Thursday, 2 September 2010

Rivalries


Tony Blair’s newly published memoir, A Journey, looks as though it will sell a few more copies than any of my efforts. One of the main themes of Blair’s book, inevitably, is his love-hate relationship with Gordon Brown (more hate than love, it would seem.) I’m utterly fascinated by that relationship, and have been for years, now not least because the nature of rivalry is a core theme of the book I’m currently writing.

The Blair-Brown rivalry is one of the all-time classics, because it is so closely allied with issues about power, idealism (or the lack of it) and personality. It involved great conflict, and so has great dramatic potential. To put it simplistically, one might say that Brown was, and is, intellectually superior to Blair, but was self-obsessed and lacked an ability to connect with people. Blair won elections, Brown either ran scared of them or lost them. To complicate matters, Blair had an almost messianic sense of what to do with his power ( whether one agrees with his view or loathes it), while Brown seems to have seethed with jealousy of his more telegenic colleague, and was more concerned with becoming top dog than deciding what to do once he became Prime Minister. Jealousy is another subject which fascinates me – it’s at the heart of The Serpent Pool.

Many commentators have described Brown as a sort of Shakespearean tragic hero, and there was something deeply moving about his (second) resignation speech after he lost the Election, when he finally dragged himself away from Downing Street and revealed himself as a husband and father (and no doubt, a very good one) rather than an economic wizard (almost certainly, a very bad one, unless you share his view that he saved the world during the credit crunch.) It’s a fair bet that, away from power, he will become happier and more fulfilled than he was when he achieved his political dream.

I once had lunch with Tony Blair, when he met up with a committee of which I was a member, about eighteen years ago. He was a very pleasant person to talk to, even though he was a lawyer who didn’t seem too interested in law. Of all the ministers and shadow ministers we met, Tory and Labour, he was by far the most charismatic. Yet, above all because of Iraq, many people revile him. This contrast between private and public images is yet another issue that offers enormous potential to the novelist. One day it’s a subject I’d like to tackle – perhaps through the medium of a thriller.

12 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for your perspective. I have to agree; public and private images are absolutely fascinating, and they are terrific stuff for a thriller. I hope you do tackle the topic.

Fiona said...

Very interesting, Martin. I have a simplistic view of modern politicians in that I disike them all - I don't see anyone entering that circus ring with a great desire to serve anything but their own ambition. As far as fiction goes, the House of Cards trilogy (sorry, I'm blank on the author) merely reinforced that opinion (and for once the TV adaptation was even better than the books IMHO) but there's a very different view in 10lb Penalty by Dick Francis which has an honest politician as its hero....needless to say, he suffers for his honesty.

Dear me, I sound quite cynical!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Margot - one of these fine days, I hope!

Martin Edwards said...

House of Cards was by Michael Dobbs, Fiona. I never saw the TV, or read the books, but I must add I've just bought the DVDs.
There are quite a lot of jokes in my books about politicians, though equally I would accept some of them have genuine ideals, alas sometimes compromised if they achieve power.

Tim said...

I wonder how much of Gordon Brown's problems are down to the hot-housing educational experiment that he was part of? It may help to explain his extraordinary drive coupled with difficulties fitting in.

Interestingly Val McDermid was part of the same experiment. You can read her take on it in an interview with Denise Mina here:

http://www.valmcdermid.com/pages/interviews4.html

Deb said...

You'd probably be able to sell a few more books if you had the media exposure that Tony Blair is getting for this memoir. Just this morning on NPR (National Public Radio) they broadcast two separate interviews with Blair on two separate subjects (personality of politicians, Iraq War); so if you missed him in the first segment, you were bound to hear him later in the second. I imagine the Blair blitz will be taking place all over the media map in the next few days.

aguja said...

Gordon Brown as King Lear???

Loved this post and totally agreed with you on it ... also about the book sales, unfortunately!

Talking of books - which is the first Lakeland mystery? I have found them and would like to read them in order. You could answer here, or on wordstitcher. Thanks!

Uriah Robinson said...

I am glad I am a crime fiction blogger and not a political blogger. Imagine having to read Peter Mandelson's The Third Man, followed by Tony Blair's A Journey, with the thought of a Gordon Brown book on the way.
If a crime fiction author put two characters with narcissistic personality disorder in one book the critics would say it could not be true to life.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Uriah - stranger than fiction, yes!!

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Deb, spot on. I saw him being interviewed by Andrew Marr. The rest of us can only dream of such publicity!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Aguja - the first one is The Coffin Trail.

Martin Edwards said...

Tim, that is an absolutely fascinating link. I knew Val is a friend of Brown's, and I've also heard it said that his private persona is very different from the public one, but I've never heard of that experiment. It's definitely one you could write a book about - wouldn't it be good if Val had a go at it, one day? One thing I didn't say about Brown is that he showed great courage in dealing with the loss of an eye and I wonder if the experiment helped to give him the drive to do so.