I am still normal

Four years ago, I saw a great deal of Tony Blair. At that time, I was a political columnist for a British newspaper, and he was the Leader of the Opposition. As a result I saw him in public, in private, in the House of Commons, in newspaper offices; I saw him shaking hands, kissing babies, making speeches, chatting to admirers. Continue reading “I am still normal”

The Best of Companions

There are countries where it is easy to be a tourist, and countries where enjoying oneself takes a bit of extra effort. Despite my long association with Poland, I must concede that it falls into the latter camp, although not for wholly obvious reasons. It isn’t simply that the communist-era hotels are not up to scratch or that food is indifferent: while sometimes true, that is no longer universally the case. Continue reading “The Best of Companions”

Third thoughts on a tricky subject

Do we need another biography of Richard Nixon? Anthony Summers thinks we do, and you can see his point. Long vilified, even before Watergate, as one of the dirtiest players in American politics, Nixon experienced a revival towards the end of his life. Revisionist biographies appeared (not least one by Jonathan Aitken), speeches were made, a Nixon Centre was established and the disgraced president gradually acquired the halo of an elder statesman and foreign policy expert, a man widely consulted by sitting politicians, Bill Clinton among them. Continue reading “Third thoughts on a tricky subject”

Russia’s Dying Democracy

You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Vladimir Ryzhkov is one of the great hopes for democracy in Russia. With the air of a slightly shaggy, overgrown student, Ryzhkov isn’t your classic baby-kissing politician. For Russia he is young (he served as deputy speaker of the Russian parliament at the tender age of 33) and overly intellectual, with a weighty book of political theory behind him. Continue reading “Russia’s Dying Democracy”