YOU know what people are saying? Tony Blair only has one tie. All those homes but only one tie. Either that or he saves his best red one for the days when he knows that he is going to get a grilling – be it his appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry on Friday or an interview with the Camden New Journal.
Sadly when he came to Camden in 2006 just before the council elections – there were plenty of Labour party members who said his visit did more harm than good, too soon after the invasion of Iraq – we didn’t get six hours with him. I had a thousand questions ready for him. His press people were nonetheless generous with his time that day and he was far more confident and assured dealing with unscripted questions from regional papers than Gordon Brown was when he recently visited Islington. There seemed to be an understanding among the organisers that Blair was so good they he wouldn’t say anything stupid, whatever we asked him.
While Brown so often comes across to people as a ditherer, you can see how Blair has been capable of mesmerising those around him. There were flashes of it on Friday. What might have been a sticky six hours turned into a PR exercise and a platform to declare his views on Iran. He was just about saying: You might not like me, but you are going to admire me for being so confident about making the big decisions at the critical moments. Like Simon Cowell.
But moving towards a strategy which could lead to the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqis is something different from kicking a crying teenager off the X-Factor stage. Simply repeating how you were convinced, really really convinced it was the right thing isn’t enough justification for most of us. As much as Brown could do with some of Blair’s stage presence, whoever leads the Labour Party in the future should needs substance as well as style.