It can be hard to escape the past. The things we've done, the things that were done to us, the memories rising over us like so many waves. There's a reason Marcel Proust wrote a seven-volume novel about the remembrance of things past: you may be nailing it today, but then you'll put a French cake in some tea and suddenly find yourself hurtling back into a time you thought long gone.Take Tony Blair. He may be a globetrotting, multi-millionaire advisor to multi-national financial institutions and – until recently – foreign regimes of ill repute, but his mind will, always and forever, drift back to that time when he was prime minister and led his nation into a war that resulted in the deaths of untold numbers of civilians, a war that continues to wreak havoc on a region he went on to act as peace envoy for.
Blair, the ex Britain longs to forget, has told Esquire magazine that he's open to returning to politics. We're all looking for a hero to get us out of the turmoil we're in, and well, if he has to – if he really has to – Tone will put on his cape (a crisp navy blue suit) and fly (first class, fully expensed) to the rescue.The perma-tanned cipher of the international stage, his skin stretched ever tighter across his face, his Cheshire cat mouth fraying at the edges, "feels strongly" about what is happening right now – he hates both May's "hard Brexit" and Corbyn's "ultra left" ideology – and though he doesn't know if there's a role for him, the fact that he's shutting down his commercial ventures means he would be able to return to British politics.This longing to return to the fray as the champion of the "centre ground" marks Blair out as the Jay Gatsby of the British political scene. "Can't repeat the past?" Fitzgerald's (anti) hero asks narrator Nick incredulously. "Why of course you can!" Whatever the pros and cons, the rights and wrongs of Blair's time in government – and it wasn't all war-mongering and spin – his legacy is now irredeemably tied up with the catastrophe that was the war in Iraq. After the Chilcot Report's publication this summer, the press's reaction may have been (in some cases) hypocritical, but it was unanimous: Tony Blair, not a great guy.And yet, though he admits that Iraq "overshadows everything people think about me" and that "there's no point in me carrying on trying to change people's minds", Blair continues to dream of a return, of a redemption, of a chance to somehow re-write the past and re-cast his legacy. He was always a fully paid-up member of the white saviours club, searching the world for a chance to be a hero, and now here he is, contemplating the opportunity to do to Britain what he believes he did to Kosovo: save it.
Many years in power can have this effect on people. It can lead you to believe that you are the only one capable of steering the ship, the only one who really understands what's going on. I once spoke to a senior African politician who had dealt with Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe for many years. Mugabe would always tell him that, despite having held sole power for over two decades, he'd love to give it up. The only problem, Mugabe said, is that there just wasn't anyone else capable of doing the job. It was a catch-22: the old authoritarian would love to leave, but how could he when there was no one who could do the job?Blair surveys the scorched earth of British politics in 2016 and he imagines he can help, imagines he can bring water to his thirsty people. But his people don't want him any more and the world is turning away from the political ideology he championed. Neo-liberalism with a human face is not going to be the answer to the ravages neo-liberalism has caused. Times have changed and we must change with them.But Blair cannot change, he cannot move on. Possessed with the unwavering faith and zeal of a 19th century missionary, he shouts into the wilderness from the gilded prison he has made for himself. Around him, there are still enough people – many of them powerful people – who will tell him he is right, that those idiot proles just don't understand what real leadership is and that if only they could be "sensible" and "realistic" they'd understand that Blair and his politics is the medicine that will cure them.
But it is not the medicine that will cure and there is no going back. What is done is done. Theresa May's Conservative party long for the days of empire. They seek to divide us and to take us back to something worse. Tony Blair longs simply for that heady night in 1997, when D:Ream's anthem burst out of the speakers and things could only get better.@oscarrickettnowMore on VICE:The Most Important Things We Learned at This Year's Labour ConferenceIt's the Beginning of the End For UkipTheresa May's Conference Speech Gave a Monstrous Ideology a Human Face