Logic, however, will only take him so far. Those whom he wins over, he wins by showing so powerfully his confidence that he is right.
To many of his critics such certainty is the way of madness. Some have decided that he is already mad, made so by too long in power, too many admirers, too many enemies and too little listening carefully to either friends or foes. The isolation of Downing Street, even friends say, has changed the warm, open, accommodating young M.P. and lawyer they used to know. The man who could always talk around an issue is now taking one view and holding it like a creed.
Others say that he is feigning his peculiar mad certainty, that he needs something to hide his obedience to American orders. By the time he has reached the rhetorical ending, his words have run as well as they could ever run. He sits down to cheers and cries of shame from precisely where he expected them to be.
The chamber is packed. The vote to go to war is called. The first and most critical is on the dissenters’ amendment. Allies and opponents, friends and enemies, all jostle together through the voting lobbies. A few minutes later Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong whispers the result in her boss’s ear and receives a congratulatory smile in return. The government has held its ground. It has suffered an enormous rebellion, but prevented a catastrophic rout.
Back in the prime minister’s office, Tony Blair thanks everyone in a short last speech of the day. There is relief, but no air of triumph.
THURSDAY, MARCH 20