Tony Blair reveals he was a student 'Trot' inspired to enter politics by the life of Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky

'I suddenly thought the world's full of these extraordinary causes and injustices and here's this this guy Trotsky'

Tony Blair 'toyed with Marxism' after reading a biography of Trotsky following performing a rock gig
Tony Blair 'toyed with Marxism' after reading a biography of Trotsky following performing a rock gig

Tony Blair has revealed he was a student “Trot” and was inspired to enter politics by the extraordinary life of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

The former Prime Minister – who went on to reject traditional left-wing politics and argue for a “Third Way” – said he briefly held very different views while at Oxford University in the 1970s.

In a BBC Radio 4 interview, Mr Blair said he “toyed with Marxism” after picking up a biography of Trotsky after performing a gig with his student rock band Ugly Rumours.

“When I got back, I picked it up and started to read it. And I literally didn’t stop reading it all night. It opened a different world to me,” he said. “I suddenly thought the world’s full of these extraordinary causes and injustices and here’s this this guy Trotsky who was so inspired by all of this that he went out to create a Russian revolution and change the world. It was like a light going on.

“And, even though over time I obviously left that side of politics behind, the notion of having a cause and a purpose and one bigger than yourself or your own ambition – and I think probably allied at the same time to coming to religious faith – that changed my life in that period.”

Asked if it is “fair to say that you were very briefly a Trot”, Mr Blair replied: “Yeah. In that sense I was actually.”

His revolutionary enthusiasm lasted for about a year until he began dating his future wife, Cherie Booth, who was “extremely critical of what she regarded as my sort of Oxford student socialism”.

In the interview, for the Reflections With Peter Hennessy programme, Mr Blair also revealed that the famous deal, which saw Gordon Brown agree not to fight him for the Labour leadership, did not take place in London’s Granita restaurant.

The agreement – denied for many years by both men – has gone down in history because of the belief that the future Chancellor was granted huge sway over domestic policy in return. Mr Brown also believed that Mr Blair agreed, if he won power, to quit as Prime Minister after two terms to allow him to take over – sowing the seed for their future bitter feuding.

But Mr Blair said: “The truth is it wasn’t in Granita restaurant. We did have a dinner in the Granita, but by then we’d already decided what we were going to do. “The actual conversation, I think took place in a couple of different places in Edinburgh.” Mr Blair said those conversations were “ahead of Granita”.

Earlier, Mr Blair also disclosed, Mr Brown helped him rewrite his first Labour Party conference speech when they were both shadow junior ministers.

“He said to me, ‘Oh my god, you can’t say this, it’s ridiculous’, and then literally sat down and wrote out the first opening lines,” Mr Blair remembered. “I remember thinking well, he knows more about it than me so I’m just going to go and give it, and then being absolutely astonished at the extraordinary reaction I got from the conference.”

On the Iraq War, Mr Blair said: “The thing that is, I think, difficult for people to accept is that I haven’t changed my view that it was better that we removed him [Saddam Hussein] than not.”

And, on his re-emergence in politics, he said: “I am really serious about remaking the centre left in British politics. I think there’s an urgent need for progressive politics to recapture its traction.”

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