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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Guru Careers: PR Account Director / SAM

£50 - 60k (DOE) + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A PR Account Director / SAM ...

Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Insight Analyst

£32 - £37K + extensive benefits: Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Ins...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific