Observer July 15, 2007
I knew that The Blair Years was an account of events enlivened by Campbell’s unflattering comments about the people who had angered him, but I had not expected the occasional precise, perceptive assessment of certain people. His introduction confirmed my long-held suspicion that he was an introvert, one of those who need to keep chaos at bay and fulfil their need for achievement. Elsewhere I had read his description of what he calls his ‘serious psychotic breakdown’, which to me was a clear description of what happens to introverts when they discover a serious discrepancy between what they thought their life was and what it actually is. Here he explains that he kept a diary to give ‘some kind of order to often chaotic and confusing events around me’. Introverts are often better observers of other people than extraverts, even though extraverts rely on their relationships with others in order to feel that they exist. Campbell’s description of his meeting with Dick Cheney and George Bush made me wish, very fleetingly, that Campbell and not Blair had been the PM. He wrote, ‘[Cheney] managed to seem relaxed while at the same time emanating tension . . . and as straight man for Bush, who would later seem warm and personable by comparison. . . [Bush] was clearly pumping out the personal charm but beneath it you got a real sense that if he didn’t get his way he would be, to quote himself, a tough son of a bitch.’ But Blair, the extravert, saw the ‘special relationship’ in simple, sentimental terms, and went with Bush into Iraq.
Extraverts’ greatest fear is being disliked. When people turned against Blair he began to age. Campbell understood this. He wrote, ‘TB was coming to terms with the fact that there were people on the right and on the left who actually hated him. . . I said you are not confident at the moment, are you? He said, you read me too well, but no, I’m not.’ Partnerships between an extravert and an introvert can work well because each sees in the other what he lacks in himself. Campbell knows he lacks charm, and Blair sees in Campbell a strong inner core which he lacks. So there may indeed be daily phone calls.
Perhaps in 20 years’ time Campbell will write a book about the people he knew in the Blair years. That will be a book worth reading.
Dorothy Rowe 12/7/07