Today’s announcement makes Tony Blair one of the happiest men in the country.
I first met Tony Blair in the summer of 1996, when his lorry turned up in my drive. He was selling composted horse manure, he said. I looked at it. It was good. I bought some. I took out my cheque-book to pay him and asked him what name to write. He shifted from one foot to the other and looked embarrassed. I asked him if he preferred cash and he said no, a cheque was better. What name, I asked again. He looked more embarrassed. “Tony Blair”, he said, and gave me his card.
I avoided his eyes. The matter was too painful for discussion or even for silent sympathy.
The compost was excellent stuff. Well-rotted, sweet-smelling, you could handle it without gloves, and it made plants specified in centimetres grow in inches instead. It did the garden no end of good.
Tony Blair appeared every couple of years after that, seeming to know by instinct when we needed another load, and the garden boomed.
He came again last autumn, ten years older than when I had seen him first. He sold me his manure and gave me his card. It no longer had his name on it, just some neutral, invented business name. I opened my cheque book and asked him what name to write. He breathed a defeated sigh. He looked broken by years of tactless jokes and tactful sympathy. “Tony Blair”, he said.
His product is good, cheap, wholesome and beneficial. It can make things grow where nothing grew before. And – to be personal for a moment – he doesn’t even smell of what he sells.
Today he is a happy man.