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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.

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British media digs in

The book is naturally getting mined for all it can tell about the quirks and anomalies of life in 10 Downing. The British media are turning single paragraphs into headline stories.

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Here is a sampling of some of the sections that have drawn the most scrutiny:

Blair describes a visit with the royal family as “intriguing, surreal and utterly freaky.” Gordon Brown once got locked in a bathroom and had to phone Blair to let him out. Blair was often driven to drink, but at least he wasn’t out with women. Lady Diana and he were both manipulators. In the midst of the Northern Ireland peace process, Blair lied, “stretched the truth past breaking point,” in order to prevent a collapse of talks. Blair’s wife, Cherie, had “this incredible instinct for offending the powerful, especially in the media, who were unfortunately far too well placed in taking revenge.” He would like to have toppled Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. He tripped on the carpet on his first visit to Buckingham Palace – and so on.

Advance publicity for the memoir revolved around Blair’s decision to donate the British proceeds of the book to British Iraq war veterans. Blair’s US sales are expected to top the British sales, and the book is already in French at shops here. So with Blair’s stratospheric speaking fees – clocking in at $600,000 a speech, he made $20 million from 2007 to 2009 – he won’t lack in lunch money, although the funds for veterans is expected to be in the $5 million to $6 million range, which isn’t chicken feed, either.

An unconventional autobiography

This isn’t a conventional political autobiography, Blair says in the forward. He writes, ''There is only one person who can write an account of what it is like to be the human being at the center of that history … and that is me.''

Last year, British reaction to Blair’s testimony at the Chilcot Inquiry on the war in Iraq decision was not kind to the former prime minister. Nevertheless, in his autobiography, Blair argues that he retains a bond of trust with many voters in Britain who feel he was doing his best. He offers a theory that voters distinguish between shallow politicians they universally distrust, “pretty much all of them,” and those they mistrust at a deeper level.

Blair, who says he has at heart a “rebel soul,” says one of his main regrets and misreading of public opinion was a 2004 ban on fox hunting in Great Britain: “By the end of it, I felt like the ... fox.”