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Tony Blair's "A Journey" reveals a once-progressive head on a conservative heart

London - Has there ever been a greater gift to British newspaper pundits in the last week of a slow news summer than Tony Blair's memoirs?

"A Journey" was published here on Wednesday, and since then it has been all Tony all the Time on all Platforms.

Not even a juicy tabloid story concerning rumors about the sexual preference of William Hague, Britain's Foreign secretary, has managed to re-focus the country's attention. As for the start of Middle East Peace Talks in Washington - well TB is there, isn't he? Talk about a story with legs.

And its not just the press: over at Amazon where it is the Number 1 selling book, it has sparked reader's discussions like: Tony Blair, what a B'stard, Tissue of Lies and Boycott This Book.

Adding to the interest is that no serialization rights were sold. So the papers have assigned teams of reporters to read the book and pick out the juicy bits. And some of them are very juicy indeed in a romantic novel kind of way including details about his exceptionally passionate love life with his wife Cherie.

One bit really has to be quoted at length. This is the couple the night Blair decided to go for the Labour Party leadership back in 1994: "She cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be told; strengthened me; made me feel that I was about to do was right … On that night of the 12th May, 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct, knowing I would need every ounce of emotional power to cope with what lay ahead. I was exhilarated, afraid and determined in roughly equal quantities."

Today, readers learned how he learned how to loosen up and discover his passionate side in love through an affair with a French woman during the year he spent living in Paris working in a bar.

He writes with equal gush about his relationship with Gordon Brown, the man who succeeded him. As young men on the rise in the Labour Party, they shared a very special bond which ended in raw hostility. Blair calls Brown "maddening" and possessing "zero emotional intelligence."

But that's just the gossip. 

As for the stuff people really want to know, like, "Why did you throw your place in history away by traipsing after George Bush's every decision?" ... they won't know any more after reading the book.

It is no surprise that the former Prime Minister still believes it was right to remove Saddam Hussein, but he has not applied his formidable brain to understanding how, as Iraq spun out of control, his uncritical attitudes to America's Commander in Chief fed into the terrible unraveling of Iraq and undermined his reputation at home across the political spectrum.

This is the point that comes through clearest from reading the extracts in all the papers. Blair's instincts as a young man were progressive, his instincts as a politician seeking office were centrist, but his heart is essentially compassionate Conservative.

He wrote a post-script to the book just before it went to press effectively endorsing the Con-Dem coalition government's plans for drastic deficit cutting as the way out of the recession as opposed to the Labour Party's plan to slow the pace of deficit cuts in order to preserve public services - and keep government workers employed. The irony is that this most small "c" conservative man has ended up loathed as much by the right in Britain as the left.

Blair's "A Journey" is not going to change anyone's opinion of the former Prime Minister, nor is it going to answer the questions thrown up by the man who was the greatest political performer of his time and who seemed at one point to be touched by the "hand of destiny" (his words) and ended up something less.

All proceeds from "A Journey" - including the reported 5 million pounds ($7.7 million) advance - are being donated to the Royal British Legion, the retired servicemen's charity. 

http://www.globalpost.com/notebook/united-kingdom/100903/tony-blairs-journey-reveals-progressive-head-conservative-heart