York Union: A Review of “The Man Behind the Mask”

Francis Beckett addresses the York Union. Image: James Hostford

Francis Beckett addresses the York Union. Image: James Hostford

Knowledge of the Labour Party flows through Francis Beckett and it shows. Having written biographies on Clement Attlee, Nye Bevan and Gordon Brown, Beckett’s biography of Tony Blair, ‘The Man Behind the Mask’ was always going to be authoritative in delivery and his presentation of the book was exactly that.

Blair has amassed millions upon millions of pounds

Beckett feels that Tony Blair has lost his definitive identity. Blair was the man who brought New Labour to the fore, controversially entered conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan with the USA, and was all but forced out of power by the very party he made electable.

Now Blair has amassed millions upon millions of pounds via a variety of roles. He is the Middle East Peace Envoy, he is the Founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, he heads Tony Blair Associates. Global leaders and diplomats and businessmen can now approach Blair masked in one role and end up making a deal with Blair in another guise.

Beckett questions whether Blair in fact believed in anything or whether he was simply opting to say what the electorate wanted to hear

And thus Beckett discusses ‘The Man Behind the Mask’. When questioned as to why he took such dedication and efforts to craft the book that largely served to slate Blair’s premiership, his post-political career and his character, Beckett deliberated in his response. Eventually he confessed that he felt he had something to get off of his chest. Blair has been bothering Beckett for a long time, both in terms of degree of success and in ability to be the executive in what Beckett classifies as too much.

The lecture and book synopsis delivered by Beckett was stimulating and fresh in giving perspective on a man who is something of an enigma in politics. A man who spent his political career on the right of the ideological spectrum, accepting most Thatcherite assumptions, despite being the leader of the Labour Party.

Beckett is honest in admitting he was biased

Beckett questions whether Blair in fact believed in anything or whether he was simply opting to say what the electorate wanted to hear. A significant portion of the lecture served to explain how Blair saw himself as different from the usual politician, for a long time as a Prime Minister engaged with the public. A Prime Minister who regretted the rift generated between him and the public by 2007.

Beckett is honest in admitting he was biased. He was not there to discuss the positive aspects of Blair’s tenure. He accepted that there was a lot of good that Tony Blair did, particularly in terms of his early domestic policy and his role in the Good Friday Agreement.

The York Union once again delivered a speaker to the University to provoke discussion and thought regarding the New Labour phenomena. For their part, the audience were left with a fresh perspective and potentially greater understanding of the controversial figure that is Tony Blair.

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