Tuesday, 30 March 2010


He's come back to haunt support his old cabinet sparring partner, Brown, but Tony Blair can't run away from the by now well-worn ghosts that will follow him to the grave. One such ghost, however, could be a surprisingly fresh one. It's the eponymous novel written by Robert Harris a few years ago - and it's coming out as a movie, just in time for the general election, and Blair's return. What larks!

If you don't know the book, then you should have a little dip in before watching the film, otherwise, it'll be pretty baffling. Suffice it to say, it sails pretty close to the wind most of the time, in terms of its verisimilitude. As the Guardian review of the day said, Harris was out to get Blair, and get him good:
Most such references are almost dangerously obvious; a firm called Hallington, for instance, gets up to tricks just as sinister as those laid at the door of Haliburton. Others are designed to give Harris wriggle-room. Lang is having an affair with his personal assistant, the comely Amelia Bly, who would otherwise be a dead ringer for Blair's Downing Street aide Anji Hunter. The long-suffering ghostwriter even gets to bed the ex-PM's wife.

These few fantasies are all that save Harris from the charge that he is out for revenge on Blair, if not for the second sacking of his closer friend Peter Mandelson, then for Bush-dictated foreign policy that saw the author 'give up on' a government whose election he initially welcomed. Last year's Middle East debacle was apparently 'the last straw' for the already anti-war author; but he resists milking the irony that Blair is now a Middle East envoy, preferring a bleaker end for Lang.
Well, I thought the book was brilliant, fiction or not. And it had that delicious twist that all good thrillers should have at the end. Some aspects of the real Tony Blair's life are, in fact, stranger than the fiction, though. For instance, who would have thought that this former Labour prime minister would be worth £20 million+ after earning about 1/130th of that sum as prime minister? How did he manage that? Speaking tours?? Of course not. His rich friends in America showed him how to exploit business loopholes, while his chancellor here fuelled the property boom for as long as he could get away with it - or as long as it took for half the cabinet to become property multi-millionaires, just like Blair (and Mandelson, of course). Just these facts alone stink more than anything Harris dreamt up in his book about Blair facing charges as a war criminal.

But great book it is, and certainly worth the read. You really won't be able to put it down. As for the film, well, judging by the trailer, it's very faithful to the text - and Pierce Brosnan, judging by the glimpses we get, has judged the character of Tony Blair Adam Lang to perfection. Add to that the fact that it's a Polanski flick, and you would be forgiven for thinking that it's unmissable.

I wonder if Blair will be going to see it. I'm damn sure Brown will be - on the sly, naturally.

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