Years ago, when Harold Wilson was the Labour Prime Minister, the satirical magazine Private Eye used to run an amusing column called Mrs Wilson’s Diary. The PM’s life was described through the eyes of his wife Mary Wilson, a middle-class woman with few pretensions who lived modestly and wrote poetry. She led a fairly humble life-style symbolised by her husband’s raincoats and the couple’s holidays in the Scilly Isles.
How much things have changed since then! These days, ex-Prime Minister Blair’s wife Cherie has depicted her years in Downing Street in a biography called “Speaking for Myself”. It manages to combine self-aggrandisement and self-pity, political trivia with salacious details about her personal life while saying nothing worthwhile about political events. Mrs Blair’s detailing of her me-first attitude to life makes Mary Wilson seem almost saintly.
Not satisfied with her massive income as a leading barrister and part-time judge, Mrs Blair has long been notorious for her ability to make a fast buck out of being the Prime Minister’s wife, running from lucrative lecture tours in the US (where she was paid £30,000 for one talk) and £100,000 for a speaking tour in Australia. And don’t forget numerous freebie holidays, including two at the invitation of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who presently presides over one of the most racist right-wing regimes in Europe.
There may be those who say, well, Blair can’t be held responsible for the greedy antics of his wife, but he himself is thought to have made more money out of public office than anyone since Britain’s first-ever Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. He has made millions from after-dinner speeches since leaving office. The Blairs have just acquired a £4 million country house in Buckinghamshire, which makes them the proud owners of no less than seven homes, including their £3.5 million house in London’s posh Connaught Square, augmented in 2007 by the addition of a £1 million mews house next door. And they have just bought a £500,000 flat for their son Euan.
Mrs Blair’s latest venture into print has not won her any plaudits, literary, personal or political. Only the crassest opportunists and gold-diggers could possibly find anything to admire in her frenzied consumerism and self-seeking wheeler-dealer approach to life. Last week saw not only the publication of Blair’s book but that of two other New Labour luminaries, millionaire Lord Levy and ex deputy-PM John Prescott. They also fail to offer a single political insight into recent political history and are full of tittle-tattle.
What we do get in close-up detail is the true tawdriness of New Labour in the shape of Mrs Blair and Prescott who were paid, either directly or indirectly out of public money to live in grand public houses and (in Prescott’s case) to help run the country. Levy of course is a millionaire with ample means of his own. But nonetheless, like the other two, it is through his connection with Downing Street that he stakes his claim to authorial fame. Between the three of them, they stand to make around a £1 million for serialisation rights. Their paymasters? The Times and Sun newspapers, both of them owned by trade-union busting, media-mogul Rupert Murdoch.
These three gruesome publications – you could hardly call them memoirs – sum up New Labour’s persona and helps explain why the electorate is queuing up to give them a massive caning at the polls. Blair, Brown and the rest of them smashed up Old Labour and created a gaudy, tacky, money-grabbing party and government in its place where self-advancement comes first, second and last.
A World to Win secretary