Anthony Charles Lynton Blair overcame a difficult childhood to become the predominant figure in British politics by the start of the twenty-first century. When he was only eleven years old his father suffered a devastating stroke. His sister was struck by Still’s disease – a severe form of infantile rheumatoid arthritis, and his grandmother lived with the family after she developed Alzheimer’s disease. As a result his mother was largely occupied with family matters and unable to give a great deal of time to the son she adored. In spite of these difficulties Tony Blair obtained a second-class degree at Oxford, passed the Bar exams and used the combination of a youthful appearance, personal charm and self-effacing manner to forge a successful career in the Labour Party. His consensus-orientated and non-threatening manner were to become important political skills; as Mary Harron, a Canadian student who briefly went out with him while he was at Oxford, commented:
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