Published in The Blair Effect 2001-5 edited by Anthony Seldon and Dennis Kavanagh (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
In 1992, when Tony Blair was Shadow Home Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, the actual Home Secretary, said of him ‘he’s so shadowy it’s ridiculous’, and went on to quote a jingle: ‘As I was going up a stair, I met a man who wasn’t there’. Eight years into his premiership, the question of who Blair is, what he believes in, is scarcely closer to being answered. One is tempted to write of him, as Keynes did of Lloyd George: ‘[He] is rooted in nothing; he is void and without content; he is an instrument and a player at the same time’. In fact Lloyd George is probably the prime minister Blair most resembles. Keynes praised Lloyd George’s ‘natural good instincts, his industry, his inexhaustible nervous vitality’, his ‘vast stores of spirit and of energy’. But these qualities were not grounded in ‘permanent principle, tenacity, fierce indignation, honesty, loyal leadership’.