I watched Tony Blair being interviewed by Andrew Marr the other night, and I listened to his recorded interview with Richard Bacon on FiveLive yesterday, and you have to admit that he has still got it, whether you define ‘it’ as charisma, self-belief, spin or egomania.
Whatever ‘it’ is, he knocks Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, David Miliband and Ed Balls into a cocked hat.
Jeremy Paxman, in his book, The Political Animal, tries to unpick the strands that help politicians rise to the top and there are common factors: a childhood deprived of affection, unusual sensitivity, an outstanding mentor, extreme self-discipline, an overdeveloped religious sense, aggression and timidity and overdependence on the love of others all feature, but father-worship is a peculiar trait, particularly if the father is absent or deceased.
Examples include Ramsay MacDonald, ‘the illegitimate son of a Scotch servant girl‘, Bill Clinton’s philandering father, William Blythe, who died before his son was born, Lloyd George whose father died when he was 17 months old, Margaret Thatcher who idolised her father, Cllr Roberts, while John Major’s father was in his sixties when his son was born. The list is quite a long one.
In Tony Blair’s case, he lost his mother as a young man, but it was the serious stroke which hit his father at the age of forty when Blair was just eleven that influenced him most. His father could not work again and left his son with the feeling that he was on his own.
Paxman was quoting from Lucille Iremonger’s examination of sixteen British leaders and included her draft advertisement for the post of PM:
The successful candidate will have lost one or more parents in childhood, though he may be an admitted or suspected bastard. He will suffer from other crippling handicaps, whether physical (such as stammer, poor health or marked unprepossessingness of manner and appearance), or material (such as poverty), or psychological (such as having a brother near to him in age on whom fortune will have showered gifts ostentatiously denied to him, material, intellectual or physical).
He will have been miserably unhappy at his school, and possibly so much so that he will never be able to bring himself to revisit it after leaving. His few friends will be orphaned or deprived, like himself, and he may well be married to an orphan who will be very like him in nature. He will have been subjected to the intellectual, moral and spiritual domination of a disciplinarian mentor, whose commands he will in effect obey to the end of his days.
It goes on at some length and is worth looking up, but there are certainly echoes there from Blair’s life.