The loneliness of Tony Blair

The Economist:

Another reason for Mr Blair’s alienation from his compatriots is that he seems increasingly like a foreigner—an impression underlined by his high-profile combination of wealth and charitable work. Although standard practice in America, this is unusual in Britain, where political leaders usually fade into a discreet Valhalla of positions on company boards. Mr Blair’s political afterlife resembles those of former British leaders less than it does that of Mr Clinton, which it echoes in a number of ways—the power couple, the grandiosity (notepaper headed “Office of Tony Blair”), the preternatural energy combined with an air of self-conscious dash.

The company that Mr Blair keeps does not endear him to many of his compatriots, either. Earlier this year, in an episode that brought joy to the British press, Rupert Murdoch ended his long-standing relationship with the former prime minister over suspicions that he had had an affair with Wendi Deng, then Mr Murdoch’s wife. According to sources at NewsCorp, Mr Murdoch pressed the “mute” button during a confrontational phone call, informed colleagues that he was getting “politicians’ answers” to his questions, and has never spoken to Mr Blair (who is godfather to one of the couple’s children) since.

Mr Blair roundly denies any impropriety. Asked whether he was (at least) careless about his reputation, he says calmly that it is “not something I will ever talk about—I haven’t and I won’t”, and then bangs his coffee cup so loudly into its saucer that it spills and everyone in the room jumps. But did he find himself in a tangle over his friendship with Ms Deng? A large, dark pool of sweat has suddenly appeared under his armpit, spreading across an expensive blue shirt. Even Mr Blair’s close friends acknowledge that the saga damaged him—not least financially, since Mr Murdoch stopped contributing to Mr Blair’s faith foundation and cut him off from other friendly donors in America.

As the article continues, “the late Mo Mowlam, an outspoken minister in the Blair government, was on to something when she observed early in his reign that “the trouble with Tony is that he thinks he’s fucking Jesus.” Mr Blair has plenty of the Messiah’s self-belief and sense of mission.”  And look where that got us.

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