THAT winning smile. Well, something had to push that book to the top of the best-sellers in record time – and it surely can’t be his literary style. It’s got to be the smile on the dust jacket. Though the more I look at it, the more I feel it shows a man not comfortable in his skin. Nervous? Haunted? Lacking confidence? It’s all there, along with that dinky little crooked tooth.
- The fact that he sits so lightly to his possessions: I really admire that in a person. Asked on one of the many soft-sofa interviews just how many houses he has, he replies: “Eight – or nine. Look, I don’t know exactly. But I need to make provision for my kids, right?” Don’t we all, Tony, don’t we all. . .
- His total selflessness. He was a bit shaken by all that shoe-throwing at the Dublin book signing and was perfectly prepared to go through it all again for the London one, and the Tate Modern launch party. In fact he was just dying to get out there and face his critics. But no: he just couldn’t bring himself to put the police through all that “hassle.” Look – it just wouldn’t have been fair would it?
- His strong sense of moral rectitude, as encapsulated in the phrase: “Look – no matter what anyone says, I only ever did what I thought was right.” So – who does what they do because they think it’s wrong? Or evil? Or even dodgy? Didn’t Hitler do what he did because he thought it was right? We all do what we do because we think it’s right: problem is, quite a lot of the time it ‘s actually wrong.
- His incredible good taste. He writes of Cherie: “On the night of 12 May 1994 I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct . . .” Such restraint. Thank you for sharing, Tone.
- His integrity. Alastair Campbell famously said that “we [ie Tony] don’t do God.” Tony never contradicted him. Funny that – I thought Christians did “do God.” In fact I thought “doing God” was precisely what being a Christian was about. On leaving office Tony did God in quite a big way, converting to Catholicism – once he perceived it to be no longer a vote-loser. Yet on the penultimate page of A Journey he says: “I have always been more interested in religion than politics.” Oh really? Funny, it never showed.
- His generosity. He announced, just before publication date, that all the proceeds of his book would go to the British Legion, thereby ensuring a) masses of pre-publicity and b) a runaway sales success. Lots of people who wouldn’t have bought it on principle (ie not wanting to put money into his pocket) could now do so with a clear conscience. What does he stand to gain from this? I guess a man with eight – or is it nine? – houses didn’t need the money. But he did need it not to be a flop. Or am I being cynical?
- His loyalty to old friends. Like Gordon for example. He talks a lot about his ‘towering intellect’ – but misses no opportunity to put the knife between his shoulder blades. This is just what you want from a colleague – and boss – who kept you on board for 10 years, thought you were an emotional cripple and impossible to work with, but couldn’t quite bring himself to sack you because – guess what? – he actually thought you were quite good at your job.
That’s it then. Eight reasons. But look – just because I say 10 it doesn’t have to actually be 10, does it? I mean, you know, who’s counting? And no, I don’t actually love him; not a bit. But look, even Prince Charles wasn’t sure what love meant and he’s the future king. As Humpty Dumpty said to Alice:”When I use a word . . . it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
And, you know, quite a lot of us think like that. It means we can never, ever be wrong.