Tuesday 10 November 2009

Things Can Only Get Better

Commenting on Tony Blair’s backdoor bid to be President of Euroland The Economist says that he is opposed by the Tories because they ‘fear his clout.’ I rather thought it’s because we do not want this debased man to have any input into English politics ever again. We saw enough of him in the past; we know enough about him not to want him in the future.

He is a constant puzzle to me, I have to say; he has been since I first became truly politically conscious. It’s impossible to deny that he was the most successful Labour Prime Minister ever, winning three elections in a row. But for what, I ask? That’s the puzzle, at least after the first victory in 1997, which was built on the desire for change, built on the nadir of the Major government. What exactly did he achieve? Nothing, nothing that I can see. Sorry, that’s not true; his achievements were almost invariably bad or wretched, in both domestic and foreign policy.

I’m biased, you say; yes, I am; I freely admit this. But still, think about his record, think about the record of his government. ‘Education, education, education’ was his mantra at the outset. What has that brought? Why, decline, decline, decline; an abject failure in state schooling based on relentless dumbing down, an academic inflation of the worst kind. Who would not, if they could afford it, choose to escape so much of the comprehensive system in this country?

I also think Blair deserves to be ranked among the weakest of our prime ministers. His whole time in office was marked by a schoolboyish feud with Gordon Brown, his Chancellor, seething and resentful in the background, believing he could do better in the top job, totally unaware how ill-suited he was. The foundation of our present economic ills, the phoney debt fuelled boom, was set down in those years. Frightened to move him, or to sack him for disloyalty, and thus have him do a Sir Geoffrey Howe from the back benches, Blair allowed his second-rate colleague to ditch Prudence and embrace Profligacy.

And what an absolute phony Blair was in every way, the prime minister of spin and image; the Hello prime minster. I remember in my teens seeing a news broadcast from Downing Street, one where he came out in casual dress carrying a mug, which I think had ‘Best Dad’, or something or other written on it. That was the point when I though, oh gosh, what a fake, what a pathetic poseur!

But he has clout on the world stage, so says The Economist. According to David Miliband his cavalcade would ‘stop the traffic’, which I think gives perfect insight to this man’s perception of politics and people. Why does he have clout, exactly? Because he became George Bush’s poodle. What other explanation is there? He barked to order; he barked into Afghanistan and Iraq. He barked on the basis of a lie and then tried to cover that lie in the most despicable way. On the subject of lies there was a promise of a referendum on Europe, perhaps the biggest fraud of all.

So, all along the line the Labour government failed; on education, on immigration, on the economy, on Europe, on defence, on everything. Still, Blair won election after election, in 1997, in 2001 and in 2005. Why? Why? Why? My answer is simple: it was because of the curse of Margaret Thatcher. The abject and cowardly way she was stabbed in the back in 1990 was to haunt the Tory Party for years after, through the Major years and into opposition; through the time of William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard. The Party seemed lost for an identity, lost for a proper sense of itself, caught by the dazzle of Blairdom. And that’s just the point; it was all just hype and dazzle. But the dazzle turned Brown and the future got bright. Things can only get better. :-)


  1. I of course think the Tory problem was that Blair was a Thatcherite even in his, like her, hesitant embrace of public service reform and indecision over integration with Europe and allowing the private sector to work unhinderred. They both inteferred and did not go far enough to allow the things they obviously believed in to work as they might work if given the kind of Libertarian unleashing you say you favour. I think Cameron has the same problem. The Conservatives could not oppose Blair because he was them. Labour will not be able to oppose Cameron because he is Blair.

    I also think that a complete unleashing (Libertarianism) would end up unjust and a disaster but that is another argument.

  2. And the security script for that last comment was 'poophyge'. Are you writing these yourself? If so how do you know my comment was 'poophyge' even before you read it?

  3. And that one was 'phoca'. You are writing these.

  4. Yes, the deposition of Mrs Thatcher did damage the Conservative Party, and the rudderless leadership of John Major damaged it further still. But Blair won three elections in a row because he gave the British public what it wanted, or at least what it thought it wanted: rising living standards, steady and sustained economic growth, and increasing "investment" in public services. In a word, we could have our cake and eat it. As long as Blair could deliver on all this, there wasn't really very much that Hague, IDS, Howard, or anyone else could do to stop him.

    Most political and economic commentators, if at first a little sceptical, soon signed up to Blair's new model of the "Third Way". And why shouldn't we? they asked themselves. Hadn't the doom-mongers been proved wrong? Haven't we seen an unprecedented period of sustained economic prosperity? Perhaps there is something in it, after all? Even the hard-boiled and stoney-hearted Rupert Murdoch and his Smithers-like side-kick, Irwin Stelzer, were taken in. Suddenly, the wealthy and the famous were clamouring to buy favours, honours and influence from the New Establishment, and boast about how caring and compassionate this made them. It seemed that the show would run and run. Indeed, until comparatively recently, apart from the Iraq War, the only really serious criticism levelled at the Blair administration that enjoyed wide currency was that its first-term commitment to keep within the Major Government's spending limits meant that the "splurge" in expenditure from 2001 onwards failed to deliver value for money. Nobody was listening. Nobody cared.

    Now things are different. Everyone can see the wheels have fallen off the New Labour bandwagon. The economy is in deep recession, the much-trumpeted improvements in public services have turned out to owe more to the manipulation of statistics than to "radical reform", and all we have to show for the last 12 years are a bloated public sector and a mountain of public debt that will take decades to clear.

    One would have thought that we'd have learned our lesson. Once bitten, twice shy, and all that. And yet Dave and his gang still seem to enjoy taking it in turns to play Wayne and Garth to Blair's Alice Cooper. I thought that Michael Gove's piece in 'The Times' a few weeks' ago the most abjectly cringeworthy example of this kind of "heir-to-Blair" routine. What does Dave hope to achieve by all these acts of ritual obeisance to the legacy of the rictus-grinning and jug-eared one? Perhaps he thinks that magnanimity looks good in a Government in waiting. Perhaps he thinks that by praising Blair, he will focus public hostility on the still more odious Brown. But I'm afraid that, whatever the result of the next election, we haven't heard the last of the abominable Mr Blair or his poisonous legacy.

  5. Yes, John, thanks. Forgive me but you've completely lost me with your two final remarks. Maybe I just see everything. :-))

    Again an interesting and detailed contribution, Allectus; many thanks. Perhaps you are right. But, you see, I grew up with the Blair premiership, voting for the first time in the election of 2005 (Tory), when I was nineteen. I grew up with the belief that politics was all about presentation without substance, that even the basest of lies would serve in achieving a 'higher' goal. I grew up seeing the worst forms of spin, insincerity, duplicity and dissimulation making their way through the whole body politic. I grew up, in other words, hating Blair and all his works, large and small, hating the degeneration in public and political life.

    I also grew up in a very Conservative family which may have had some degree of influence. :-)