a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Denis Healey: 'The cat that walks alone in politics'


Tony Blair - a Tory in disguise?
Anthony Howard Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

I saw him not very often, when he was Prime Minister. I suppose at most… perhaps… I was writing a column in The Times at the time, so I think he paid a certain amount of… not… I always used to, sort of, apply, say could I see him? And I saw him about once a year, kind of thing. He was always very pleasant, affable. Not, I thought, sort of termed it, thought-provoking. And I suppose I'd never quite got over the impression that there was something lightweight about him. And I was never among his greatest admirers. I was never among New Labour's greatest kind of advocates or supporters, but he was… I liked him, he was attractive, he was pleasant and he also was a very good performer. I mean, there's no doubt about it that as a speaker, there's enough of an actor in Tony Blair to make him a very considerable performer indeed. And that one can't take away from him. But even his speech in defence of the war in Iraq, which was the… you know, a tremendous oratorical performance in the Commons. Even those who disagreed with it had to admit it. And he was equally good at the party conference. He took infinite pains with his party conference speech and, you know, he was always effective. But I don't know. I suppose that I belong to those who thought that, in a sense, he was a Tory in disguise or something. I never felt at home with him in that sense. And of course, I had known a lot of Labour leaders, going back to Hugh Gaitskell. And he seemed to me to be the least Labour-minded of all those people. And I used to be offended by people like Mandelson saying, 'I'm perfectly relaxed about people being filthy rich'. I think one of the times when I saw him as Prime Minister, I said, 'Are you really telling me that it doesn't worry you that the gap between rich and poor is getting wider'. He said, 'No, no, it doesn't worry me. What matters is everyone's becoming more prosperous'.

And I did find that very hard to take, that it seems to be one of the jobs the Labour party is in business to do, is to make sure that the gap shrinks, that there isn't that kind of inequality. I mean, what did Gaitskell believe in? Gaitskell believed in equality. A very old-fashioned doctrine now, but there's not a tithe in Tony Blair's being that thinks that equality is important. So we were never, I suppose, natural soulmates. I haven't… have I seen him... I don't think I've seen him once... shows that I'm a not a natural soulmate... since he ceased to be Prime Minister. I don't think I've talked to him on any occasion. And I've no doubt he doesn't feel any great sense of deprivation, but nor, frankly, do I.

A distinguished British political observer, Anthony Howard (1934-2010) wrote for 'The Guardian', 'The Sunday Times' and 'The Observer' for over 40 years, during which time he has commented on the historical significance of global political issues. He was also editor of 'The Listener' and 'The New Statesman', and a reporter on both 'Newsnight' and 'Panorama'. He was awarded the CBE in 1997.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: politics

Duration: 2 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: November - December 2008

Date story went live: 21 May 2018