It is bizarre. As he often demonstrated in the House of Commons, Tony Blair knows how to use words. He could also have mobilised a team to help him write his memoirs. Instead, it is all his own work, and the words mutinied. This book is not just badly written. It is atrociously written. For almost 700 pages, Tony Blair stumbles between mawkishness and banality.
Prime ministers send soldiers into combat. Some of those soldiers are killed. That is a subject which would lead the least sensitive of men to reach into their souls and craft language out of emotional depth. This is Mr Blair’s version. ‘The anguish remains. The principal part of that is not selfish. Some of it is, to be sure. Do they really suppose I don’t care, don’t feel, don’t regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died?’
Yes, they do. They know that the ‘every fibre’ line is a thoughtless cliché. Many, many of the fibres of his being were otherwise engaged. This is not just a pedantic point. If Tony Blair was to write on this topic, he was obliged to write sincerely. The passage continues: ‘And not just British soldiers but those of other nations...’ He then proceeds to list them, as if anxious to leave no one out. He concludes: ‘I am now beyond the mere expression of compassion. I feel words of condolence and sympathy to be entirely inadequate.’ There, we can agree. His words are not only inadequate. They are a pathetic, tin-mouthed babble, and anyone who can refer to a mere expression of compassion has a tin-mouthed soul.
This does not prevent him writing about religion. He tells us that for him, it has always been ‘a passion bigger than politics’. Alastair Campbell once said, ‘We don’t do God.’ Judging by these pages, his wariness was justified. Mr Blair certainly cannot do passion. ‘So that’s my new life,’ he tells us at the book’s end. ‘What makes me optimistic? People. Since leaving office, I have learned one thing above all: the people are the hope.’ You could not make it up.
It is as if Tony Blair set out to do the parodists’ work for them. Apropos of the UK’s Olympic bid, he tells us that: ‘We also put David Beckham into the mix. David is a complete pro — he did what he was asked to do with no messing about and generally sent Singapore into a twitter, which is exactly what was required.’ Twitter is the word; reading this guff, one has to remind oneself that this man is trying to describe an important premiership. Instead, he has produced much the worst-written memoir ever twittered by a serious politician. It will inflict lasting and deserved damage upon his reputation.