Tony Blair’s Long Goodbye

In early 1999, Paddy Ashdown, then the leader of Britain’s Liberal Democratic Party (and since then, as Lord Ashdown, Europe’s envoy in Bosnia), was found with a woman not his wife and forced to resign his post. In his diaries, he describes calling on Prime Minister Tony Blair to inform him in advance of his intention to quit:

“Blair said: ‘Going is the most difficult thing to do in politics. Too many people stay for too long. I would rather stop when people said, “Why is he going?” than when they said, “Why isn’t he going?” Or, even worse, “When is he going?” I hope I will be able to do it the same way.’”

This leaves us with an enduring mystery. Britain’s most adept and skillful politician has evidently known for years exactly what not to do about arranging his departure, and yet he has chosen to ignore his own advice.

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