When Tony met Princess Di, Bono, Becks…

A HOST of celebrities from footballers to film stars appear in the pages of Tony Blair’s memoirs.

The former British prime minister lavishes praise on his famous acquaintances, describing Diana, Princess of Wales, as “extraordinarily captivating” while Bono is “great with people, very smart and an inspirational speaker”.

David Beckham was a “complete pro” in supporting London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics, Kevin Spacey was a “really fun guy” at Labour’s 2002 autumn party conference.

Blair was criticised in office for his fondness for entertaining stars from the worlds of television, film, music and sport.

But his book does contain a hesitant defence of Labour’s use of endorsements by famous faces.

“To this day, I’m never sure of the effect the celebrity thing has…

“When you are trying to capture the mood – and this is more often so for a progressive party – celebs can reinforce, even boost the message,” he wrote.

“What they can’t do, of course, is substitute for the politics. In fact, if they try to, they become immediately counterproductive.

“If they begin lecturing the people as to why or how they should vote, it’s nearly always a disaster.”

The book records how, from his earliest days in politics, Blair felt his party needed to use popular culture. By the 2001 election, Labour had “celebrities out in abundance”, which “added some spice”, including Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, soprano Lesley Garrett, Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall, and veteran actor John Mills.

Most of the references to celebrities are included to illustrate key stages in Blair’s “journey”.

He describes meeting director Steven Spielberg – “actually a rather modest person” – and telling him how Schindler’s List affected him more than any film he had seen.

He “always got on well” with Nelson Mandela, “partly I think because I treated him as a political leader and not a saint”.

Blair admitted he sometimes “underestimated the ruthlessness and amorality that can go with money making,” but stories of him being dazzled by wealthy friends were “ludicrously exaggerated,” he insisted.


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