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Tony Blair memoir: I'd do Iraq again, and I considered firing Gordon Brown

In his new memoir, former British prime minister Tony Blair shares misgiving about the Iraq war – and catalogs his extensive struggles with then-finance minister Gordon Brown.

By Staff writer / September 2, 2010

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chats with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as leaders gathered to deliver a joint statement on Middle East Peace talks in the East Room of the White House in Washington September 1.

Jason Reed/Reuters

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Paris

Tony Blair began his leadership as a dashing popular British Bill Clinton -- a fresh answer to “the suit,” as Fleet Street called John Major. After 2001, it all went sideways and Mr. Blair’s 10-year tenure terminated with him portrayed at home as a “lap dog” for President George Bush.

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Now, as President Obama is attempting to bring closure to a war that largely contributed to Mr. Blair’s falling popularity, Blair is putting forth his version of events in a 700-page memoir titled “A Journey: My Political Life.”

Blair has two serious points for history. Point one: He may have misgivings about Iraq but he would do it again under the same circumstances. Blair hitched his star to a US White House whose vice president, Dick Cheney, Blair says, “Would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates.... He thought the world had to be made anew ... by force and with urgency.” Mr. Bush, he says, has “genuine integrity and as much political courage as any leader I ever met.” Blair also writes he once helped Bush identify Guy Verhofstadt, the prime minister of Belgium.

Point two is a more relishing reflection for British readers: He had nothing but problems with Gordon Brown, his finance minister, whom he politely excoriates as lacking imagination, whom he considered firing, who purportedly blackmailed him, who blocked his reform agenda, and whose own tenure as prime minister until last May, “was never going to work.”

The root of the problem between Mr. Brown and himself, Blair offers, is that “he thought I could be an empty vessel into which the liquid that was poured was manufactured and processed by him."

Brown’s defenders have jumped into the fray. Former Brown aid Michael Dugher says it is "slightly unkind and unfair" for Blair to brand Brown as a "strange guy" who lacked emotional intelligence. Mr. Dugher told the BBC, "I think Tony Blair was a much better actor than Gordon Brown and maybe in this modern media age that counts for something. I think that is an unfair characterization of Gordon Brown."

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