Oh dear Tony. Oh dear.

by Atul Hatwal

If Rebekah Brooks’ e-mail to James Murdoch does give a fair account of her conversation with Tony Blair, then he’s been a very foolish ex-prime minister.

It’s not so much the apparent cynicism of the advice on how to manage the process, or even the reference to Hutton (which might be Brooks’ interpretation rather than a direct reference by Blair) but the crushing, ghastly, inescapable lack of judgement. What did he think he was doing?

One of the worst aspects of politics is the faux comity within which work relationships become wrapped.

It was evident at the Huhne trial in the cringeworthy string of BFF e-mails between Vicky Pryce and Isabel Oakeshott, where they discuss having a “fun” mini-break in Greece to work through the details of the story to bring down Huhne.

The chummy undercurrent is wholly at odds with the reality of what is happening.  These types of exchanges are not friends having a little chitter chatter, they are work transactions of significant gravity. Each participant has something the other wants. At stake are careers, livelihoods, and in the case of the Huhne fiasco, people’s liberty.

But it is the argot in which much modern politics is conducted and in Tony Blair’s case, he seems to have mistaken the artifice of sociability for the substance for friendship.

Yes, he might have had several cordial, even agreeable dealings with Rebekah Brooks over the years. Yes, there would have been all sorts of delightful text messages from la Brooks. But as a front rank politician, he should always have known: its just part of the process.

As the Leveson inquiry revealed, she was playing exactly the same game with David Cameron.

When the full scale of what happened at the News of the World emerged, Tony Blair should have cut dead his relationship with Brooks and Murdoch. It wasn’t his fight, there was little upside for him and any any fall-out from associating with the Murdochs and Brooks could be toxic to his fundraising and charitable interests.

But for some reason Tony Blair seems to have felt the need to insert himself into the process.

Was it all down to the fluttering and flattery from the likes of Brooks? Is the world of the Murdochs really that persuasive? Perhaps, but there is also the suspicion of something more. A hankering to be, once again, at the heart of events. To be the indispensable man.

It’s no secret that Tony Blair left office with a feeling of frustration: that he was at his most capable, having learned the lessons of office, at the point when he lost power. The desire to be central and in command of critical events is one common to all political leaders, its why they stand for leader. The hunger to bring this expertise to bear on the major story of the day would have been hard to resist, especially given the main players were meant to be his friends.

But resist is exactly what he should have done. Just as he should have seen through the self-interested charm of the Murdochs and Brooks. Because that how a politician operating at the height of his faculties would have acted.

Oh dear Tony. Oh dear.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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5 Responses to “Oh dear Tony. Oh dear.”

  1. StevenE says:

    I’ve thought it through and decided I still love him loads. #Blair2015

  2. swatantra says:

    Someone please take Tone aside and point out that he’s an embarassment to Labour these days.

  3. Vern says:

    Politics is a disgusting business these days – lies, spin, collusion, expenses, shameful celeb style behaviour and alternative agendas to line their own pockets. This has left me disappointed and embarassed by most politicians.
    Sadly, this style of politics originated under Tony Blair and this article is a reflection of him i feel. He was up to his neck with Murdoch and Brookes…when he needed something in return of course!

  4. Jane says:

    Difficult one for him to deal with? From her brief notes of a one hour conversation she was obviously distressed and not sleeping. Do you tell a person who is suffering to go away or do you give them advice based on your experience? Do you turn your back on a friend when they are in trouble?

    I would have done the same. He indicated an independent inquiry – very sensible and EM asked for the same a few days later.

    He is not an embarrassment as Swantra suggests. Last time I heard him speak I remembered what an excellent leader he was and oh how much I miss him. He remains head and shoulders above all in Parliament. Vern – get real. Lies and spin have always been around but we only became aware of it through technology. Expenses too – they have been at it for years. Just read a few political biographies and they tell you that on becoming an MP in the old days they were told that their expense system was designed to boost income rather than a troublesome pay award and how to boost their claims.

    StevenE – I am with you. I am ashamed of the attacks on a former labour MP. I expect it from the right wing press who abhor the idea that a former labour PM is successful on the world stage and earning a fortune. They forget to say that Margaret Thatcher and John Major did the same but this was/is ok as they were conservative leaders. I expect criticism from the anti war brigade and those on the extreme left. It is time that all moderates were heard too – we are forgotten.

    Is it not time that we started condemning this anti Blair lot. They insult the labour party who elected him as leader. They insult the electorate who voted for him three times. They insult a good man who did wonderful things for the country. this has been recognised throughout the world – why else is he in demand. No other country condemns its former leaders. It makes me feel ashamed…

  5. Matthew Blott says:

    @ SteveE

    You have battered wife syndrome.

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