Free Newsletter sign-up
Search Justinian
Justinian's news stories

The "sleek kangaroo" of Bangalow ... He thought it was romance ... She believed it was sexual harassment ... Sal Vasta gets to work on law firm principal's over-wrought advances ... $170,000 awarded to female solicitor trapped at Bangelow law shop with predatory pest ... Read more ... 


Justinian Columnists

Ming the Merciless ... Menzies: The Art of Politics ... Placing material success at the centre of things ... Vision of a bigger future goes missing ... Egon Kisch, H.V. Evatt, Petrov ... Politics of Australia and the sad state of now ... Procrustes ferments ... Read more ... 


 

 

Justinian's Bloggers

Muddied oafs ... It was 1956 and Sir William Slim was Governor General, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean surfaced in Moscow and My Fair Lady opened on Broadway ... It was also the year that two teams of NSW solicitors and barristers squeezed into their footy gear and scrummed down ... Read more ... 

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    "Sydney is such a strange place. The only place in the world where they have so many parks. Everywhere, national parks. They are only good for snakes." 

    Harry Triguboff, the boss of Meriton, builder of cheap and ugly apartment buildings, complaining that parks are an impediment to property developers. The Wentworth Courier, May 29, 2019 ... Read more flatulence ... 


    Justinian Featurettes

    Love of the French ... Distress that Australia's great wine commentator and educator celebrated his birthday with a selection of French wines ... What's wrong with local wines for a well-deserved celebratory toast? ... Gabriel Wendler stirs up a storm in a wine glass ... Read more ... 


    Justinian's archive

    When only the victim speaks the truth ... Author Bri Lee's book Eggshell Skull scoops up another prize - this time at the Australian Book Industry Awards ... A story of childhood sexual assault ... While the book continues to collect awards, the author's view about how natural justice ought to work should be read with caution ... In 2018 we published lawyer Joanna Jenkins's review ... It's timely to reprise her concerns about the book ... Read more ... 


     

     

    « Albie Sachs | Main | Bullstrode Whitelocke KC »
    Friday
    Sep172010

    A Journey

    London Calling ... Leverhulme reviews Tony Blair's blockbuster autobiography and concludes that the former British PM is a man of courage, judgment, humour, sensitivity, guile, etc, etc ... Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells will be, er, disgusted 

    Tony Blair's book, rather unimaginatively entitled A Journey (Hutchinson 2010) has been a commercial triumph so far, selling over 92,000 copies in its first four days in the stores.

    The hacks who hate the human chameleon are choking on their steak and ale pies.

    "It's a conspiracy," they wail. "His publisher has arranged to have it on sale at half-price. (£12.50) No wonder it is selling well."

    The former PM has given the millions of pounds from the publisher's advance and the proceeds of the sales to the British Legion.

    "It's a tax dodge. He's not sincere," they cry. "He feels guilty about sending all those innocent young men to their deaths."

    The Spectator's Bruce (The Brute) Anderson called the memoirs, "pathetic, tin-mouthed babble ... the worst-written memoir ever twittered by a serious politician".

    There is strong whiff of jealousy in the air.

    The press have never been able to nail Blair. They've tried everything. The Bernie Ecclestone affair; Kosovo; poodle to the Yanks; fox-hunting; cash for honours; Cheriegate; calling him a war criminal and, most unkindly of all, "Liar! Liar! Pants on fire".

    The book with its galumphing sales must be killing them.

    It is true that there are times when Tony's writing is clunky: his mother-in law's "consistent persistence"; his description of Scottish First Minister Dewar's reply as very "Donaldish"; the cringe-worthy account of a passionate encounter with Cherie.

    There are examples of blatant and embarrassing selfishness. When he decides to run for the leadership, he tells Peter Mandelson, "Peter, you know I love you but this is mine. I am sure of it. And you must help me to do it".

    And there are forays into fiction.

    Peter Morgan who wrote the screenplay of The Queen suspects Blair's account of his meeting with Her Maj in 1997 came straight from the script.

    But Blair admits mistakes. On the fox-hunting ban he says he had a complete lapse:

    "If I told you the contortions and permutations I went through to avoid this wretched business, you wouldn't credit it."

    The book is startlingly honest in places. Witness the Northern Ireland press conference when he said that this was not a time for sound-bites, "but I feel the hand of history on my shoulder".

    He doesn't know where this risible hypocrisy came from but he was uneasy. "It just popped into my head."

    "I decided to say no more and quickly went back into the building."

    He justifies lying during the Northern Ireland negotiations. Sometimes, he says, one must conceal the full truth or bend or even distort it.

    "Don't get too affronted," he chides the reader, "because we all make these decisions [we lie] every day in our business and personal lives".

    For a Prime Minister, the sub-text is that it is even tougher.

    "Without operating with some subtlety at this level, the job would be well-nigh impossible."

    The Tony Blair who never lost his cool in public or uttered Keating-style abuse, despite prolonged and sometimes vicious provocation, surprises:

    "Your average Rottweiler on speed can be a lot more amiable than a pensioner wronged..."

    And there are quite a few funny passages. He can laugh at himself. He tells how he and Gordon were campaigning and met a familiar sight in Britain these days, a working-class Mum, grandmother and baby in a pram.

    Nanna sized him up like a piece of meat. "You're better looking than on TV."

    "You can come again," replied the Prime Minister jauntily.

    "I just 'ave."

    Can you imagine Gordon Brown or John Howard telling that story?

    The memoirs contain a lot of damning information about Brown but Blair praises him extravagantly too.

    The political analysis of the Middle East, Europe and the domestic scene is outstanding and extremely illuminating. The 10 principles for conflict resolution which he applied in Belfast should be required reading for any student of politics.

    The book reflects its author: modest and boastful; honest and devious; funny and tragic; masterly and grating; frustrating and liberating but in short, it is a rollicking good read.

    At this point I must declare my hand.

    From 1997, when he assumed the Prime Ministership, until he took the decision to wage war on Iraq, I had little time for Blair.

    He was always bending to public opinion and backing down if the polls weren't good. I also thought him too slick by half.

    Blair and Bush: side by sidePerhaps it's perverse but the admiration began when he took the Iraq decision. This will infuriate the "Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells" folk and those "Black or White Bleeding Hearts" who take a football supporter's view of politics.

    But in choosing to take the nation to war Tony Blair showed rare courage and leadership to a remarkable degree. President Bush gave him an out, but he rejected it.

    My view does not hinge on whether his decision was right. The Blair of old would have seized the safer option and stayed at home. His legacy and popularity would have been secure.

    Yet a lot of people forget that he won a general election after the Iraq war.

    I think Blair took the decision not so much for regime-change or WMD, but because he judged it to be in Britain's best interests to keep on side with the Yanks.

    In addition, there were the dreadful threats to Britain's safety which appeared every day on the Prime Minister's desk. They were flooding in well before Iraq.

    Blair tells of the time he was asked by an air force commander to decide whether a packed passenger plane which had lost radio contact with the ground should be shot down over London.

    The problem had been deemed serious enough by the Air Force to go up the chain to the Prime Minister.

    What an appalling decision to make. Blair's instinct was to wait. A few minutes later the plane got back in touch. It was revealed later to be a technical defect.

    I wouldn't want the "Black or Whiters" in the chair at those moments.

    Which brings me to my conclusion: Tony Blair is the finest exponent of the political arts I have ever seen.

    He speaks in plain and simple language, which is rare in politicians. He doesn't talk of fiscal outcomes or moving forward.

    In interviews, he appears to answer the question. It is not till later that you realise he probably ducked it.

    He has all the successful politician's gifts: courage, judgment, humour, guile, sensitivity, humanity, superb public–speaking ability and the common touch.

    But I don't think I'd like to meet him. Somehow I expect he'd have a clammy handshake.

    Reader Comments

    There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
    Editor Permission Required
    You must have editing permission for this entry in order to post comments.