Matthew Norman: World's not big enough for Tony

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The Independent Online

Hats off to the Independent on Sunday's Jane Merrick for a fine contribution to the endlessly fascinating struggle to work out who, precisely, Mr Tony Blair thinks he is. Contemplating all the recent Blairite pleas to be gissa'd a job, Jane concludes that he is the £20-£50m per annum income bracket's answer to Yosser Hughes.

The rhetorical question with Mr T is the one asked in the Supergran theme song: is there nothing that he cannae do? But what on earth will he do? Lesser men would regard his vindication over Mr Assad, for whom we learn he wished to fix an honorary knighthood, as a cue to bank a matchless reputation for geopolitical nous, bow out of public affairs, and devote himself to pleasure. Yet this is too colossal a figure to rest on his altruistic laurels, and it is agonising to watch him beg for seemly work in interviews like Saturday's cri de coeur with the Financial Times.

From Lionel Barber's wry references to Mr T's eagerness to pose for the camera, and from his own perplexed tone at being overlooked for important posts, you suspect his fictional role model is an even earlier paradigm of broken dreams than Yosser. Mr Tony, ever ready for his close up, is the Norma Desmond of disregarded global statesmen. He is still big. It's the world that got small.

Not everyone agrees that Chloe's Newsnight appearance was a fiasco. The Guardian's Michael White thought she did fine, ending his thoughts with a cheering "Well done, Smithy!" Tremendous stuff. In Britain, Michael is almost a lone practitioner of that style of punditry which automatically takes the contra-intuitive line in the quest to appear above the fray and fearsomely individualistic. It's a more popular journalistic form in the US, where various geniuses have explained why the survival of the Affordable Care Act is a catastrophe for Obama, but we don't get enough of it here. Well done, Whitey!

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