Am I imagining things? I recall reading yesterday that Peter Mandelson had described the architects of New Labour as “the two-and-a-half musketeers”. In Mandelson’s description, Blair and Brown were whole musketeers, while he was the half.
I thought this was an extraordinary statement, a convoluted mixture of false modesty and braggadoccio, and I wanted to comment on it; not least the way that it’s properly nostalgic.
Recall: Dumas’ original three musketeers are old friends. The fourth, D’Artagnan, serves as the nostalgic force that keeps finding them and binding them back together. Recall also that the three musketeers are fallen idols, prototypes of the grizzled gunslingers found in so many Westerns. They have to be dragged out of their cups or rescued from tricky amorous situations before they can be recombined into the perfect fighting force.
I think that Mandelson may have something of that noble brokenness in mind when he describes himself as ‘half a musketeer’. There is little that is more romantic than the riven hero, the great man who, at half his powers, is just slightly less than the rest of us. We pity him, but with a touch of awe, because we sense the power that remains unused. In Mandelson’s mind, I suspect, it would only take a new crisis and the unexpected arrival of D’Artagnan to bring him back to himself — and to the fore.
Now, why can’t I find any mention of Mandelson’s Dumas fixation on the online news services? Please tell me I didn’t imagine the whole thing.