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Matthew Norman

Matthew Norman: So much that the Bible can teach us about Tony Blair

After a hiatus of what feels like several weeks, the anguished wait for the latest tranche of Alastair Campbell's Downing Street memoirs is over. Power And The People, 1997-99 is out this week, and from the serialised snippets it looks a belter. My favourite bit concerns Tony Blair reading his Bible the December 1998 night before the bombing of Iraq, although the reference to it concerning Herod and the John the Baptist makes no sense in the context of that training session for the big match to come.

Did Ali misinterpret why the PM studied Herod lopping off John's head for criticising another man's choice of wife? After all, a previous entry has Ali disdainfully mentioning Cherie's "madder stuff" (wearing a pendant to ward off "evil spirits and harmful rays"; so different, in sanity terms, from a Catholic fingering the rosary beads for luck).

So was Mr Blair thinking even then of metaphorically decapitating Ali for dissing the missus? Or was the relevant passage the one from Mr T's beloved Apocrypha, which reads: "And verily, Herod did say, 'Speak to me not, pious Baptist, of the Commandments brought down from Sinai by Moses. For lo, where upon that holy tablet did the Lord of Lords vouchsafe, 'Thou shalt not do collateral damage, nor rob the Mesopotamians of their water and electricity til' kingdom come'? Eh?"

Less opaque is an account of how, during a G8 summit earlier that year, Mr T dwelt yearningly on his wish to become a "major player", adding ruefully but with no apparent ironic intent: "It's just a shame Britain is so small, physically." Those who regard Mr T as a victim of narcissistic personality disorder to whom the premiership was primarily a conduit to swanking over the global stage will feel chastened by that little remark.

A lively edition of the Mail on Sunday has two thrilling exclusives. David Miliband tells readers that "football is about ... scrubland and parks with coats, bags and jumpers ... for goalposts." No mention from Labour's Ron Manager that it's also about taking £50,000 a year from Sunderland for doing sod all. As for Andy Coulson, apparently he was prepared to quit his No 10 job over the phone bugging scandal (see below), making him the first person in history to offer to resign twice for something of which he knew nothing. Once more, and this recidivist martyr will be liable for beatification by the Holy See (No Evil) of Rome.

As for Susannah York, the most moving eulogy to her so far came from Andrew Marr on his BBC1 show yesterday morn. During the newspaper review, Andrew told Armchair Field Marshal the Lord Aaronovitch that she was "the first actress who made me feel a little strange". However percipient the self-commentary (I've long felt Andrew is a little strange), the reference was in shocking taste for a show many of us dip into while dressing for the Sabbath service. A winter's day by no means made glorious summer, in other words, by this fan of York.

Rupert Murdoch's largesse continues to astound. Speculation mounts that News International is picking up the massive legal bills of Glenn Mulcaire, the phone hacker whom so many slebs are suing on privacy grounds. If Rupert is bankrolling a freelance investigator who worked solely to a rogue News of the World reporter, and whose crimes have visited such grief on himself and Andy Coulson who knew not a dickie bird about it, this may be the most glorious act of altruism since Jeffrey Archer sent an acolyte to Victoria Station to pay off a hooker with whom he'd had no physical contact.

Among the latest to launch a legal action, meanwhile, is Paul Gascoigne. Without Gazza's Torinese tears in 1990, there would have been no revival in football's popularity, and no Premier League to turn BSkyB into the cash cow that fuelled Rupert's ascent to arguably the most powerful person on earth. So if Gazza snaffles a million to keep it out of court, it will be yet another example of Rupert's tear-jerking commitment to giving something back.