This is your 50th birthday present, Prime Minister,” says Strategy Director Alastair Campbell as Tony Blair comes through the front door of No. 10 Downing Street. “Peter Stothard is going to follow you everywhere you go for 50 days.”
Tony Blair sighs. He had agreed a few weeks earlier for a journalist to be with him on the path to war with Iraq. It had seemed like a good idea at the time.
“Well, a month then,” Campbell concedes with a grin, “Thirty days.”
Like many good resolutions, it does not seem so attractive now. Little is going right. He does not even know for sure that he will still be prime minister 30 days from now.
Tony Blair decides to stick with his decision. He will have a closely observed record of his leadership in the war against Saddam Hussein.
By March 6, 2003, the day Tony Blair invited his chronicler through the door, Britain had become an angry country. Millions of voters, particularly young voters who five years before had hailed his “Cool Britannia,” were enraged that the first Labor prime minister since 1979 seemed about to send bombers to the civilians of Baghdad. Britain, they shouted, should just let George Bush get on with fighting his father’s old enemy, Saddam Hussein.
MONDAY, MARCH 10
Morning headlines: Minister threatens resignation from Blair Cabinet . . . Iraq attacks “fascist” USA . . .
Ten years ago few of even his closest friends could imagine Tony Blair in the place he is now. He was not always the most certain of men. He was persuasive and popular. He liked to be liked. He would have hated the mockery and ridicule.
What has happened?