Our ex-PM has achieved little since leaving No 10. EU rejection will make him more determinedby Anthony Seldon / November 18, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2009 issue of Prospect Magazine
Tony Blair’s “friends in Europe” did little to support his bid for the top job
President Kennedy once envisioned the void he would face when he stood down thus: “I will find myself at what might be called the awkward age, too old to begin a new career and too young to write my memoirs.” Kennedy never faced that dilemma. But Tony Blair did. And as he comes to terms with his failed bid to be EU president, he will have another chance to solve the problem of retirement.
The British are not usually impressed by their former prime ministers. Few have added to their stature in retirement. Several, like Thatcher, Heath and Churchill, detracted from it—the latter is lucky to have escaped opprobrium for the hospitality he enjoyed from the likes of Aristotle Onassis. Since 1945 most have gone quietly into their dotage, seeking little more than memoirs, self-justification and the money their political careers denied them.
But since 2007 Blair has been the exception. Unlike Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher he avoided commentary on his successor, and instead threw himself into a hectic series of projects—hoping to continue work unfinished from his premiership (from which he believed he had been prematurely rushed). And no former leader has been more criticised, especially by a media obsessed with his lucrative consultancies and speaking slots. Indeed, it is rare to come across praise for the charitable work on which he spends half his time, almost all of it unpaid, and through which he employs 80 staff.