Sixty years ago, in October 1956, Anthony Eden conspired with France and Israel to invade Egypt in an ill-fated attempt to overthrow its ruler and seize control of the Suez Canal. Four decades later Tony Blair joined forces with George W Bush to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein.
At first glance the two prime ministers have little in common, the Tory grandee with the cut-glass accent and the ambitious young apostle of New Labour. Eden was a veteran statesman and committed imperialist who had studied Arabic and Persian and who understood, or thought he understood, the Middle East. Blair was, by comparison, a foreign-policy novice thrust into an international crisis for which he was ill-prepared.
Yet these two prime ministers, so very different in background and temperament, were responsible for the two greatest disasters in British foreign policy since the Second World War.