By Paul Goodman
As I wrote earlier, his memoirs, "A Journey" are being probed and pored over – or rather, gutted like a mackerel by hordes of hacks.
The ever-toiling Andy Sparrow is running a live blog at the Guardian. In the meanwhile, Ed Howker has pulled some interesting quotes together at The Spectator's Coffee House. A big hat-tip to both of them for most the quotes and discoveries below –
- In many areas, the Conservatives should over-ride the Liberal Democrats: "In many areas of domestic policy, the Tories will be at their best when
they are allowed to get on with it – as with reforms in education. They
will be at their worst when policy represents an uneasy compromise
between the Old Labour instincts of the Lib Dems and the hard decisions
the Tories will instinctively want to take."
- That Blair deficit quote in full: "If governments don't tackle
deficits, the bill is footed by taxpayers, who fear that big deficits
mean big taxes, both of which reduce confidence, investment and
purchasing power…We should have taken a New Labour way out of the
economic crisis: kept direct taxes competitive, had a gradual rise in
VAT and other indirect taxes to close the deficit, and used the crisis
to push further and faster on reform."
- On David Miliband: He now has "clear leadership qualities". But Blair also says: "Two years later he would be
a different calibre of politician, with clear leadership qualities." (He says Miliband asked his advice about a leadership challenge in May
2007. "I think you might win, not obviously, but very possibly," Blair
- On George Bush: "In a bizarre sense…A true idealist" and "a man of genuine integrity".
- On John Prescott: "At Cabinet, he would occassionally sit like a grumbling volcano ready to erupt at any moment. The proximate cause of the eruption would more often than not be one of the women intervening. Patricia Hewitt was certain to get him moving … John would make some slightly off-colour remark if he was in a sour mood. I would then bring her back in again, just for the sheer entertainment of watching him finally explode … He genuinely made me laugh. It was a bit like 'How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?' In The Sound of Music, though the similarlity ends there…
- On Ed Balls: "He has guts and he can take decisions. But he suffers from the bane of all left-leaning intellectuals. As I have remarked elsewhere, these guys never "get" aspiration."
- On Dougie Alexander: "Not a free range thinker".
- On John Smith – during which Blair seems to suggest that he has supernatural powers: "Of course, I had no knowledge that John would die prematurely. Except that, in a strange way, I began to think he might…I said to (Cherie): "If John dies, I will be leader, not Gordon. And somehow, I think this will happen. I just think it will." Is that premonition? Not in a strict sense; but is was strange all the same."
- A note on the book's title: It was apparently to be billed not as "A journey" but "The journey". This would have put, say, Moses' venture to the Promised Land in a modest perspective. Which, presumably, is why it was changed.