historic 1997 Landslide Victory (From the chapter – ‘1997 and all that’)

After 18 years of Conservative Government John Major finally fires the starting gun for the 1997 election. Tony Blair is 20 points ahead in the polls but stalked by uncertainty in the run up to polling day.

Alistair was upbeat, as ever. “We’re going to piss it,” he said, “have you seen these figures? We’re about the fuck the Tories ten new holes.” It was sweet to hear that kind of optimism but I confess I had my doubts. We’d been so certain in 1992, only to see the Tories run us over when the people finally voted. My political antenna is excellent, everyone said so, but despite usually being able to read the fickle British public like a Jeffrey Archer novel, I felt illiterate now.

“Yes,” I said to Alistair, while we chugged redbulls at Millbank, “I know we’re 20 points ahead and this is the least popular government since the 1920s and that we’ve had the easiest ride of any opposition since the extension of the franchise, but we can’t take anything for granted!”

“Ah Tony, you’re a fucking dunce,” he’d say. Thank goodness for Alistair’s sense of humour.

On Election night Cherie and I had initially planned to video the results and make a statement the following afternoon but Peter was on the phone to say that it may be prudent to stay up to attend my count and, in the event of victory, make some kind of address. I was exhausted but reluctantly agreed.

I still feel somewhat engorged when I think back to those few hours. Alistair would rush up to me at regular intervals with exit polling from the marginals and we’d sit agog, crunching the numbers. “We’re looking at a three figure majority,” he said, “three fucking figures!” Quick as a flash I came back with “yeah, me, you and Peter,” and he roared with laughter. These were the best times for the Labour Party.

With victory confirmed I was now free to seize the mantle of responsibility and be the war leader the country needed. They didn’t know we were at war of course but we were and it was a war against ideology. I’d been elected with the most threadbare policy agenda of any mainstream political party in the history of British Politics, yet, as I stood before a crowd of invited party workers and declared, “a new dawn has broken, has it not?” – though it was a rhetorical question, the answer was self-evidently yes, I knew there was much still to do. Alistair thought that victory was final but I had to tell him, the country now expected us to do something. What would that be exactly? Well, many people, though they’d voted for us, were carrying around ideological baggage. Our project was to expunge it and put in its place total deference to market forces. “That way,” I explained as the crowds cheered outside, “we could be in power forever. You see if the market controls everything then government is responsible for nothing. We can concentrate on flying the flag abroad, promoting middle class lifestyle choices and encouraging people to become less political.”

“But isn’t there a danger they won’t vote?” asked Alistair, not yet appreciating the scale of my vision.

“Well we don’t want old Labour voters to turn out, do we?” I told him, “else we might have to listen to them.”  That was Alistair’s eureka moment and I’m proud to have given it to him.

“We’ve had your face put on some sticks,” he said, “we’re going to give them to the crowd we’ve earmarked for Downing Street, once you’ve been to the palace.”

“Oh no,” I said, “better just to give them union jacks and Labour Party banners, this is going to be recorded for posterity, I want it to be low key and dignified.” That was my gift to the Labour Party and the country; I knew them better than they knew themselves.

Tomorrow – 9/11, Iraq, hard choices and the handover of power!

Read Part II here.

Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 17:04  Comments (1)  
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