Along the way

From the site of schoolboy rebellion to the room where he reshaped Labour's future - these are the crucial staging posts in Tony Blair's life and career
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The gate of Fettes College, Edinburgh, the "Eton of Scotland", a forbidding Gothic folly where Tony Blair was imprisoned as a boarder at the age of 13. He was "fag" to prefect Michael Gascoigne, now an Edinburgh solicitor, and had to blanco his Army belt and polish the brass. "If I couldn't see my face in it, he would have it thrown back at him," says Gascoigne. Blair was so miserable he ran away, was allowed to transfer to a more liberal House, and eventually grew into a self-confident and often insufferable rebel - so much so that he was caned in his final year. But, he says, "I can't pretend that some dreadful experience at private school directly threw me into the Labour Party."

Blair and Cherie Booth were married in 1980 in the chapel of St John's College, Oxford, the home town of Cherie's mother, Gale. It was a conventional Anglican wedding service conducted by the chaplain, Dr Anthony Phillips. "They were perfectly ordinary people," he says; "both devout." Blair had been "brought to the faith", Christianity and socialism indivisible, while at the college six years earlier. He was inspired by an Australian postgraduate theology student, Peter Thomson, who preached "communitarianism" and whom Blair has described as "the person who most influenced me." Blair now takes communion in his wife's Roman Catholic church.

Blair and Cherie began going out together when they were rivals for a place in the chambers of Derry Irvine, now Lord Irvine of Lairg, in 1976. Cherie came top in the Bar exams but Tony got the tenancy and was one of nine barristers with whom Lord Irvine established his own chambers in 1981. "It was a very, very important moment in my life when we broke off on our own," Blair recalls, "but it paid off handsomely in the end." Of Blair's legal abilities, Lord Irvine says: "He was absolutely excellent. I have no doubt that he would have become a QC." Eleven King's Bench Walk is now one of London's most prestigious chambers.

On 20 May, 1983, with the general election campaign in full swing, Blair waited with six other contenders in the committee room of the town hall in Spennymoor, near Durham, as the voting to choose the Labour candidate for Sedgefield entered its fifth round. Sedgefield was the last seat in the country to select a candidate, and there were five rounds of voting before Blair carried the day. "We brought them all out on the stage to hear the result," says George Ferguson, then party secretary. Mick Terrans, the chairman, said, "We've got a new MP - let's give him our congratulations." "Who is it?" whispered Ferguson. "Oh, Tony Blair."

In political folklore, this was the scene of the "Last Supper".This minimalist Islington restaurant near Blair's home is where he met Gordon Brown, the shadow chancellor, to hear Brown's decision to withdraw from the race to become Labour leader after John Smith's death. Blair's assistant had asked for a quiet table at the back; in fact, it was far from private. Both men were nervous, and Blair was unsure of his friend's intentions. Brown didn't eat much, and was seen later that evening in Rodin's restaurant in Westminster, tucking into a large steak.

On the day of his election, 21 July1994, Blair spoke briefly to his campaign helpers at a victory party in Church House, opposite Westminster Abbey. He thanked, in particular, "a friend of mine called Bobby, whom some of you will know." Most did not, in fact, know that "Bobby" was the codename used by Blair's staff for Peter Mandelson, the new leader's closest confidant; nor would many of them have liked it if they had known, since they held him, as had John Smith, partly responsible for "the black art of public relations that's taken over politics".

In room 303 of the Caledonian Hotel in Inverness, Blair composed his final thoughts about re-writing Labour's sacred text, Clause IV. Influenced by the biblical language which dominated the debate in Scotland, he set down the distinctive declaratory phrase, "by the strength of our common endeavour". Blair was not sentimental about the occasion. John Prescott was surprised when, after a later meeting to complete the wording, Blair left all the old drafts on the table, expecting them to be thrown away. Prescott swept them up for posterity.

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