The Chilcot Enquiry is beginning to reveal the cracks between Campbell, the civil service, Blair etc. I suppose that this is a better position at this stage than most people would have expected. Campbell’s recent “evidence” was the usual bluster, but with a tension that suggests he was struggling to hold it together, leading to a particularly stupid finale. He is obviously not happy with it himself. The general belief though, thus far, is that where Campbell was typically pushy and superficially confident, Blair will be typically “charming” and skip off, unscathed, into his exciting new lifestyle. Possibly so, in terms of the enquiry, but for Blair personally, I think not.
Blair is a man carrying heavy baggage, and it’s beginning to show. His conversion to Catholicism is well known, the timing seemed almost cowardly, but there’s no rules to these things, and nobody does it lightly. It’s not possible for it to take place on the spur of the moment. All those churlish catholics who questioned the move do so at their peril – it’s between Blair, God and his confessor.
I think he is genuinely seeking atonement. What else can he realistically do to make amends for his colossal hubris and misjudgement in the Iraq war, as well as numerous other nightmares, not least his role, however peripheral in David Kelly’s death? He’s not going to ‘fess up on Oprah, start squealing to Chilcot or write an honest memoir, not at this stage.
He can however start to make things right within himself. Perhaps his ludicrous role as an utterly ineffective mini-Kissinger in the Middle East is the acceptable public face of this attempt to do the right thing, but the real action is taking place inside him. Matthew Parris famously spotted him at St Theresa’s relics not long ago, looking a little wrong-footed, but when you think about it, he’s not actually high profile at all, despite the lurid stories about lucrative directorships and horrendously dull lecture tours. He is not seeking the spotlight.
Time is a great healer, and failed politicians, if they live long enough, eventually become elder statesmen, laden with gravitas, and their views sought out. Paddy Ashdown and Denis Healey perhaps. Blair won’t manage this trick, his offences are too big, his trail of destruction, both in human terms and the damage wrought to the political process in Britain, is too great. He will be rich and feted, in circles which most of us would wish to avoid, but for him it’s Groundhog Day (Parris again).
You may not feel any sympathy for the man – I don’t – and you may think the above is all cod psychology and religious mumbo jumbo. Feel free to do so, but Tony Blair is a man in pain.