Why, you may ask, would the former prime minister have agreed to such extensive interviews so soon after his retirement? One reason is fairly obvious. The poor man has a mortgage to pay and, if he is to continue to command speaking fees in excess of £250,000, then he needs to stay in the media spotlight. His recent trip to China may have helped boost the Cherie benevolent fund considerably, but once he has completed his world tour his market value may also be considerably reduced. One place he will always make money, though, is the US. Who knows, while he is there next time he may even pick up his ‘poodle medal’ from President Bush. So far he has not bothered, rightly considering it to be bad PR.
Today the Blair PR comes from Mathew Doyle, former Labour Party press officer who also worked briefly in Number 10. So far Doyle has had little to do, but he will have been working hard this week because Tony Blair is not just out to make money; his agenda is to change history, too.
In this task he is joined by Alastair Campbell. In between firing off unwelcome advice to the new PM, Blair’s former spin-doctor is on his own money-making tour flogging his book. Anyone who has read the tome will be aware that in between all the ‘gossip and tittle-tattle’ previously so derided by Campbell, he makes some astonishing claims on behalf of his former master.
One that is repeated twice by Campbell is that it was Blair, not Brown, who had the idea of making the Bank of England independent. Apparently, Blair himself makes that same crazy claim in his latest TV appearance. Now, if they wanted to change history, you would have thought the pair could have come up with something a little more plausible. I was present when Brown made his historic decision and what probably riles Campbell most was that he was kept in the dark about it for so long, as indeed was his boss, precisely because if told they would probably have tried to claim the glory. It’s too late now, lads.
I knew about the new Blair TV series many months ago. Not because I was asked to appear myself, but because the makers rang me in a desperate plea to try to persuade Brown to take part. I, of course, declined to get involved. The one person you won’t hear from this week as Blair-Brown stories re-emerge is the Prime Minister. He will leave the feeble attempts to change history to others.