The irresistible pull of a fading star enjoying his comeback show

The view from the gallery

In 2007 I played Tony Blair in a satirical musical about his time as Prime Minister. I hold my hands up now and say that I am an admirer of the man and always have been.

You can imagine my excitement therefore at securing a ticket for his appearance at the Iraq Inquiry. Outside the conference centre was buzzing and I took my place as his number one groupie in the queue. It was fascinating to eavesdrop on the musings of my fellow audience members. A couple of middle-aged women told me they weren't really political but had nothing planned for today so thought; "Well it's a day out, isn't it?"

Once inside and through the airport style security we took our places in the additional viewing facility – a huge conference room with over a thousand seats. A huge screen showed the Iraq Inquiry logo and pop music started playing. The first big audience reaction, if you don't count the one after the announcement that there was nowhere in the building to get a cup of coffee, came during a recorded emergency exit briefing that ended with the words "Please enjoy the rest of your event". This produced a big laugh in the hall, by now about three-quarters full.

There was a great sense of expectation about seeing Blair on the big screen and I suspect even those who opposed Iraq have secretly missed the charm and elegance that Blair brings to his public appearances. I was surprised at his physical appearance – still handsome but leaner, older and with a higher hairline. The young girls behind me didn't look like typical politics students and neither did they sound it;

"Wow, look at his tan."

"Well he works in the Middle East nowadays."

Once the questioning began the hall fell silent. Everyone was transfixed and it was fascinating to see our old leader back up there on the big screen – nervous at first, but growing more relaxed, even beginning to enjoy his comeback, or as another faded star, Norma Desmond, would say, his 'return'. The crowd were listening intently and were most unappreciative of the sudden outburst by a shaggy- haired hippie who unexpectedly leapt up from his seat in the middle of the room and cried out: "I can't stomach any more of this. This man is a serial liar..."

Unfortunately for him nobody was interested in his ranting and he was told with a huge, collective shout to "shut up", which he did, sitting down sheepishly.

The audience was made up mostly of anti-Blairites and I wanted to leap to his defence when people scoffed at an answer or tittered at the return of the irregular, Pinter-esqe pauses and elegant hand gestures. None of his responses produced major reactions apart from one. When he announced that it was beyond doubt Iraq had weapons-making technology, one of the interviewers interjected with: "Beyond your doubt, but not everyone else's." This produced a huge round of applause.

Once the session ended I felt saddened. Politicians who make it to the top job riding high in opinion polls rarely leave office enjoying the same levels of popularity, and Blair's journey from 1997 to this morning is the story of a spectacular fall from grace to an almost universal loathing by the British public. As I listened to my iPod on my way out through the masses of media I smiled as a Stephen Sondheim song began. A line in the song summed up the crux of Blair's responses to criticism over his decision to take this country to war: 'I chose and my world was shaken, so what? The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Media Sales - £36,000 OTE

£28000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: C# .NET Developer / Application Support - Junior

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This business has an industry r...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash