Tony Blair's revolting schooldays

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THE Prime Minister may have decided to lay the blame of society’s current ills at the door of the permissive culture of the Sixties, but those who were at Fettes College with him can probably vouch for the fact that a young Tony Blair certainly did his bit.

In such days, Tony would wear his hair long, albeit greased down with butter to keep it inside the back of his collar, and is best remembered for a cavalier attitude to the rules of drinking and smoking during his tenure at the "Eton of the North" between 1966 and 1971.

Bob Roberts, the man who caned the boy who would grow up to be PM, described him, "as the most difficult boy I ever had to deal with".

My Fettesian spy says: "It does seem a bit strange for Tony Blair to have a go at the liberal, social consensus on law and order in the Sixties when at the time he was being a rebel at Fettes.

"He says that in those days people were brought up without a proper respect for authority, but as a boarder the young Blair would argue repeatedly with staff about school procedures. He also came quite close to being expelled after he finished his A-levels.

"Blair had a great gift for being able to push the rules to the limit without actually crossing the line, and he could always talk his way out of most tight spots. He had a great deal of charm and confidence, but certainly did his fair bit of rebelling against authority."

John Rentoul, author of the book Tony Blair: Prime Minister, published in 2001, agrees that the young PM was not the most popular boy at Fettes with figures of authority. "All the teachers I spoke to when researching the book said he was a complete pain in the backside, and they were very glad to see the back of him.

"Unusually, he also sat his Oxbridge exams before A-levels so that he would not have to be around for a seventh term for whatever reason. While it’s fair to say that he did not hold much respect for his elders and betters, Fettes was a fairly dyed-in-the-wool place in those days.

"I am planning to update my biography of Blair, but not yet as I think he’s going to go on and on - so I’ll have to wait till he finally goes or sometime after the next election."

• RONNIE Guild, Tony Blair’s first housemaster at Fettes, is kinder on his former charge. He adds: "We had to deal with the age in which we were living, but I think what Blair has come out with this week shows we were right all along. We tend to get taken to the cleaners by biographers, but in fact there was a vast range of positive outlets for the energies of our pupils which he [Blair] benefited from."

And there's Marr ...

THE BBC’s political editor, Andrew Marr, also spent the Sixties north of the Border, though he hardly sounds as though he had a wild and swinging time.

"In my part of Scotland, it was still raining throughout the Sixties, silently on dark, soot-stained buildings," writes Marr in his Daily Telegraph column.

"Everyone was still wearing drip-dry shirts, tweed undergarments and trim moustaches ... including the women." Oh dear.

• THE Diary baton reverts to the master next week, but thanks to all those who entered this week’s caption contest and congratulations to winner Stuart Dickson, who, as a group credit director at the Bank of Scotland, will hopefully now look favourably on the Diary’s financial fallibilities. The actor in the picture was Mike McShane.

Fitting the bill

DIARY SOS to fitness fanatics. Your luvvies need your exercise bike. Directors behind Jackie Clune’s role as Julie Burchill on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are scouring the metropolis for such a contraption as the acerbic writer has taken up a keep-fit regime since the Assembly Rooms show was last staged.

"Julie Burchill is now on something of a fitness regime so the production has been updated, not least because we know she is going to be coming up to Edinburgh to watch it," says my man treading the boards. Julie is also insisting that she is now straight and that her lesbian experiences are behind her. As she put it, just because you to go to Bruges it doesn’t make you Belgian." Quite.

Have I got noose for you

A FINAL solution for the hapless hack at the Southern Reporter who made clear his contempt for the St Ronan’s Border Games, aka Innerleithen Common Riding.

"This could be a suitable case to bring back Jethart Justice, a form of punishment which was popular in Jedburgh in medieval times," says a Borders yeoman. "Suspected criminals such as murderers or cattle thieves were executed by hanging from the walls of Jedburgh Castle, then the trial was held afterwards in the town."

Sounds more than fair to us.