Although I'm not a socialist myself, I do find that the best type of old politician you can meet is an old socialist. Somehow age seems to mellow any militancy of their youth (especially in the case of Hitchens) and what remains has usually aged like fine wine.
And I found one of the enduring memories I had after I read this book is of the Comradely warmth expressed by Christopher Hitchens towards Blair towards the end of the debate (pages 49-52) and the reciprocation of this. How refreshing this is when compared to Hitchens' bitter debate with Galloway or Blair's fractious relations with Gordon Brown!
This aside I found this a fascinating debate and can honestly say that I rarely enjoyed a polemical text more. Certainly as a debate it outclasses anything Hansard or C-SPAN has to offer shows two highly skilled orators skillfully marshall their arguments.
Of course there is always going to be a winner and, although I shan't plot-spoil, Hitchens is the better man in this field but only just. Tony Blair may not be as used to debating religion, but he still makes good use of language in conveying his argument (e.g. in saying "my point is very simple..."). Rather surprisingly Blair does also have some convincing arguments in favour of religion being a force for good. For instance he compares it to politics and journalism and how there is always bad eggs in all fields and even Nicky Gumbel's work Searching Issues (Alpha) is not quite as crisp as Blair's arguments.
Sadly the old Hitler/ Stalin/ Mao arguments do rear their ugly heads, but only briefly and there is no long boring diversions into other fields.
Overall, I was highly impressed and thought it was well worth pre-ordering and waiting the 2 weeks for it to come to the UK. If you've read Hitchens and are at all worried that he is losing it then don't worry - he still knows his beans. And if you haven't read Blair's Memoirs or are worried that he'll just bang on about Iraq then don't worry - it doesn't and it this debate provides a good taster of what the memoirs are like.
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