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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

You can contact John in the comments area or email him at j.rentoul@independent.co.uk

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Shakespeare revisited

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Monday, 15 June 2009 at 09:00 pm
When I recalled Jonathan Freedland's characterisation of Gordon Brown as combining "the jealousy of Othello, the ambition of Macbeth and the indecision of Hamlet", a commenter drew my attention to Howard Jacobson's remarkable use of Shakespearean themes in his analysis of the Blair-Brown relationship in December 2007. I missed it at the time. I wish I hadn't. This is the best bit:

There's some secret at the heart of a profound rivalry that baffles all attempts to uncover it. "Demand me nothing," Iago says, after he has destroyed Othello. "What you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak a word." So what do we know? That a rivalry of the Brown/Blair, Othello/Iago, Mozart/Salieri sort alchemizes hate and love, scorn and admiration, into a most potent poison. That the perceived loser by the relationship will stop at nothing to dethrone the victor. That the moment of revenge is not the sweet thing it was brewed to be. That both parties to the rivalry will be defeated. Thereafter they take what else they know into the grave.
 

Who, then, is going to tell us what Brown is thinking today? If he were honest would he acknowledge that such a rivalry as he enjoyed for so many wasted years was like love in being all consuming? Would he say that it destroyed his gifts, wore them away in ire and envy, or is he in possession of a crueller truth that the gifts he thought were his were all along someone else's? That he thought he saw himself denied in Tony Blair but actually only saw Tony Blair confirmed, and in the strange love he bore him mistook the other man's genius for his own?

 

Comments

Brown and the 'Other Man's Genius'
blairsupporter wrote:
Tuesday, 16 June 2009 at 12:09 am (UTC)
That was a truy excellent article by Howard Jacobson. Almost resuscitates ny faith in journalists. Present company excepted, of course; I have never lost faith in YOUR judgement or writing, Mr Rentoul.

This last part was worthy of note too:

"In a cruel world one counts one's blessings every hour. So many places one would rather not live in, so many people one is grateful not to be. But I am especially thankful I am not Gordon Brown, for his must be a peculiar hell right now. The man is vain according to all accounts, but I'd be surprised if there isn't an hour of the night when he looks his vanity in the eye and wonders if it ever had any basis in talent or achievement.

Forget the Chancellorship that won't suffice him. The Prime Minister's is the job he always considered his by right. Not that grinning poppinjay's with an oily manner. And now look. What if Tony knew better how to do it all along? Knew at least how to ride a joke. For there's the cruellest part of it of all it doesn't matter how deep your intelligence or convictions, or how ingrained your sense of vocation and election, if you look sick when someone laughs at you, you aren't up to the job. Unless you're Stalin with gulags at your disposal. But what if you're not Stalin? What if you're Mr Bean?"

Bootiful.

Howards way ...
airmarshall wrote:
Tuesday, 16 June 2009 at 10:34 am (UTC)
I remain entrenched in the irritable bowels of impression to the earliest beginnings where the inimitable Mr Blair stood standing affront of camera and microphone with his national dress and declaration so saying ...

"I can't believe I'm prime minister"

Gads me thinks, "is this man making and advert for utterly butterly!"
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