I have never been to Barbados before, so I was really looking forward to seeing the beautiful scenery, tasting the local rum and meeting the Blairs.
The enchanting Cherie greeted me – television just doesn’t do her justice, she really does have lips. I was brought into a spacious room where the PM was sitting in a cool summer shirt and a pair of neatly pressed jeans. An electric guitar sat in one corner of the room, and there were family portraits all over the place.
He shook my hand firmly, displaying that friendly twinkle in his eye that we all know and love. I expressed gratitude that he had agreed to be interviewed. He told me that mine was the only interview that he was giving. He felt there had been some misunderstanding between him and the British people of late, and he wanted to put the record straight.
So I thought it best to go straight for the issue that was uppermost in many people’s minds – weapons of mass destruction and the David Kelly affair.
‘Did you instruct your adviser to call Kelly a Walter Mitty character?’ I asked.
‘Categorically not,’ he said, fixing me with that ‘honest guy stare’, ‘and what’s more I have no idea who Walter Mitty is.’
I explained that Mitty was a fictional character. In the book The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Mitty is a timid middle aged accountant who creates an imaginary world where he is a heroic pilot, soldier and brain surgeon, who goes around saving lives and winning battles.
‘Oh, a bit like Billy Liar?’ Blair responded. ‘Sort of,’ I replied. Having again assured me he hadn’t instructed anyone to issue the comments, Blair then explained that all this fuss was just being generated by people who had opposed the war.
‘Basically it’s the appeasers who are stirring all this up. They have a point of view that I respect, but remember if people like them had had their way we’d all be speaking German now. I wasn’t going to fall for that. I remember even as a youngster bristling with indignation as Neville Chamberlain got off his plane with that damn piece of paper in his hand.’
‘But surely you weren’t born then,’ I said. ‘Of course I was,’ he demurred, then abruptly changed the subject. ‘Look, all this stuff about weapons of mass destruction is really beginning to bug me. I saw the evidence: Saddam had a weapon storage area big enough to cover a small Balkan state, powerful enough to blow up an entire continent, and could have set them off in less time than it takes to start the Grand National.’
‘So where have they gone?’ I asked. ‘I think he and his family swallowed them,’ he replied. ‘Find Saddam and you’ll find his nuclear arsenal. Look, people doubted me when I tipped off President Kennedy about Cuban missiles. “Where are they?” they asked. Nobody could find them, but I knew they were there, and thanks to the special relationship Kennedy listened to me and the world was saved.’
‘But you would have been at primary school,’ I said. ‘I think not,’ he replied. ‘Anyway,’ I retorted, ‘surely those missiles were exposed for all to see by photographs. We haven’t seen a single piece of evidence in Iraq.’
‘Ah, but that’s because Blix was leading a cover-up. He nearly pulled the wool over George Dubya’s eyes, but not mine. George is a bit of a peacenik, if the truth be told, but I held firm, put some steel into him.
‘Of course, I learnt how to cope with dangerous tyrants during my spell in military intelligence in the Falklands. Maggie would have caved in without me.’
Confused, I decided to change the subject myself: ‘Do you feel you’ve lost touch with the average Labour voter?’ ‘Never,’ he replied, ‘I’m still the guy who used to go to watch Newcastle City at King James’s Park as a lad surrounded by sweat, cloth caps, and black puddings. You know I saw the great Jackie Milburn score a hat trick there once in a cup final.’
I didn’t like to mention that in this particular stream of consciousness there were at least four errors, not least of which was Milburn having retired before Blair was born.
‘No, I know what the average guy is thinking: “Can I afford to buy my kids one flat or two while they’re at university, and can they afford a cleaner, a decent summer holiday and a makeover by Carole Caplin?” It’s what we all worry about; I’m just an ordinary guy.’
‘Do you think now might be the time to give way to Gordon Brown?’ I asked nervously. ‘Good god, no. Gordon wouldn’t hear of it. He’s always seen himself as consort to my king. I still recall that famous evening in Islington after poor John Smith died – Gordon was sobbing, pleading with me to stand, begging me not to make him run. I reluctantly agreed, but I guess it’s all worked out for the best.’
I asked him what he did now to relax. ‘Still play the guitar,’ he said. ‘Do you know I taught Eric Clapton the riff to Layla?’ I admitted I didn’t.
I asked what his immediate task would be on returning from holiday. ‘Finding those weapons of mass destruction. I think I’ll have to go over there and find them myself. After all, had I not gone out on the streets of Leeds and personally taken charge of things they’d never have found the Yorkshire Ripper.’
At this point I thanked him and made to leave. ‘Anyway,’ he said, ‘off the record, that guy probably was a bit of a Walter Mitty/Billy Liar type character. They are dreamers, scientists. Ooh… isn’t that odd! B Liar is an anagram of Blair! Did I ever tell you about the time I caught Bin Laden in a headlock?’
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