Colourful adviser to Newt Gingrich
Unless you're the White House spokesman, opining daily on matters of war and peace, a press secretary normally doesn't become a public figure in a button-downed place like Washington, drenched in political correctness. The exception was Tony Blankley. For seven momentous years in the 1990s he was spokesman for Newt Gingrich, as the Georgia Congressman led the "Republican Revolution" that in 1994 gave the party control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. The turbulent and swaggering Speaker-to-be and his somewhat rotund, heavy-smoking aide with a British accent, a gift for soundbites and an unashamed taste for the good things of life, were made for each other.
The running duel between Gingrich and President Bill Clinton dominated the middle part of the decade, and Blankley was invariably in the thick of the action. He promoted, defended and - as best he could - protected his boss amid huge legislative battles over budgets and welfare reform, government shutdowns, and the scandals that afflicted both Gingrich and his frre ennemi in the Oval Office.
In the Whitewater affair that bedevilled the Clintons, Blankley proclaimed that the barely comprehensible imbroglio over a loss- making land deal in rural Arkansas was Bill Clinton's Watergate. "The cover-up is unravelling," he loved to declare at each new twist in the saga. But when the boot was on the other foot, and Gingrich became embroiled in ethics controversies of his own, Blankley dismissed all criticism as "malicious imbecility."
Blankley had moved to the US at the age of one, when his father - who had once been Winston Churchill's accountant - moved to California to become a financial executive in Hollywood. He was naturalised an American citizen and became a child actor, appearing in episodes of Lassie and other television series, and finally as Rod Steiger's son in the 1956 film The Harder They Fall. …